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Our shul recently hosted Bret Stephens, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and foreign affairs expert.  In his talk, he referenced a column he wrote for the New York Times reflecting on the atrocity of October 7th titled, “For America’s Jews, Every Day Must Be Oct. 8.” 

He opens:


There used to be a sign (which, for all I know, is still there) somewhere in the C.I.A.’s headquarters that read, “Every day is Sept. 12.” It was placed there to remind the agency’s staffers that what they felt right after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — the sense of outrage and purpose, of favoring initiative over caution, of taking nothing for granted — had to be the mind-set with which they arrived to work every day.

There ought to be a similar sign in every Jewish organization, synagogue and day school, and on the desks of anyone — Jewish or not — for whom the security and well-being of the Jews is a sacred calling: “Every day is Oct. 8.”

Stephens goes on to share several important and insightful takeaways of how we must forever be different since the horrific and barbaric pogroms, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Holocaust.  One of the key ones: “On Oct. 8, Jews woke up to discover who our friends are not.” Stephens continues to enumerate the “friends,” institutions of “prestige” and movements that abandoned us, betrayed us, and with whom we should no longer feel aligned or seek the approval of.

He concludes: “More than 3,800 years of Jewish history keeps yielding the same bracing lesson: In the long run, we’re alone. What can Oct. 8 Jews do? We can stop being embarrassed, equivocal or defensive about Zionism, which is, after all, one of the world’s most successful movements of national liberation… Jewish America abounds with dreamers and entrepreneurs who took crazy risks in their careers to find value and create things that never existed before. It’s time they apply the same talent and energy to creating new institutions that hew to genuinely liberal values, where Jews need never be afraid. In time, the rest of America may follow.”

Bret Stephens is a proud Jew and supporter of Israel, a brilliant and insightful commentator, and his speech at BRS and his column calling for us to be October 8th Jews is a powerful and important framing.  However, I believe there is more for the October 8th Jew, a different change without with we cannot hope to defeat our enemies, and without which we cannot survive or thrive.

The October 8th Jew must not only lean in to their unapologetic Zionism but must embrace, live, and promote unapologetic Judaism, Yiddishkeit, and Torah.  The October 8th Jew must find his or her voice, not only the voice and vocabulary to lobby, advocate, rally and fight for the rights of the Jewish state and the Jewish people. The October 8th Jew must find his or her distinctly Jewish voice, a voice informed and inspired by our sacred Torah.  We must raise our voices of prayer and voices of study, our voices of Jewish unity and our voices of Torah justice and truth.

When Yaakov presents himself to his father Yitzchak to seize the blessings from his brother Esav, he disguises his hands but not his voice.  Troubled by the incongruity, Yitzchak wonders aloud, “Ha’kol kol Yaakov, v’hayadayim y’dei Esav, the voice is the voice of Yaakov, but the hands feel like the hands of Esav.” Noting the anomaly, that the voice of Yaakov is simiply incompatible with the hands of Esav, our rabbis conclude (Bereishis Rabba 63:20):

הַקֹּל קוֹל יַעֲקֹב, בִּזְמַן שֶׁקּוֹלוֹ שֶׁל יַעֲקֹב מָצוּי בְּבָתֵּי כְנֵסִיּוֹת אֵין הַיָּדַיִם יְדֵי עֵשָׂו, וְאִם לָאו, הַיָּדַיִם יְדֵי עֵשָׂו, אַתֶּם יְכוֹלִים לָהֶם.

“The voice is the voice of Jacob” – when the voice of Jacob is found in the synagogues, the hands are not the hands of Esau, but if not, “the hands are the hands of Esau.”

Antisemites and our enemies thrive when we are assimilated, apologetic, defensive, embarrassed, or afraid about our Jewish identity and Jewish values.  When we lower the volume on our Jewish voices, they are empowered to raise their hands against us and pounce.

The October 8th Jew must confront these enemies, sometimes on the battlefield, other times at congressional hearings, other times in the courtroom.  But the October 8th Jew must also confront himself and herself, confront their Jewish passion, Jewish pride, and Jewish practice.

In his short but extremely powerful book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield talks about resistance, the force that holds us back form fulfilling our dreams and potential. He describes the dangers and the methodology of resistance and ultimately offers a strategy for how to overcome it.  He writes:

Aspiring artists defeated by Resistance share one trait.  They all think like amateurs.  They have not yet turned pro.

The moment an artist turns pro is as epochal as the birth of his first child.  With one stroke, everything changes.  I can state absolutely that the term of my life can be divided into two parts: before turning pro, and after.

To be clear: When I say professional, I don’t mean doctors and lawyers, those of “the professions.” I mean the Professional as an ideal.  The professional in contract to the amateur.  Considers the differences.

The amateur plays for fun. The professional plays for keeps. To the amateur, the game is his avocation. To the pro it’s his vocation.  The amateur plays part-time, the professional full-time. The amateur is a weekend warrior. The professional is there seven days a week.

The word amateur comes from the Latin root meaning “to love.” The conventional interpretation is that the amateur pursues his calling out of love, while the pro does it for money.  Not the way I see it.  In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough.  If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his “real” vocation.

The professional loves it so much, he dedicates his life to it.  He commits full-time.  That’s what I mean when I say turning pro.  Resistance hates it when we turn pro.

Yes, the October 8th Jew must know who are not among our friends.  As Bret Stephens convincingly argues, the October 8th Jew must be ready to build our own institutions that conform to our values.  But most importantly, the October 8th Jew must be ready to take their Judaism pro.  From the observant to the unaffiliated, we cannot continue with our Judaism as usual, we cannot be amateurs with a casual attitude, lukewarm Jewish practices, impassive Jewish experiences and lives.  Our Judaism must not be observed only on the weekends and holidays but must be there seven days a week.  Our study and prayers must not be avocations but vocations.  We must love our Judaism, the Torah and Hashem so much we are ready to dedicate our lives.

On billboards, bumper stickers, and the sides of busses all over Israel is the motto – Am ha’netzach y’nateiach, the people of eternity will prevail.  If we want to prevail, we must ensure that the October 8th Jew is practicing a Judaism of eternity.

{Reposted from the Rabbi’s site}


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Rabbi Efrem Goldberg is the Senior Rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue (BRS), a rapidly-growing congregation of over 950 families and over 1,000 children in Boca Raton, Florida. BRS is the largest Orthodox Synagogue in the Southeast United States. Rabbi Goldberg’s warm and welcoming personality has helped attract people of diverse backgrounds and ages to feel part of the BRS community, reinforcing the BRS credo of “Valuing Diversity and Celebrating Unity.” For more information, please visit