This weekend we started to go in a 8 day festival, putting up lights all over the house and in the temple. It is also shopping time, trying to find in the groceries or supermarkets everything to prepare some nice meals. Because these days we are blessed in our regions that we can come together without having the fear of shelling.
At an important city landmark in northeastern Ukraine, at the confluence of the Uda, Lopan, and Kharkiv rivers, our brethren and sisters could come together this weekend to feel their unity with us and others all over the world, to celebrate Hanukkah. In the largest synagogue in the country, and in a building of architectural significance, Sunday 18 December songs could go high in the air, whilst the singers felt the strength their El’Elyon is giving them to endure one of the most difficult times in decades.
It are incredible dark times up north where a fool said coming to liberate the Ukrainians and to bring a de-nazification. Strangely enough that Russian dictator uses Nazis to do that! He lets the Wagner Group do horrible war crimes so-called to unite the Ukrainian people and bring them together where they belong, under the Russian Federation. Not a week went by when we could hear terrible things from that group and see atrocities on our television screen. For sure, they brought black days over the country, which was coloured blood-red by their war crimes.
These days might be bringing joy and special food on the table, singing songs, play games, and give gifts, but at the same time, we remind ourselves of the historical events that took place in 165 BCE in Jerusalem, we think of the 21st century the destroyer of a land brought in ruins by his troops.
Remembering how after the Second Temple in Jerusalem was desecrated by the Seleucid Emperor Antiochus IV and his Greco-Syrian troops, Jewish priest Mattathias and his sons rebelled. Retaking Jerusalem and the Temple, they lit the menorah (or holy lamp) but had only enough oil for one night. Miraculously, the lamp stayed lit for eight days until enough holy oil could be procured.
At that time there could have been darkness, but the Elohim took care His house was lighted. Also this year, when the Russian troops made it nearly impossible for the Ukrainians to have light, gas for cooking and water for drinking, Jehovah provided time to be together in a lightened place.
Hanukkah might be a minor Jewish holiday as compared to the high holidays of Rosh Hashonah and the most solemn of Jewish religious holidays, Yom Kippur or to Purim and our most important day of the year, Passover, but this year it got special attention, even world leaders speaking out to the Yehudim.
The Jewish holiday began as Ukrainian officials raced to recover from an intense bombardment of energy infrastructure around the country.
“Unfortunately, millions of Ukrainians are now suffering from this because millions of people are cut from electricity supplies,”
Ukrenergo CEO Volodymyr Kudrytskyi told Voice of America, a U.S.-government-owned broadcaster, in an interview published Monday.
“We have to introduce rolling power cuts in the country to maintain the perfect balance between generation and consumption in the system, and these rolling power cuts, of course, involve millions of our citizens, and this is going on during the winter.”
Those attacks continued Monday, with Ukrainian military officials claiming they intercepted about 30 Iranian-made drones.
“As a result of the attack on the capital, critical infrastructure facilities were damaged,”
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko wrote on social media.
“Energy and heating engineers are working to quickly stabilize the situation with energy and heat supply.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized the persistent bombardment of Ukrainian energy infrastructure in the midst of a Ukrainian counteroffensive that forced Russian troops into high-profile withdrawals. These attacks are intended
“to initiate complete blackout of the system,”
as Kudrytskyi put it, in order to instigate a crippling humanitarian crisis.
“They use very clear strategies to inflict as much damage to power grid as possible,”
“So they selected attacks on electric grid for this very reason: to inflict as much suffering as possible. And this is probably their last chance to somehow change the situation in the battlefield with the war to make us negotiate with them.”
Being placed in the dark, in several cities rabbis were not afraid to light a huge menorah on Sunday night, visible for all. As such Jews in Ukraine a waging a
“war between darkness and light”
to start the eight-day Hanukkah holiday, as tens of thousands remained without electricity and Russia’s nearly 10-month war produced new victims.
Many of our brethren shall have it difficult to celebrate like us for eight nights in a row. It is unlikely that any given family will have a major family celebration for every one of those 8 nights, but they are almost certain to light Hanukkah candles and say blessings each night. And the prayers to thank God are even more important now. When we see how the Russian troops tried to kill the spirit of the Ukrainian people but did not succeed like in the second World War the Germans did not succeed to get the Ukrainians on their knees.
On the Friday of Hanukkah, more observant families may also light Shabbat (sabbath or shabbes ) candles and by the licht bentschen or licht tsinden (“light-kindling”) say blessings after the Hanukkah candles are lit.
For many with their house bombarded, full of openings it shall not be so easy to have the candles be burning all the time. It seems that although lighting the menorah in the doorway has merit, the mitzvah is rendered more beautiful when one lights in the window. Also, when the door opens to a stairwell, it is preferable to light by the window visible to passers-by on the street, or in an adjacent house.
In the hope to fulfill the mitzvah to light inside his house, as is the custom of some Jews, several people will have to find comfort together in public places to light their menorah, because they no longer have a home of their own. In any case, lighting them in public will increase the publicity of the miracle.
At Maidan Independence Square in the capital, Kyiv, at sundown not only Jews gathered for the lighting of the first candle of what local Jewish leaders say is Europe’s tallest menorah. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko joined ambassadors from Israel, the United States, Japan, Poland, Canada, and France in a ceremony organized by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine.
They sang blessings under the flames of the menorah, which towered over the crowd and passing cars in frigid weather, whilst rabbi Mayer Stambler, a leader of Ukraine’s Jewish community, drew parallels to the story of Hanukkah, the eight-day commemoration of the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees after their victory over the Syrians, more than 2,000 years ago.
In congratulating the world’s Jews on Hanukkah, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish, also noted the holiday’s inspiration for his people.
“Those who were fewer defeated those who were more. Light defeated darkness. It will be the same this time,”
he vowed in a video address late Sunday.
Let us remember all those in difficulties and let this festival of lights bring hope to all those in that horrible war, during the December days with the least sunlight of the year. Let there be light and let there be peace.
As Rashi explains:
“… without light there can be no peace, because [people] will constantly stumble and be compelled to eat in the dark (Commentary to Talmud, Shabbat 25b).”
The flickering of candlelight helps us to remind us of the precious fragility of our life and the lives of our loved ones, a life that must be embraced and cherished at all times.
Therefore, in these dark days, as the candles are lit, let us also think of those who are now so tested by war, and let our hearts and prayers be with them, so that they may receive protection from our Most High God and still find every opportunity to survive in these dire times.
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