Sivan Rahav-Meir
Sivan Rahav-Meir David Salem, Zug Prod.

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin (http://inthelandofthejews.blogspot.com)

1. Shabbat with refugees from Kharkov


"Shalom, This is from Miriam Moskovitz, a Chabad emissary in Kharkov. Last week I wrote you about the emotional Shabbat that we experienced in Kharkov. They say it's forbidden to cry on Shabbat but on this Shabbat, just like the last one, I failed in this respect several times. But this Shabbat was still different.

This week we had to leave Kharkov. The explosions in our city did not stop. A missile landed on our Jewish school, and people kept streaming into our synagogue in order to get a little food, medicine, and shelter. The danger to all of our lives increased. So we packed up 32 years of keiruv into three suitcases, and set out on a perilous journey of several days to Kishinev, the capital of Moldova.

All our lives we only hosted others and now, suddenly, we are compelled to be hosted. The community here is amazing. I lit Shabbat candles and felt that I was connected to all the Jewish women in the world who have been praying for peace in Ukraine. On Shabbat morning, we all prayed 'Hagomel' on our successful escape from a dangerous situation. We were accompanied by a bride-to-be whose wedding was postponed, but we tried to give her a 'Shabbat kallah' all the same. And when we finished reading Shemot (the book of Exodus) we cried out fervently: Chazak, chazak, ve'nitchazek (Be strong, be strong, and we will be strengthened). How much the world needs strengthening and reasurance at this time.

Throughout Shabbat our thoughts wandered to the synagogue that we had left behind. The building had survived under Communism as a sports arena. In the course of several decades, we restored and transformed it into the heart of the Jewish community. What is going on there now? What will happen with it in the future?

They say a little light pushes away much darkness, but there is at present an overwhelming darkness. On Shabbat it occurred to me that in the face of so much wickedness and evil, we must bomb in return. We need to bomb the world with good deeds, with light, with tzedakah, with chesed, with loving-kindness.

Shabbat is now over and I am writing you as we are boarding a plane to Israel.

Shavua tov, wishing good news for everyone.

2.V'nahafoch hu on the Ukrainian border: When everything flips

Natan Sharansky spoke at a Sheva Brachot gathering in honor of the wedding of Benaya and Neta Dickstein. Benaya's parents, Yossi and Chanah, were murdered in a terrorist attack when he was seven years old. It's too bad that only those in attendance heard Sharansky, the famous prisoner of Zion, speak as follows:

"When I was growing up in Ukraine, in Donetsk, there were many nations and nationalities. There were those with identity papers that read 'Russian,' 'Ukrainian,' 'Georgian,' or 'Kozak.' This was not so important since there was not much difference between them. The single designation that stood out was 'Jew.' If that was written as your identity, it was as if you had a disease.

"We knew nothing about Judaism. There was nothing signficant about our Jewish identity other than the anti-Semitism, hatred, and discriminatory treatment we experienced because of it. When it came to a university application, for example, no one tried to change his designation from 'Russian' to 'Ukrainian' because it did not matter. However, if you could change your designation of 'Jew,' it substantially improved your chances of university admission.

"This week, I was reminded of those days when I saw thousands of people standing at the borders of Ukraine trying to escape. They are standing there day and night and there is only one word that can help them get out: 'Jew.' If you are a Jew, there are Jews outside who care about and are waiting for you. There is someone on the other side of the border who is searching for you. Your chances of leaving are excellent.

"The world has changed. When I was a child, 'Jew' was an unfortunate designation. No one envied us. But today on the Ukrainian border, identifying as a Jew is a most fortunate circumstance. It describes those who have a place to go, where their family, an entire nation, is waiting for them on the other side."

3.Increasing joy, not misery*

When the month of Adar comes in and, even more so, when Adar Beit comes in – as it did this past Friday -- we increase in joy. Sol Herzig, the American Jewish psychologist, wrote a penetrating article called "Six Simple Strategies for Achieving Misery". In his words, these are the most well-tested strategies for not achieving happiness:

1. Cling to entitlement. Always feel that you deserve everything, that life owes you, that you were born to receive. Always look for the injustice in others having something that you don't have and don't agree to any accommodation or compromise.

2. It's all personal. Always assume that everything unfortunate that happens to you results from an evil intention. Always seek to find malicious motives behind everything and conclude that what happens to you is final proof that you do not matter to others.

3. Focus on problems. Keep careful track of all your problems and review them constantly. Nurture the attitude that you really cannot move on to anything until everything is resolved first.

4. Magnify. Don't keep anything in perspective. Try to nurture negative thinking in relation to every mishap and to magnify it without any attempt at regret or forgiveness.

5. Expect catastrophe. It is critical to remember that really terrible things can occur at any moment. Let your imagination run wild - diseases, disasters, terrorist attacks. Don't let anything surprise you. Be constantly vigilant.

6. Never be grateful. Regard what you have as something that should be taken for granted, without thanking those who made it possible.

How much do we strive to live by these suggestions without even knowing it? May we have a good new month, a month of joy.