(Courtesy: Lee Glasman, Jerusalem)
Several years ago I was in a shiur about Channuka. The rabbi was telling the crowd of about 150 how the Romans wanted to kill the Jews but the Greeks were really trying to assimilate us.
“You…, young man…” he said, pointing at me.
“Me?” I replied.
“Yes, you. What’s your name?”
“and Lee, what’s your family name?”
“Glassman” I responded.
“Tell me Lee Glassman, do you have a middle name?”
“Yes sir, it’s `Yates.'”
“Yates?…vee kumptze Yates?”
“Well, I’m from Scranton, Pennsylvania and my mother actually named me Levi Yitzchak, but she didn’t think that name would go over so well in a mining town so she took the lamed and made it `Lee’ and she took the yud and made it `Yates.””
“Nice. Hmm….’Levi Yitzchak’? You know we have a pretty famous rabbi with that name?”
“Yes sir,” I replied. “I’m named for my great-grandfather and he was named for his…, who was from Berditchev.”
“Just a minute…” he exclaimed, “you’re from `The Berdichev’?”
“Ladies and gentlemen, here we have a young man named for one of the most famous and wonderful rabbis of the Jewish people and he walks around the streets of Jerusalem calling himself…..’Lee Yates!’ …….. Somewhere…., Antiochus is smiling.”
And on that note he bid us all a chag sameach and stepped down from the podium.
Last night my daughter Kim and I were just exiting a furniture store when we noticed the staff gathering quickly to light the menorah. We stopped out of respect for the lighting and, while speeding through the brachot and “hanairot halalu” after lighting 3 candles, just as he was about to light the next candle, the shamas went out. The lighter’s hand moved a centimeter toward one of the lit candles to catch the flame and re-light his shamas when he realized the words he had just that exact moment come to:
“haneirot halalu kadosh hem…these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to make ordinary use of them…”
He nodded to himself, pulled out his cigarette lighter, relit the shamas and continued lighting the menorah without a word or so much as a glance to anyone.
As we walked from the store, Kim turned to me with tears in her eyes and said…“Look at this country you brought us to!”
And somewhere, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev is smiling.