Rays of Light in a Sea of Darkness

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“A Little Bit of Light Dispels a Lot of Darkness”……Lubavitcher Rebbe

The world is witnessing a third daunting week of suffering, death and destruction in Ukraine resulting in a growing refugee humanitarian crisis of epic proportion.

The continuous live-streaming video feeds and real time social media posts of war-torn Ukraine are shocking, unimaginable and heart-wrenching. The non-stop images of indiscriminate bombing of Ukrainian towns and villages and the relentless barbaric killing of innocent men, women and children chills us to the very core of our being.

The only “crime” committed by these innocent people while fleeing for their very lives, is the fact that they are in the wrong place at the wrong time while getting caught-up in the evil and maniacal aspirations of a selfish deranged madman who is directing and orchestrating the genocide of innocent Ukrainians for his own political ambition and self emulation.

When trying to wrap our heads around this unbelievable carnage and destruction, we seek answers; but there are no rational explanations. The pain and anguish being hoisted on three million plus refugees is hard to fathom as we ask ourselves the daunting and perplexing question – how can these atrocities and acts of barbaric indiscriminate destruction happen in 2022? Where is our sense of humanity, empathy and compassion for the sanctity of human life? And, how can a civilized society fathom such senseless killing and destruction.

For many of us, the images of displaced refugees, and the indiscriminate murder of innocent men, women and children are all too familiar. They are reminiscent of the destructive events of close to 80 years ago, when the world witnessed the horrors of murder and genocide of over 6 million Jewish souls together with other nationalities –  ironically on the very soil which scores of Ukrainians are now dying. The towns, streets and fields of Ukraine and Eastern Europe are still saturated with Jewish blood and reek from the cruel, unforgiving Nazi onslaught. If this reality and imagery appears all to familiar, it is because it truly is. It’s happening today in real time. The causes, scale and magnitude may be somewhat different than 80 years ago, but the death, destruction and profound suffering is unrelenting.

As we bear witness in horror to the images of untold hatred and destruction  in Ukrainian streets, fields and roads, against a backdrop of bombed out homes, apartments, hospitals, schools, supermarkets and houses of worship, we are seeing an inspiring will and determination of the Ukrainian people to live and to survive this nightmare. We are seeing an impressive  and powerful outpouring of love,  support, compassion and empathy coming from bordering countries which have opened their homes and hearts to the millions of refugees fleeing the evil and  destruction.

The continuous flood of Ukrainian women and children seeking shelter from  Russian bombs, missiles and non-stop gun fire is beyond the pale. Thousands of these women with children and babies in toe, walked or if lucky enough, traveled for days in freezing rain, ice snow and mud in order to reach the borders of nearby NATO countries. Many of these refugees make the trip successfully, but many do not and end up either lagging behind, dying on route or returning to their bombed out homes or to any structure that resembles a roof for shelter. With no available food or water, except for shallow puddles of filthy melted snow for drinking and washing, it’s just a matter of days before many of these poor refugees will die from thirst or starvation; and, we are now told from disease and illness.

For those who are fortunate to actually reach the borders of Poland, Hungary, Romania and other neighboring NATO countries, they are met with an unprecedented outpouring of love, support, compassion and empathy. These are  tearful scenes which give us hope and faith in humanity.

Once the tired and weary refugees arrive at the border, the scenes of love, support and assistance are palpable and overwhelming.

This is indeed the first Ray of Light in a Sea of Darkness

Hundreds of Polish, Hungarian, American and British, Canadian, Israeli and European volunteers greet the Ukrainian refugees with supplies, food and warm shelter.

Another bright ray of light in a sea of darkness.

All of this is happening as the Polish, Romanian, and Hungarian people open their homes to strangers. Many are also flown out of the region to the United States and Israel where they are greeted like family returning home for the first time.

When viewing these moving scenes via social media and internet news networks, or cable we are truly touched and inspired by the goodness, kindness and chesed in the world which at times is eclipsed by evil. We thank G-D for the “rays of light” that illuminate the dark experiences of these refugees and all others who are faced with adversity, harsh challenges and despair; and, we pray continuously for the wellbeing and welfare of the thousands who are still in the midst of battle with their Russian aggressors.

As I write this blog, I am reminded that the Torah teaches us that acts of loving kindness is one of the essential ways humans engage with G-D to sustain creation and that we are all created B’Tzelem Elokim – in the Image of G-D.

Although we do not have the human ability or capacity to fully understand or comprehend why such terrible events befall innocent people, as a society and as a people we are all fortunate to have the capacity and ability to help those who are in despair and who are suffering unimaginable anguish, pain and loss.

These are just a few of the unlimited Rays of light within the sea of darkness.

It’s our hope and prayer that G-D will bestow upon the Ukrainian people safe passage, solitude and peace, and may we all be blessed with the continued power to  shine rays of bright light in order to illuminate their darkness.

At the end of the day, our community must all strive to be part of those rays of light in a sea of darkness…those rays of warm light which diminishes the coldness of darkness. We must strive to be an Ohr Lagoyim – a Light Unto the Nations.

Like the breaking of the morning sun over the dark horizon , we all thank G-D that our community possess the ability and capacity through prayer, charity, and volunteerism to help create permanent and lasting rays of light for our people and for those less fortunate.

If hope truly springs eternal than it is our hope that one day soon, the madness which has now enveloped and griped a part of the globe with terror and destruction will cease and civility will rule.

Light shines the brightest when it follows the void and the blackness of complete darkness.

With G-D’s guidance and oversight, we hope and pray that that the brightness of our light will shine for all of humanity and for all those innocent men, women and children in dire need of safety, solitude and peace throughout the world.

About the Author
Dr. Chaim Botwinick is currently Principal of the Hebrew Academy Community Day School in Margate FL and Executive Coach and Consultant. He served as president and CEO of the central agency for Jewish education in Baltimore and in Miami. He has published and lectured extensively on topics relating to education, strategic planing and leadership development. Dr. Botwinick is Author of “Think Excellence: Harnessing Your Power to Succeed Beyond Greatness”, Brown Books, 2011
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