Weekly Chasidic Story #679 (s5771-13 / 23 Kislev 5771)
Until Saturday Night, Chanukah
“Although it was still afternoon of the Sabbath of Chanukah, the chaplain came to conduct the Chanukah menorah lighting service for us.”
Connection: Seasonal – Chanukah
BY RABBI MOISHE GURKOW
In 1959, I was sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe to act as his agent to strengthen and encourage Jewish observance in Boston, MA. Due to some health challenges, I was forced in 2006 to take residence in a kosher rehabilitation center near my home in Brighton. We have a wonderful chaplain here who tries her best to accommodate our religious needs.
Earlier today, while it was still afternoon of the Sabbath of Chanukah, she came to conduct the Chanukah menorahlighting service for us. We were all assembled in our sanctuary and the chaplain was ready to light the candles when I noticed that it was only 4pm and well before twilight. On other days of Chanukah, the menorah may be lit before twilight. But doing so on the Sabbath would constitute a desecration of our holy Day of Rest.
So I shouted in protest, for by no means could I sit by idly and allow such a terrible thing to take place. My objections snowballed into a major dispute with threats of calling the police. To calm things down, I told the following story.
When I was still a boy of 6 years old in my home in Communist Russia, I went with my Uncle, Rabbi Michoel Teitelbaum, who later founded the Lubavitch Educational Institute Oholei Torah in Brooklyn, to light the first candle of the Chanukah menorah in an outdoor setting in an effort to publicize the miracle. All of a sudden from out of nowhere a policeman appeared, wielding a huge knife, with which he attempted to kill us!
My uncle and I ran for our lives. We came to a gigantic snow pile and plunged into its snow, but the policeman with his deadly knife was still at our backs. He thrust it deep into the snow; the knife’s sharp blade literally reached the throat of Uncle Michoel when he suddenly bit the policeman’s thumb, causing him to drop the knife to the ground. In the midst of the commotion my uncle and I fled the scene. We returned back to the place where we started out only to find that lone, first Chanukah candle still burning joyously.
In this way, I continued to tell my tale in as much detail as I could, until finally the Day of Rest parted and the proper time to light the Chanukah menorah arrived. After the chaplain lit the candles, I began singing a rousing rendition of the Chanukah hymn, HaNaros Halalu, which describes how the Chanukah lights are sanctified. Indeed, all those assembled in the sanctuary joined in together, and thank G-d, now it was at the right time.
I was gratified that even out of my own element I was still able to perform my commission.
Source: Translated by Refoel Leitner from the hand-written Hebrew original (pdf file available), who also added details from oral sources.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe (11 Nissan 1902 – 3 Tammuz 1994), became the seventh Rebbe of the Chabad dynasty after his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, passed away in Brooklyn on 10 Shvat 1950. He is widely acknowledged as the greatest Jewish leader of the second half of the 20th century. Although a dominant scholar in both the revealed and hidden aspects of Torah and fluent in many languages and scientific subjects, the Rebbe is best known for his extraordinary love and concern for every Jew on the planet. His emissaries around the globe dedicated to strengthening Judaism number in the thousands. Hundreds of volumes of his teachings have been printed, as well as dozens of English renditions.
Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.