We’ve selected short readings that represent different community experiences. These pieces can be shared during the service or as part of a discussion.
Shalom Uvrakha to all of you! I’m Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Musan Gilay from Belgium, and it has been two years now that I took the decision to settle here in Madagascar. I’m truly honored to share a few words for the 25th anniversary of Kulanu, your wonderful organization.
When I came here two years ago, I found a community fuelled with Torah and Mitzvot, and you could feel how proud they were to be Jewish, and see how their Jewishness infuses their daily lives. There is a teaching in the Talmud that says that one reason of our exile is so that we will bring with us a lot of converts. When I see what the Malagasy Jewish community is becoming and the path they are following, I’m more and more convinced that you took the best decision by opening to them the doors of the Jewish family. If you hadn’t decided to be involved with them long ago, it’s not an exaggeration to claim that most of them, if not all, would have been lost to Judaism. But you gave them life. What they are is all thanks to you! You believed in them and are supporting them in so various ways, that their gratitude to you is eternal. So, on behalf of all the Malagasy Jewish community, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the care and love you’re showing them.
This year, you’re celebrating your 25th anniversary. It was at the age of 25 that the Levites had to begin serving God, and through this they were also serving the people. On Elul the 25th began the Creation of the world. And finally, on Kislev the 25th begins Chanukah. The common point between these three events centered on the number 25 is light. One of the tasks of the Kohanim, belonging to the tribe of Levy, was to kindle the Menorah, whose light was reverberated to the outside despite being lit inside the Beit HaMikdash.
Concerning the Creation of the world, the first sentence ushered by God was “Let there be light”. And we know from the Meforshim that we’re speaking of a special, spiritual light. As for Chanukah, its connection with light is obvious.
What I can wish you for your 25th anniversary is that you will receive throughout this year Siyata DiShmaya to kindle more lamps in other remote places of the world, where people longing for Judaism could be found. And may your light continue to give its bright Ad Ki Yavo Shiloh, Bimehera V’Yameinu. Amen, Ken Yehi Ratzon!
…we rabbis work all our lives to instill Jewish values and practices. We minister to people who are generally secure, educated and comfortable, and we are so often thwarted by just that comfort, safety and enlightenment. Our people are often hard-pressed to see their tradition as something to be treasured and appreciated. And here, in the poorest corner of the world, under the worst conditions, were people who expressed, with simplicity yet with eloquence, their great devotion to God, Torah, Israel, and Shabbat. Nothing I have read, nothing I had heard, could have prepared me for this heartfelt, unquestioning, unwavering faith. There are some who would attribute this to a lack of sophistication, education, and literacy. Nothing can be further from the truth. What we would find is that while there were many, especially among the older Abayudaya, who lacked formal education and some who were illiterate, they were, almost without exception, possessing a keen intelligence, unexpected sophistication and a surprisingly high level of Jewish literacy.
As toward a stranger I was destined to wed
Tentatively I approached —
Hope and trepidation.
I prayed that as in ancient legends
Perhaps we knew each other in a different life.
For long parted souls look not into the future,
But the past.
Our eyes met and immediately we knew
How could we forget!
Six hundred years ago we basked together
In the Spanish golden sun.
We sang the same romances, shared our wine.
In the splendor of Granada
How peacefully we sailed upon the dream
Of harmony and cultures shared,
Of human paradise.
Then the storm hit.
Stunned and confused we ran
And as we fled
Our hands tore apart
And torrential waves
Of people and events
Swept over us.
We lost one another
Five hundred years ago.
We took another step,
My feet still unsure,
The sands so soft and wet still
From the ebbing tide
How dare I look?
I could not know what’s left to recognize
In the wreckage
And how to make the leap
Across half a millennium.
But even as our frames held on to solid ground
We could hear the flutter of our souls,
Never minding time or place
They embraced in a flight of fantasy.
Soaring high above the anger and the fears
And all the distances and walls
That five hundred years apart have built
We whirled by new landscapes
Of lives we might have lived,
People whom we might have been.
We wept by one another’s sorrows
Gathered flowers in one another’s childhood fields.
When it came time for me to go,
I discovered that you
Had polished my spirit into
A brilliant gem
And from each of its myriad facets
To the farthest reaches of my
When it came time for me to go,
I did not know yet to thank you enough
For the many new lives,
All the joy and the pain
Your courageous voyage gave me
To hold me till we meet again.
Five hundred and one years.
Where are you now?
What new stations did you cross
In your lonely pilgrimage?
And did you mend your heart
— I recall the ripping sound, when it overfilled
Above the graveyard
Did it heal soft and large, with room enough for me
That I may always walk with you
(I could not hear your answer when I called).
Five hundred years and one, how is your strength
Do you walk always with your soul
And do you travel in your conscious hours or your sleep?
For stay, we know, our spirits will no more.
Five hundred and one years.
Do you still look for my reflection in your mirror?
Poem by Kokasi Keki*
Kintu’s family lives in a village called Nangolo
Kintu is a teacher
He is reading
Kintu, he counts the days
When six days pass,
he celebrates Shabbat with his family
Naome, our mum, learning to be a cook and caterer
is cooking matoke on a charcoal stove
Kokasi, the first born, is 11, and in P5 class
He helps his mother carry water from the borehole
Katalima, the second born, is 8, in P2 class
She sweeps the room
Deborah, last born, is soon to be three
and walks in and out of nursery class
Deborah sings songs for Chanukah
Today we are celebrating Chanukah
Today, we are going to light seven candles
Katalima lights the candles
*This poem is the First Prize Winner from the 2002 Kulanu International Competition for Young Writers. The author was 11 when the poem was written.
Click here to print out all the readings: Google Doc | PDF