Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Rebbe gives blessings to light Chanuka lights in Iran...

In 1980, during the Iranian occupation of the American embassy, Rabbi Hershberg, the past chief Rabbi of Mexico, was scheduled to travel to Iran for a public service project. Because of the tense atmosphere at the time, many tried to persuade him to postpone his trip. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, however, encouraged him: "Go with blessing," The Rebbe told him. "You are certain to light the Chanukah menorah in Iran."

Rabbi Hershberg was puzzled by the Rebbe's closing words. He was not necessarily planning to stay in Iran for Chanukah. But if he would, there was no question that he would light a menorah. He did not understand the Rebbe's reference, nor the emphatic (em-fa-tik) tone in his words.

Afterwards, it all became clear. His mission in Iran took longer than expected, during which time he developed a relationship with some Iranian officials. He knew that there were six Jews among the hostages in the American embassy and he asked permission to light the menorah with them. "Just as we have granted permission for a priest to meet with the Christian hostages on their holiday," the Iranians replied, "we will allow you entry as well."

And so it was in the barricaded American embassy in Iran that Rabbi Hershberg lit the Chanukah menorah that year.

Chanuka is not over. Today is the last day, we still have a chance to bring down whatever light and blessings we need. Let's take advantage of this special day and accomplish whatever holiness we can....and we should take these chanuka lights, take these chanuka messages and miracles, to last us throughout the year....

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Story - Chanuka/Shehechiyonu.....Bergen-Belsen

The day before Chanuka was a tragic one in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp; hundreds of Jews had been killed. However, the shattered and tortured surviving Jewish prisoners began looking for a way to kindle the Chanuka lights. They created some makeshift menora, a thread from their pants was a wick and a drop of black wax was oil.

Late at night word spread quickly in the barracks that the Bluzhever Rebbe would be kindling the menorah.
The Jews in Bergen-Belsen were well aware that anyone caught participating in any sort of religious act would be brutally punished. This did not however, stop the hundreds of them from gathering to watch the Rebbe do the mitzvah.

With intense concentration the Rebbe made the first 2 blessings. Then he paused, turned around and saw the emaciated faces in front of him.
He then turned back to his menora and with great emotion, said the blessing of Shehechiyanu, thanking G-d, "Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this time". And he lit the wick.

A Jew from the crowd said, "Rebbe, i can understand why you lit the Chanuka lights, but i cannot understand how you could possibly make the shehechiyanu. Hundreds of Jews are being murdered every day in front of our eyes. How can you thank G-d that you lived to see this day!?

"I too had the same question", responded the Rebbe, But then i turned around, i saw hundreds of jews standing with Emuna, with belief and with trust, waiting to see the menora lit.
If after a massacre like yesterday's, Jews can still risk their lives and wait with eagerness to fulfill G-d's mitzvah, then for this alone i can recite the blessing thanking G-d, "Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this time", - to see so many people displaying such strength, such emuna, here in Bergen -Belsen".

We face the challenges of our time, and struggle to cope with them and sometimes even reach the brink of despair - however, there are still a great many signs of hope. There are still many reasons to say Shehechiyanu.