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General Washington: Hanukkah 1777

We, at VFI, take delight in sharing this inspiring story once again as Hanukkah 2019 approaches: The winter of 1777 was harsh, almost unbearable. The soldiers stationed in Valley Forge had no inkling of why they were there. In their midst was a lone Jewish soldier and it was the first night of Hanukkah.  When all of the soldiers in the tent were fast asleep, he took out his Menorah and lit one candle recited the blessings, and sat down to watch the small flame dancing merrily. The General, in person, stood by his side. He looked at him and said gently, "Why are you weeping? Are you cold, my friend?" The soldier jumped to his feet and saluted.  Then he said quietly, "I am weeping before my Father in Heaven, sir. Everyone's fate lies in His hands; He controls the fate of millions, the world over. I was praying for your success, General Washington. I came to this country because I was fleeing the persecution of tyrants who have forever oppressed my family, my townspeople and my nation. The despots will fall, sir, but you will be victorious!"  "Thank you, soldier!" the General replied heartily and sat on the ground before the menorah. And what have we here?" he asked. This is a candelabra. Jews all over the world are lighting the first candle of our festival, Hanukkah, tonight. This serves to commemorate a great miracle that occurred to our ancestors. They were only a handful compared to the massive armies, but they held out, thanks to their faith in God, and were granted a miracle." 

The bright flame ignited a flame of hope in the weary General's eyes and he cried out joyfully, "You are a Jew? Then you are descended from a people of prophets! And you say that we will win the war?" "Yes, sir!" he replied confidently. The General rose, his face glowing with renewed hope. They shook hands heartily. Washington asked the soldier for his name and address and disappeared into the night. On the first night of Hanukkah, 1778, our Jewish veteran was sitting in his home on Broome Street in New York. The first Hanukkah light was burning brightly on his windowsill. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. His wife rose to open it wide. To her astonishment, there stood President Washington.  "There is that fabulous light, the Hanukkah light," he cried out happily, spotting the candle by the window. "That flame, and your remarkable words, kindled a light in my heart on that dark and bitter night," he reminisced. "We were in a tight situation then, and your words encouraged me so! They spurred me on with new hope. You will soon be awarded a Medal of Honor from the United States of America for your bravery in Valley Forge, but tonight you will receive a personal memento from me." With these words he placed on the table a gold medal upon which was engraved a Hanukkah menorah with one light burning. Upon this medal was inscribed: "As a sign of thanks for the light of your candle. George Washington."  (VFI News/J. Post)

 “I will make you a light for the Gentiles that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth." Isa. 49:6