The Beit Knesset in Kibbutz Sa’ad, guarded by a soldier. On October 7th, Hamas terrorists were prevented from entering the kibbutz by the brave security team. Sa’ad was one of the few kibbutzim in the area to be spared. (Photo: Sarah Evron)
Finding Light in the Darkness
BY RABBI ARON WHITE
Just five months after celebrating its 75th birthday, Israel was plunged into darkness. From 6:30am on Shemini Atzeret morning, a cloud of darkness spread from the burning houses of Be’eri and the killing fields of Re’im, enveloping the whole of Israel and the Jewish world. The joy of Simchat Torah turned to confusion, terror and mourning, as an unimaginable horror unfolded.
As the details, numbers and stories emerged, we struggled to even find points of reference to process the murder of over 1,200, the injuring of 5,000 and the kidnapping of 240 Israelis in one day. Hamas inflicted more casualties in a single day than Israel suffered through the entire second intifada. The intelligence and military failure that failed to prevent this surprise attack felt like Yom Kippur War 2.0. The shock factor of a mass terror attack on a scale previously considered impossible felt like Israel’s 9/11. The brutality and savagery of Hamas, the reports of which are too painful to read and watch, recalled the horrors of the pogroms that Israel was meant to prevent.
As a nation and as individuals, we experienced in those days a rollercoaster of emotions, almost all of them negative. Fear for what was coming next. Confusion as to how this could have happened. Sadness over so much loss. Pain and anguish over the fate of the hostages.
In the midst of the darkness, flickers of light appeared. Stories of heroism and courage began to emerge, first of individuals, then of tens, hundreds and thousands of brave Israeli soldiers and civilians who had run to the front lines and saved thousands of lives. From Thailand to Mexico, planes departed for Ben Gurion packed with Israeli reservists ready to fight for their country. Donations of every kind poured in from Israel and around the world, while Jews of unbelievable strength spent weeks working day and night to provide chessed shel emet for the dead. The determination and resilience to return and revive the destroyed communities was palpable – survivors of October 7th milked their cows in Kibbutz Alumim and restarted their printing press in Kibbutz Be’eri, just days after the atrocities.
These painful weeks have made us rethink so many things, including the way we look at the Jewish calendar. We celebrate joyous chagim, but we don’t usually think about how the stories played out in real time. We spend a few days remembering events that took place over the course of years. There were many years of darkness and uncertainty before the Chashmona’im finally defeated the Seleucid Greeks, and centuries of slavery in Egypt before we were miraculously freed. Those living through those dark times did not know how their story would end. We joyously celebrate their salvation, but perhaps we don’t reflect enough on the genuine maror our people experienced before we tasted the bread of redemption.
Many of us have never experienced darkness, loss and suffering like this in our lifetimes. But just as it did on Pesach, Purim and Chanukah, we believe that the light of redemption will ultimately banish the darkness. May these moments of light be mosif v’holech, grow from night to night, until the light of redemption is fully ablaze for all the world to see. We hope this edition can provide you with some of those sparks, to find some of the light in the darkness.
Rabbi Aron White is the Managing Editor of HaMizrachi magazine.