Going against the tide – jewishpresspinellas

Posted By on March 29, 2022

As the holiday of Pesach approaches, my thoughts turn to war-torn Ukraine. One of the four names that Passover is referred to is Zman Cherutenu the Time of our Freedom. What type of freedom are the people of Ukraine experiencing now? For those who remain in their country with the terrifying sounds of shelling, gunshots and explosions, and for the refugees, many left their homes with little more than the shirt on their backs.

I have a very special colleague, Rabbi Mendy Glitzenshtein. He is the Chabad Shliach and Rabbi of the Jewish community of the western Ukranian city of Chernivtsi. After the bombing of Ukranian cities began, Rabbi Glitzenshtein and his wife helped thousands of people as they were evacuating the country, through the nearby border of Romania. They were there, providing food, shelter, medications for the refugees as they ran away from their war-torn country.

Among the evacuees were his own family. You may have seen the photo of his daughters holding baby dolls in their hands, and kissing goodbye to the mezuzah on their front door.

The Rabbi left with his family, with just a tiny portion of their worldly possessions.

His family settled in safety, Rabbi Mendy has since returned to Chernivtsi, going against the tide. Thousands exiting Ukraine, and he is one of the very, very few to enter. What would possess him to return to his war-ravaged country? He came back to take care of his community. A community lovingly built over 20 years. While many were able to leave, many were forced to remain for various reasons. So he returned. To celebrate Purim with what is left of the community, and to oversee Pesach preparations, as he has done for the past 20 years.

He couldnt imagine the community that he has built and led remaining without the joy of Purim, and the holiday of Pesach.

Surely it would be easier for Rabbi Mendy to remain with his family and wait out the war. Surely he has done enough, rescuing and assisting thousands of people fleeing for their lives, paid his dues Yet there he is, back in Ukraine, in the hot bed of war, to be there for his people.

It makes me think of Moses, our fearless leader who led us out of Egypt. Saved by Pharaohs daughter Batya, as he was floating in his little basket in the Nile, Moshe grew up in the palace.

Pained to see his brothers suffer at the hand of the slave masters, Moshe risked his life to save a Jewish man being beaten, and then had to run away to escape Pharoahs wrath.

Moshe ran to Midian. You could call him an Egyptian refugee. He married in Midian, and began a family. Have you ever thought about Moshe returning to the hot bed of slavery, pain and discomfort? Surely it would have been easier and more comfortable for him to remain with his wife, children and extended family that lived in Midian. Surely he had paid his dues, had a difficult childhood and could live the rest of his life in peace?

Moshe returned to Egypt, unable to leave his brothers and sisters suffering without him doing his utmost to help and indeed lead them to freedom. Its because he returned that the story unfolds, G-ds miracles that ensued, that secured our freedom!

Its in times like this that we see true heroes. Heroes who are human like you and I who rise above and beyond the call of duty to, give, feed, support and be there in any way possible for a brother (or sister) in need.

While we are not called upon to be heroes of this magnitude, there are times we need to dig deep, and rise above our comfort level or expectations to be there for our fellow. With leaders like this, we know we can prevail!

Chag Sameach may we celebrate our true freedom with the coming of Moshiach, which will usher in an era of complete peace and safety, world over!

The Rabbinically Speaking column is provided as a public service by the Jewish Press. Columns are assigned on a rotating basis by the Pinellas County Board of Rabbis. The views expressed in this guest column are those of the rabbi and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Jewish Press or the Board of Rabbis.

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Going against the tide - jewishpresspinellas

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