Hanukkah is set to begin Dec. 7 — three weeks after three Flagler Beach businesses were victims of antisemitic vandalism. How does the rabbi of the Chabad Jewish Center of Palm Coast respond?
I spoke with Rabbi Levi Ezagui recently for an episode of “Faith in Flagler,” which aired Dec. 3 on Flagler Broadcasting. What follows is an edited transcript of a portion of our conversation.
How do you find peace in a contentious world, a world that includes hateful vandalism?
Firstly, I want to take the opportunity to thank Matt Doughney, the Flagler Beach chief of police. He told me he's doing everything he can to make sure to whoever did that will be accounted for. And so we really do appreciate that.
The Jewish community has been through a lot. And we are not afraid. We are proud Jews; we always will be proud Jews. We bring kindness. We bring love. How do we fight negativity? By lighting a light. Every year, we put up a menorah at the Veterans Park, in Flagler Beach. And we're going to put it up again this year, right there, to show the world, the community, that we don't get thrown down like that. We’re proud Jewish people. There's going to be some crazies out there — that’s just what it is. And we're not going to let this stop who we are, and what we believe in, and our faith in God.
How people respond to negativity says a lot.
I’ll tell you more about negativity. When God created the world, the first time there was negativity and death in the world was when Adam and Eve’s son, Qayin [Hebrew for Cain] killed Havel [Abel], right? They didn't know what to do: How do we deal with death?
The Midrash, which is a commentary on the Torah, says that a raven came and said, “I'll teach Adam and Eve what to do,” and he and buried another raven, which was dead. And Adam learned from that. That's what you're supposed to do: Bury your dead. And it’s not so much about the burying. The greatest kindness you could do for someone is something where they can’t say thank you.
So right in the beginning of creation, God taught us this idea of love and kindness. Ravens in their nature aren't kind animals. But they went against their nature to show love. And that's what we do. We're going to show kindness. We're going to be a brighter light. And everybody has this ability to do that. It’s how God created the world. Kindness trumps hate.
We're all prone to want to fight back or get revenge. How do we overcome that?
We do have to be firm. Torah was given on Mount Sinai. They say, “Why was it on Mount Sinai, a mountain? It should have been in a valley, if it's trying to show humbleness.” Once in a while, you’ve got to be firm; you’ve got to have a backbone, but you have to be humble.
Hanukkah begins Dec. 7 this year, and it dates back to 200 BCE, when Jewish freedom fighters reclaimed the temple in Jerusalem. They wanted to read the Torah, so they lit a candle, and there was only enough oil for one night. Instead, it miraculously kept on going for eight nights. What does that story and Hanukkah mean to you?
As I grew up, I loved Hanukkah. How could you not? Eight days of presents! But the actual spirituality of it — that's very relevant today, more than ever. It shows how a little army fought and won. You put in that effort, you put that light in, and God will mirror that and make a miracle. We also have an annual Hanukkah event in European Village, in Palm Coast.
Yes, I went to it a couple of years ago, and I noticed there was a little bit of trouble getting the candle lit in the wind, and it just kind of struck me like, “We're trying so hard to have this spiritual moment, we're all in the right place at the right time, and yet, these practical things get in the way.” What what do you what do you make of that?
I love the analogy. Yes, there are roadblocks in life. But we always have to have trust and faith in God. And we have to understand that he is the arranger. God has a plan.
If God knows everything, and he loves us so much, then why doesn't he help us see into the future avoid some of these problems?
I wish it was so simple. HaShem [God] wants our effort. He wants us to work. The more effort we put in, God will mirror it.
Visit https://flaglerbroadcasting.com/podcasts/faith-in-flagler to listen to the episode.