On January 1st, I published a short story in response to the Friday Fictioneers. The piece ended with Papa beginning to tell his small daughter Rebekah the story of the significance of the Hannukah lights. So many people wanted to hear that story that I’ve written it, and here it is.
It was the last day of Hanukkah. All eight candles of the Hanukkiah burned quietly in the window, making a beacon of hope for the world outside. We sang the Haneirot Hallalu and the Maoz Tzur, and we sat down. Papa turned on the lights.
“Can’t we keep the lights off? The candles are so pretty!” asked five-year-old Rebekah.
“The candles are for others to see and know that HaShem saved us. It would not be right to use their light for another purpose,” explained Papa, gently.
“Sit here and I’ll tell you.” Papa patted his lap, and Rebekah climbed up and snuggled there.
“Once upon a time, many, many years ago there was a little girl named Rebekah,” began Papa.
“Just like me,” murmured Rebekah, contentedly, her thumb slipping into her mouth. Momma frowned, but stayed silent.
“She was a good girl, but she was sad,” went on Papa. ”She was sad, her Momma and Papa were sad, and so were all their friends.”
Rebekah looked up at Papa. Her lip quivered. “I don’t want her to be sad, Papa,” she said. She scanned his face anxiously and, as she saw the love there, she relaxed.
“The people were all sad because a wicked king had stopped them from worshipping in the temple. Nobody went to Zion any more. People felt lost. They didn’t know what to do.
Then HaShem saved us. He spoke to some of our young men in their dreams, and they fought the wicked king. More and more men joined with them, and HaShem blessed them with courage and strength. They defeated the king. Our people could worship in the temple once again!”
Rebekah opened her eyes. “We can worship, can’t we Papa?”
“Yes, little one, yes we can.” He placed his forefinger on Rebekah’s lips. “But listen, and I’ll finish the story.
The very first time they worshipped in the temple, they needed their lamps to burn for eight days and nights. These were lamps that burned oil – and the only oil they had was one small clay pot, about as big as the bottle of olive oil Momma uses in the cooking.
‘It’ll never last the full eight days,’ said one of them, but the leader said ‘People said we could never beat the wicked king, but we did. HaShem will provide.’
So they filled the lamps and lit them.
And for eight days, they topped up the lamps from the little pot, and every day the lamps kept burning, until eight days had passed. HaShem had provided. It was a miracle.”
“I expect that made Rebekah very happy. It makes me happy.” The little girl smiled sleepily.
“It made everybody happy, so happy that they wanted their children, and their children’s children to remember it forever. So every year at Hannukah we light candles every day.”
Rebekah nodded. “The candles look like stars,” she murmured.
Papa stroked her hair.
“So when we light the candles and put them in the window, we are saying ‘HaShem saved us. HaShem gives us light.’ It’s sacred light, a holy light, and we must treasure it. We can’t just use it for everyday things. Do you understand, little one?”
Rebekah nodded thoughtfully.
“Yes, Papa,” she answered.
Her thumb went back into her mouth. Her eyes closed. She smiled. She slept.