Today is Rosh Chodesh Kislev, the beginning of the month of Kislev, synonymous with Chanukkah, light, joy and celebration. In the month of Kislev, the Maccabees rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem which had been defiled by the Greeks. This month represents the triumph of the light of Torah, goodness and holiness over the forces of profanity, evil and hatred. During the 8 days of Chanukkah, we merit the return of the Or HaGanuz, the hidden primordial light that G-d created for the benefit of the righteous. The name of the month, Kislev, literally means 'kes'- hidden, 'lev'- 36. 36, equal to the lights of Chanukkah, stands for the 36 hours in which the divine light was on the Earth, until G-d hid it away for future. On the Rosh Chodesh of the month of lights, 5 lights of Torah have been brutally extinguished.
The Torah is a book deeply devoted to life. We are told that we should live by G-d's laws, and not die by them. We refer to G-d as the G-d of Life, the G-d who desires that the wicked not die but that they repent and live. As Jews, we cherish and appreciate life deeply. That is why the gratuitous violence going on in India pains us to our core. When the Greeks ruled Eretz Yisrael, they tried to distance Israel from the Torah and to hide the divine light. That is why we celebrate our renewed independence with candle lighting. We light the Chanukkah candles in our windows, in order to publicize the miracle. We want the light of Torah to overflow all around the world. Not surprisingly, there are Jews willing and committed to spreading such light to the most nether reaches of the globe.
The Chabad-Lubavitch movement has thousands of shlichim who give spiritual comfort and strengthen Jewish communities worldwide. Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg were two of those shlichim who moved away from their families in NY and Israel and went to live in India, an extremely remote country with a very small Jewish community, in order to provide food and hospitality to Israeli tourists there. They had little financial incentive to move so far away and to put themselves in danger, yet they chose to do so in order to bring Jews closer to Torah. These two holy people, of blessed memory, were shining examples of the light of altruism, of human kindness and decency. The Chabad center in Mumbai, India, was open to anyone who needed a place to sleep, eat, spend Shabbat or study Torah.
"Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg made the ultimate sacrifice," said Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch. "As emissaries to Mumbai, Gabi and Rivky gave up the comforts of the West in order to spread Jewish pride in a corner of the world that was a frequent stop for throngs of Israeli tourists. Their Chabad House was popular among the local community, as well as with visiting businesspeople.
"For five years, they ran a synagogue and Torah classes, and helped people dealing with drug addiction and poverty," continued the statement. "Their selfless love will live on with all the people they touched. We will continue the work they started."
These two holy lights were brutally put out, along with hundreds of innocent people, by evil and cowardly murderers, committed to a religion of hatred and violence. In a senseless act commanded by a demonic deity, Islamic terrorists snuffed out the lives of hundreds of innocent people. A religion that desires only death and destruction, which creates nothing but only maims and murders, has spawned tens of thousands of deadly attacks such as this. Whether in New York, Jerusalem, London, Bali or Mumbai, these terrorists brazenly kill innocent civilians. Such an ideology is the complete antithesis of that of the light of Chanukkah, one which cannot coexist with the peace of the Torah. This cruel Islamic belief of war and hatred must be combatted and eradicated.
The sign of Kislev is that of Sagittarius, the archer, keshet. In Judaism, the keshet represents the forces of prayer. As Yaakov said to Yosef on his death bed, "which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow" (Genesis 48:22), meaning with prayer. The power and strength of the Jewish people is our prayer, our keshet. The keshet of prayer is opposite to Yishmael, who is called a roveh kashet, an archer. Only when the Jewish people unite and use our bow and arrow, our collective prayer, can we defeat the wicked archer of Yishmael. Yishmael, as the Torah tells us, is a wild ass of a man, his hand in everything, and everyone's hand against his. He is cruel and violent, a terrorist who murders at will. Without remorse, Yishmael wipes out the lights of the Torah and kills those who uphold and cherish life. He has no guilt, no conscious, but lives only to destroy. Yishmael flies planes into skyscrapers, dances as teenagers are shot to death while learning Torah, beheads captives and dances on the bodies of his victims. He is truly a wild ass of a man, out of control and bent on world domination. Now more than ever must Am Yisrael destroy the archer by using our power of archery, to cry out to HaShem to save us.
Just as the Greeks fell away against the holiness of the Torah, so too will Yishmael not be able to succeed in snuffing out the light so callously. The Chanukkiah is displaying in public so that the light should spread and illuminate the darkness. In these trying times, may we speedily to see a new light shine upon Zion, and the darkness that plagues the world be lifted. May Hashem comfort the families of all those killed by the evil archer in Mumbai among the mourner of Zion and Jerusalem and may we this month be inaugurated upon us for goodness and for blessing, for salvation and comfort.
Cross-posted to Goat's Barnyard and Jewish Vengeance