February 26, 2024 /
This note finds you between two different holidays that have various levels of seriousness, but at heart have the same message of freedom. Purim is full of fun and games, silliness and carnivals, and Passover has matzah and maror, slavery and plagues. Both holidays speak of what it means to stand on the cusp of annihilation, from Haman or from Pharoah. Each has its villain who can’t be reasoned with and is committing his acts of genocide or enslavement under the guise that it’s better for the country they serve rather than for themselves. And today, we see a similar Pharoah, Vladimir Putin, attacking a people for self-serving reasons under the guise of a national cause, whether it be the “de-nazification of Ukraine” or whatever other reason he is lying to his people about.
I’m thinking greatly about this correlation not just because so many of us have ancestral roots that lead back to Ukraine, but also because the plight of the Ukrainian people and their leaders feel so familiar to our national story as Jews. Too often, whether as slaves in Egypt, civilians of Shushan, citizens of Germany, or victims of pograms, we have been afflicted with terror and the fear of eradication praying for salvation from above. Exodus excluded, in most of the cases listed, salvation came only when another stood up for the defenseless. In most, people just looked on or pretended not to see.
So what can we, as Jews, do? I recently saw a poem from Joanne Fink called a Prayer for Ukraine:
Holy One, Source of Strength,
War has begun, and innocent people are dying.
We ask Your protection for Ukraine and its citizens.
We pray for their safety and the security of the country,
and for the neighboring countries—Hungary, Poland, and Rumania, among others— that have opened their borders to provide humanitarian corridors and safe passage for all those who wish to evacuate.
We seek the comfort of believing that everything will be all right, even in the face of insurmountable odds.
Quiet the fears that threaten to deafen us; grant us Shleimut— the inner peace we so desperately seek. Help us remain calm and reach out to those in need.
May this horrific situation be diffused swiftly with minimal casualties.
Bless our world leaders with the ability to work together for the greater good, and the wisdom to make wise decisions during this turbulent time.
Bless the people of all nations with the desire, strength and courage to create a world based on justice and filled with peace.
May the words of Isaiah 2:4: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore” become true in our day—in this very hour.
Source of Goodness, shine Your healing light on us
and all those in Ukraine we hold in our hearts.
Shelter us, shield us, show us the path to peace.
May we each be inspired to use our unique gifts to usher in an era of enduring peace.
And let us say: Amen.
The last line is the line that struck me. “…each be inspired to use our unique gifts…” I encourage each of you to use whatever unique gifts you have to help the people of Ukraine. Either with tzedakah giving (to causes like the JDC or Project Kesher to name a few), or your political bandwidth (to encourage politicians to give the full extent of support that they can) or to send whatever supplies you can to a people who desperately need to know they aren’t alone.
I pray that by the time you read this, the conflict is over, but if it isn’t let us not only pray for peace but work for it as well.