Children have been very much on my mind lately. First of all, on a personal level, Chanukah is approaching very shortly and I haven’t a clue as to what to purchase for my grandchildren this year. They seem to be in the in-between age (past Fisher Price toys and before iPhones). I am contemplating committing a grandparent’s “hari-kari” by taking my kids to the toy store to pick out their own gifts. I am well aware of the slippery slope that this can lead to, including the dent that it will have in my pocketbook, but I’m getting desperate.
But Chanukah is not merely giving and getting presents. It is a time to teach our children important values that Judaism represents. Chanukah is referred to as the Festival of Lights. Darkness is the absence of light. Evil is darkness. Dark evil seems to be permeating all over the world. How do we cope with this and eliminate it? We must teach our children that the way to eradicate evil is by illumination. As we look at the flame from the Chanukah light, we can see two qualities in them. The flame has the capacity to burn or to give light. This is an important lesson.
During Chanukah, we Jews want to create light through the menorah that will fill the world. It is not our intention to just destroy. One can just think of the devastation happening in California to understand the negative qualities of fire. We need to make the world a better place. Burning isn’t a viable answer; illumination is.
Chanukah is a time of miracles. One was about the small, ragtag Maccabee army defeating the mightiest power of the world at that time – the Syrian Greeks – and the other being the miracle of the small jar of oil that should have been enough to light the Menorah in the Holy Temple for one night but lasted for eight days. It is interesting that even though the children get excited about the Maccabee battles, we stress the miracle of the oil. We do not idolize war. It may be a necessity, but it is not something we wish to glorify. I remember Golda Meir saying that she could forgive the Arabs for everything except the fact that they made the Israelis killers. That is not our style and we should stress that aspect with our children.
We learn from our sages that each Chanukah throughout the generations has the propensity to generate miracles. We desperately need a miracle in the world today. The State of Israel is facing tremendous dangers from the rocket attacks from Gaza. It’s unfathomable to think of 400 rockets being pelted on little Israel in one day as it occurred last week. We must plead with Hashem to help us stem the violence.
I recently read an Israeli psychologist’s report on how the recent barrage of missiles and rockets, emanating from Gaza, has traumatically affected the children. How could it not affect them? People have only 15 seconds to reach safety when the sirens sound, warning them that a rocket is about to hit their area. I cannot get out of my seat in 15 seconds, let alone run for cover.
The Israeli citizens, especially in the South, have been bombarded by thousands of rockets and missiles. The children have had no respite from the danger and are constantly living in fear. Hundreds are coming to centers for therapy treatment for the trauma built up from years of rocket attacks and sleepless nights. These problems did not appear overnight, but rather as a result of years of experiencing the horrors of these attacks. Since Israel left Gaza in 2005, thousands of rockets and missiles have been fired at Israeli citizens.
How can we comfort the children? How do we explain to them the mentality of the Palestinian terrorists who have no compunction to put rocket launchers in schools, hospitals, and mosques in the heart of densely populated areas using their own children as human shields? If they don’t value their own children’s lives, how can they value our children’s lives? This is the dilemma that we face today. The State of Israel must do everything in its power to keep their citizens safe. Israeli children must be made to understand and be comforted in the fact that Jews all over the world care about them and pray for them. I hope and pray that the conflict will finally be resolved, which will allow Israeli children to have a sense of serenity – that we will be able to tell them that there will be no more sirens and no more explosions. We hope that peace will finally come and that 15 seconds will just be a fraction of a minute and nothing more.
This is a golden opportunity to impress upon our kids that all Jews are responsible for one another. They should not feel that what is happening in Israel has nothing to do with them. Eretz Yisrael is the heart and soul of the Jewish people. Their trauma is our trauma. Their fears are our fears.
Anti-Semitism is on the rise all over the world. The Pittsburgh tragedy made us all realize that that those who spout such hatred must be punished. I worry about the so-called progressives who do not sympathize with Jewish causes and who now have a significant voice in the Democratic Party.
Louis Farrakhan, Linda Sarsour, and their ilk should not be the new normal in America. We need Hashem’s blessing to keep us safe.
On behalf of my family and myself, may I wish our readers a freilichen Chanukah. May the light of peace shine all over the world, and may our children feel safe and secure knowing that the evil of darkness is permanently gone.
Cynthia Zalisky is the Executive Director of the Queens Jewish Community. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org