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Thinking about Ukraine… (plus, what we can do)

Please forgive me for not sharing a dvar Torah this week. All I can think of is Ukraine.

Given that this coming week is “Shabbat Shekalim,” I wanted to share the beautiful Midrash about G-d showing Moshe “a coin of fire.” I wanted to discuss the fire, the holy passion that can transform the world and overcome obstacles.

Instead, I was making phone calls.

I called friends and colleagues, Chabad rabbis in Ukraine, to find out if they are okay (thank G-d, they are);

I called community members originally from Ukraine to ask about the welfare of their relatives;

And between phone calls, I kept checking the news, hoping that somehow a miracle would happen and this war would end.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen yet.

* * *

Look at this picture: do you recognize me?

(courtesy)

This picture is from Luhansk, Ukraine. And if you think you recognize the name of the city, you are not mistaken. Luhansk is in the news and not for good reasons.

Next to me are my friends from yeshiva. We traveled together to Luhansk for Passover at the request of the local Chabad rabbi and rebbetzin.

They didn’t ask us to come to help them set up the large community Seder; instead, they wanted us to travel to small communities nearby and help them celebrate Passover.

It was a fantastic experience.

We hosted a Seder for over 200 local Jews. And although we didn’t know one word of Russian, we overcame the language barrier by speaking through a translator (and speaking Yiddish to those who knew the language).

We sang, we chatted, we laughed, and we stayed until very late

That was my first meeting with Ukrainian Jews.

It was the first of many. In the following years, I traveled to Ukraine on a dozen missions.

I learned a lot about the Ukrainian Jews.

I learned about their history, filled with pogroms, famine, and wars. And did you know that during the Holocaust, some of the worst atrocities took place in Ukraine?

The Ukrainian Jews I met were intelligent, optimistic, and welcoming. After decades of Communist oppression, they embraced the idea of living as proud Jews and loved learning about Torah and mitzvot.

Together with all Ukrainian residents, they are now in a precarious situation.

* * *

It seems like everyone has the same question on their minds:

What can we do? How can we help?

Well, one obvious way to help is by offering them financial support (please see below for suggested ways to donate).

But in addition to our financial support, we should not forget the spiritual support: Mitzvot. Mitzvot hold immense power to transcend physical distances and bring blessings and protection to those we deeply love and care for.

Let’s do it! Let us add more mitzvot and create more light in the world.

When we wrap Tefillin, light the Shabbat candles, read a chapter of Psalms, learn some Torah, put a coin in the charity box, or do any other mitzvah, we send spiritual gifts to the other side of the world.

May G-d listen to our prayers and bring safety to the Jewish communities in Ukraine, together with all the residents of Ukraine; May G-d bring peace upon the world, amen. i

About the Author
Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is the Chabad Rabbi of Hackensack, and an editorial member of Chabad.org.
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