Their number is 39111. It is the number of record in the hall of remembrance at Yad Vashem of my family that was murdered by the Nazis in 1942 in Trostenets, Belorussia. I keep a photograph of family 39111 on my desk. There are 17 people in the picture—my father’s uncle, Shlomo Boxerman, his wife, Sima, and their children and grandchildren. They were devout Jews, and they died because of their devotion to being the messengers of God’s moral law. My great-grandparents, Jacob and Tzila Krupnic (changed to Cooper), were also from this small shtetl where my great- great-grandfather Yankel Boxerman defended the village from the pogroms of the time.
The Jews are the messengers of God’s righteousness, and our strength comes from our deep values passed down from generation to generation. I keep the photograph of family 39111 on my desk as a constant reminder that I, too, am responsible for carrying the same message.
Jews, for millennia, have been the guardians of civilization. The Jews have proclaimed the moral character of God—His mercy and His justice—to a world hopelessly grasping in the darkness without a moral compass. It is for this very reason Jews have been historically targeted for annihilation: they are messengers of the moral law of God to a world that despises God’s holiness. As the late Reverend Edward H. Flannery of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops rightly stated,
“It was Judaism that brought the concept of a God-given universal moral law into the world . . . the Jew carries the burden of God in history [and] for this has never been forgiven.”
Western law was built on the foundation of a Jewish ethical and moral worldview, and America’s Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights were drawn from the natural law of the Noahic covenant. One of America’s founding fathers, John Adams, wrote in a letter to F.A. Van der Kemp, “I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation.” The Jews, says Adams, have been destined to “preserve and to propagate to all mankind the doctrine of a supreme, intelligent, wise, almighty sovereign of the universe, which I believe to be the great essential principle of all morality, and consequently, of all civilization.”
Because of God’s encounter with the Jews—choosing them to bring His moral law to the world—they have an ancient duty to survive. Throughout the centuries of time, no other people have encountered such horrors, yet they still exist. One can only conclude it was and is the faith of the Jewish people that has ensured their survival.
When Hamas calls for the destruction of the Jewish people, the threat is against the moral undergirding of civilization—a foundation without which we cannot exist.
Article 28 of the Hamas charter states, “Israel, Judaism, and Jews challenge Islam and the Muslim people.” The issue Hamas has with Israel is not about land. It’s about Judaism. The fact that messengers of God’s righteousness live in the region threatens their fascist radical Islamist ideology.
In her book People Love Dead Jews, Dara Horn discusses Jewish values:
“Since ancient times, in every place they have ever lived, Jews have represented the frightening prospect of freedom. As long as Jews existed in any society, there was evidence that it, in fact, wasn’t necessary to believe what everyone else believed, that those who disagreed with their neighbors could survive and even flourish against all odds. The Jews’ continued distinctiveness, despite overwhelming pressure to become like everyone else, demonstrated their enormous effort to cultivate that freedom: devotion to law and story, deep literacy, and an absolute obsessiveness about consciously transmitting those values between generations. The existence of Jews in any society is a reminder that freedom is possible, but only with responsibility—and that freedom without responsibility is no freedom at all.”
It is because of the devotion to these values that Hamas must, at any cost, eliminate the messengers of freedom.
At the dedication ceremony of the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum, Elie Wiesel remarked,
“There is a frightening character in all of Kafka’s stories. It is always the messenger who tried to deliver the message and is unable to do so. But there is something more tragic than that—[namely,] when the messenger has delivered the message, and nothing has changed. You have heard tonight those who spoke . . . about antisemitism and intolerance. Now? 60 years later? When the messenger has tried to deliver the message? Why should there be antisemitism? But there is! Why should there be suicide killers? But there are! Why should there be hatred? But there is! Fanaticism? Yes! It’s calmed? No! It is here! The messenger has delivered the message. What is our role? We must become the messengers’ messengers.”
So, this is what we must do. We must speak for the ones who perished on October 7 at the hands of those who despise the Jewish values of human freedom and dignity. We must speak for them because they can no longer speak. They were martyred because they were Jews. In Hebrew, this is called Kiddush Hashem, and it means “the sanctification of the name.” We have a duty to carry their message to the next generation. We must go on living. We must keep breathing. And, as long as we have breath, we must communicate the ancient message of our people’s moral values. We must become the messengers’ messengers.