Throughout last Shabbat, I thought many times about what was happening in Ukraine in general, and among our Jewish brothers there in particular. At the close of Shabbat, Miriam Moskovich, a Chabad shlucha in Kharkov, wrote me as follows:
“It’s written that we are not supposed to cry on Shabbat, but this Shabbat I failed several times in this regard:
“On Friday evening, we were in the synagogue with dozens of women and children who have been living in the synagogue cellar since the outbreak of war. This is their bomb shelter. After kiddush, we began to sing ‘Nyet Nyet Nikavo,’ a chasidic niggun in Russian which says that we must not be afraid of anyone, only G-d. And then we sang, ‘Hinei ma tov u’ma na’im, shevet achim gam yachad.’ There was also applause for the cooks who are now sleeping in the synagogue and working 24/7 to feed everyone, from the refugees who arrived from Donetsk with their children to an old man who is afraid to remain alone in his fifth floor apartment.
“On Shabbat morning, we blessed the new month of Adar Beit that begins this week, and we said together the blessing ‘Who performed miracles for our forefathers.’ I felt tears in my eyes. How much we need miracles in this month of Adar.
“At the end of Shabbat morning prayers we have a beautiful custom in our synagogue. The president of our congregation, Alexander Kaganovsky, blesses those who are celebrating birthdays and other happy occasions. This Shabbat he asked for silence and said: ‘I want to thank all the emissaries who have stayed behind with us. For many years you have been saying that you are an inseparable part of us, but now you proved it in the moment of truth.’ He finished, choked up with tears, and gave a big hug to my husband.
“My son Yossi was the chazan for the Musaf prayer. When he began to chant ‘He is our G-d’ strong explosions were heard from the outskirts of Kharkov. The Russians are trying to enter the city. As Yossi was leading us in chanting the prayers, we heard booms and so our voices grew louder and louder in order to prevail over the bomb blasts.
“In the course of Shabbat, the children decided to wear Purim costumes, perform skits, and dance. My daughter Malka explained to us after dancing that she knows why everyone is sleeping together in the basement: ‘In the days of Purim, Haman said that the Jews were scattered everywhere and not united. So we must sleep together in order to show that all us are now united.’
“Shavua tov from Kharkov with our best wishes for good news for everyone.”
Translation by Yehoshua Siskin