July 18, 2024

Chanukkah stories

Chanukah is a powerful time. It is a time of miracles and of reflection. This Chanukah, Colel Chabad wants to enhance your menorah lighting experience. After you light your candles, read the story we will send you each day together with your family. Share the lesson and accept the challenge. Let us know how it goes! 

First night of Chanukkah

Story #1:

For 3 weeks after the October 7th attacks, Sarah* was staying in a hotel next to the Dead Sea. She was mourning the loss of an immediate family member and trying to function for the sake of her young children. She’d be the first to admit — she was failing miserably. Sarah felt like the trauma and darkness that enveloped her would never lift.

And then Colel Chabad announced that they would take everyone to the Magic Kass amusement park for one day. Everyone was going so Sarah packed up her kids and got on the bus.

Sarah watched as her children sat down on their first ride of the day. And then it happened. They smiled. For the first time in 3 weeks, her children smiled. And then they laughed. Suddenly, she felt, maybe the darkness would lift.

Lesson #1

On the first night of Chanukah, we place one candle into an empty menorah. There are still seven empty branches. But we know we will get to them. We have to take it one candle at a time. We have to take everything one step at a time. The road to recovery starts with a single step. 

Challenge #1

On this first night of Chanukah, look within yourself and choose your first step in conquering a challenge in your life.

Second night of Chanukkah

Story #2:

James is an extraordinary individual. As an adult in England, he found Judaism and converted into our holy nation. Shortly after he completed his conversion, he was struck with a degenerative neurological disorder. He decided to move to Israel and found Beis Finger, Colel Chabad’s home for adults with special needs. He enjoyed the programming and socalization immensely, but there was something missing. James desperately wanted to live in his own apartment. 

Two years ago, Colel Chabad founded the Independent Living Greenhouse organization. We created the perfect environment where someone with limitations could flourish and grow while left to their own devices. Just a few weeks ago, after learning to cook for himself, James moved into his own apartment as part of this initiative. James is over 40 years old.

Lesson #2:

It doesn’t matter what stage of life you’re in, or what your circumstances are — you have the power to accomplish something. As we light the second candle, light grows brighter, not by much, but we’re getting there. If you set your mind to something and take it one step at a time, you can accomplish amazing things.

Challenge #2:

Think about a goal that you want to achieve. Perhaps you’ve been pushing it off for a while. Tonight, determine what the first and second steps would be to achieving that goal. Now, commit to taking the first step.  

Third night of Chanukkah

Story #3:

Mazal Tov! A baby girl was born in the heart of the Soviet Union in the early 1930s. Raised behind the Iron Curtain, this young girl knew she was Jewish but had no idea what that meant or anything about her special heritage.

Fast forward to 1989 and the fall of the Iron Curtain. Anna* is finally introduced to Judaism and what being a Jew means. She learned about the story of Chanukah as an older adult. 

Anna experienced her own miracle ten years ago and made aliyah to Israel.

Many of us remember spinning the dreidel as young children, hands sticky from the jelly donuts. We remember the smells of latkes frying in oil wafting in from the kitchen. Anna has no such memories. When she thinks of her first Chanukahs, she thinks of the volunteers from GetChessed (a branch of Colel Chabad) and the joy they bring as they sing the ancient songs and light the menorah with her.

GetChessed ensures that each elderly person we service, who may feel isolated, receives a visit over Chanukah. We are spreading the joy of Chanukah one person at a time.

Lesson #3:

It doesn’t matter what upbringing a person had, if they have the opportunity to experience authentic Judaism, we should work to bring it to them. Chanukah is a time of miracles, anything is possible — even the return of an older Jew from Soviet Russia.

Challenge #3:

Reach out to someone you know who didn’t experience Chanukah in his/her childhood. Wish them a happy Chanukah and maybe invite them to have some latkes with you. 

Fourth night of Chanukkah

Story #4:

10 year-old Miriam* LOVES Chanukah. She looks forward to it all year long. The crispy latkes, the sweet donuts, winning the dreidel game – all of it! Unfortunately, Miriam was struck by an illness that left her hospitalized. She knew that this meant her Chanukah would be a dreary one. There was no way her hospital room could mirror the amazing aura of her parent’s house.

Could it?

Chanukah arrived, and as predicted, Miriam was still laid up in her hospital bed, with no Chanukah joy in sight. 

And then Colel Chabad arrived with a pop-up Chanukah camp! Miriam got to experience the Chanukah of her dreams, albeit a little differently.

Colel Chabad goes to hospitals throughout Israel bringing a Chanukah miracle to every child who finds themselves in a hospital over this joyous holiday.

Lesson #4:

Even when things seem their bleakest, Chanukah teaches us that there is always room for light.

Challenge #4: 

Think of someone who could use some light in their life this Chanukah. Do something small to be the person who lights that spark and be the miracle in someone else’s life. 

Fifth night of Chanukkah

Story #5:

Vered lost her father as a young girl. She grew up as a part of the extended family of Chesed Menachem Mendel (a branch of Colel Chabad). It is an organization that provides for widows and their children and organizes events to help ease the burden of widowhood. She understands the importance of the work we do and the tremendous impact we have. As a teenager, she has opted to return to the Chanukah retreat as a volunteer. She is helping those just as she was helped as a young girl.

View stories from the last 4 nights here.

Lesson #5: 

We are lighting the fifth candle tonight. We are over halfway through Chanukah. There are only 3 candles left until all 8 are shining brightly. The most worthwhile things in life take small consistent steps to achieve. 

Challenge #5: 

Think back to the first night of Chanukah, what small step did you take to achieve your goal? Now is the time to take the second step. With each step, you get closer until the end is in sight. When the end is so near, it is that much easier to achieve. 

Bonus Challenge: Just as Vered is giving back to Chesed Menachem Mendel, think about some way that you can give back in your own life.

Sixth night of Chanukkah

Story #6:

Yael* became a widow just 6 short weeks ago. Chanukah is the first holiday she will be spending without a husband. All day she wonders, “How will I bring the joy of Chanukah to my fatherless children this year?” Yael has a teen daughter who feels especially isolated with no one she can relate to.

A friend advised her to reach out to Chesed Menachem Mendel (a branch of Colel Chabad). It is an organization that provides for widows and their children and organizes events to help ease the burden of widowhood. When Yael and her family walked into our Chanukah retreat at the Ramada Hotel this year, they were met with an atmosphere of comfort and joy. The younger children were immediately embraced and her teen daughter looked around and found girls exactly like her. Teenagers who no longer had a father, but were thriving nonetheless. This retreat was everything Yael needed to bring Chanukah joy to her family.

Yael said, “Even though the loss of my husband will never go away, seeing other children who experienced the same trauma as mine and are okay is the light of the menorah that I needed. Colel Chabad lit my candle.”

Lesson #6:

Everyone goes through ups and downs in their lives. It is during the darkest moments, that we need to seek out the flame that will light us back up. Chanukah teaches us that there is always hope, no matter how dire the circumstances.

Challenge #6:

Think about your family members, those lighting the menorah with you, or those in their own homes. How can you add a little bit of light to their Chanukah? Maybe a small gift, maybe a phone call, maybe just a “thinking of you – Happy Chanukah” text. They don’t need to be going through a hard time to be able to appreciate your kindness. 

Seventh night of Chanukkah

Story #7:

Shayna is an 8-year-old girl living in Brooklyn, NY. She absolutely loves Chanukah! She spent weeks learning about the story and the miracles Hashem performed. (Not to mention presents and donuts.) As each day of Chanukah passed, she found her piggy bank getting heavier and heavier. First Bubby and Zaidy gave her some gelt, and then her aunts and uncles… until she sat down to count on her presents up on the 7th night. 

She paused as she was dreaming of all the toys her newfound wealth could buy her. Shayna ran to her mother and explained that she had all this money, and before she spent it, she wanted to give a tenth of it (ma’aser) to charity. Her mother proudly brought her to the pushka cabinet and went through each organization she could donate to. After hearing all about what Colel Chabad has been doing for Israel’s neediest, she chose that one. Shayna proudly put $5.80 into the Colel Chabad pushka. 

Lesson #7: 

Joy doesn’t only come from receiving. Part of the joy of Chanukah is giving and being able to give. $5.80 may not seem like a lot, but to Colel Chabad, that is a complete meal for a poor person. Plus some left over! 

Challenge #7: 

Tonight, look around you and count your blessings. Think about how much you truly have – not necessarily materialistically. Think about how you can provide for someone else in some small way. What can you give that will ultimately gift you the joy of giving?

Eighth night of Chanukkah


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