A group of volunteers from Israel has been helping Ukrainian Jews as they make their way to the Holy Land. Cole Aronson writes about his Shabbat with refugees in the Moldovan capital of Chișinău (formerly Kishinev):
Tonight is different from all other nights. “Stand and leave the tumult; too long have you lived in the valley of tears” reads the third verse of L’kha Dodi, the central hymn of Friday night’s liturgy. Tonight, God has brought these people to a safe waystation between war in Ukraine and a Jewish nation free in its land.
A man in his early thirties standing next to me knows the first few lines of the sh’ma, the central Jewish prayer recited twice each day, which he says, eyes shut, while holding an infant son. After he finishes his own recitation, he gestures at me to say the rest of my own prayer louder, so he and his child can hear what our ancestors have said for thousands of years. After the sh’ma, we continue: “He is the Lord our God, there is none besides Him, and we are Israel His people. The One who saves us from the grasp of kings—our King, who redeems us from the hands of tyrants . . . ”
In Kishinev, these lines aren’t a memory but a description. My sh’ma companion, his son, and the others are traveling to new lives under the guard of a Jewish army, itself much of the answer to two millennia of dispersal and powerlessness.