Esther Feinstein

Three Faces of the Sword


It felt like each face of the sword was piercing through, but I chose light, hope, and positivity as my compass to surround me. 

The road felt oddly familiar but still so far away from me,  floating above my mind, locked into a place I couldn’t reach, reflect, or absorb. The blood libels of yesteryears somehow found their place in today’s modern day. It creeps up with the sword’s purpose of destruction, intimidation, oppression, and the dehumanization of the Jew. 

The turn of recent events felt like the world crashed, fell off its orbit and was on an out-of-control skateboard raging with fire. What was always understood in the gates between humanity and what’s left was the walls of what was clearly wrong; somehow, not just in murky waters, but it was now protested and became supported as truth, as right, and what one must defend without question. 

The signs, the lies, and accusations were everywhere, but still, in the comfort that G-d makes for me and every Jew, there were friends, admirers, and strong people who stood by with outstretched arms. The loneliness in the web of lies feels less burdensome on the soul when you remember the support of friends who are not of our faith, but share the same values and stand with us to the fight and hold unto it. 

The twist and turns at night, I visualize another Holocaust but with a deeper fear that this time and place could be on a much more global scale. The panic seemed to fill all of us that the proclamation of Never-again was happening again in this cherry-picked time and place, and now there was nowhere to run or hide. 

 Scrolling through my phone, I saw the crowds, mesmerized and unbelieving but recognizing that it was real; the chants for a real global Intifada, uprising, and killing of Jews can be heard in this eerie sing-song voice as the leader moved closely with many mindless followers: the echoes of hate screaming from the depth of their souls can be heard for miles around! 

It echoed the 1930s, but this time, it felt it took the twist of pride in being antisemitic and not hiding it like during the times of the Holocaust. Whereas many SS men would get drunk at night ashamed of their crimes, these antisemites supported outwardly gleeful murderers known as Hamas, who had no shame in their screams of “resistance by any means necessary.”

The second shameful sword was the media’s approach to dehumanizing the Jew: everyone had a category, and Jews were filled into this box of oppressors and colonizers, the opposite of one who is as a Jew, indigenous to the land of Israel. The news became more depressing and less hopeful as one listened to it upholding lies and their imagination of a warped reality. The solution from many of us: we tuned out and turned off. 

I vowed to myself I must have a different approach than what the anti-Semites prefer my reaction to be, for in their mind, there is but one: fear, intimidation, real brokenness, and a sense of never belonging. Rather, I choose to control my mind, my thoughts, and my reality. My choice is to choose, to stand with Israel, be a proud Jew and echo the Torah with its values of hope, light, good, unity, love, and peace. At the end of the day, regardless of the outcome of this global blood libel, I choose life and positivity. 

As a Chabad Rebbetzin, an emissary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, I was always happy to do whatever my community needed of me, but it was like I was on fire, motivated like never before to go more global with my love and embrace of my community and the greater Jewish people. The more hate that was spewed, the tighter I clung to taking the high road, “for when they go low, we go high.”

I dared to organize a massive community event to collect clothing, toys, and other products for Israel; by great miracles, many Jews and non-Jews came to help make this great idea of giving a reality. Box after box was dropped off by three smaller communities inside our larger one. There was a great turnout, lighting candles for the hostages, feeling the unity of Jewish togetherness, and standing up for our people as Am Yisrael Chai

I was sure that the reaction to negativity must be the counter-reaction: Jewish people being people of faith, an uprising of good character, unity, and compassion for all Jews and moral people of the world. I felt like a grizzly mama bear protecting her cubs, and I was not going to let any of the arrows of hate seep inside. 

Each new community event was sewn tightly with love and a deeper purpose for Israel and for the Kedoshim, who were brutally massacred. This new event was special to my heart. A program to honor the women who were brutally murdered. To uphold their inner and outer beauty, the event was Jewish nail art, and I could set the table with all kinds of nails. 

Each woman took her seat; the table was ready for us, each card of a Torah question, nail polish, stickers decorated with magen Davids, hamsa, and Jewish flavor, bowls filled with warm water, cotton balls, fake nails, some with design and pizazz and some bare ready to be a brand new canvas. 

It was this surreal excitement, the feeling of being pampered for a purpose, a real Jewish woman’s night. Deep, meaningful conversations echoed throughout the room, but in a quieter tone, heads were turning toward me as the 770 debacle seemed to be in question. “What happened, Rebbetzin?”

I swallowed hard, absorbing a topic that was still so painful. My friends and congregants could barely understand, yet it was forced as the third face of this piercing sword to be battled. Who is the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and why would some of his followers break his synagogue?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, who was the epitome of kindness, perseverance, and positivity, was now apparently on trial. A man who gave everything to pursue peace in every situation and embrace all Jews regardless of background, uplifted all after the Holocaust and helped many regain their footing after feeling that all was lost.  

The news reporters, once so supportive of his stance in all things, including setting up education day in honor of the Rebbe’s birthday, now seemed to diminish Chabad’s global caring and love through sensationalizing a few agitators and bringing the appearance of Chabad as some kind of extremist radical Orthodox group. 

This approach and mindset threw the towel in on forgoing the Rebbe’s decades of teaching the world with all of his followers that each person is a whole miniature world on their own and is special, to spread love and not hate, to spread the idea of diversity being embraced rather than indifference. 

In Chabad, color, success, more observance, and less observance don’t hold weight; it doesn’t change a thing. Everyone is embraced and loved,  surrounded by a sisterhood and brotherhood that is so much deeper than labels. Maybe it’s about reflecting deeper on who the Rebbe is. Perhaps it’s embracing each other tighter and remembering through it all, each generation, we become stronger and more united as a people. 

It used to be that the idea of  “a rabbi to a community” seemed so far away from a congregant to his teacher. The Rebbe reached out to each one with a dollar for charity to partner with him in this great mitzvah. He practiced the idea of bringing “a rabbi to the people” and set up Chabad houses around the world so no one felt alone; each one was remembered, taken care of, and cherished. 

These reflections gave me an extra boost to remember why the Rebbe was so special and how much his imprint- his wealth of written books, public answers in letters, Chassidim, and followers upholding his influence- is still needed in society. Each time a Jew is in need, his Chabad rabbi and her Chabad rebbetzin come running, helping, schlepping, and laying the foundation to be accessible, available, and ready when needed. 

About the Author
Born in New York state into a family on Shlichus, Esther was formally trained in Chabad institutions in America and Canada as an educator and community leader with the lifelong goal of helping an under-served Jewish populace. She and her husband, along with their children, have been serving the local community, as well as the Northeast Wisconsin region, for over a decade, providing for any and all needs of everyone's personal journey with G-d. Her recently released book - "The Lamplighter: Experiences of a Chabad Rebbitzin" - chronicles these experiences and is available for purchase through Mosaica Press at
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