October 7 Leads Jews to Return to Judaism: Why?

By: Daniella Weiss  |  May 15, 2024

By Daniella Weiss, Staff Writer

On October 7, Hamas terrorists launched a brutal attack on Israel, broke through Israeli borders, barbarically ravaged communities, and murdered 1,200 men, women, and children on Israeli soil. Hamas forcibly took over 240 people hostage; 132 of them still remain in the dark depths of the underground terrorist tunnels of Gaza in the hands of Hamas. Many families are missing a father, mother, son, daughter, grandparent, and even a four year old child and a baby, all of whom were taken captive and are still hostages today. This could lead many of the families that were affected, and reasonably so, to feel far from their Judaism and question how G-d could allow such a thing to happen. What is most surprising, however, is how despite such immense hardships, many of the families have turned instead towards Judaism and a relationship with G-d. 

A poignant example of this is the mother of Cpl. Ori Megidish, an IDF soldier who was taken hostage on October 7, who took upon herself to separate challah as a merit for her daughter’s safe return from Gaza. According to the Jewish Press, “Ori’s mother stepped out of her comfort zone… to separate challa.” In the video, Ori Megidish’s mother can be seen separating challah and praying for her daughter fervently. She proudly cried out, “I love you G-d.” A mother whose daughter had been taken captive by Hamas could understandably turn away from G-d and religion in such a circumstance. It is strengthening to all of the Jewish people to see how she turned towards religion, instead of away from it. Ori Megidish’s mother even had a hachnasat sefer Torah that was brought into Ori’s room as a merit for her release. The following week, her daughter was freed from Hamas captivity through a daring IDF ground operation in Gaza. 

Another powerful example of an individual turning towards Jewish values during this hard time was when the Argentinian President Javier Milei visited the Western Wall with Rabbi Axel Wahnish, expected ambassador of Argentina, and prayed for the release of hostages. A few days later, two Argentinian Israeli hostages, Fernando Marman and Louis Har, were freed in an IDF air operation in Rafah. Now, the president is considering converting to Judaism and has already been to the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Ohel.

It is unbelievable to see how not only families of the hostages, but Jews around the world, are turning towards their Jewish roots in times such as these. Under the burden of unprecedented antisemitism on college campuses, many unaffiliated Jews are becoming more religiously observant, instead of turning away. Many non-Jews have even begun conversion. According to Jacob Gurvis in the Times of Israel, an article that quotes Rav Adam Mintz, a Rabbi in New York City, there has been a “surge” in converts in New York City since October 7. The article also quotes Rabbi Avram Mlotek, who received orthodox ordination and lives in New York City, who said, “It’s been nothing short of profound and personally inspiring as an educator, and invigorating as a spiritual leader, to see people in the face of such brazen hatred feel all the more called to step into their Judaism.” According to a comprehensive survey conducted by Lazar Research for The Jerusalem Post, “33% of Israelis have reported a strengthened faith in God since the October 7 massacre by Hamas and the subsequent war.” Only one month after the war began, according to Yeshiva World News, 3,700 pairs of tefillin were requested for secular Israeli soldiers who committed to wearing it each day. This occurred after Rabbi Avromy Super, Co-Director of Chabad of St. Lucia, posted on social media that he would give a free pair of tefillin to the first person who commits to wrap it daily “in honor of our brothers and sisters in Israel.” He received “3,400 requests for tefillin from those who committed to [donate] them daily,” he told JNS. (The post has received some 137,800 views.)

Why have Jews turned back to their roots, instead of away like when six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust? 

People have seen that relying solely on the intelligence and technology of Israel was not sufficient on October 7.  The words of the Gemara in Sota 49a-b regarding the times of Moshiach ring true still today:On whom can we rely, only on our father in Heaven.” Many Jews have begun to understand that Hashem is the only One we can truly rely upon. Many have begun to turn to Judaism and a relationship with G-d in their life. As history has proven time and time again, turning away from G-d is never the solution. John Kirby, Admiral of the Navy and spokesman of the White House explained how Israel had an “unprecedented” success in shooting down all the rockets from Iran without a single death, although Iran sent 300 drones. According to AP News, Israel thought at their best they could knock down 90% of the missiles with their technological expertise. It is clear that only with Hashem’s help were they able to shoot down every missile. 

We have seen open miracles in our days. As we head towards Moshiach and Jews around the world are turning back to their Judaism, how can each of us take the next step in our relationship with Hashem and our commitment to Judaism? How can we show that we realize we need to put in our hishtadlus as Hashem assists Israel in the current war? It is through the increased observance of many customs by more and more people that this has been seen.