This is the last day of Chanukah.
Can you imagine what being in the Bais HaMikdash was like on the last day of miracles? The Macabees and the rest of us knew that all of the waiting was finished. A new supply of oil would soon bring them back to what we laughingly call Real Life, the world that is confined to the laws of nature that G-d initiated during the six days of creation.
On one hand, living in a predictable world where laws of nature don’t change gives you the responsibility to find Hashem in moment to moment life, even though He isn’t grabbing your attention with fireworks. This is no easy task; complacency is part of life. On the other hand, you can move to a far higher place when you listen to the message that Hashem sends you when he tells you that He will never stop being part the life you actually lead. The fact that Hashem hides behind the curtain that we call time and space tells you that He believes that you have the power to lift the curtain that seems to separate you and your ordinary life from His unveiled self. Yes you. The real you that struggles with faith and with deeds.
I had a very extreme trip to Beitar this past Friday. You may very well be wondering how extreme a twenty minute trip from Har Nof to the largest frum town on the West Bank can be. Well, as things turned out an accident in the road that goes through the tunnels changed the equation. The police and emergency medics closed the tunnels. After a futile attempt to circle the back to back traffic, I called my granddaughter who has Waze to try to use its techno-brain to get us out.
It recommended that we go to the railroad tracks near the zoo, and make a turn south through an amazingly beautiful raw piece of nature called the Walabee. It leads you though Christian Arab village called Beit Jalla. This is a place far enough off the beaten track to make do with two lanes for all of the traffic that normally flows through its idyllic picturesque streets. My granddaughter isn’t the only one with Waze. In no time hundreds (literally) of cars jammed the road generated the Mother of All Traffic Jams. By that point turning back was as impossible as moving forward. As time traipsed on with no consideration of me and my fellow nomads, the sun’s unmistakable message was that Shabbos will soon be arriving. Virtually everyone on the road is religious (since the road goes to Beitar, Efrat, Gush Etzion and other settlements), so the mixture of panic/despair/and tension was almost tangible. The end of the story is that I rolled into my daughter’s seven minutes before shkia (sunset).
On the way, I considered various worst case possibilities; walking back to Yerushalaim, walking to Beitar, etc. None of them were particularly appealing, and walking back to Yerushalaim was probably not even viable in halachah because there are too many open spaces in the first part of our scenic road for it to be considered still part of Yerushalaim. The second Arab village, which is Muslim, closer to Beitar and near enough to avoid the issue of being beyond the Shabbos border, was very unappealing for other reasons. I am absolutely sure however, that if it came to it, I would get to see El Khadar and Hussan real close. I imagine that many of the other cars behind me must have done exactly that, since there weren’t many other options.
The reason that I am sharing this with you is to give you a feeling of the exhilaration that I had when I lit candles with four minutes to spare….There is no way that this kind of simchah happens every week. I am sure that each one of you has your stories in which the real world was both the villain and the hero.
What a great climax to Chanukah!