CHANUKAH 1776

It was the year 1776. A lone Jewish soldier serves in the army of General George Washington at the Battle of Valley forge. The soldier waits until his comrades are asleep. Then, he removes from his pack a small menorah and places it on the floor of the barracks. He stares at the menorah. He remembers the first night of Chanukah many years ago in his home in Poland. The painful memory of his father dancing under the heavy weight of a bear skin to entertain the local Poritz. The Poritz and his cronies guffawed at the sight of the poor Jew forced to dance in front of these evil men. He reflects, “How they tormented father. How they mocked him as he danced that awkward dance”. He remembered his resolve that he will never dance for the Poritz and decided to leave Poland and his family to emigrate to America. It was Chanukah then also. His father gave him this menorah and told him, “My son, when you light this small menorah, its little flame should light the way for you.” Trembling, he lit the small light of the first night of Chanukah.

He gazed at the gentle flame and tears streamed down his face as he remem­bered how his family suffered under the cruel Polish lords. He knew that many of the American sol­diers wanted George Washington to give up, so the difficult war would end. Not he. He wanted America to become a free country where Jews could live peacefully. Even though the winter was fierce and the soldiers in Valley Forge did not have enough food or clothing, he wanted to continue to fight.

Suddenly, he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Why are you crying soldier? Are you cold?" It was General Washington. The soldier sprang up. "I am praying that you should win the war, General."

"What are these candles?" asked the General.

"These are candles that all Jews light tonight in honor of a great miracle!"

 George Washington's face lit up.

"Jews are the children of prophets, and you say we will win." He shook the soldier's hand and left.

           The war was over with General Washington leading his army to victory. General George Washington became America’s first President and the soldier settled in New York.

The next year, on the first night of Chanukah, as the gentle Chanukah lights flickered in his apartment window, there was a knock on the door. Upon opening the door he beheld the personage of his general, George Washington. President Washington entered the small apartment on Broome Street and told his soldier, “Behold the wonderful light. The light of hope of the Jewish people.” Washington continued, “It was your little light and your inspiring words that kindled a flame in my heart that stirred me to win the war”.

Then, George Washington hung a gold medal on the Jew’s chest. On the medal was the image of a menorah with one light. On the face was inscribed, "A token of appreciation for the light of your candle. George Washington."

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