Since we took down the sukkah we have been waiting for Chanukah.
It’s such a beautiful holiday. It breaks the monotony of the long winter and carries with it nostalgic sights and scents that arouse longings.
What a wonderful family holiday!
Suddenly, in the middle of the winter routine, eight enchanted days appear, and the family gathers to light the Chanukah Menorah.
Father tries to get home early from work, the children leave whatever they are doing and surround him as he recites the berachos with the traditional niggun. Mother sees to the doughnuts or latkes or maybe a chocolate cake decorated with colorful candies. They all sing Ma’os Tzur.
The Chanukah experience is very family oriented. Besides what happens at home, there are get-togethers of the extended family. People see brothers and sisters and cousins and nephews that they might not have met since last Chanukah. Zeidie and Bubbie. Gifts for the children. Refreshments. Songs and games.
Just then, when all the windows are shining with the light of the Chanukah candles and the aroma of doughnuts tickles the nostrils, the misery of struggling families stands out a hundred times more.
The home is very quiet, to the point that you can hear everyone breathing. Father is sitting on the couch and a sefer is open on his healthy knee, and the children are gazing at the Chanukah candles in silence.
Tomorrow they will hospitalize their father again, and amputate his leg above the knee.
They don’t know what to do with themselves. They barely dare to breathe. Not long ago they amputated his foot and Father groaned and sighed from pain for whole nights. How will he feel now?
On the third night of Chanukah the terrible operation was performed, and another piece of the Father died. Yossi came back from yeshivah to light candles with his brothers. He sang and asked them to join in with him, and they bit their lips. Who can sing when they are cutting off Abba’s leg?
Itamar, Miriam and Yael
Last Chanukah they were a happy and whole family. They lit candles together, played together with dreidels and chose out doughnuts with interesting flavors at the bakery. Their mother chose pistachio flavor and laughingly said it’s just not a doughnut.
A short time later, their Mother fell ill. Every morning, Itamar wrote her name for tefilah on the board in class, and Miriam and Yael shouted out Shir Hamaalos with their friends in preschool.
“I want Ima to come back from the hospital!” Miriam cried. She stood next to Abba and grabbed him tight. “Take me with you now! To Ima!!!”
But their grandmother came and picked her up, forcibly pulling the little girl away from Abba who was running to the waiting taxi, his heart torn by the sound of the screaming that echoed in the stairwell. Ima! Ima!!! I-m-aaa…..
Their mother passed away in the summer. Itamar broke out crying when he read the kaddish and the words came out broken from his mouth. They are still crying. Little children, just chicks. They miss her so much. They can’t bear it without Ima…
“Yes.” Their mother opens the vegetable drawer, counts six potatoes.
“But our oven is broken!” Brachi is truly angry. “What did those aunts think when they asked you to bring a kugel?”
“Everyone is making something.”
“We are not everyone!”
Their mother is already peeling the few vegetables they have. She figures out how many eggs she needs to add. Wait, the eggs ran out. The box from the chesed organization won’t come until tomorrow… maybe she should borrow a few from a neighbor?
She borrows eggs, and then discovers that she is also out of oil, and also lacks the right size baking pan, and she needs to think which neighbor could bake the kugel in her oven…
Ima sits down on a chair, defeated. The children will come back soon from school, and instead of lunch, they will find a plate of grated, uncooked vegetables.
“I will make a quick soup,” says Brachi. She feels so miserable. “I anyways can’t stand these get-togethers, when everyone is so proud of themselves over their food and their clothing and who knows what.”
While we are enjoying the mere idea of Chanukah, thousands of children are wishing it won’t even come. Some of them will light candles alone, some have just a father or just a mother, and the lacking eats up their heart. And there are homes with both parents, but enveloped in troubles… Chanukah for them is a cold, empty and sad holiday.
The angels of Vaad Harabbanim reached everyone.
They reached Yossi’s father, who suffers from severe diabetes, and they came to Itamar and Yael and Miriam who lost their mother, and to Brachi whose father abandoned his seven children and disappeared overseas, and to hundreds and hundreds of other families for whom rescue funds were established during the past year.
The Gabbaim of Vaad Harabbanim set up rescue funds and enlisted donations – and you donated!
In your zechus, thousands of children received shoes and clothing and tutors. In your zechus, a functioning fridge was purchased for them, and the washing machine was repaired. In your zechus, sick fathers and mothers are receiving the medical care they need.
We can’t bring back father and mother for the orphans. We can’t wave a magic wand over the sick and heal them.
But we can adopt these families to our own family. On the most family-oriented holiday, we will make sure that no one will be left out in the cold.
The troubles will not instantly disappear, but simchah will be there nonetheless.
In your zechus.
In your zechus, Brachi’s mother will bring refreshments to this year’s family get-together without embarrassment and without asking for favors from neighbors.
In your zechus, also the children of Vaad Harabbanim will let out yelps of joy over their Chanukah gelt.
In your zechus, their parents, who struggle with such a complex life situation, will wipe away tears of excitement: they are not alone!