Millions are familiar with the famous photograph of the Hanukkah menorah on a windowsill in Kiel, Germany, opposite a Nazi flag waving on the other side of the street. But last night a new chapter in the history of this menorah was written. as told by Nava Gila:
“I am the granddaughter of Rabbi Baruch and Rachel Posner. This was their menorah. The menorah survived the Holocaust and our family gave it to Yad Vashem. Each year we bring it out and light it, but this year we received an unexpected invitation: to come to Kiel in order to light the menorah with the president of Germany.
We had never set foot on German soil, but after much hesitation we decided that accepting this invitation could provide an educational message for the entire world. We just now finished the emotional menorah lighting ceremony and have still not fully absorbed its significance.
Attached is a picture of my brother, Yehuda Mansbach, lighting my grandparent’s menorah while standing next to German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his wife. During the ceremony, the German President said that after the crimes against humanity that were committed on this soil, he regards it as a privilege to host the descendants of Holocaust survivors kindling lights that dispel the darkness of anti-Semitism.
The city of Kiel is full of pictures of the menorah and everyone here is excited about its return We have been interviewed by the New York Times, the Guardian, and other media outlets, and now feel that this story is much bigger than us.
When this photograph was taken in 1931, my grandmother wrote these words on the back of it: *’The flag says: “Yehuda will die.” The Hanukkah light says: “Yehuda will live forever.”‘ The flag failed and was destroyed while the light of Yehuda continues to shine. Grandma was right.”
Sports And The Rebbe: Instead Of Watching, Be A Player On The Team
The World Cup reminded me of the following story:
Once a Jewish boy came to the Lubavitcher Rebbe to receive a blessing before his Bar Mitzvah. The boy said that he came to New York City in order to meet the Rebbe, but also to go to the game of a sports team of which he was a fan. He would be going to watch his team play for the first time and asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe to also bless his team. The Rebbe smiled and said:
“In sports, you can be a fan, an admirer, a spectator, but in life don’t be a spectator, be a player. A spectator can leave in the middle of a game or he may suddenly decide to be a fan of another team. And on the morning of a game, a spectator can sleep late and miss the game entirely.
A player, on the other hand, assumes responsibility. He is completely invested in the game until the final second. You are now becoming a mature, responsible Jewish boy. On the day of your Bar Mitzvah, you are becoming a player on a team called Am Yisrael (the nation of Israel). You can influence the outcome of the game by taking an important part in it. In life you do not want to be a spectator who looks on from the side, but rather a player on the team.”
Not all of us can be Messi, but all of us can be players.
The First Night Of Hanukkah: 3 Blessings And Their Significance
I met someone this week who has not lit a Hanukkah menorah since he was in kindergarten class. Subsequently, many years passed but he decided to light a menorah again this year in the rented apartment where he lives.
With great emotion, he has been practicing the blessings that are recited before lighting. They are probably familiar to most of us, but perhaps it would be beneficial to recall the text of these blessings and their significance.
“Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah light.” Lighting the candles or lamps of oil is a mitzvah. It’s not just a pleasant custom or part of Jewish folklore. It’s not like eating jelly donuts or spinning a dreidel. It’s a blessing that we are obligated to recite.
“Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time.” When lighting the menorah, we are reminded of the Hanukkah miracles that occurred at this time of year two thousand years ago. By extension, we are enjoined to remind ourselves of the many miracles present in our own lives today, at this very moment, and to give thanks for them.
“Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.” This special third blessing is recited on the first night of Hanukkah alone. Being alive should not be taken for granted, and the privilege of commemorating the lighting of the menorah in the Holy Temple after defeat of the Greeks should not be taken for granted either. Ultimately, it might also be said that lighting the menorah is a celebration of the capacity of each of us to bring just a little more light into the world.
Wishing for myself and for all of us a lighting of the menorah this evening that will be filled with gratitude and heartfelt emotion. Happy Hanukkah.