Rabbi Kalman Packouz (Originally a Reform Jew from coastal Oregon) and now the sender of Aitz Ha Torah, sent this out today. I like the Latke beginning and am reminded of a young Jewish recruit to the US Army in WW II, who went to the Army Doctor and told him that he was dying. “Why “asked the Doctor, “Well”, he replied,” I have been eating the Army food for two months now and my fire has gone out!”
Mikeitz (Genesis 41:1-44:17)
GOOD MORNING! A friend of mine told me that as he grows older he experiences a personal miracle on Hanukah. He eats one potato latka — and it burns for eight days.
I share with you this week two stories about Hanukah — my Hanukah gift to you!
I heard the following story years ago when I lived in Israel and to the best of my knowledge it is true. Before the USSR let the Jews leave for Israel, Jews used to hire a guide to smuggle them out of Russia. One Hanukah a group of Jews were playing “cat and mouse” with a Soviet army patrol as they approached the border. When the guide thought they had lost the patrol, he announced an half-hour break before continuing the trek. One of the escapees, hearing the “magic” number of “one-half hour” — the minimum time a Hanukah candle must be lit to fulfill the mitzvah — pulls out his menorah, sets up the candles, says the blessing and starts to light the candles. The other escapees immediately pounce upon him and the menorah to put out the candles — just as the Soviet patrol moves in and completely encircles them!
The head of the army patrol speaks: “We were just about to open fire and wipe you out when I saw that man lighting the Hanukah candles. I was overcome with emotion; I remember my zaideh (grandfather) lighting Hanukah candles …. I have decided to let you go in peace.”
There is a verse in the Book of Psalms, (chapter 116, verse 6), “The Almighty protects fools.” Should he have lit the candle? NO! The Talmud tells us (Ta’anis 20b), “One should not put himself in a place of danger saying, ‘Let a miracle happen.’ ” So, while the story is one of action, adventure, suspense … the real lesson is not to rely upon a miracle to save you from danger … but to be thankful if the Almighty performs one to save you!
The second story was sent to me years ago. I was never able to verify it, but I love the story. I offer a prize of $100 to the first person who can prove it true! The story: Young private Winneger was with the U.S. Army as it marched through Europe at the end of World War II. His unit was assigned to a European village with the orders to secure the town, search for any hiding Nazis and to help the villagers any way they could.
Winneger was on patrol one night when he came across a young boy with an ornate menorah. The menorah was his only possession and his only remnant from his family. The boy had survived a concentration camp and was mistrustful of all men in uniforms. He had been forced to watch the shooting of his father. He had no idea what had become of his mother. Winneger calmed the boy, assured him that he himself was Jewish and brought him back to the village.
In the weeks that followed, Winneger took the young boy, David, under his wing. As they became closer and closer, Winneger’s heart went out to the boy. He offered to adopt David and bring him back to New York. David accepted.
Winneger was active in the New York Jewish community. An acquaintance of his, a curator of the Jewish Museum in Manhattan, saw the menorah. He told David it was a very valuable historic, European menorah and should be shared with the entire Jewish Community. He offered David $50,000 for the menorah.
But David refused the generous offer saying the menorah had been in his family for over 200 years and that no amount of money could ever make him sell it.
When Hanukah came, David and Winneger lit the menorah in the window of their home in New York City. David went upstairs to his room to study while Winneger stayed downstairs in the room with the menorah.
There was a knock on the door and Winneger went to answer. He found a woman with a strong German accent who said that she was walking down the street when she saw the menorah in the window. She said that she had once had one just like it in her family and had never seen any other like it. Could she come and take a closer look?
Winneger invited her in and said that the menorah belonged to his son who could perhaps tell her more about it. Winneger went upstairs and called David down to talk to the woman … and that is how David was reunited with his mother.