July 14, 2024
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Tefillot for the IDF and Hostages When Lighting Shabbat Candles

If you are reading this article from a hard copy of The Jewish Link of New Jersey, you no doubt have received the inserted card on which tefilot for the hostages and the IDF are printed. One version features three Hebrew tefilot followed by their English translations. The second version offers two tefilot in Hebrew followed by three chapters of Tehillim and concluding with the traditional tefillah that we recite over Shabbat candles.

The journey of these tefillot from Eretz Yisrael to your front walk began when two young women, one from our community and one from Israel, separately but eventually together, realized that their best neshek (NSK), armaments, for combatting this horrific war in Israel is through nerot Shabbat kodesh (NSK), the candles of the holy Shabbat, and the tefillot we recite over them for our courageous chayalim and endangered hostages, as well as for our beloved families.

Aviva Nussbaum resides in Teaneck on the Beth Aaron side of the community, together with her husband, Harold, sons, Yosef and Ezra, and daughter, Tova. The Nussbaum family has many close ties to Israel. As a young girl, Aviva spent many summers with her grandmother in Moshav Beit Meir, a picturesque moshav in the Judean Hills outside of Yerushalayim. There she connected with the many aunts, uncles and cousins with whom she keeps in close contact. The Nussbaum sons both opted to mark their becoming bnei Mitzvah in Israel where they leyned at the Kotel and celebrated in the Jewish Quarter.

When the war erupted on October 7, the Nussbaums jumped into action along with the community of Teaneck, purchasing needed supplies from military equipment to personal toiletries and nourishing foods. Yet for Aviva, the spiritual involvement was still missing. As a religious woman, her special times in communicating with Hashem came at the moment of lighting her Shabbat candles and baking challah. Why not combine those special tefillot with bequests on behalf of the safety of the brave soldiers of the IDF and the speedy and safe return of the hostages?

Rabbi Larry Rothwachs directed Aviva to a tefillah card he himself had received. At the bottom of the card, in small print, a contact number in Israel was listed. Wasting no time, Aviva was in touch and the connection immediately began.

The woman at the other end of the number, who opts to remain anonymous, resides in Modi’in. She too was searching for a tefillah that she could include in her special time communicating with Hashem, during the lighting of her Shabbat candles. Her local rav sent her a text with a tefillah compiled by the Rabbanut Harashit of Israel with three heartfelt tefillot. One began: “Please Lord watch over and protect Your servants, Your flock, who are held captive in Gaza. Protect the soldiers of the army and the security forces, save them from any peril and harm … Please heal all the sick among Your people, and all the wounded, and hear the voice of our supplication, for You are the one who hears every prayer.”

Unfortunately she forgot to print the tefillot before lighting candles and was so disappointed. Determined to make the tefillot accessible, she took it upon herself to design two cards upon which these tefillot would be inscribed in both Hebrew and English. She and her husband shared it with friends and requested that they share it with 18 of their friends. Before long the tefillot had reached communities in Canada, London, Gibraltar, Barcelona and other Jewish communities around the world. However, she still struggled with how to get printed versions in the hands of women so that they could be incorporated into their Friday night tefillot. Her additional objective was to provide a mechanism for people who never lit candles to start this beautiful mitzvah.

The search for printers began. Within a few days a response came from a printer from Moshav Beit Yitzchak near Netanya who agreed to print the first run of over 1,000 cards in memory of his beloved daughter who was murdered on the first day of the war. Volunteers helped distribute this first run in the communities of Modi’in and Beit Shemesh, and in stores, medical clinics, banks, restaurants and even hair salons.

The second printing of over 50,000 cards was financed by a friend in Modi’in, l’ilui nishmat (in memory of) a cousin who was also killed on the first day of the war. Twenty-five female volunteers came forward to distribute the cards across Israel in Petach Tikvah, Be’er Sheva, Haifa, Hashmonaim, Gush Etzion and on and on.

Realizing that the dissemination of these tefillot could motivate women who did not yet light Shabbat candles, our Modi’in partner decided to travel to Kikar Dizengoff in Tel Aviv where a moving memorial to the hostages was attracting hundreds of visitors every day. There she began distributing the cards to women who might see these tefillot as their initiation into the mitzvah of lighting Shabbat candles. The reactions were overwhelmingly positive. From Dizengoff Square she ventured into the Azrieli Mall where she joined up with a Chabad kiosk where they were distributing Shabbat candles. The Chabad couple was only too happy to include the tefillot cards in their Shabbat candle
packages where together they will surely serve as a game-changer for many.

Back in New Jersey, 10,000 tefillah cards were waiting to be distributed, having been financed by Aviva and graciously brought back from Israel by Chaviva Rothwachs. Jewish Link Publisher Moshe Kinderlehrer was approached by the Nussbaums with the idea of disseminating the cards through the newspaper. True to his mission of performing chesed through the widely circulated weekly Jewish newspaper, over 6,500 tefillah cards were enclosed in the issue you are reading, which will go out to the readership in Bergen and Passaic Counties in time for this Shabbat’s candle lighting. Many kosher eateries and Jewish businesses in the Bergen County community have also graciously agreed to distribute the tefillah cards. Planning is in the works for even wider distribution.

Aviva and her co-partner are in consonance in their belief in the power of tefilot, especially those recited alongside the lighting of Shabbat candles by Jewish women of all backgrounds. These tefillot are infusing a flicker of light into the surrounding darkness we are currently experiencing. Through our uniting in ahava and achva (love and brotherhood), surely b’yachad ni’natzeach, together we will win!


For additional cards, email Aviva Nussbaum at [email protected].

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