A Little Light Goes A Long Way

Leah Rosenberg

I don’t know if it was planned out by Hashem, but Chanukkah falls out during the time we need it most. When the days are at their shortest and the weather is at its coldest, the menorah sheds its light upon people who are eager for it.  In 1938, the world fell into a darkness unlike anything modern history has ever seen.  It had been a long journey from Kristalnacht until this moment. The Geier family was sitting on a train from Berlin to Holland. They still couldn’t believe that they managed to get their hands on an American visa. Judah and Regina Geier with their two children, Arnold and Ruth, spent the train ride trying to act as if the world were still a normal place. But unlike most of the other passengers, the Geier family was still aware of the dangers that could be waiting for them as the train approached the German border. Nazis, German police, and officers of the Gestapo would all be there for a final checking of passports and travel papers.  For Judah Geier, there was something that made his heart heavy. As an Orthodox Jew and a chazzan, his whole life had been devoted to following the Torah way. It was almost night time when the flames of the Chanukah menorah should have been illuminating their house to spread their light, yet, he was forced to sit quietly in his seat. In fear of causing unwanted attention, he didn’t strike a match or say a bracha. Being able to sense her husbands struggle, Regina Geier tried to reassure him that G‑d, who sees and knows all, would no doubt, grant him many more Chanukahs to celebrate properly. He was partially comforted by her words. Under these dangerous circumstances, how could he possibly light the menorah? But, then again, how could he not? Suddenly, the train came to a stop at the German-Dutch border, where it was sitting in the station for the longest ten minutes of Judah’s life. Him and his children sat frozen in fear. One wrong answer could mean the difference between a new life and sudden death. Then, miraculously, a Chanukah miracle arrived at the German border perfectly timed. With no warning, the entire station and every corner of the train went completely dark. All the lights went out at the very same instant, leaving the passengers and the officers in the dark. Without hesitation, Judah took this moment and reached for his coat from the luggage rack above. He put his hand into one of the pockets and pulled out a small package. Before anyone was able to realize what was happening, he struck a match, lit a candle, and quickly melted the bottom of eight other candles. He then put them in a neat row on the windowsill and in a whisper, he said the Chanukah blessings. As his family looked on in astonishment, Judah carefully lit each candle and put the ninth one – the shamashoff to the side. His face glowed with joy and peace for the first time in a long time. Seeing the unexpected light in the window, the Gestapo and the border police came running towards him. When the officers came through the door, Judah was prepared for the worst. However, instead of responding with rage to this open display of Jewish customs, the officers only noticed the opportunity that it gave them. By the light of the candles, they would now be able to see clearly enough to begin checking passports and papers, and with Nazi efficiency, they got to work. As soon as this was done and they were about to leave, the chief officer of the border police turned to Judah and thanked him personally for having the thought to bring “travel candles” on his trip. Meanwhile, the Geier family sat in silence, unable to take their eyes off the windowsill. Just as the candles were beginning to get dim, every light in the station suddenly turned back on. Judah, still in awe at what he had just witnessed, put his arm around his son. With tears in his eyes, he brought him close and said “Remember this moment. Just like in the days of the Maccabees, a great miracle happened here.”