By COLlive reporter
Russian President Vladimir Putin invited the top 2 Jewish officials in the country for a meeting in the Kremlin on Wednesday in honor of the holiday of Chanukah.
Sitting with Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar and President of Federation of Jewish Communities Rabbi Alexander Boroda, Putin congratulated all Jews of Russia on the holiday.
In the conversation, Putin demonstrated his knowledge of the internal mechanism of the Jewish apparatus in Moscow and events that led to the establishment of the Festival of Lights.
But while the President saw it as a military victory of the brave group of Maccabees, Rabbi Lazar pointed out that the celebration was about something different…
Here is a transcript of their conversation:
President Putin: Friends, I would like to congratulate you and all the Jews of Russia, irrespectively of the organization they belong to – of which we have two main ones: the Congress and…
Rabbi Lazar: The Federation of Jewish Communities.
President Putin: The Federation of Jewish Communities. I would like to congratulate all Jews of Russia on Hanukkah. This is a great, bright holiday. Every day you light…
Rabbi Lazar: Another candle.
President Putin: Plus one more candle. The holiday lasts 8 days. Which day is it?
Rabbi Lazar: Today is the fourth.
President Putin: So, today you light the fourth candle. This is not only a holiday of renewal, a holiday of light, but also a celebration of the heroism of the Jewish people: as far as I recall, this relates to their victory over the Hellenistic king in 164 BC.
Rabbi Lazar: Precisely.
President Putin: This has to do with history and tradition, but today people are marking it proceeding from both the current situation and ancient tradition, looking back at the past year and ahead at the prospects for their families and the entire country.
I would like to wish you, and once again all the Jews of Russia prosperity and all the best. I hope all the dreams and plans linked to such holidays as the ones the Jews are celebrating now will come true. I wish you all the best.
Rabbi Lazar: Thank you very much.
I would also like to congratulate you on Hanukkah. True, this is a Jewish holiday, but I believe it is universal. This is exactly why we light the Menorah in central squares and not only at home and in synagogues. The Hanukkah lesson is meant for all.
You noted correctly that this is a holiday of victory. However, we do not use the word ‘victory’, we speak of a miracle: the oil that was meant to burn out in a day kept burning for eight days.
What does this teach us? That sometimes, unfortunately, we need to fight to defend ourselves. However, war is only an instrument. The goal is what matters, and the goal is to bring light to the world, to destroy darkness.
The lesson of Hanukkah is meant for everyone, because when we fight darkness, we know that sometimes this has to be done, it is necessary. This happened last century – against Hitler, who threatened the whole world, and today international terrorism is also threatening us all.
However, we understand that their goals differ from ours. Their goal is to bring chaos and fear to people. While our goal is to stand up for kindness, values and morals. In Russia, these things do come first: family and religious values receive a lot of attention.
I would like to thank you because we feel comfortable in Russia now. Synagogues were recently opened in Abakan, Ivanovo, Kaluga, in Zhukovka in the Moscow Region.
In a couple of days, we will open a synagogue in Vladivostok. This is a sign of respect for our values, our religion. This is exactly as we say: it is better to give light than to keep pondering over problems.
We know that you are doing a lot now to protect the world from terrorism and we hope that Hanukkah will help everyone to see the light.
President Putin: Thank you. However, it is not a coincidence that this holiday is linked to victory. This also matters.