One of my favorite stories of the Hanukah season is “The Enchanted Menorah,” by Howard Schwartz. It is adapted here:
On the Friday during Hanukah, just before sundown, Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer – who would later become known as the Baal Shem Tov and a very mystical rabbi indeed - wandered into the nearby forest to meditate among the trees and study the flora and fauna.
Before he left, Rabbi Eliezer had said to his wife, “With God’s help, I will return home in time to light the first menorah candle. But if I am late, don’t wait for me. Light the candle and place the menorah in the window.”
Just as he was about to return home, a blizzard raged and darkness fell. Rabbi Eliezer struggled to make his way through the storm, but he was lost. He walked and walked, but kept returning to the same spot in the woods. He could not find the path that led back to his home.
But because he trusted God, he did not lose faith. He was only upset that he would not be able to light the candles on Hanukah.
The rabbi became so exhausted from his struggle that he sat down to rest and fell asleep. While he slept, a tall old man with a candle in his hand appeared.
“Who are you,” the rabbi asked.
The old man replied, “I am Mattathias, father of the Maccabees, and I have brought this candle for you.”
At this, the rabbi awoke and was able to make out the shape of a person in the swirling snow, who was holding a menorah in his hand with one candle burning, one much like the rabbi’s own.
Rabbi Eliezer followed this figure and the light coming from the flame. He walked for hours, never letting it out of his sight. Soon he recognized the fields and trees, his own village and then, his house. In the window, was the clear and bright flame from the candle’s light.
“Thank God you have come home,” said his wife, as she ran out to greet him with tears of happiness and relief running down her face. “When it became dark,” she said, “ and you hadn’t returned, I lit the first candle myself. But no sooner did I light it than the menorah and candle vanished from the window.”
Rabbi Eliezer understood that Mattathias had removed the menorah from the window and used it to guide Rabbi Eliezer home. He told his wife about his dream – about the silent figure who had guided him through the forest. As they approached the house, he rabbi pointed to the window and saw that the menorah had been restored to its place. And the flame glowed brightly in the night sky.
All of us struggle with some form of darkness - whether it comes from ourselves or the outside world. Hanukah reminds us not to fight with the shadows but instead, to light a candle and dissolve the darkness. Over the course of eight days, light overpowers the darkness. We can see far beyond the candles themselves. So when darkness looms, Hanukah seems to be saying, make more light.
Adapted from “The Enchanted Menorah” from The Day the Rabbi Disappeated: Jewish Holiday Tales of Magic.
Tell our your favorite Hanukah story. Or send a link to your favorite Hanukah song or video.
A few to get you in the mood:
Candlelight – The Maccabeats
Light Up the World – Peter Himmelman
Adam Sandler's Original Hanukah Song