With the Sabbath approaching, Israel Defense Force troops are on the ground in Gaza, with Jews everywhere praying for their safety.
Throughout the world came calls for prayer and good deeds on behalf of the Israeli soldiers, and all people threatened by ongoing missile attacks, with special emphasis on Jewish women and girls lighting Shabbat candles, and for families to join with their local communities in synagogues for Shabbat services.
At thousands of Chabad-Lubavitch centers and institutions, rabbis have been reaching out during two intense weeks of fighting in Israel, urging community members to increase in acts of holiness, while maintaining a positive sprit, reminding them of what the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—said about the Jewish nation: “Regarding Israel, the Torah states that it is a ‘land upon which G‑d has His eyes at all times,’ ” assuring that Israel is the safest place in the world.
Rabbi Yossi Korik, co-director of Chabad of Roseville in Granite Bay, Calif., with his wife, Malkie, hosted a program Thursday night focusing on the importance of Torah study, prayer and tzedakah (charity), encouraging people to come together to do something of “spiritual significance” on behalf of those in Israel.
“The core of the message we want to be able to give people is that we’re one—that wherever in the world we may live, the Jewish people are all one unit,” he stresses.
About 120 people are expected at a special Shabbat dinner tonight at Chabad Ventor Shul near the shore in Ventnor, N.J., according to Rabbi Avrohom Rapoport, co-director with his wife, Mashie.
“Especially at a time where everyone’s eye and hearts and prayers are focused on Eretz Yisrael, we’re bringing people together in a positive way for a positive event, and the theme is going to be Israel—the Holy Land of the Jewish people,” he says.
People are worried about the situation, continues Rapoport, and this will offer a chance to talk about what’s happening, as well as to share the Rebbe’s message in terms of what people can do by adding positive deeds and acts of goodness and kindness.
The Grossbaums were also celebrating the traditional first Shabbat candle-lighting of their 3-year-old daughter, Liba. (Photo: Mendel Grossbaum)
Also this Shabbat, a campaign called “Light a Candle for Israel” encourages women and girls worldwide to light candles and usher in the weekly Jewish holiday, adding in a prayer for the safety of Israel.
“This campaign is from clear directives of the Rebbe—to spread light and dispel all darkness,” says Channa Hecht, co-director of Chabad of Brentwood in Los Angeles, Calif., with her husband, Rabbi Baruch Y. Hecht. “As our brothers and sisters go to the battlefronts in Gaza, we must go to battle with our ammunition of light, in our corners of the globe.”
She adds that the Rebbe launched the “Tefillin Campaign” before the Six-Day War in 1967 and pointed out that it is written in the Talmud: “The nations of the world will see that the name of G‑d is called upon you, and they will fear you.” (Deuteronomy 28:10)
Hecht’s brother, Rabbi Chaim Nochum Cunin of Chabad West Coast Headquarters in Los Angeles, has been in Israel at the Gaza border with the Chabad Terror Victims Project, supporting soldiers there.
And last Shabbat, at the home of Rabbi Zalman and Toba Grossbaum, co-directors of Chabad of Livingston, N.J., rows of candles were set out so family and community members could light them and recite blessings for Israeli civilians and soldiers. They were gathered together for the very first Shabbat candle-lighting of 3-year-old Liba Grossbaum, with about 75 women and girls joining her.
“We usually think that we can’t make a difference on a global issue happening halfway around the world,” says Toba Grossbaum. “The Rebbe always emphasized that a little light can dispel much darkness and every mitzvah, every good deed, adds to that light.”
Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie, co-director of Congregation Beth Meir HaCohen, North County Chabad Center in Yorba Linda, Calif., with his wife Stella, attached a banner to the free-standing menorah on the synagogue grounds. (Photo: Clifford Lester)
“The Rebbe encouraged all Jewish girls, from three years of age, to light their own Shabbat and holiday candles,” adds Rabbi Grossbaum. “Through the lighting of Shabbat candles, women have the unique power to bring peace into their homes, and through their collective efforts reach the heavens and bring miracles into the world.”
On the tables were cards explaining this 3,700-old tradition, and also noting that “by focusing our collective thoughts and prayers on our brothers and sisters in Israel, the combined spiritual energy of millions of women and girls will make miracles happen.
“May these acts of dedication illuminate the world and be a source of eternal peace for all of mankind.”
‘An Intrinsic Covenant’
Around the world, Chabad rabbis are bringing their communities together in ways large and small. Men’s study groups and tefillin clubs have been especially busy throughout Europe, from national capitals to small towns; solidarity with Israeli soldiers are on their minds as they pray for their well-being and that of all Israel.
In Yorba Linda, Calif., the teen group affiliated with Congregation Beth Meir HaCohen, North County Chabad Center made care packages for soldiers in Israel. And to show their solidarity, congregants slung a huge banner—saying “We Stand With Israel”—on the free-standing menorah on the synagogue’s wide front lawn.
As part of the "Arms for Israel" campaign, the Men's Tefillin Club at Chabad Jewish Center of Snohomish County in Lynnwood, Wash., recited blessings for Israel soldiers and civilians.
“I think people have to realize that the Jewish community around the world is standing strong with Israel, and we should have the pride and conviction to stand up during this difficult time,” says Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie, co-director of the Chabad center with his wife, Stella.
He spoke last Shabbat about Israel and the bond Jews everywhere share with the nation, as he did at a recent brit milah as well: “It’s an intrinsic covenant between G‑d and the Jewish people, reaching back to the dawn of Jewish history.”
Rabbi Yosef Posner, director of Lubavitch Chabad of Skokie in Illinois will hold a prayer gathering for Israel on Sunday.
The evening event will seek to help people recognize the miracles that have happened to this point—namely, the overwhelming success of the “Iron Dome” defense system protecting Israeli lives—and bring the community together to pray for a resolution of the attacks, as well as to reinforce the oneness of the Jewish people, he says.
“We are all connected,” he says, speaking of Jews around the world.
Students, faculty and local community members, children and adults alike came to stand in solidarity and prayer recently with the Chabad at University of Illinois and Champaign-Urbana.
Rabbi Chaim Nochum Cunin, visiting Israel from Chabad West Coast Headquarters in Los Angeles, wrapped tefillin with a soldier earlier this week while temporarily relieving him of his head gear.
Psalms were led by a diverse group of communal leaders representing Chabad, Hillel and the Jewish Federation, who had joined together for the event. At the prayer gathering’s conclusion, Tiechtel urged the participants to add one more mitzvah, emphasizing—along with Chabad centers around the world—that all Jews are connected, and that a little light dispels much darkness.
“It was amazing to see how our community came together in just 20 hours,” says Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel, co-director of Chabad at University of Illinois and Champaign-Urbana, with his wife, Goldie. “We hosted a packed crowd praying as one from across the entire community. Students, IDF veterans, children and adults gathered to give charity, recite psalms, and show solidarity and support for our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land.”
"Kindle a Light for Israel" campaign encourages Jewish women and girls worldwide to light Shabbat candles and say a prayer for Israel's safety.
The purpose of the operation, according to a statement released by the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was to destroy terror tunnels in the Gaza Strip leading into Israel. Earlier in the day, Israeli troops bombed the area, killing eight of 13 terrorists who had attempted to enter Israel to murder or kidnap civilians from a nearby kibbutz.
Prior to the ground invasion, the IDF launched a massive wave of combined air and artillery strikes on the Gaza border communities where Hamas is stationed after warning residents to leave the area. Journalists and residents were also asked to leave areas along the Mediterranean coast.
“Israel is committed to act to protect its citizens. The operation will continue until its goals are reached: To bring quiet to the citizens of Israel for a long period of time, and to seriously harm Hamas and other terrorist organizations’ infrastructure in the Gaza Strip,” read the statement.
Rabbi Aharon Prus of Tzerei Agudat Chabad Headquarters Israel in Kfar Chabad, Israel, offers support to Israeli soldiers near the border with Gaza.