Stories Of Greatness

‘My Dreidel’

One of the most famous Chanukah songs is the holiday tune known by its first line: “I have a...

Read more: ‘My Dreidel’

Pharaoh asked Moshe to pray to G-d to remove the frogs. Moshe Rabbeinu prayed and the frogs went away. The same thing happened with the plague of wild animals. Pharaoh suffered and begged Moshe and Aharon. They davened to Hashem and the wild animals left. Likewise, with the hail and the locusts. Pharaoh begs Moshe to daven for him, Moshe davens, the hail stops, and the locusts leave. Why was it necessary that every single time, Pharaoh would ask him to pray, Moshe would daven, and only then the plagues would cease? The answer, says Rav Yerucham Levovitz zt”l (Mashgiach of Mir) is that this narration teaches us something very fundamental about life: The way to obtain things in this world is to pray for them. This is the only way to achieve things in this world. Without prayer, not even Moshe could have prevailed.

One of the most famous Chanukah songs is the holiday tune known by its first line: “I have a little dreidel, I made it out of clay.” It is the first Chanukah song that preschool toddlers learn; it’s the song whose lyrics are printed on plastic holiday ware, and it’s the Jewish folk song seemingly so old that it’s no longer attributed. But it’s actually called “My Dreidel” – it exists in both English and Yiddish versions. “And,” says Mrs. Susan Wolfe excitedly, “I know who wrote it!”

Unlike Sefer B’reishis, which relates the story of Creation and how our ancestors revealed the glory of the Almighty to the world, Sefer Sh’mos is a progression of actions, a series of miraculous events, that catapult the children of Israel into becoming the Chosen Nation of klal Yisrael. It teaches us how, in the future, we are going to see not just the good deeds that we do, but the ripple effects of those deeds and how they manifest themselves in the world. How special it is when a person sees the fruits of his labor. That feeling of seeing the fruits of every one of our deeds will be unparalleled. Now is the time to do the labor, to grab every opportunity to perform a good deed. That will be our glory and that is our lives.

A woman once came to the Kapischnitzer Rebbe, Rav Avraham Yehoshua Heschel zt”l. She was on the verge of despair. Having survived the Holocaust, she came to the United States and raised a family. She valued her Jewish roots; however, she was not a deeply religious person and consequently, neither were her children. Now, though, her grown-up son had gone too far; he had met a non-Jewish girl, courted her for some time, and just recently, they announced their engagement. She was horrified; her son was planning to marry out of the faith! She begged, she cajoled, and she even took her son to speak with many important rabbis. It was no use. “Mama,” he would say, “don’t you want me to be happy? I have met the woman of my dreams. So what if she’s not Jewish? It’s not as if we keep the Jewish laws, anyway. Why is this so important to you?”

Although Yaakov Avinu was ill and in bed, he nevertheless managed to bow and prostrate himself “al rosh ha’mitah” – at the foot of his bed. Rashi explains: “He prostrated himself to Hashem because his offspring were perfect, insofar as not one of them was wicked, as is evidenced by the fact that Yosef was a king, and furthermore, that (even though) he was captured among the heathens, he remained steadfast in his righteousness.”

One of the well-known magidim in Eretz Yisrael was once invited to speak at a mesivta in Jerusalem to deliver a shmuess and words of chizuk. He began by relating a story that he had heard first hand.