Chanukah lights (photo from pxhere.com/en/photo/285940)
Rabbi Kibbitz! Rabbi Kibbitz!” Young Doodle ran into the rabbi’s study, breathless and excited. “Rabbi Kibbitz! It’s time to light the Chanukah candles!”
Doodle stopped cold. The senior rabbi of the village of Chelm sat behind his desk, with his head drooping in his hands, staring blankly into nothing.
“Rabbi Kibbitz, are you all right?”
The wise old man shook his head.
“Are you having a heart attack? A stroke? Indigestion?!”
Again the rabbi shook his head.
“You’re not getting a divorce are you?”
The rabbi’s head shot up. He stared at Doodle, and firmly shook his head, no.
“Then, Rabbi, what is it?”
“The world, Doodle,” the rabbi said. “It’s falling apart. The czar is going crazy and so is the king of Poland. It looks like war may happen at any time, and Chelm is right in the middle.”
“That’s not new,” said Doodle. “The czar is always crazy. I hear last week he commissioned a jeweler to make a dozen eggs out of gold!”
“What’s crazy about that?” asked Rabbi Kibbitz.
“Eggs come out of chickens for free,” Doodle said. “With real eggs, you can eat ‘the gold.’ But golden eggs, it seems like you’re paying a lot for nothing.”
The rabbi nodded. He’d never been able to understand how Doodle thought.
“Come, Rabbi,” Doodle said. “It’s time to light the Chanukah candles. Everybody is waiting.”
“The harvest was poor this year,” the rabbi said. “It’s been poor the last four years. I don’t know how we are going to feed ourselves this winter. And, if next harvest is bad, then I’m sure we will all starve.”
“Actually, rabbi, it’s been six bad years,” Doodle corrected. “And you know what they say in the Torah? After seven years of famine, there will be seven years of feast!”
“I’m not sure it says that.”
“Perhaps not,” Doodle said. “But we will figure it out. We always do. If nothing else, we can always move somewhere.”
“Borders are closing, Doodle. Nobody wants to have poor refugees.”
“In America, there is plenty of opportunity!”
The rabbi shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“Come, let’s light the candles,” Doodle said.
“People are becoming so hateful.” The rabbi’s head slumped back into his hands. “Neighbours fight each other. Everyone looks out only for himself or his tribe. I always thought that, over time, the world would become a better place, but I hear the news about this revolution or that uprising or this massacre and that famine and all I see is darkness.”
“Let’s light the candles,” Doodle insisted.
“Enough with the candles!” The rabbi burst with frustration. “Chanukah is not even a major holiday. With all the problems of the world, it just doesn’t matter.”
Doodle stood still and stared at the rabbi. “It does matter. Every year, on the last night of Chanukah, our whole community gathers in the synagogue to light the candles. We kindle a shammos from the eternal lamp, and then that flame is passed to every shammos. We sing the blessings, and then one light becomes eight lights, multiplied by every single family in the village. It doesn’t matter how cold it is outside. We are warm and together in celebration. Even in the darkness the menorahs glow as bright as day.
“Come, Rabbi. Let’s light the candles.”
Rabbi Kibbitz looked up at the young boy. The wise old man had tears in his eyes. He nodded and stood.
Just then, Reb Cantor the merchant burst into the rabbi’s study.
“Rabbi Kibbitz! Have you heard? They’re devaluing the currency. The money – all the money – is going to be worthless!”
“Reb Cantor,” said Rabbi Kibbitz. “It seems very dark and bleak sometimes, doesn’t it?”
Reb Cantor nodded in agreement.
“Isn’t it wonderful,” the rabbi said, “that it is time for us to gather in the synagogue and light the Chanukah candles?”
Reb Cantor took a deep breath and nodded. “You are a very wise man, Rabbi Kibbitz.”
Together, the rabbi and the merchant left the study and their troubles behind.
Doodle rolled his eyes. Then, he grinned and ran to catch up. “Rabbi Kibbitz, Reb Cantor! Wait for me!”
Mark Binder is a Jewish storyteller and the author of A Hanukkah Present! Twelve Tales to Give and Share and Matzah Mishugas. These and other books are available in print and ebook on Amazon, iBooks, Google Play Books and other booksellers. To learn more about Binder, visit markbinder.com.