Praying for Kiev
The distressing events unfolding in Ukraine have captured our hearts and minds. We have been praying for the innocent who have been under attack over the past week. Our extra concerns extend to the many Jewish communities dotted around that country. From the large cities to the smaller towns, there are tens of thousands of our brethren whose fate we’re anxiously following.
As my surname implies, Kiev is in our family history. Not only in generations past, but today, we still have family serving the Ukrainian Jewish community. Ukrainians call their capital “Kyiv” (kee-yiv), the spelling, a transliteration of the Ukrainian Київ. The Russian version is “Kiev” (kee-yev). Either way, we are entrenched, and there are Jews residing in both countries bearing the brunt of this chaos.
There is solace in the thought that this world-shaking event is occurring during the week that we study the parsha of Pekudei. What’s the overarching theme of this parsha? The Mishkan, a sanctuary that our ancestors built, a travelling Temple in the desert that was a physical place on earth where G-d’s infinite light intersected the reality of the human being below.
A sanctuary is meant to offer protection from those who would cause you harm. It’s an expression of our awareness of G-d’s constant presence together with our trust in His compassionate protection.
The parsha describes the accounting Moses took of the donations towards the construction of the desert sanctuary. And the people gave. Some contributed materials, building supplies, luxury metals, and precious stones. Some contributed time, as builders and labourers. Others dedicated their talents as weavers and architects. Each gave of their unique wealth, in items or in expertise.
We read about how each donation was accounted for, and by extension, every single Jew was included in one way or another. It’s a concrete manifestation of the idea that for G-d’s home to be built and magnificent, it requires each individual to give of their personal riches.
Today, G-d’s home can be found everywhere – from Uganda to Ukraine. Sustaining Jewish communities and supporting our brethren wherever they are is how we continue Moses’ legacy of ensuring that everyone is included and no detail overlooked. And again, such sustenance happens when each individual reviews their personal riches and sees what they can give – prayers, tehillim, letters, messages of hope and strength, tzeddakah, financial support, and so on.
When the Sanctuary was completed, Moses authored a beautiful prayer (Psalm 91 of Tehillim) for the persistent safety and security that G-d provides. May the merit of building G-d a home in their communities stand by and protect our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, and may we see an immediate end to the conflict as the verse states, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not raise sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.”