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Chanukah (5761 (2))
Israel Solomon was cold, but his mind was neither on the freezing winter of Valley Forge nor on tomorrow’s battle. He was trying to light his Chanukah Lights without waking anyone or attracting attention.
‘This could be my last Chanukah,’ he thought to himself as he blew into his hands to warm them up so he could hold the match. But as the fire caught the wick he suddenly felt different; he felt strangely warm and happy.
“Thanks for everything, G-d!” He thought to himself “Thanks for everything!” And a few seconds later he was laying under the silent, clear, winter Pennsylvania sky making a blessing on the four small candles flickering in his miniature Menorah.
Suddenly he was brought out of his reverie; someone was standing at his feet!
“What is this!!? What are you doing, are you mad!!! Are you a spy!!?” He looked up and lost his breath; It was the Commander of the Revolutionary forces, General Washington himself, whispering angrily at him!
He sat bolt upright, not wanting to stand quickly for fear that the noise would wake someone. “No, No, General! G-d forbid!!” he whispered. He slowly rose until he stood facing the General. “I am a religious Jew. I believe in G-d and this is one of G-d’s commandments. Believe me I’m not a spy. G-d forbid, General Washington, G-d forbid.”
The General couldn’t sleep; he had been concerned with the impending battle and was walking between the rows of his sleeping soldiers when he noticed the lights.
“What sort of commandment is this?” he had calmed down a bit and seemed to be almost interested.
“Over two thousand years ago we Jewish people were fighting a war very similar to yours, Sir.” Solomon felt himself filling with inspiration; the General was looking deeply into his eyes as though he was yearning for the answer. Solomon stood upright and looked powerfully back into Washington’s eyes, “General, the Jews won that war because we fought for the truth. We fought for freedom. We were outnumbered too, even more than you are now, maybe a hundred to one, but we won because we believed in G-d, and G-d helped us.”
Solomon felt as though he was connected to something infinitely certain. “And you will win tomorrow also, Sir! G-d will help you just as He helped us and we will win!”
The General was silent for a moment, staring, examining incredulously the face of the Jew.
Finally he broke the silence and said. “You are a Jew. You are from the nation of prophets! I treat what you have said as a prophesy from G-d Himself!” The General shook Solomon’s hand saluted, turned on his heel and continued his rounds.
What happened the next day is now history: Washington’s forces scored a telling victory over the British, which proved to be the beginning of total victory and eventually the independence of the United States of America from England.
But what is less known is that Mr. Solomon survived the war and returned to his home in Boston. One day, some two years after Valley Forge, he was sitting with his family around the dinner table when he heard a knock at his door. He rose, opened the door and was astounded to see standing there a contingent of ten very official-looking men led by none other than … the first President of the United States, President George Washington himself!
They entered, and the President was the first to speak. “We are here to present you with this. One of them stepped forward and took out a small expensive looking velvet box from his inside coat pocket. Mr. Solomon looked from one face to the other for some sign of what was going on. He slowly took the box, opened it and there was a golden medallion; he took it out and saw that on it was engraved a picture of a menorah inscribed with the words:
‘With admiration, General George Washington’
“Mr. Solomon, you don’t know what you did that night at Valley Forge.” The President continued. “ I couldn’t sleep that night because I was sure that we had no chance of winning. We lacked ammunition, we were outnumbered ten to one, and we didn’t even have sufficient food or bedding. When I saw the boys lying asleep in the freezing cold under those thin blankets I made up my mind …. to surrender.
But your lights and your prophecy changed all that. Mr. Solomon, if it wasn’t for you and your Menora, I don’t know if we would be standing here today as free men.”
According to the story, that Medallion still exists today, a testimony to the power of Chanukah. May the entire world be illuminated this year by the light of,
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