On the first night of Hanukkah on Tuesday, as the shloshim period of thirty days of mourning were marked since the horrific Har Nof synagogue massacre, around 2,000 women gathered in the Jerusalem Great Synagogue to commemorate the victims and try to learn from tragedy to better the world. The event was organized and produced by the OU Israel Center.
The event, entitled "Women to Women: United to Change the World," was meant to celebrate the Hanukkah holiday commemorating how the Maccabees rededicated the Second Temple over 2,000 years ago in fighting off the Greek occupiers, and learn from it to personally rededicate ourselves.
Rachel Frenkel, whose 16-year-old son Naftali hy''d was murdered along with Eyal Yifrah (19) and Gilad Sha'ar (16) by Hamas terrorists on June 12, spoke at the event.
"In terms of eternity, what’s the difference between 16 and 60 years?" she said, referring to how she lost her son in the prime of his life. "Life is an endless series of miracles. The idea of celebrating a holiday is to make us aware of miracles. The day after Hanukkah helps us recognize the miracles in our daily lives."
"Six months ago, horrible things were happening. But in the midst of the darkness there was also glory and wonder. Am Yisrael (the people of Israel) poured out their good will. Everyone felt the need to be together. This is the reality of our lives. Let’s use the light (of Hanukkah) every day. We can light our days by recognizing the good in each other and the hesed (kindness) that Hashem (G-d) does. Every minute counts," said Frenkel.
Also speaking at the event was Yakoba Kupinsky, the wife of Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky hy''d who was among the four Jews murdered at prayer last month in the Har Nof attack, in which two Arab terrorists committed a brutal slaughter armed with hatchets, knives and guns.
"As a teenager I imagined my ideal life. My husband and children. I never imagined being a single mother. But we all have individual things in our lives that aren’t ideal," said Kupinsky. "Being murdered in shul (synagogue) isn’t ideal. The Torah that Moshe Rabeinu (Moses) received is ideal."
On the other hand, she stated that "Rabbi Akiva’s Torah struggles with understanding the crowns on the individual letters. Our glory and our crowns. These are what get us through the hard times. They bring our glory and show what we can do even when life isn’t ideal."
"There is a voice in my head that says ‘I didn’t get to say goodbye to you.’ This is not ideal. It’s frightening and overwhelming. Every day I ask Hashem for strength. All of us have our own personal galut (exile) that brings us our crown," she said. "The Hanukkah miracle is based on a little flask of oil. That’s all the Jews had to work with. Now we’re making our own Hanukkah miracle: Geula (redemption) is coming and we each have our own part in bringing it a bit closer."
"We must change the world"
Chaya Levine's husband Rabbi Kalman Levine hy''d was also murdered in the Har Nof attack. She is the director of the women's division of Ner l'Elef, an international training organization working to bring Jews closer to Judaism.
Levine stated "(our enemies) keep trying to make the world a dark place. But we have the light." During the time of the Maccabees over 2,000 years ago, the Greek occupiers were spreading "enlightenment" with their Hellenistic culture that outlawed Judaism. She noted "many Jews at the time changed their identities."
"Who stood up against the Greeks? Women and the kohanim (priests). Women have to know who they want to be. It’s our essence. Women have internal wisdom and emotional intelligence. When we feel pain, we cry out, (but) this isn’t weakness. It’s our strength," she said.
"It took strength and heroism to stand up against the Greeks. Today we know there are terrorists everywhere. Whenever there was a terror attack, my husband would gather us together. ‘This is a wakeup call to change,’ he would say. When something earth shattering happens, we have to determine what’s really important in our lives. We have to respond in a big way," said Levine.
The Maccabees succeeded in routing the Greeks "because they took action to get rid of the darkness. Now is the opportunity for us,” she said. “We aren’t victims of circumstance or terror. We’re ready to face whatever challenges or battles Hashem wants. I want to be that pure olive oil that lights up the world. Each of us is a candle and Klal Yisrael (all of Israel) needs every one of us.”
Zvi Volk contributed to this article.
Rachel Frenkel addresses memorial eventZvi Volk