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A 40 year long Chanukah Story

Thursday, 14 November, 2013 - 9:25 am

It was December 1973. The place, San Diego, CA. Before being appointed by the Rebbe to establish Chabad in New Orleans, my parents, Rabbi Zelig and Bluma Rivkin, spent two years at Chabad on the campus of San Diego State University. That year Chanukah coincided with the winter break and campus was a ghost town. My father and his colleague, Rabbi Yankel Kranz, along with a student named Gary, decided to drive around and find some Jews with whom to celebrate Chanukah. This was during the oil embargo and gas was being rationed. They neglected to make sure that they had enough gas and so the car ran out of gas along the way.

Gary had a friend in that area named Ernie with whom he had worked together on the McGovern campaign. Ernie offered to help them by siphoning off some gas from his car to theirs. (My father always marveled at the fact that he created the siphoning suction with his mouth.)

After he was done and they talked about who they were and why they were out and about, Ernie mentioned that he had a Jewish girl visiting him and his wife over the break. Marsha was not too excited about seeing these visibly religious Jewish men who wanted to talk to her about her Jewishness. After a little cajoling, they lit the Menorah and promised to follow up with her on campus. Ultimately she agreed to come to Chabad House to study about Judaism. After some time Marsha’s Neshama exploded. She accepted an offer to attend a session at Beis Chana, a newly established institute for young women searching for their Jewish heritage.

Over time Marsha embraced her Jewishness and became more and more committed to leading a religious life. She had several encounters with the Rebbe, which had a profound influence on the direction of her life. Marsha, who now goes by her Jewish name, married a man from a prominent Rabbinic family. She and her husband are well-respected members of the Los Angeles Jewish community. She later discovered that her Jewish birthday was Kislev 24 - the eve of Chanukah, the day that she met the Rabbis.

The story comes full circle as their family will hosting a Sheva Brachos (post-wedding celebration) for my brother Yosef and his fiancé Binie, at their Los Angeles home at the end of this month. The celebration is taking place just before her birthday and the 40th anniversary of her fateful meeting with those two Rabbis on a lonely San Diego street. We Jews have a term for this – it is called Hashgacha Pratis – Divine Providence. The hand of Hashem was indeed felt every step (or misstep) of the way that first night of Chanukah of 1973.

Mazel tov to Kasriel and Batsheva (Charlie and Sandra) Brum upon the birth of a grandson to their daughter Sarah and Sholom Mendelson. Mazel tov to the entire Brum family all the way up to the great-grandmothers.

Mazel tov to my brother Yosef upon his upcoming marriage to Binie Harlig next week. Mazel tov to the entire family.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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