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Disrupted But Unbroken

Friday, 4 March, 2022 - 10:47 am

On Monday hundreds joined Rabbi and Mrs. Wolff from Chabad of Odessa on Zoom to hear firsthand how their community was faring during wartime. They projected strong optimism that together with their community and the 120 children of their orphanage they could weather it out, but overnight the calculus changed. By Tuesday morning it became clear that if the carnage of Kherson and Kharkiv were an indication of what was in store for the rest of Ukraine’s urban cities, evacuation was the only viable option.

How do you evacuate over 100 children who only have birth certificates? The logistics were overwhelming but, against all odds, on Wednesday morning, two buses left Odessa transporting the entire Mishpacha Orphanage infrastructure to the border of Moldova. Chaperoned by my cousin Rabbi Mendy Wolff and his wife Mushky - both in their twenties - they traveled for 3 days through Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Czechia, arriving this morning in Berlin where they are setting up shop for the foreseeable future.

My entire extended family followed their harrowing journey in real time through their constant updates on a family WhatsApp chat group, and amazingly their spirits were high throughout. Each border crossing was miraculous, (ever tried getting a kid across multiple borders with just a pixelated black and white printout of their birth certificate?) and caring for such a diverse group of children - the youngest of whom is not even six weeks old - for 52 hours on the road is excruciating, but they did not stop smiling, singing and dancing.

This is just one story of so many others happening all around Ukraine as Chabad representatives there, and all along the escape routes, continue providing logistical, material and, most importantly, moral support to everyone and anyone they come in contact with.

In this week’s parsha the Torah states that when the Jews completed building the Mishkan (tabernacle) in the desert, a divine cloud filled it, demonstrating the presence of G-d in their handiwork. It then concludes, “When the cloud rose up from over the Mishkan, the children of Israel set out on all their journeys.”

This is odd because the story of the Israelite journeys through the desert is articulated in great detail later on in the Torah. Why was it necessary to describe the divine cloud leaving the Mishkan while describing the awesome experience of the Jews seeing it fill the Mishkan?

The lesson is that our mission of creating a divine dwelling is not limited to normal times when we are settled, but most importantly when life is disrupted and we are forced to move on to unknown destinations.

A little over a week ago the Jewish community of Ukraine was flourishing and growing, and it’s heartbreaking to think it can all disintegrate. But the first hand reports I’m hearing from friends and family on the ground tell a very different story. Although their conventional infrastructure is horrendously disrupted, it remains as robust as ever - albeit on the move. No one knows what the future holds for them but we know for certain that with the support of us all tucked safely away from the ravages of war, the Chabad infrastructure of Ukraine will continue to flourish wherever their next destination may be.

Please continue to pray on their behalf, do an extra mitzvah in their merit and support them as best as you can from afar. That’s what family is for. May we merit very soon to experience the dawn of redemption through Moshiach when war and suffering will cease and peace and tranquility will reign for all.

To donate please visit: https://bit.ly/OdessaRelief



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