December 10, 2015, Fourth candle of Chanuka, 28 Kislev, Israel
The Jewish people have suffered, for a long time, in many lands. We were kicked out of more countries than most school children can name. We were the victims of more ruthless rulers than any of you can spell. We were exiled from our land and forced to wander the world, "The Wandering Jew". What a journey it has been.
We have been to hell and....Back!
That hell has many names; Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibor, Siberia, Spain, Italy, Frankfurt, Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Babi Yar....
Our tormentors wore many uniforms.
Along the way many lost their faith, many gave up. As in the Marines...many rang the bell and said, "I have had enough, I quit".
They gave up because as my grandparents said...Shver a zijn a yid, it is difficult to be a Jew. Or as Tuvia Beilski answered when his friend said, "Why is it so hard being the friend of a Jew", Bielski responded, "Try being one."
But it is not only difficult, it is also beautiful. So we hang on.
When I was younger I heard the following from a rabbi, something from hundreds of years ago. A time will come, my friends, a difficult time will come, and many will lose their hope, many will lose their faith. It will be as two angels holding on to a rope, and the people are hanging from the rope for dear life. But as time goes on the angels will shake the rope harder and harder, faster and faster. It will be difficult to hold on to your faith, to your way. Many will give up and let go. I am telling this to you know so when the time comes you will know to hold on tight"
Those words have remained with me always, they have become part of my life. Hang on! Do not let go, no matter how difficult it is, keep hanging on, for it is worth it.
Do not lose that connection. Do not let go. We all go through difficult times. In Israel we say, We survived Pharoh we shall survive this. We can handle it.
Everyday for the past 2,000 years we have spoken of the redemption of Zion and the return. Along the way we lost many, many lost hope, many lost their faith in the way of the nation of Israel. But those who stayed strong were rewarded, for after nearly two thousand years the remnant walked out of Auschwitz, they walked from Yemen, from Baghdad, from Siberia, from the Gulag and from the concentration camps and from the luxury of America, and they came home. My friends, it took a long time.
As a nation and as an individual, we must never lose hope. In fact "The Hope", HaTikva, is our national anthem. Remember, two angels will be shaking that rope, I am telling you so that you remember to hold on hard, Do not let go, do not allow yourself to fall into the abyss. Hang on.
Do not lose hope.
I recall something I heard many years ago from a Chasid, a follower of the Rebbe from Breslov, Ukraine. He said as long as you alive it means that God has not give up you. So if God has not give up on you how can you give up on yourself. Remember, two angels will be holding a rope and shaking it hard, I am telling you so that you remember not to let go. For many will fall.
And I recall another story, from the holy Rabbi Yisroel Salanter. (November 3, 1810, Zhagory – February 2, 1883, Königsberg). As he was walking home late one night he saw the candle was still burning in the home of the local shoe maker. It was late at night and the poor "sandler" was still awake, fixing shoes. The rabbi walked in and said, "Why are you up so late?" The simple man responded, "As long as the candle still burns there is still time to fix and mend, to repair".
The rabbi immediately saw the spiritual connection and was ecstatic. He walked home and kept repeating like a mantra...As long as the candle still burns there is time to fix and mend...
In Judaism the candle is likened to the soul of man. The candle of God is the soul of man. (Proverbs chapter 20). As long as we live there is still time to fix and to mend, it is never too late. A garment that is torn will never be new again, but a soul, a soul can always repair itself. As long as the candle yet burns....
Days are coming...when there will be hunger, but not for bread, nor thirst for water, but for the word of God, for the truth, stay strong as the angels shake that rope, for many will fall. Hang on tight.
The wait is worth it.
There is no greater illness than discouragement! (Rabbi Yisroel Salanter)
Rabbi Yisroel Salanger of blessed memory
"Breslov" is the name used nowadays by Breslover followers for the town of Bratslav, where Rebbe Nachman lived for the last eight years of his life. Bratslav is located on the Bug River in Ukraine. Bratslav should not be confused with Wrocław, a town now located in Poland, called in German "Breslau", and also pronounced "Breslov" in Yiddish, which was a renowned Jewish center in its own right.
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