It was a stormy winter night when Rabbi Baruch lit his first Chanukah candle. His disciples stood about him in reverence and watched the small flame flicker and dance to the inspired words of the holy man.

Hardly had Rabbi Baruch finished reciting the Hanerot Halalu prayer, when the small flame that had grown large and steady began to dwindle and then disappear as if taken away by some strange power. Rabbi Baruch’s disciples were awestruck. Frightened by the strange incident, they looked at their Rebbe, who stood silent and motionless, as if immersed in deep thought, searching the far distances for the solution to the unusual happening.

When the shammas wanted to re-light the candle, Rabbi Baruch stopped him and motioned him away. After a few minutes of anxious, silent waiting, Rabbi Baruch’s face lit up. He began to sing the first stanza of Maoz Tzur, and his disciples, their fears relieved, joined in with happy voices.

“Let us now sit down and celebrate Chanukah properly,” said Rabbi Baruch after they had finished this song of faith in G‑d’s ever-present help. “The light of Chanukah will return. It is on an important mission for the glory of the Almighty.”

Rabbi Baruch’s disciples had complete faith in the wisdom of their Rebbe. They crowded around the long table, eager to find out what had caused the disappearance of the light. But Rabbi Baruch told them to have patience. That night they would yet know the whole story. So they sang joyfully and listened to their holy rabbi’s wise words, celebrating this first night of Chanukah in the spirit of enthusiasm and holy.

It was close to midnight when the chasidim who sat near the window suddenly exclaimed, “Rabbi, Rabbi, the Chanukah light is back!” Everyone rose and looked at the small flame that had returned. Its light seemed to be filled with radiant joy, as if it had carried the message of the Chaunkah miracle from one corner of the world to the other. Rabbi Baruch told his disciples that in a few minutes they would find out what happened. Hardly had he finished talking when they heard the noise of an approaching carriage. The click-clack of hooves increased, until the carriage stopped right in front of Rabbi Baruch’s house. The door opened, and in came one of the Rabbi’s closest and most faithful followers, who lived in a small town beyond the mountains and forests. His clothes looked disorderly and his face was harrowed, as if he had gone through some terrible experience of fear and anxiety. Yet the man’s eyes shone as he bowed over the Rabbi’s hand and kissed it reverently. Rabbi Baruch greeted him with a warm “Shalom Aleichem,” and told him to say his evening prayers and kindle his Chanukah light. The chasidim could hardly wait till the man did as the Rebbe had commanded. At last he was ready, and sat by the side of Rabbi Baruch, as the crowded room was filled with silent expectancy.

This is what he told his eager listeners:

“Several days ago I started on my way to spend Chanukah with the holy Rabbi. I had sufficient time to arrive before the festival. I was happy, and could hardly wait for the moment when I would sit among you in this holy atmosphere. The weather was cold and stormy as I rode along the difficult road that leads to this city. Yet I hardly felt the discomfort because I was thinking of the warmth and the welcome that was waiting for me. In my impatience and anticipation I could not bear the thought of stopping at one of the inns along the road. I decided to risk the dangers of the trip through the dark forest in stormy weather so that I could get here a day ahead of schedule.”

“This was frivolous of you,” Rabbi Baruch interrupted his devoted disciple. “One should never test G‑d.”

“I soon realized my mistake, holy Rabbi,” replied the man. “For when I crossed one of the dense forests on the way, I was attacked by a band of robbers, who must have thought I was a rich merchant passing through the forest on a business trip. A sudden jerk tore me out of my thoughts. Rough hands seized me and pulled me down from my seat. Every part of the carriage and my belongings were searched. When they did not find what they were looking for, they began to beat me. Finally they decided to take me to their chief, who would squeeze the truth out of me. While one masked men sat beside me in my carriage, another took the reins and rode deeper into the forest. I closed my eyes because I was too frightened to watch the wild ride.

At long last the carriage went down the steep wall of a ravine and stopped in front of a hut that was cleverly concealed behind thick hedges. I was led before the chief, who was a cruel and wild man. He questioned me about the urgent business that had induced me to brave the dangers of the forest at night, and wanted to know where I had hidden my money. I told him that I was bound for the house of my Rabbi and the robbers had taken everything I possessed. The chief of the robbers laughed at my story and threatened to beat me with his whip if I did not confess the truth.

“Don’t tell me you are so foolish as to travel through storm and cold in order to spend a few days with some old rabbi.”

Time and again I asserted the truth of my story, but in vain. G‑d surely helped me, otherwise I would have been unable to stand the pain and anguish of the next hour. My back was bloody when the robbers left bound and gagged, as I did not satisfy them with my answers to their questions. Somehow, I felt that this was the just punishment for my foolish daring. I eventually fell asleep and lay thus all through the rest of the night and the following day.

The sun was setting when the chief of the robbers shook me rudely out of my dreams. Again he questioned me, and I did my best to explain to him the infinite happiness and joy one derives from spending a holiday with one’s Rabbi and the bond of faith and confidence that ties us all together. After I had finished, the chief kept staring ahead, brooding silently. Suddenly he rose from his seat, stepped right before me, and looked into my eyes.

“We shall see whether your story is true, and whether you really have boundless faith in G‑d and in your Rabbi. You know that this forest is beset with numerous dangers. Even my own men dare not pass through it alone. There are wolves and other wild animals roaming all over it. You are sureto be devoured alive, or to end up smashed to pieces in some unexpected hole or ditch. I shall set you free, and return everything that was taken away form you, your horse, carriage and clothes. You may continue your trip. But remember there is absolutely no chance for you to get out alive from this forest. Do you agree to take the risk?”

The terrible prospect of a ride through the dangers that lurked behind every tree and bush of the dark forest appalled me. Yet I thought of G‑d’s mercy and of you, holy Rabbi. It seemed to me that I saw you standing by your Chanukah light. You praised G‑d and your eyes seemed to inspire me with confidence and courage to face the dangers for the glory of G‑d. I looked into the wild eyes of the chief of the robbers and said: “May G‑d be with me, I shall do as you request.”

The wild eyes searched even further into the depths of my thoughts. After a while the chief said softly. “If you reach your Rabbi’s town safely, throw your handkerchief into the ditch behind the last milestone. My men will be there to pick it up. If they bring it here, I shall disband my gang and return to the world to atone for my crimes.”

Mixed with my great fear was joy over this opportunity to glorify the name of G‑d. I mounted my carriage and left the ravine. From all sides I heard the howling of wolves, and there seemed no clear path leading through the thick forest. But hardly had I entered the forest when a small flame appeared from nowhere and guided me through the dense, dark wilderness, as if the light of Chanukah itself had been sent by G‑d to protect me and bring me safely to this house. Wild animals were ready to jump at my horse and myself. Yet as soon as they saw the flickering flame, they receded. The forest opened a path through its thickets. While I kept praying, the horse made his way back to the road, and so I continued the trip to you, holy Rabbi. As soon as I reached the last milestone that marked the entrance to this city, I put my handkerchief into the ditch as a sign of my safe arrival. May G‑d give the chief of the robbers the will, wisdom and strength to do penance, as he promised.”

Thus spoke the man, and the eyes of all present turned back to the small flame that was about to die down. Yet its light was bright as ever.

“On Chanukah we live through the renewal of the eternal miracle of G‑d’s help. We learn to believe in His omnipotence. May His ever-presence bring us the final miracle of delivery from all evil, and may the light of faith shine in all the Four Corners of the world.” Thus spoke Rabbi Baruch, and his disciples replied with a wholehearted “Amen.”