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10-7 and 9-11: Hitler, Hamas, and a Historic Diary

G-d Wants You to Be Good, But He Also Wants You to Shine

    Rabbi YY Jacobson

  • April 4, 2024
  • |
  • 25 Adar II 5784

Rabbi YY Jacobson at the Zikim beach in the south of Israel. Hamas terrorists came by boat on October 7th 2023 and murdered the Jews on the beach here.

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The 9-11 Diary: Hitler and Hamas. G-d Wants You to Be Good, But He Also Wants You to Shine

Dedicated by David and Eda Schottenstein- In loving memory of Alta Shula Swerdlov and in honor of Yetta Alta Shula, "Aliya", Schottenstien

Dedicated by Menachem Abrams in honor of his dear parents Rabbi Moshe & Dvora Abrams

As Israel and the Jewish people face the horrors of October 7th, 2023, I wish to share the story of a fascinating 9-11 diary (capturing a significant theme of the weekly Torah portion of Shemini). This diary can shed light on the ongoing struggle between Israel, the West, and radical Islam.

September 11, 1941: The world is swimming in Adolf Hitler's bloodbath. In a few days, the Germans will capture Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, and massacre 100,000 innocent human beings in a ravine named Babi Yar. On this day—9/11 1941—in Arlington, Virginia, the U.S. Department of Defense starts construction on its new headquarters, the Pentagon.

On the same day, a middle-aged new immigrant to the shores of the United States, Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, later to become known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe, writes an entry in his private journal concerning two traits that make for a moral and productive human being: "fins" and "scales."[1]

Nobody imagines that sixty years later, on 9/11 2001, the free world would be struck again. Radical Islamists would crash planes into the Pentagon and the Twin Towers, murdering thousands. A new era of global terror would descend on our planet. 

The Journal

The idea the Lubavitcher Rebbe presented in his journal on this day is worth reflecting on today.

The Torah states in this week’s portion (Parshas Shmini as well as Reah): “This may you eat of all that is in the waters: everything that has fins and scales, you may eat. But anything that has no fins and scales, you may not eat.” [2] For a fish to be kosher, it needs both fins and scales.

The Talmud states a fascinating fact: “All [fish] that have scales also have fins [and are thus kosher]; but there are [fish] that have fins but do not have scales [and are thus unkosher].”[3]

“If so," asks the Talmud, "the Torah could have written only 'scales,' without having to also write 'fins?’” If a fish that has scales inevitably has fins, why is there a need for both signs? The Talmud answers: "Said Rabbi Abahu, and so it was learned in the study house of Rabbi Ishmael: “This is so that the Torah should be increased and made great." This is a strange answer. Where is the logic in presenting fins as an identifying sign for kosher fish when it is totally irrelevant and inconsequential since scaled fish inevitably have fins as well? How does this make the Torah greater?

Also, why are fins and scales the characteristics that distinguish kosher fish? What is special about these two identifying signs to deem fish suitable for Jewish consumption?

Food’s Force

The Rabbis and Mystics teach that the physical attributes of fish, and of all animals, reflect their psychological and spiritual qualities. They further explain that the food a person consumes has a profound effect on his or her psyche. Therefore, when one eats the flesh of a particular creature, the “personality” of that creature affects the person in some way.

Fins and scales too embody two qualities embedded in the souls of these types of fish that are necessary for the healthy development of human character. When the Jew consumes the substance of such fish, he becomes a more "kosher" and refined human being. When he consumes fish lacking these characteristics, it may dampen some of these vital qualities.

Drive & Direction

Scales, the "armor" that shields and protects the body of the fish, represent the quality of integrity, which protects us from falling prey to the many pitfalls that life presents. A person of integrity will not deceive his customers, despite the apparent financial profits involved. He will not tell a lie to a friend, despite the short-term comfort gained by doing so. He will not cheat on his spouse despite the tremendous temptations.

Integrity means that you have absolute standards of right and wrong and that you are committed to a morality that transcends your moods and temptations. Integrity preserves and protects your life and your soul.

Fins, the wing-like organs that propel fish forward, represent ambition. A healthy sense of ambition, knowing one’s strengths and wanting to utilize them in full, gives a person the impetus to traverse the turbulent sea of life and to maximize his or her G‑d-given potential. It propels us to fulfill our dreams and leave our unique imprint on the world.

What Is Our Priority?

Which of these two qualities is more important to cultivate in life—fins or scales? What ought to be the main function of education? Should we concentrate primarily on providing our children with the confidence and skills necessary for them to become productive and accomplished human beings? Or ought we to focus more intensely on raising children of high moral standing, concentrating more on how they will live than on how they will make a living?

The Talmud teaches that all fish that have scales also have fins. But some fish have fins but do not have scales and are thus non-kosher. On a deeper level, this symbolizes the idea that a human being who possesses fins may still lack scales and thus remain "non-kosher." He might swim and frolic through large seas and oceans with his talent and genius, but his achievements may be corrupt, hurting others in the process. Creating ambitious and confident children does not guarantee their moral uprightness and integrity. In our times, we have seen the result of people who had fins but no scales.

On the other hand, the Talmud tells us that all fish with scales have fins. If you teach your children to approach life with truth and honesty, with an unyielding commitment to morality and decency, this child will certainly succeed and develop "fins" as well. Regardless of his or her degree of intellectual prowess, they will find the "fins" with which to advance in their learning and their achievements to make the world a more beautiful place.

To Change the World

"If so," asks the Talmud, "the Torah could have written only 'scales,' without having to also write 'fins'." On a deeper level, the Talmud is asking, why is it important to emphasize the need for fins in developing a "kosher" human being? Why does an emphasis on ambition constitute part of a moral and "kosher" education? Why not just focus on integrity and ethics?

The Talmud’s answer is marvelous: "This is so that 'Torah be increased and made great.'" This means that our spiritual mission consists not only of professing integrity and morality but also of developing our full potential materially and spiritually. G-d wants us to be good; but He also wants us to be successful and shine; to utilize all of our talents and resources to transform the landscape of our planet into an abode for the Divine; to make the Torah “great and large.” The light, majesty and depth of Torah must penetrate the entire world and turn it into an oasis of goodness and holiness.

Cruel Ambition; Deadly Surrender

The events of September 2001, like those of September 1941, dramatically altered our view of the world. Both ushered in a new era of violence, bloodshed, grief and terror. The first was by Nazi Germany; the second was by radical Islamists. Yet the roots of the two wars were very different: The Germans personified a culture possessing fins but no scales. Their ambitions, achievements, and love of life were impressive, yet their morality and sense of ethics were horrifically skewed. While they loved and nurtured their dogs, appreciated poetry, philosophy, and scientific advancement, they sent millions to die in gas chambers.

September 11, 2001, on the other hand, was perpetrated by people with a deep faith and commitment to the will of Allah, yet with a hatred for all progress and advancement, and a desire to destroy all who do not adhere to their dark vision of the world. They died for what they believed to be the ultimate in morality and holiness; yet their perception of G-d was horrifically skewed: theirs was a god who wanted them to die, as long as they can kill others.

People somehow delude themselves into thinking that Hamas and the people living in Gaza are two distinct entities and that Hamas took control of Gazans. They forget that Hamas does not control Gaza; rather, Gaza thinks Hamas. Hamas was elected by the people of Gaza in 2006, and more than 70 percent of Arabs living in Gaza and in the West Bank support the murders of October 7th, 2023. 

Many young Muslims are being taught today to develop scales but no fins: to surrender their lives to Allah, without appreciating that G-d wants them to live, and not to die; to build the world, not destroy it, and to respect other peoples, not blow them up. To create a “kosher” world, we need scales, but we also need fins. Muslim leaders, parents and educators must begin to teach their youth to love their own lives more than they hate the lives of others.

They must discover that the love of G-d does not require a love for blood.

Israel and the Jewish people stand at the forefront of this conflict. This is not a time to back down but to stand with unwavering commitment to the sacredness of life and the fight against those who gleefully want to see us dead. With clarity, we ought to call out the evil we are facing and fight to eradicate it.   


[1] Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, escaped Nazi-occupied France with his wife, via Portugal, and arrived to these shores in June 1941. This journal of the Rebbe (among many more), dated Elul 19, 5701 (equivalent to September 11, 1941) was discovered in his study after his passing in June 1994 and published in Reshimos #39, pp. 6-8. I'm sharing my exposition based on the ideas presented in the above journal.
[2] Leviticus 11:9. Deuteronomy 14:9–10. – In 1941, Sep. 11 coincided with the Torah portion of Reah.
[3] Niddah 51b.

Please leave your comment below!

  • Anonymous -27 days ago

    Thank you for your insight on all the points you made. 

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • EK

    Eliana Karelitz -1 month ago

    Thank you

    Thank you for sharing the Rebbe's insights on these historical events and the deeper meaning of the corresponding parsha. And thank you for coming to Israel and speaking boldly the truth about Hamas and the Palestinian people. May the world soon be redeemed and all evil destroyed eternally. And may we rejoice in the presence of the Shechina in the Holy Temple and His righteous redeemer.

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • Anonymous -1 month ago

    Great essay! Thought provoking!

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

Essay Shmini/Reah

Rabbi YY Jacobson
  • April 4, 2024
  • |
  • 25 Adar II 5784
  • |
  • Comment

Dedicated by David and Eda Schottenstein- In loving memory of Alta Shula Swerdlov and in honor of Yetta Alta Shula, "Aliya", Schottenstien

Dedicated by Menachem Abrams in honor of his dear parents Rabbi Moshe & Dvora Abrams

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The 9-11 Diary: Hitler and Hamas. G-d Wants You to Be Good, But He Also Wants You to Shine

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