The Last Shlomo Story
Shabbat Shalom v`Hag Samaeach!
There is a long tradition of Hanukkah Miracle stories; a genre inspired by the story of the vase of oil, sufficient for 1 day, which burned for 8 days. It seems, every generation has a story of some sort of miracle that occurred during the Festival of Hanukkah. The story that I am about to share is one of many that comes out of the Shoah, the Holocaust. This story is known as The Last Shlomo Carlebach story:
Rabbi Levi tells a story that he heard from his uncle, a rabbi in England. Shlomo Carlebach, of blessed memory, was in England right before he got on the plane upon which he was struck by his fatal heart attack. Before he got on that fateful flight, the English rabbi turned to Shlomo and asked him to share some new story from amongst his awesome array of stories of faith. Shlomo said” o.k. Holy Brother I’ll tell you a story I haven’t told before.”
He then told him of a friend of his who was a survivor of Auschwitz. This friend recounted an event from the camps. It seems there was a very devout and sweet older man called Yosi in the barracks with him. Yosi was determined not to let the Nazis vanquish his pride and his heritage. As a result, he insisted on fasting on Yom Kippur, even though that meant not eating the one ration they received daily. As he trudged through the camp performing all the mindless functions inherent in slave labor, his lips would be silently mouthing the book of psalms. Yosi would measure his days by the number of times he would succeed in “going through” the book of psalms.
On his last Hanukkah, Yosi was determined to light Hanukkah candles. He was finally able to obtain a little bit of vegetable oil, after bartering away his winter boots, and a few threads from his uniform from which he fashioned a candle.
Yosi lit this candle on Erev Hanukkah and his face beamed and glowed in the reflection of the candle. Within minutes the door burst open and the guards clamored into the barracks. They demanded to know who lit the candle; they threatened to kill all the inhabitants of the barracks if they would not reveal the culprit. Yosi, although hunched over with age and pain stepped forward and said,”It is I”. At that moment, the friend told Shlomo, he had never seen Yosi stand so straight.
The guards hustled Yosi outside…and shot him dead, but they had forgoton to put out the candle. Rabbi Carlebach’s friend then said, “You are not going to believe me….but that candle flickered on for the rest of Hanukkah! …for eight days.” Shlomo Carlebach then told this Rabbi: “that’s it…that’s the story…That’s the story of Yosi, and that is the story of the Jewish People”
Now, I don’t know if there is any confirmation of this incident and that make-shift candle burning miraculously for 8 days, just the gravitas of the story being told by Shlomo Carlebach. However, what intrigues me is the concept that special, dare we say miraculous events tend to occur around Hanukkah.
Take the near miraculous event that Rhoda and Mark Berenson experienced this Tuesday, Erev Hanukkah, when their daughter, Lori, and their 2-year old grandson arrived to Newark Airport.
If you recall, Lori Berenson, stirred international controversy when she was convicted of aiding Peruvian guerrillas and sentenced to 20 years of hard labor in a Peruvian jail. Her parents despaired of her ever returning to the United States.
After serving 15 years of her sentence, she was paroled, but restricted to stay in Peru. When her plane touched down on Tuesday, it was her first visit home since her arrest in 1995.
Her father, Mark Berenson, said that his daughter was looking forward to introducing her son to Hanukkah traditions.
Now, I am not about to confirm Lori’s visit to the US, and it is only for a short visit, she must return next month to Peru, that her visit is a miracle; but I wouldn’t doubt that thought being in the minds of her parents. Nor, would I deny their fervent wish that this miracle repeats itself, soon, God-willing, and Lori is granted the right to permanently leave Peru – b`kerov b`yamainu – it should only be soon in our time.