Rabbi Aaron Goldscheider, the author of “The Light That Unites” (OUPress, 2017) authored an interesting essay for the current issue of Yeshiva University’s “Torah To-Go: Chanukah 5778” entitled, “Reflecting on the Menorah’s Reflection,” wherein he made the following observations:
“Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, z’’tl, in ‘Days of Deliverance,’ pages 176–179, shared a profound insight regarding the menorah, which strikingly parallels this theme alluded to within the word ‘kankan.’ The Rav takes note of the Torah verses that describe the menorah lighting in the Mishkan. Surprisingly, the laws governing lighting the menorah are stated hand in hand with the offering of the ‘ketoret,’ the incense.”
Rabbi Goldscheider continues:
“With poetic beauty, the Rav compared the light of the menorah to a star in the night sky: “The distant star does not shed light, it does not resolve enigmas or clear up mysteries. However, it does tell one story: namely, that there is a light behind the vast and awesome cosmic drama.
“The Rav is proposing a unique perspective regarding the inner meaning of the menorah. The menorah should not be viewed as a bright light or a symbol of clear providence or Divine intervention. On the contrary, the menorah represents merely the ‘twinkle from the star above,’ the light of G-d when it is dimmed and difficult to discern. In such times a Jew is responsible to search out G-d and strive to locate His presence; to be aware of His guiding hand even when it is not apparent.
“Taking this interpretation to heart, the miracle of Chanukah, which centered around the menorah, is most fitting. The Rav taught that the festival of Chanukah commemorates an era of ‘hester panim,’ G-d’s hiddenness. … No prophet promised a reward, no vision inspired them, no message gave them solace. It was an act of faith par excellence. This is their message to the generations: ‘Do not believe that our people is abandoned of G-d’.” (Macc. 7:6).
The rabbi concludes:
“On the darkest nights of the year, the Jew places the menorah lights in the window. Little lights flicker from our homes spreading a message to the world. Namely, when we see beyond the Kankan, when we lift the outer veil, suddenly the letters YH-VH appear. In truth, all along the way, even during the most painful and bleakest moments, G-d was there with us.”
In “The Light That Unites” there is what I regard as a sacred modern day midrash, entitled, “Yedidya’s Light.” Yedidya is the son of a former student of mine from long ago, Rabbi Simcha Hochbaum, and of his wife, Leah, both leaders of the holy Jewish community of Hebron.
This is the true story of a little boy by the name of Yedidya, who made aliyah with his family to the city of Hebron. … Only 90 Jewish families live in the city. It is not an easy or hospitable place for Jews to live. Nevertheless, these heroic families live in this sacred setting because they passionately believe in the holiness of this biblical city … where Abraham and Sarah lived for much of their lives … where Sarah died, and where Abraham purchased a cave and field so that he could bury his wife and establish burial plots for his family. The cave is known as Me’arat Hamachpelah. …
Well, beautiful little Yedidya was a special young boy, loved by all the families of Hebron. At the age of three and a half, Yedidya was diagnosed with autism. … By the age of three, he had still not uttered a full word. His parents prayed each day for his health and well-being. If only he would begin to speak. Yedidya’s father prays each day in the Me’arat Hamachpelah. He serves as the director of tourism for the Jewish community in the city.
One afternoon Yedidya joined his father on a tour of the Me’arat Hamachpelah. Even at this young age, Yedidya knew his way around the cave. While his father was praying the afternoon service, Yedidya went off on his own, as he often did. That day he ran in the direction of the burial place of Abraham.
The area where Abraham is buried does not have an accessible entrance. People generally stand outside it and look through steel-gated windows. It is common for people to stand by these openings and peer through these spaces and offer prayers. Suddenly, policemen who keep watch on the goings-on inside the cave gathered around the area of Abraham’s burial place. There was commotion.
The guards called out, “Get your son out. Please get him out! He must get out!” There was a little boy sitting on the ground, inside the gated area. How he got in is unclear, but he had found his way inside. Incredibly, Yedidya had somehow climbed through the bars. And he was in no mind to leave. Little Yedidya sat on the floor, totally unaware of what was happening around him. He did not hear the shouts of the police, nor did he sense the commotion. Yedidya was sitting on the floor, smiling and completely at ease. And then, for the first time in his life, Yedidya spoke.
He loudly said two words: “Ohr poh, Light here.” He excitedly repeated these words: “Light here, light here,” and he was pointing to Abraham’s burial place.
Amazingly, little Yedidya sensed light emanating from this holy spot.
When we are spiritually sensitive, we can perceive a light from beyond the physical world. There is light where there is joy. There is light where there is kindness. There is light when there is love shared between people.
Yedidya uttered just four more words before he was removed from the burial place: Abba poh, Ima poh, “Father is here, Mother is here.” He was pointing to the burial place of Abraham and Sarah.
Yedidya sensed the aura found in this holy place — earth that contains within it the very roots of the Jewish people. There is light when we are deeply connected to our wondrous past and to our noble roots.
If we let them, the candles of Chanukah will remind us of this magnificent spiritual light. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, said, “The innocent faith of a child touches upon the utterly simple essence of G-d.”
ALSO FOR YOUR HOLIDAY LEARNING:
“The Miracles of Chanukah” privately published, adapted from the writings and shiurim of Rav Shlomo Brevda, zt”l.
“The Lights of Chanukah: One Hundred Meditations” by Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trugman (Ohr Chasah, 2017).
“Moadim Perspectives: Chanukah-Purim” (Feldheim, 2018), based on the teachings of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, Rav Dr. Salomon Breuer and Rav Dr. Joseph Breuer.
And for Shabbat: “Candle Lighting Treasury,” by Rabbi Dov Weller (ArtScroll, 2017).