The Rabbi tells his old, old tale,
The pupils seated round.
“…And thus, my boys, no holy oil
In the Temple could be found.
The heathens left no oil to light
The Lord’s eternal lamp;
At last one jar, one single jar,
Was found with the high priest’s stamp.
Its oil could only last one day—
But God hath wondrous ways;
For lo! a miracle occurred:
It burned for eight whole days.”
The tale was ended, but the boys,
All open-eyed and dumb,
Sat listening still, as though aware
Of stranger things to come.
Just wait, my boys, permit me, pray,
The liberty to take;
Your Rabbi—may he pardon me—
Has made a slight mistake.
Not eight days, but two thousand years
That jar of oil did last,
To quell its wondrous flames availed
No storm, no flood, no blast.
But this is not yet all, my boys:
The miracle just starts.
This flame is kindling light and hope
In countless gloomy hearts.
And in our long and starless night,
Lest we should go astray,
It beacon-like sheds floods of light,
And eastwards points the way,
Where light will shine on Zion’s hill,
As in the days of old.
The miracle is greater, boys,
Than what your Rabbi told.
I kindled my eight little candles,
My Hanukkah candles, and lo!
Fair visions and dreams half-forgotten
Were rising of years long ago.
I musingly gazed at my candles;
Meseemed in their quivering flames
In golden, in fiery letters
I read the old, glorious names;
The names of our heroes immortal,
The noble, the brave, and the true;
A battlefield saw I in vision,
Where many were conquered by few;
And mute lay the Syrian army,
Judea’s proud foe, in the field;
And Judas, the brave Maccabaeus,
I saw in his helmet and shield.
His eyes shone like bright stars of heaven,
Like music resounded his voice:
“Brave comrades, we fought and we conquered,
Now let us in God’s name rejoice!
“We conquered; but know, my brave comrades,
No triumph is due to the sword;
Remember our motto and watchword,
‘For the people and towns of the Lord.’”
He spoke, and from all the four corners
An echo repeated each word;
The woods and the mountains re-echoed:
“For the people and towns of the Lord.”
And swiftly the message spread, calling:
“Judea, Judea is free!
Rekindled the lamp in the Temple,
Rekindled each bosom with glee!”
* * * * * * * * *
My Hanukkah candles soon flickered,
Around me was darkness of night;
But deep in my soul I felt shining
A heavenly, wonderful light.