Chanukah traditions vary from region to region, and gadol to gadol. As rabbanim such as Rav Chaim Kanievsky and Rav Gershon Edelstein light their menorahs, they are surrounded at all sides by spectators. With the glow of the Chanukah neiros casting a warm light upon the huddled crowd, the gedolim are keenly aware of the fact that they are being watched. It is a time for tefilah.
As the bracha is recited, the gabbai brings a piece of freshly printed paper, and it is handed to the Rav. With the utmost concentration, Rav Kanievsky, Rav Edelstein, Rav Shlessinger, the Biala Rebbe, the Belzer Rebbe and more make a public spectacle of praying for an elite list of names: Those who donate to Kupat Ha’Ir’s Chanukah campaign.
In today’s world there are seemingly endless options for giving tzedaka. The spiritual leaders of the generation know that many are hesitant to give to organizations like Kupat Ha’Ir, rather than to individuals that they know personally. For this reason they go out of their way, enduring invasive photographs and news articles, to make sure that it is clear: They vouch for the validity, and urgency, of this particular fund.
Rav Chaim Kanievsky also issued a handwritten letter this year, with a particularly powerful blessing for those who join him:
“Whoever will donate 250, the equivalent of “Ner” to the Chanukah campaign of Kupat Ha’ir, will merit “Torah Ohr” – righteous children with fear of Heaven, and sons who are talmidei chachamim.”
As the Rav is famous for being particularly careful with his words, this is a striking bracha. All donors will also be prayed for at the kotel on Zos Chanukah, as part of a large tefila event. All names submitted by 3pm Israel time (8am US time) will be on the prayer list for the following day.
As the Chanukah neiros are lit this evening, Jews around the world will be immersed in prayer. The most esteemed Torah scholars in the world will stand before the menorah in complete seriousness, concentrating on the names of those looking to bring blessing into their lives. They ask one thing in return: help the poor.