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Zos Chanukah

The eighth day of Chanukah is called “Zos Chanukah,” based on a phrase in the Torah reading of that day. It is written that From Rosh Hashanah until Zos Chanukah a Heavenly hand is extended to receive our teshuvah. Thus, Zos Chanukah is the final day of repentance.

Last week I wrote about the importance of recalling Hashem’s Hashgachah Peratis (Divine Providence) on Chanukah. Someone forwarded to me the following beautiful piece entitled, “An Amazing Story of Hashgachah Peratis, and a Father's Love.”

Until a few years ago, I didn't take anything very seriously. I had graduated from a Yeshiva high school, and, unlike most of my class, I didn't feel I had what it took to be a learner. I didn't want to go to college right away, and I thought I would get a job and have a good time before I settled down. My parents were not very pleased with these decisions, but, at that point in my life, what my parents wanted was not terribly important to me.

Regrettably, during this time I fell in with a group of friends who were not Orthodox. At first, I told myself that I would not be influenced by them; but this turned out to be very far from the truth. In a very short period of time, I became exactly like them, and maybe worse, as I should have known better. Shabbos meant nothing, Kashrus meant nothing, and my life was spent in a haze which even today I have trouble remembering. My parents were devastated. Maybe they didn't expect me to be the best of the best, but they certainly didn't expect this.

As well as having destroyed my own life, I was on my way to destroying my family as well. Because of the bad influence I was having on my younger brothers, my father asked me to leave the house. When I moved out, I said some really cruel and spiteful things to him. I can remember him standing silently at the door, with my mother crying at his side. I realize now that what I had seen in them as a weakness was actually enormous strength. I had no contact with anyone in my family for almost a year. Deep inside I missed them very much, but I foolishly thought that I could be seen as weak, if I contacted them.

One morning, I was shocked to find my father waiting for me outside of the apartment building I lived in. He looked at me with tired, worn eyes and asked if we could talk. Stubborn to the core, I only nodded, and we walked to a corner coffee shop where we sat down. He told me how much everyone missed me and how I had been in their minds and hearts every second that I had been gone. He told me how my mother agonized over what had happened, blaming herself for not having been there for me. While he was talking, tears began rushing from his eyes. He told me that he wasn't here to lecture me. He just had one request. He wanted me to drive with him that afternoon to Monsey, NY, and say one chapter of Tehillim at the grave of a certain Tzaddik. As far removed as I was from Yiddishkeit, I was still moved by his request. I told him that I couldn't go that day, but that I would go with him any other time. In truth, I had plans to go with some friends to Atlantic City that evening, and I didn't want to break them. When I told him that I couldn't go that day, he reached across the table and took my hand in his and just looked at me with his tear streaked sad face. I felt my own eyes begin to water, and, rather then have him see me cry I just agreed to meet him later that day.

I made the necessary apologies to my friends, and, later that day, I met my father. We didn't talk much during the trip up. I remember getting out of the car with him, and walking over to one of the graves. He put some rocks on top of the grave and gave me a Tehillim. We must have looked quite strange. My father in his long black coat, a black hat perched on his head, and me, with my leather bomber jacket and jeans. We didn't stay long. Ten minutes after we had arrived, we were on our way back. The return trip was as quiet as the trip there. My father let me off in front of my apartment building. I still recall the words he said to me as I got out of the car. He told me that no matter what may have happened between us, and no matter what may happen, I was always going to be his son and he would always love me. I was emotionally moved by his words, but I was not experiencing the spiritual inspiration he may have been hoping for. I shook my head at his words and we parted company.

The next morning, I woke up to some shocking news. On the way back from Atlantic City, my friends were involved in a head on collision with a tractor trailer. There were no survivors. As I write this letter, I am overcome with emotion. I made a bris today for my first child. My father was Sandak and, as he held my son on his lap, his eyes met mine and we smiled. It was as if we had finally reached the end of a long journey. We had never talked to each other about that trip to Monsey, nor had I ever told him about the death of my friends. I just walked back into their home that evening, and was taken back with open arms and no questions asked. I don't think I will ever understand what happened that day. I just know, sitting here late at night, with my son in my arms, that I will try and be the father to him that my father was to me.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel