“There is nothing like lighting a menorah in the place where the Chanukah miracles happened,” say Nepal-based Chabad emissaries who returned to Israel for the holiday.
By Tsivya Fox-Dobuler
Rabbi Chezki Lifshitz and his wife Chani are known to millions of people around the world for their tireless work running the “Chabad House” in Kathmandu, Nepal for the past 20 years. However, there is no better place to light a Chanukah menorah than where the miracles of the holiday actually occurred, which is in Modi’in and Jerusalem.
“About 1,000 people come through our doors every day in Kathmandu, mostly tourists looking to hike the Himalayas,” Chani told United With Israel. “Now, it is freezing there so we have the opportunity to come to Israel for two months, and we help take care of the lighting of some of the Chabad menorahs in Jerusalem.”
The couple are raising six children in Kathmandu. “There are no Jewish schools for them in Nepal,” Chani said. “So, when we come to Israel, they also get to go to school.”
Chani explained that the late leader of Chabad-Lubavitch, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Scheerson, had sent about 4,500 emissaries around the world to ensure that traveling Jews would have a place to connect to Judaism and get kosher food as well as to teach Judaism to Jews in local communities who had no Jewish education.
“The Rebbe’s message was to show people that we are all one light and one family,” she said. “That’s the message of Chanukah. We try to ignite the light in everyone.”
With over 20,000 visitors a year to the Chabad House in Kathmandu, the Lifshitzes regularly host 200-300 people at their Shabbat table. They also rescue people, Jews and non-Jews, who get trapped while hiking the Himalayan mountains.
“Many people come and are not properly prepared for the trek,” Chani told United With Israel. “We become their mother, father, sister and brother. We take care of bodies and souls like we are one big family.”
Even when they’re not in Nepal, the Chabad House is always open. “We have a young couple running the place when we are away. Of course, we have menorah lighting for those who come during Chanukah,” she said.
In Jerusalem’s Malcha Mall, Chabad placed a huge menorah, about four meters in height. The Lifshitzes arranged for famous personalities and “special people” to come and light the candles each night of Chanukah. A torch was attached to a long pole, allowing the guest lighters to reach the candles.
This year and last, Ginny and Michael Nissenbaum were honored with lighting on the fourth night of Chanukah. The couple, who live in Florida and regularly come to Israel to visit family and friends, had developed a warm relationship with the Lifshitz family during a trip to Kathmandu.
“I appreciate the important work that Chabad does throughout the world, bringing Jews closer to Judaism,” Michael told United With Israel. “We travel a lot and try to visit Chabad houses wherever we go.”
Unlike most Biblical dictates that can be performed privately, the lights of the menorah are meant to be seen by as many people as possible in order to advertise the miracles that are celebrated on Chanukah.
“It is a real honor to light a large, public menorah in Jerusalem for the second year in a row,” Ginny told United With Israel. “It is very meaningful for us to be surrounded by family, friends and the people of Israel. The message of Chanukah is to spread light and love and that’s what I feel we are doing when we gather around this public menorah.”
“It’s so special to light here and dance, sing and tell the story just a bit away from where the Temple stood.” “Lighting a menorah in Jerusalem is an amazing feeling that one cannot get anywhere else in the world. We are grateful to be here. It’s a miracle,” her husband enthused.
“We are very excited to light the Chanukah menorah in Jerusalem where the miracles actually happened,” Chezki said.