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August 28, 2015 / 13 Elul, 5775
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The Secrets In The Flames


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His uneasiness mollified, the Apter Rav readied himself to usher in the first night of Chanukah and to learn the secrets the Chanukah flames would divulge. To the gratification and delight of Soreh’le the agunah and the eminent R. Dovid Sofer and their families, the t’nayim (engagement) ceremony took place in the Rebbe’s court on Motzei Shabbos Chanukah – the real euphoria setting in just days preceding the wedding ceremony, when, to everyone’s wonder and elation, Moshe Chaim materialized. His remarkable homecoming made the joy of the simcha complete and the family whole again, at last.

This was said to be the greatest miracle effectuated by the Apter Rav in his lifetime.

*  *  *

The world is a scary place. Even the most cheerful-natured person is given to bouts of anxiety and worry over some of life’s hurdles and burdens.

It began with one, then two, then more. The Shabbos candles I had been lighting for decades were straining to give off their usual brightness. It was unsettling, to put it mildly, to be praying to God to protect us and to illuminate our lives in merit of my illuminating our home with the Shabbos lights while at the same time watching the flames shrinking, almost as though retreating.

Not one to be outdone, I purchased a brand new set of lights (glass receptacles with wick inserts lit with liquid paraffin) and looked forward to being graced once again by an aura of shining luminescence.

My expectation was short-lived. Within moments of lighting, the flames that had sprung to life with so much promise almost as quickly dwindled to mere sparks, leaving in their wake hardly a trace of their former luminosity. I was crestfallen. But far more unsettling was my nagging instinct telling me that beneath this abnormality lay a hidden message I had yet to decipher.

In fact, the physical explanation for the curious phenomenon soon came to light: each wick was made up of several interwoven wispy strands of cotton. This braiding was hindering the essential saturation of the wick. Untwisting the thin strands allowed them to float freely in the paraffin.

As I gazed wonderingly at the relaxed and loose wicks soaking up the paraffin and proudly producing their bright and hardy dancing flames – a feat unachievable in their former taut (braided) state – the message became vividly clear. Life with its bumps and then some had of late been getting to me and I had allowed my heavyheartedness to stifle my usual buoyancy and inborn sense of optimism.

The lesson of the holy tzaddikim who merit to see clear from one end of the world to the other was instantly brought home to me – a lesson of undiluted faith and resolute belief in a Higher Power, also the lesson at the heart of Chanukah: Despite all odds, in number and in might, the Chashmona’im were victorious, by virtue of their unerring belief and absolute faith in Hashem.

That little flame lies within each of us, its degree of radiance dependant on our trust in God.

The gematria of Chanukah is 89, which multiplied by 8 comes to 712 – identical to the numerical value of g’mar chasima (literally, a final sealing), hence the correlation between Yom Kippur and Zos Chanukah, the eighth day of Chanukah, when we are hopeful for a g’mar chasima tova and long for His divine light to permeate our existence.

Ohr zarua latzadik ulyishrei lev simcha – Light is sown for the righteous and for the upright of heart, gladness (Tehillim 97:11).

Rachel Weiss is a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press.

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