Whatever the state of world affairs or shift in political winds, one thing remains a constant in our lives: the quest for shidduchim. There is no family or individual among us who does not know at any given time of someone in search of his or her destined life partner; yet too often the hunt is fraught with complexities and accompanied by sleepless nights and a furrowed brow.
To what extent are we ourselves responsible for complicating the process – by failing, sometimes obstinately, to recognize him or her as “the one” for reasons that often defy logic? Not rich enough, not classy enough, not savvy enough…too stocky, too lanky, too freckly, too yekkish, too yeshivish… The list of perceived shortcomings has no limits.
Of course there are times when we veer off our destined track in life and thereby miss the point at which we were meant to meet up with our other half. Some of us get lucky even when we make a mess of things and Hashem in His benevolence lets us encounter our true zivug at a later time in an altered setting, after we’ve run ourselves ragged in pursuit of the elusive fantasy.
Chanukah is a time of miracles. The light of the flickering Chanukah flames has been known to grace righteous individuals with a honed insight, allowing them to guide the hapless along the right path.
The ideal time to perform the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles is during shekias hachamah, when darkness begins to descend and the warmth of the sun dissipates, for this is when we are most likely to be overcome with feelings of despondency and helplessness. And it is at such a moment that the act is crucial for alleviating despondency and awakening optimism and belief in brighter days ahead. [Charuzei Peninim]
Reb Yechezkel of Kozmir was a highly revered figure of his time and an eminent talmid chacham in his own right. But the gift the Lubliner Rav bestowed on him was said to enhance Reb Yechezkel’s spiritual acuity when he would light the Chanukah lights.
The Chozeh of Lublin presented Reb Yechezkel of Kozmir with a menorah that had been in his possession since his youth. “This menorah is as rich b’ruchnios [in spirituality] as it is plain b’chumrios [in physicality]. The flames you will light will burn bright and will enlighten your eyes.” The blessing the Lubliner conferred on Reb Yechezkel was understood to mean that the latter would be imbued with extraordinarily keen perception when lighting the Chanukah lecht on this special menorah.
It was only on the first night of Chanukah that Reb Yechezkel availed himself of this unique gift. For the rest of the holiday he would light his own menorah. That first night was eagerly anticipated by all his chassidim, for everyone knew that by way of the Lubliner’s endowment Reb Yechezkel’s soul attained a heightened state of kedushah that added intense potency to his blessings. And these he did not lightly dispense.
With a twist of the dreidel, we win or lose…. Playing dreidel is a Chanukah tradition, while on Purim it is the gragger that is turned. Beneath the surface, these items – symbolic of their respective holidays – relay a message of deeper significance especially suited to our generations: Even in our darkest and most trying moments we are not to despair. Just when we thought there was no hope in the days of Haman when the king signed a decree to satisfy Haman’s lust for our demise, or when we battled the Greeks whose number and might seemed to outweigh ours, it took but a “twist” in the turn of events to alter their course. [Divrei Eliezer]
Sara, a young girl related to the Tzaddik of Kozmir, came to live with the Rebbe’s family after her parents passed away and the Rebbetzin took pity on the poor orphan. Before long the Rebbetzin was enlisting the services of a shadchan to find a suitable match for Sara, offering to provide the kallah’s trousseau as well as to pick up the cost of the wedding. The Rebbetzin also pledged a dowry of 200 rubles for a young man of good character.
The matchmaker’s task was not so simple: on the one hand the young lady was a relative of the tzaddik, while on the other she was a poor orphan. Beryl, the tailor in town, had a son who was gainfully employed by a furrier in the big city of Warsaw. Known to be good and decent all around, he seemed an appropriate match for Sara.
When the Rebbetzin consulted with the Rebbe, he gave his consent, and the overjoyed tailor promptly arranged for his son to come home and meet his intended. So it was, and the young pair became engaged. A wedding date was set for the week after Shavuos – almost a year away – and Dovid the chassan returned to Warsaw.
Meanwhile, Dovid’s employers had taken more than a liking to their enterprising young worker and set their sights on him to become their son-in-law. His recent engagement did not faze them. To that end they simply enlisted friends of his to convince him that a girl from the Rebbe’s home was too chassidish for him and that her frumkeit would be overwhelming.
They soon succeeded in swaying the young man, who gradually halted all correspondence with his family back home. As the wedding date neared, Dovid’s concerned father realized he had no choice but to personally check up on his son’s welfare. He traveled to Warsaw where he learned that his son had soured on the shidduch with Sara from the Rebbe’s home and already had someone else lined up to take her place.
The devastated father had some parting words for his son: “Hopefully you will not come to regret your act. Bear in mind that you have caused embarrassment for an orphan, one from the Tzaddik’s house yet.”
The kallah’s heartbreak manifested itself in a river of tears of shame and sorrow. Upon hearing the news, the incredulous Tzaddik was heard to murmur, “How is this possible when he is her zivug?”
With the passage of time and Sara seemingly regaining some of her equilibrium, the Rebbetzin’s mind came to dwell on shidduchim again. The Rebbe, however, asked that she wait a bit longer. “Let him get married first,” he said.
On erev Chanukah of that year, as the gabbai busied himself in preparation for the Rebbe’s lecht tzinden, he discovered the cabinet where the menorah was normally stored to be empty. Reckoning that Sara had removed it for polishing, he inquired about its whereabouts, but neither the Rebbetzin nor Sara could shed any light on its disappearance.
In reality, the Rebbetzin had conspired with Sara to withhold the menorah from the Tzaddik until he would agree to grant Sara a blessing to become a kallah in the coming year. Sara had been reluctant to take part in this ploy, but the Rebbetzin prevailed upon her young charge by telling her she would stand behind her and be fully supportive.
Their game plan went smoothly; the Rebbe, anxious to light the first Chanukah flame, quickly assured Sara that she would have a yeshuah that year, adding that “Sometimes we need to take a circuitous route in order to arrive at our destined place.”
Later that night Reb Yechezkel informed his Rebbetzin that Sara would no longer be in need of a dowry, for the Father of orphans would see to providing it – as befits the King in heaven. The Rebbetzin was then instructed to use the 200 rubles (initially set aside for the dowry) to secure a fruit kiosk in the marketplace for Sara’s employ.
The Gemara indicates the z’man of lighting Chanukah candles to be “ad she’tichleh regel min ha’shuk” – until people are no longer walking in the marketplace. According to Reb Moshe Leib Sassover, therein lies the lesson for every Jew to live with bitachon, trust in God. In the same way the oil that was enough for one day burnt for eight days, Hashem can help a merchant with but a limited amount of wares and funds. The underlying message of “until people are no longer walking in the marketplace” is that one is to be immersed in the mitzvah until such time he comes to understand the futility in tarrying in the “marketplace” into the late hours of the night.In similar fashion, those with faith in God do not overly stress themselves in their quest for a shidduch. All that is required of one is a reasonable amount of effort, hishtadlus; the rest is to be left in the Hands of Hashem.
As Sara was minding her wares one day, a distinguished Jewish gentleman in immaculate garb came by. After he’d paid for his goods and taken his leave, Sara noticed a small box on the ground. She picked it up and peeked inside, from where the brilliant shine of a sparkling diamond bedazzled her.
Sara did not give her evil inclination the chance to overtake her good sense and took after the young man to let him know he had left something behind. The grateful patron offered Sara a monetary reward for her honesty, which she refused. “For a mitzvah, one is not supposed to accept reward in this world,” she told him.
The young woman’s integrity so impressed the gentleman that he set about inquiring about her until one person he approached suggested the girl to him as a viable shidduch candidate.
The young man approached none other than the Kozmir Tzaddik for counsel and introduced himself as the son of Moshe so-and-so from Warsaw, now residing in Antwerp where father and son partnered in the diamond trade.
He went on to relate his recent encounter with the young girl in the marketplace and confided to the Rebbe that he was on the lookout for a shidduch. The Rebbe of Kozmir, having known the young man’s father as a God-fearing and honorable person, took just a few moments to give his blessing for the match. “Like father, like son; zol zein mit mazel un berachah,” he steadfastly pronounced.
The young couple got married and settled happily in Antwerp. Though their first year together had been marred by the sudden illness and passing of her father-in-law, life was good to Sara, her doting husband, and their two children. But then things unexpectedly took a tragic turn when Sara’s husband died, leaving her a bereft young widow with two babies.
Sara’s affluent standing had matchmakers soon lining up at her door, but she directed them all to the Kozmir Tzaddik. Now he advised her to put off plans to remarry and to devote herself to raising her young ones.
As for Dovid, Sara’s ex-chassan, he had gone on to marry the daughter of his employers and not fared too well. His wife was a spendthrift who showed little regard for her husband. They had no children, and a drawn-out battle among family members for her deceased parents’ inheritance culminated in financial ruin of their once lucrative firm that had served as Dovid’s source of a livelihood.
Dovid sought employment elsewhere, but a reduction in his income did not please his wife, and they ended up going their separate ways
The word nefesh – soul – is an acronym for ner, pesila and shemen – the flame, wick and oil that constitutes the Chanukah candle. The proper observance of the mitzvah of Chanukah lights illuminates the soul.
As Dovid’s father’s words replayed themselves in his conscience, he began to deeply regret not heeding his father’s warning. He left Warsaw and, after wandering around like a lost soul, wound up in Antwerp with the goal of learning the diamond trade and eventually taking off for America. In the meanwhile, he happened to land a position with the firm owned by Sara.
Come Pesach, Sara decided not to break the tradition she and her late husband had established of having their single workers join them at their yearly family Seder – and now Dovid found himself among the guests hosted by the woman to whom he was once engaged, though neither of them recognized the other.
The guests were all in high spirits, enjoying the warm ambiance created by their affable and generous hostess. All, that is, except for one lone male who sat at the far end of the table looking forlorn and melancholy. Sara caught him occasionally wiping away a tear and made up her mind to get to the root of his pain and to do anything within her ability to draw him out of his misery.
With her gentle demeanor and carefully weighed words, she coaxed him to open up to her, to confide the source of his heartache. He soon spilled his tale of woe and spoke of his experiences in great detail – and it didn’t take long for a shocked Sara to grasp that here sat the man who as her chassan had jilted her. All at once, from the deep recesses of her mind, the Tzaddik’s words came to her. “How can this be? He is her zivug!”
At the first opportunity, Sara wrote to the Kozmir Tzaddik to inform him of the latest events in her life, to which he replied, “Did I not tell you that night of Chanukah when you hid my menorah that sometimes it takes a roundabout route to get to one’s destined place?”
“You have both gone that route,” continued the Rebbe, “and now it’s time for you to embark together on the road to a long life filled with good fortune and blessing.”
Sara and Dovid did just that – they united the way they were originally meant to and lived in blissful harmony for the rest of their lives.
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