This letter appeared in the Chicago Aneinu website from Rabbi Charlop to his congregants in honor of Chanuka. His message is relevant to all of us.
Chanuka is here! Arguably the most famous question with regard to Chanuka, is the Bais Yosef's Kasha. The Bais Yosef (Rabbi Yosef Karo) asks, “Why is Chanuka eight days? After all, the oil lit one day naturally. Only the additional seven days were miraculous. The Alter of Kelm (Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv) says a beautiful thought. It's true that it was natural for the oil to light for one day. But the point of a miracle, as the Ramban teaches us, is to remind us that Hashem is running the world, and even what seems to be natural is conducted with Hashgocha Protis – Divine Providence, just as much as things that are obviously miraculous. The point of an open miracle is to realize that everything is a miracle, including what we call “natural”.
Often, in our daily routine, if we look for Hashem we will see Him clearly orchestrating the events in our life. Here's an amazing example, heard firsthand, just a few weeks ago.
It was the mid 1960's and the draft for Vietnam was in full force. Dr. Sokol [Rabbi Nochum Sokol's father], who was a young doctor in Chicago at the time, received a draft notice. Shortly thereafter, he was on his way to the Sam Houston base in San Antonio Texas. Upon arriving in Texas, Dr. Sokol felt very alone. Here he was – a frum Jew wearing a Yarmulka and a Sefira beard, in the middle of a state that seemed to have very few, if any, Jews at all.
Almost immediately he was directed to go into town to the uniform store to get the appropriate uniform. Once in the uniform shop, Dr. Sokol started to try and figure out if there was any Shatnez in the various uniforms. Although trying to be discreet, the owner noticed him and asked him if he could be of help. Dr. Sokol explained that there is a Biblical command not to wear wool and linen together, and as a Jew, he wanted to be certain that he would not violate this law, known as Shatnez. The owner, a true Texan, replied, “I remember my Pappy Shechting (slaughtering) chickens in the backyard but I ain’t never heard of that Shatnez!” In spite of his lack of knowledge of this Mitzva, the owner told Dr. Sokol that he would help him out.
The owner then led him to the back of the store and took him upstairs in the elevator. Upstairs there were thousands of uniforms and an elderly gentleman in the corner who was working a sewing machine and making alterations to various uniforms. The owner called out to the “tailor”, “Meish! We have a Yiddishe soldier, maybe you can help him. He wants to know if there is any Shatnez in the uniforms. You ever hear of Shatnez?” The tailor responded, “Shoin draissick yohr voss ich hob nit gehert der vort Shatnez” [It's been thirty years since I heard that word Shatnez]. He went on to tell Dr. Sokol that he would help him identify uniforms that didn't have Shatnez, and help him in general, as well. At that moment Dr. Sokol felt like Hashem was telling him, “Don't worry, you might be in Texas, but I am here too, and I am still taking care of you”.
Over fifty years later, three weeks ago, Dr. Sokol's granddaughter got married to a wonderful boy learning in Lakewood, by the name of Yitzchok Dovid Katz. Yitzchok Dovid grew up in Akron, Ohio, and after spending a few months in Firestone High School, decided that he wanted to go to Yeshiva. Indeed he went to Telshe and excelled. He continued on to Eretz Yisroel and Lakewood.
At the wedding, Dr. Sokol was talking to the Chosson's mother, Karen Katz, about how his family had come to America and ended up in Chicago. She, in turn, explained how her family came to America through Galveston, Texas, not Ellis Island, and her grandfather and family settled in Corsicana, Texas. Although her father and his entire family lived in Corsicana, her father's brother wanted the big city, and moved to San Antonio where he opened a big UNIFORM STORE! Her grandfather's brother Meish also lived there!
Some would say “What a small world!” But we would say “Hashgocha Protis”! The miracles remind us that there is no natural course of events. It is all miraculous!
Wishing you all “A Freilichen Chanuka”,