Rabbi Chaim Litvin
One lesson of Chanukah has turned my entire thinking of the coronavirus upside down.
During the last eight months, like all of you, I was challenged by the coronavirus. How would I deal with the difficulties it presented?
I was particularly challenged because of my role as program director at Chabad.
Numerous people who were living paycheck to paycheck before COVID-19 were now worried, alone and despairing, not knowing what tomorrow might bring. The immediate challenge was how to reach them in a safe manner, both for the volunteers and those who we would be assisting.
Thank G-d for the quick action of the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence and the Federation, which stepped in and helped the community organizations reach out to their constituents. But it did not end there.
I am proud of Louisville and the amazing steps our community has taken to keep people safe yet still involved. The Jewish Community of Louisville broke ground on our future JCC building with a creative program that included online and in-person participation.
Keneseth Israel sponsored a drive-through sukkah so people could safely make a blessing on lulav and etrog during the holiday.
The Temple instituted numerous Zoom classes and programs, reaching many people who otherwise might not be able to attend; Adath Jeshurun also hosted multiple musical and entertainment presentations through Zoom.
I too was concerned with how to reach the masses, but my view quickly changed. I pivoted my focus from reaching the masses. The masses are home, where they should be, staying safe and protected during this pandemic.
Instead, I suggest listening to the message of Chanukah and focusing on the individual.
This is the message of Chanukah. On night one, it is one light; night two, two lights – growing each day, spreading more light, dispelling more darkness, reaching out to one more person and increasing that warmth, light and positivity every day.
This pandemic has given us all the incredible opportunity to interact with individuals in a special way. I would like to dedicate this coming year as the Year of the One – the year of the individual.
Although large gatherings may not be possible this year, the mitzvah of menorah, and the rebbe’s message of the value of every individual, remain the same. So this year I have committed to focus not on the Jewish community, but on every single Jew in the community. Instead of focusing on a giant community-wide menorah lighting celebration, I challenge you to join me in focusing on having the menorahs lit in every individual home across our community.
To do this, I plan to share free menorah kits for any Louisvillian who will commit to light it this Chanukah. For those who have menorahs but need candles, I intend to provide them in a safe contactless manner, all free of charge. Let’s get more people on board and light up Louisville one flame at a time.
I also encourage everyone to reach out and brighten the life of one more person. Tell a child the story of Chanukah, when the few overcame the many and G-d helped the weak overcome the mighty.
Use the holiday to call a friend, to send an uplifting email, or to leave some food for a neighbor. Israel, and the world in general, are made up of individuals. This world needs each person to see all others as sacred, to be cherished, supported and uplifted.
May this time of the coronavirus be forever remembered as the time when we shifted our focus back to the individual. That would truly be fulfilling the Chanukah message of lighting up the darkness with goodness and light.