The Light of Hanukkah Glows in the Heart of Warsaw
92 years since the Rebbe’s wedding, Chabad Lubavitch kindles the Hanukkah candles in Warsaw.
This year, due to the pandemic restrictions, there are no traditional community gatherings in Warsaw. Nonetheless, the city is still celebrating Hanukkah in a very public and very significant place – in front of the Palace of Culture (which was a gift to Poland from Josef Stalin).
This year, the Mayor of Warsaw, Mr. Rafał Trzaskowski, joined Rabbi Shalom Ber Stambler of Chabad Lubavitch Poland for the Hanukkah menorah kindling ceremony. In his speech, Mr. Trzaskowski recalled the Rebbe’s ties with Warsaw:
“We are especially proud, because it all started in our city, in Warsaw. It was here that 92 years ago, the (Lubavitcher) Rebbe married the daughter of his predecessor ... and Warsaw is very proud of this.”
He also emphasized that it was the Rebbe who initiated the public Hanukkah candle lighting.
“All this happens thanks to Rabbi Menahem Schneerson, who is known as the most influential rabbi in contemporary times. It was he who started the Hanukkah campaign in 1973. We are already accustomed to the fact that is celebrated practically all around the world.”
Rabbi Stambler also underlined the significance of the place itself. Warsaw - a city that fell victim to two totalitarian regimes - was also a home and then a place of persecution for hundreds of thousands of Jews. “Therefore we are very proud and thankful seeing the lights of Hanukkah glowing proudly in the very heart of the city.”
During his speech, Rabbi Stambler also reflected on the honor of serving others, explaining the role of the Shamash candle:
“Look at the 'Shamash' candle on the menorah. Despite its servant role it is elevated and honored, because it gives light to all the other candles. The role of a leader is similar, in that he also serves others and this service only adds to his greatness. We should always remember that by helping others, by serving them, we elevate ourselves to a higher spiritual level.”
With these words Rabbi Stambler expressed his appreciation and gratitude to Mr. Trzaskowski and his willingness to serve and respect all people regardless of their religion. He also stressed the special mission of Chabad: to serve the community and to spread the light of Torah in order to kindle people's souls.
Following the ceremony, Rabbi Stambler received a very touching message from Mrs. Ewa Stokx-Gruber, a Jewish woman who was born in Warsaw and who now lives in Amsterdam, who happened to see the picture from the event.
“The picture from the Hanukkah candle lighting in Warsaw was sent to me – a Warsaw-born March '68 emigrant. It is a very emotional event for me: Not everything Jewish disappeared from Warsaw! Despite the anti-Semites, Polish Jewry is alive! Am Israel Chai!”
Aside from the public kindling ceremony, Rabbi Stambler also attended the Hanukkah event at the Presidential Palace at the invitation of the Polish President Mr. Andrzej Duda.
Rabbi Stambler was also invited by a Polish TV station to discuss insights from the festival of Hanukkah. He spoke about the message Hanukkah brings us, as well as customs and traditions connected with this festival.