The Joy of Chanukah
Dear www.ohr.edu readers,
I recently came across the following beautiful Chanukah story that I'd like to share with you. It's from an interview with Annette Baslaw Finger, Ph.D., who was eleven years old when she escaped Nazi-controlled France. Stranded in the Pyranees with no food, she and her family fled on foot across Spain to Portugal. Here is one of her recollections:
"One time we hadn't had any food for a while, and all we had left was a limp carrot. A single carrot. It was Chanukah time, and I felt enormous sadness because this was all we had. Had I known what was going on with other Jewish children and families then, I would have considered myself very lucky. All I knew was that we had become gypsies, constantly on the move with no place that was safe for us. Our clothes were filthy; we couldn't take hot baths or sit down at a table and talk or have any normalcy at all.
"That particular night we were hiding in a barn, sleeping on hay. I was feeling sorry for myself. I said to my father, 'It's Chanukah. We don't even have a menorah to light.'
"My father said, 'What do you mean, we don't have a Chanukah menorah? We have the most beautiful menorah possible!' With that he opened the door a crack, pointed upward, and said, 'Look up at the sky.' We were someplace in the country. It was a pitch-black night, so the stars were brilliant. He said, 'Pick out the shammash.' (The shammash is the head candle on the menorah.) I picked out the most brilliant star. My father said, 'Good. Now let's pick out the other eight candles.' So we picked out the other eight candles, and we lit a menorah in the sky.
"It was beautiful! So close to heaven and close to G-d. Then we went back into the barn, and we played with an imaginary dreidle. We were spinning it, and then we'd call out what we got. Not unexpectedly I won! The prize was the carrot - that carrot, which just a few moments before had been a symbol of deprivation and sadness and loss, suddenly became a treasured prize.
"Magnanimously I shared that carrot with the whole family. In whispers we sang Chanukah songs, and it felt wonderful to be Jewish. That turned out to be probably the most memorable Chanukah I've ever had, and the most joyous one."