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Wednesday, February 28, 2024 - 19 Adar I 5784
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Lights in Bombai

It is Chanukah, a time when we commemorate the miracle lights that burned in the Holy Temple. Let’s take this time to reflect on a modern day Holy Temple, a modest home that radiated warmth, light and goodness to the country of India and to the whole world. Chabad Mumbai, Menorah

Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka moved to Bombai, India in 2003, inspired by the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s call to bring the light of Judaism to the furthest reaches of the world. Regarding the Redemption, the prophet Isaiah says, “And you will be gathered up one by one, the Jewish people.” Rashi in his commentary explains that G-d will gather up each Jew by hand, and bring them out of exile with mercy. Based on this prophecy, the Rebbe sent out his emissaries to the most distant locations—places where there were only a few isolated Jews. If G-d Himself will see fit to personally gather up Jews from these remote areas, then certainly it is incumbent upon us to reach out to isolated Jews to kindle within them the “light of mitzvah and the fire of Torah.”

A Chassid is a lamplighter, as explained by Rabbi Shalom Dovber Schneerson, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe. The job of a Chassid is to spread light, to hold up a torch that will attract others by its light and warmth.

Gavriel and Rivka did not wait for someone to offer them a position in a prestigious community. Rather, they sought out a place that was in need of an invigoration of Jewish life and energy, and moved there out of their own initiative. They knew it was their mission to bring light, and they traveled to India with a sense of supreme joy and purpose. Indeed, they are remembered best for their constant good cheer and happiness. They did not take into account the fact that they were only two people out of millions; they set up shop right in the center of Bombai, knowing that eventually that light will spread and will be replicated in dozens and even hundreds of Jewish homes in India and around the world.

The windows of the Holy Temple were narrow on the inside and wide on the outside—to reflect on the fact that the purpose of the Holy Temple was to radiate light to the world. Gavriel and Rivka themselves lived simply; their passion, their energy, was directed outward, to caring for others both physically and spiritually.

On November 28, the beautiful home that the Holtzbergs had so painstakingly erected was invaded by bloodthirsty terrorists, who savagely murdered Gavriel and Rivka along with four of their guests. The devastation was complete and heartrending: Every floor of the building was soaked with blood, riddled with bullets. The sifrei Torah themselves were ravaged, penetrated by the guns of the terrorists.

Yet, like the one pure cruise of oil found by the Maccabees, uncontaminated by Greek hands, one tiny cruise of oil, a tiny source of light, remained. Moshe Holtzberg, the couple’s two-year-old son, was rescued from the carnage by his heroic nanny, Sandra Samuel. Moshe is the ray of hope, who will grow up and keep the lights of the menorah burning in Bombai, until more pure oil can be procured, when the souls of Gavriel and Rivka, along with all the other kedoshim, holy ones who sanctified G-d’s name, will be returned to us, with the revelation of our righteous Moshiach.

Work is already underway to repair the Chabad House and reopen it with all the glorious activities to which the Holtzbergs dedicated their lives. May their memory be a blessing.

(Based on a talk by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, 12 Tamuz 5730, Shabbat Parshat Balak, 5734)


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