Extending our Arms

by Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson

Originally published in The Times of Israel, The Blogs – December 10, 2020.

The holidays tend to come with their own special stories with memorable characters like Ebenezer Scrooge, Hershel (and his Chanukah Goblins), and Buddy the Elf.  This year, being different in so many ways, calls for a different kind of Chanukah tale.  Not unlike “A Christmas Carol,” this one from Jewish folklore involves a strange dream, and a journey:

Once there was a man who dreamt that an angel visited him and took him by the hand and led him out of his home to a mansion in a far-off land. 

The angel ushered him into the house, to the dining room, where, around a great table sat many guests. The table was piled high with the most delicious foods. But when the man looked closely at the scene, he saw that the guests looked hungry, their faces lean and lined. He couldn’t understand why. And then he realized that none of them had elbows. So, while they could reach the food on the table, they could not bring it to their mouths.

The man cried to the angel, “This is too ghastly to behold.  I cannot look at it any longer.  Please take me away from here.”

So the angel grasped the man by the hand and whisked him away to another land and another dining room in another mansion that, at first, appeared just like the one they had left behind.  Around this table too, also filled with food, sat many guests, again with no elbows.

The man turned to the angel and pleaded, “No, I told you I cannot look upon this hell any longer; it’s too terrible.”  But the angel insisted the man examine the scene more closely.  When he did, he saw that these guests were not hungry at all, but were instead smiling and laughing.

Because they could not bring the food to their own mouths, they were reaching across the table and feeding one another.

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