The Signiﬁcance of the 41st Day in the Face of Hamas Terror
This upcoming Shabbat, Nov. 17, will mark the 41st day since Hamas terrorists launched their brutal assault against innocent Israeli civilians. While for nearly 40 days and nights, over 200 Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, along with most Israelis, have been living a nightmare, I could not help but bring attention to the signiﬁcant meaning of the 41st day in the Hebrew Bible (Torah).
In the Torah, the 40-day period is illustrated as a time of testing, leading to a transformative event on the 41st day.
In the story of Noah, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, leading to a ﬂood that covered the Earth. Day 41 came, and the rain stopped. Noah sent out a dove, signaling the beginning of a new chapter for humanity.
In the story of the Israelites ﬂeeing from Egypt, they wandered for 40 years. Year 41 came and marked the end of their wandering. This moment symbolized transition, the emergence of a new generation, and the long-awaited entry into their Promised Land, the land of Israel.
In the story of Mount Sinai, Moshe spent 40 days and 40 nights receiving the Ten Commandments. On the 41st day, he descended from Mount Sinai to share these commandments with the people of Israel, signifying a pivotal moment in their spiritual journey.
In the story of David and Goliath, for 40 days, Goliath intimidated Israel, challenging anyone to face him in battle. On the 41st day, David stepped forward and defeated Goliath with a single well-aimed stone from his sling.
Finally, in the Book of Jonah, the city of Nineveh was given a 40-day warning of impending destruction. The people repented, and on the 41st day, their city was spared from destruction.
These narratives underscore the importance of the 40-day period as a phase of testing and preparation, culminating in a transformative 41st day.
What I want to convey in this historical context is a message of hope.
In the ongoing situation in Israel, it has been almost 40 days since the tragic onset of Hamas’s terrorist attacks, resulting in the loss of over 1,400 lives and the abduction of more than 200 innocent Israeli civilians from their homes to Gaza.
Forty days of horror, fear, and torture.
However, Israeli civilians and the Jewish nation face a critical moment this upcoming Shabbat, Friday, Nov. 17, which marks the 41st day since Hamas’s brutal assault.
At Emory University last week, Students in Support of Israel arranged a Shabbat table with over 200 seats, symbolizing the missing hostages. The vacant Shabbat table conveyed a powerful message, underscoring that nearly 40 days ago, this same table would have been ﬁlled with activity. It would have been a space marked with laughter, love, warmth, and shared moments. These are not just numbers; they are real people—mothers, fathers, children, and the elderly— who should be celebrating Shabbat together this weekend. Their absence is chilling, serving as a stark reminder of what was stolen from them by Hamas.
Nevertheless, Am Yisrael perseveres.
Although it is only Monday, as we approach the 41st day since Hamas’s attack this Friday, Nov. 17, I encourage you to challenge yourself to go the extra mile this week. Consider undertaking an additional act of kindness or a moment of prayer for the swift return of the hostages, the safety and strength of our soldiers, and that those who fail to recognize Hamas for what it truly is can ﬁnd moral clarity and can understand that the brutal desecration, kidnapping, and murder of Jewish lives is not “freedom ﬁghting”— it is terrorism.
I pray that the upcoming 41st day, much like in times past, will mark a day of transformation. A day of light in the darkness, with the safe return of the hostages and IDF soldiers.
Wishing all of Am Yisrael a week ﬁlled with peace and love. Am Yisrael Chai.
Aliza Freilich is a third-year undergraduate student at Emory University.