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Don’t give up the search!

  • Parshas Ki Tetze - Rabbi Yossi Goldman
Everyone knows the story of Chanukah. The Maccabees defeated the mighty Greek armies and reconquered Jerusalem. When they wanted to kindle the menorah in the Temple, they could only find one jug of oil - enough to burn one day - but, miraculously, it continued burning for eight days until new oil could be procured. Because of the miracle of the oil, the sages established an eight-day Festival of Lights.
by RABBI YOSSY GOLDMAN | Dec 07, 2017

In this, there is a famous question. Why should we celebrate Chanukah for eight nights? After all, there was enough oil in the Temple for one night, so when it continued burning for eight nights, only seven of those days were actually miraculous.

One day's supply existed and for the first day it burned quite naturally without any Divine intervention. So, the question is, if the miracle of the oil was only for seven days, why do we celebrate eight?

There are many answers given to this question, but the one I want to focus on here, is that just finding that one jug of oil, with the seal of the High Priest intact, was a miracle too. And from the commentaries, it seems that it wasn't discovered immediately. It was quite a search with some opinions suggesting it was eventually found in the very catacombs of the Temple. So, it wasn’t easy, but finally they found it.

When Jews are struggling to find light; when the forces of darkness have trampled on all that is holy; when every last cruse of oil seems to have been defiled, we could be forgiven for giving up the search for light.

So, we'll get new oil from Tekoah, the town renowned for its quality olive oil. So, what if it takes another week? We waited this long, we can wait another week, big deal!

But, no, the Maccabees were determined not to let the holy Menorah remain unkindled even one more day. And they refused to give up the search, until their efforts were rewarded, and the pure cruse of oil was discovered.

That spirit of faith and determination is part of the miracle of Jewish survival and is surely worthy of a special day of celebration in its own right.

A few years ago, I had the very unusual privilege of seeing this idea fulfilled before my very eyes. Our son, Rabbi Michoel, is the Chabad shliach in Kauai, one of the most beautiful islands of Hawaii.

Once, while visiting Honolulu, he met a Jew who originally came from New York. When he heard that our family lives in Johannesburg, the fellow told him that his grandfather had come to South Africa from Eastern Europe many years ago and had died here as a young man.

To make a long story short, on that fellow’s behalf, my son did some serious research with our local Chevrah Kadisha and, in the archives, was able to identify when the grandfather had died and where he was buried. It was in the old Brixton cemetery.

When the man realised that there was no tombstone over his grandfather’s grave, he resolved to travel across the world, from Hawaii to South Africa, to consecrate a memorial stone.

It was my privilege to officiate at the unveiling of the tombstone. To our utter amazement and disbelief, as I read the inscription on the stone, we discovered that the day of the unveiling was taking place on the exact same day of the grandfather's yahrtzeit. And the man had died over 100 years ago!

That amazing, spiritual twist of fate (Divine coincidence) was a powerful validation of the importance of the very special good deed that was being done.

And it could only have come about because a grandson living on the other side of the world, was determined to find his grandfather’s unknown and unmarked grave and do justice to his memory.

He never knew his grandfather. The events were a century in the past, but the mitzvah was done, and we can only guess as to the important spiritual effect it had on that soul up in Heaven!

It wasn't easy for the man, but his sincere and genuine search yielded beautiful results.

Long ago, Deuteronomy (4, 29) assured us: “You will seek Hashem, your G-d, and you will find Him, if you search for Him with all your heart and soul.”

And the Talmud reassured us that if we put in the effort, those efforts will be rewarded. Yogato umotzoso taamin (If one says I have toiled and been successful, believe him - Megilla 6b). And even the more contemporary Yiddish proverb confirms Az m’zucht, gefint men (If you look, you find). When we are absolutely genuine in our desire to achieve, we will.

I suppose whether we are looking for lost graves, missing oil, or spiritual light, the principle is the same. How many of us want to find a feeling for Yiddishkeit within our hearts, but we find it difficult to light the lamp.

We are believers and would really love to feel more inspired, but we struggle to see the light. Too often, too many give up the search too quickly. Please be assured, the oil is there.

The Jewish Lamp is inextinguishable. But we have to keep searching until we find it. It may be in the recesses of our soul or in the catacombs of our consciousness, but it is there. No Jew is ever lost. So, never give up the search.

If we look we will find. May the miracle of Chanukah live on in our lives.  

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