Reb Shmuel, the wealthy merchant, was reviewing the details of his upcoming trip.The wagon would be coming to pick him up shortly. His lodging and meals should be fully arranged. His money, to cover his expenditures, was neatly apportioned and budgeted: eight valises carried large and specific sums he needed to purchase different sorts of goods. He hoped that this trip to the fair would enable him to stock up on enough good-value merchandise so that he would not have to make this long journey again.
The wagon picked him up as he expected. The journey, over a few days, was peaceful and uneventful. As they neared the city, the driver noticed a man on the side of the road calling for attention. The wagon driver slowed the horses to a halt. Reb Shmuel took a look to see what was occurring. The next thing he knew, he was sitting in the wagon with a knife to his neck. The man on the side of the road had been a set up. A group of bandits ransacked the wagon, and made off with its contents. Reb Shmuel was contemplating the gravity of his loss when he noticed that one of his valises remained. He still had a sizable sum of money, and that gave him an idea.
Reb Shmuel ordered the wagon driver to head toward the city at top speed. Once he arrived, he ran to speak with a business associate he had known for years. He asked his friend for specific assistance, and his friend pointed him in the right direction. Reb Shmuel ran to the local pub and asked for the individual whom his friend recommended. This gentleman was more than happy to assist Reb Shmuel. This man, a local hooligan, was willing to assemble a few of his comrades to recover the stolen property from those whom they suspected might have taken it, for a sizable fee, first installment paid up front. Reb Shmuel took the money out of the one valise he still had, paid the ruffian, and left him with the location of the inn where he would be staying.
Reb Shmuel then headed to shul. He arrived a few minutes before Mincha, and started to daven aloud. “Hashem, you have given me much success over the years. I, thankfully, have been able to make a good living. I have been able to devote time to Torah, and to assist the poor and local Torah institutions with the charity they need. Hashem, if you miraculously return my goods to me, I will donate one tenth of the money to charity.” By that point, more men had assembled to pray, and they heard Reb Shmuel’s comments. They davened Mincha,and Reb Shmuel then went to his lodging place to eat and get some rest.
After dining and getting settled, Reb Shmuel returned to the shul to learn a bit before davening Ma’ariv. He studied, prayed, and as the congregation was filing out the door, some surly-looking men barged in, looking for Reb Shmuel. In their hands, they had 7 valises, with the contents fully intact. Reb Shmuel had been carrying the one remaining valise at his side, and he opened it and paid off the gang for recovering his cash. At this point, representatives of the local charities who had been in shul started to gather around Reb Shmuel. “Reb Shmuel,” they said, “It is time to make good on your promise to give a tenth.” Reb Shmuel opened each of the seven valises, one by one, and counted out the money. He then separated a tenth from each and put it aside. When done with this task, he looked up at the charity collectors, counted their numbers, and gave each an equal portion of the sum. They, in return, said, “Reb Shmuel, you are not done!” Reb Shmuel was perplexed: he had given them a tenth of each of the seven valises; what more could they want? The collectors explained. If the eighth valise had not been miraculously left behind, Reb Shmuel would not have had any money readily at hand to pay the search crew. He would not have had the ability to rescue evenone cent. The fact that he was left with one valise, a “miracle” in it of itself, enabled the greater miracle, the return of the remaining seven, to happen. Therefore, they argued, Reb Shmuel should pay one tenth of the eighth valise as well.
Why is Chanukah eight days long? After all, as there was enough oil found to light the Menorah for one day, the miracle really only occurred for seven days! So goes the famous question of the Bais Yosef.
The Kometz Mincha explains that above parable is exactly the reason why we celebrate for eight days. Had one flask not been miraculously left untouched and undefiled, there would have been no oil for the greater miracle to occur.To remember this initial miracle, the first step leading to the spectacular miracle of one day of oil lasting eight days, we celebrate a day as well. Chanukah, therefore, appropriately lasts for eight days.
We have to appreciate every link in a chain of events that leads to wondrous occurrences. It is often difficult to recognize how special a small event is, especially when it leads to something greater and spectacular that overshadows the initial event. Chanukah is a time when we can reflect on how special every event is, to appreciate the hand of Hashem in all that occurs to us.
Have a Happy Chanukah!
This issue is dedicated in memory of Rivka Levitin, Ita Rivka bas R’ Yosef a”h. May her family be comforted, and her memory be a blessing.
Check out all of the posts on Chanukah. Head over to http://www.torah.org/learning/yomtov/ to access the YomTov Page. Then click on the icon for the holiday of your choice.
For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.