By Sivan Rahav Meir

Translated by Yehoshua Siskin

This is the time of year in Israel when schools give students their mid-year report cards. But this year, many schools in the north and south didn’t know what to do about students who were evacuated from their homes, whose families were seriously impacted by the war, and whose daily routines were upended.

At the Ort Yeshiva in Kiryat Shmona, the staff found an original way to give their students a boost. The following is a translation of one student’s certificate:

“With a hug and sending strength, we are delighted to award this certificate to our dear student Shimon Cohen for the heroism you displayed in the course of the Iron Swords war. You have demonstrated tremendous resilience in coping with a new, complex situation. You are mature and responsible and have been helpful to your younger siblings, with humor and an optimistic outlook, while also developing new hobbies. We are very proud of you! Your family and the school staff.”

May we all complete this test with flying colors, with joy and confidence as we look toward the future.

Meaningful Legacies From Fallen Soldiers, z’l

Yaffa Ben Valid is the mother of 33-year-old Barak, z’l, who tragically lost his life in Gaza on the sorrowful day that saw the loss of 24 soldiers. Yaffa shared that during the shivah, hundreds of people came to offer condolences, shedding light on the profound impact Barak had on those around him. Among the visitors was a young man who maintained a quiet presence, observing from afar. When the crowds had thinned somewhat, the young man, I’ll call him Y, recounted a poignant story from 2009, when he and Barak were in basic training together. Y described feeling isolated and overwhelmed, struggling with the competitive atmosphere, and how Barak stood out by recognizing Y’s vulnerability. He offered encouragement, motivation, and demonstrated kindness and sensitivity, making Y feel appreciated and helping him through this most challenging period.

Yaffa and her family were deeply moved by the stories shared about Barak, especially that told by Y. “We would like for others to take this message to heart,” she said, “and in every situation, to always seek and identify the vulnerable individual who is in need of our kind attention and assistance.”

Chana is the widow of Uriel Cohen, z’l, another precious IDF soldier who fell in Gaza. During the funeral, she described Uriel’s defining trait as his radiant countenance, evident in the photos featuring his bright smile, kind eyes, and glowing face. “Chazal say that greeting another person with a smile is one of the greatest levels of giving,” she said. “There are times when a smile is even more valuable than money; it can be lifesaving. Uriel, as his name suggests, truly lit up the world with his light.”

Chana remarked that during a funeral, we don’t just accompany the departed, but we are also called upon to acquire their positive traits. “May we all learn from Uriel and smile more to others,” she said.

“I know that during these difficult days, I’m supposed to feel like half a person,” she added. “But since Uriel fell, it’s been hard, but still, I feel like one-and-a-half—Uriel’s soul is here, as is our wonderful am Yisrael, which is surrounding us with love.”

Shaare Zedek Sets New Record

January 2024 saw Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem delivering more than just outstanding care; they delivered a record-breaking 1,926 newborns! This blessed “baby boom” is thanks in part to the many families evacuated from the north and south of the country who have been staying in Israel’s capital city, and who also helped set last month’s record of 1,856 births.

From Poland With Love

I recently learned about a Shabbat program organized for the Jewish community in Warsaw. Rabbi Shalom and Dina Stambler, Chabad emissaries in the city, were heartened by the significant turnout. Contrary to expectations that the war in Israel and rising global antisemitism might reduce attendance, the opposite proved true. “We witnessed an unprecedented influx of first-time attendees to a Jewish event, drawing Jews from the local community as well as from Lodz, Bialystok, Katowice, and Krakow,” Dina Stambler observed.

She also noted a profound awakening among Jews. “There’s a newfound resolve to defend the nation of Israel and Judaism, and to stand against Hamas and anti-Semitism.”

She told me about various supportive initiatives: contributions to the IDF, individuals learning Hebrew, a young man organizing a major pro-Israel rally, and another expressing his own “one-man demonstration” by placing a mezuzah on his doorpost.

A particularly striking story involved two local businessmen, known rivals, who agreed to set aside their differences. They approached the rabbi, united in their eagerness, to aid Israel.

Remarking on the activities, a Jewish doctor in the community said, “If Hamas believed their actions would weaken our unity, diminish our connection to Israel, or curb our Jewish identity, they were mistaken. Since October 7, these feelings have only grown stronger.”

Shluchot Convention

The group picture was just taken in New York at the yearly gathering of women emissaries (shluchot) of Chabad. Thousands of rebbetzins and leaders, young and old, from all over the world come together every year to gather strength from one another and then to return to their many projects and initiatives with new found inspiration. These are historic days. “People who never came to a Chabad house, not even on Yom Kippur, are coming now—because of the attack on Simchat Torah,” emissaries from all over the globe told me. “Many Jews understand that this is a struggle between light and darkness. They want to be on the right side and thus want to learn more about themselves and their identity as Jews.”

6,000 women emissaries are there. They are facing a wave of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel demonstrations on one side and a wave of Jewish awakening on the other.

Each one of you is invited to think about the Chabad emissary that you know personally and to contact that person now; if you have not yet made the acquaintance of a Chabad emissary, search for the one nearest you.

To the dear Chabad emissaries in the Gaza envelope down south, to the dedicated emissaries on the border up north, the emissaries in Russia and the Ukraine who are still in the midst of war, to the emissaries in London, in France, and on college campuses in the United States—at the front lines of the struggle for getting out the truth and explaining how Jews are to respond to current events—thank you. May you continue to enlighten and to light up the world. n


Sivan Rahav-Meir, married to Yedidya and a mother of five, lives in Jerusalem. She has been a journalist in the Israeli media from the age of six and has interviewed thousands of people on television, radio, and in print. Globes named her Israel’s most beloved journalist, Forbes listed her as one of the most influential women in Israel, and the Jerusalem Post ranked her among the 50 most influential Jewish people in the world.

Sivan lectures in Israel and abroad on Judaism, Israel, and new media. In recent years, she began writing The Daily Thought, a brief commentary on current events that is circulated in Jerusalem and translated into 17 languages for global distribution. This volunteer-run project provides spiritual uplift for Jews and non-Jews all over the world.

To receive Sivan Rahav-Meir’s content, search The Daily Thought.


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