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Kenneth Cohen

Know What Is Important

Many years ago, I was privileged to have Rav Meir Kahane as our Shabbat guest. I was a synagogue rabbi in Los Angeles, and for some reason, other rabbis were afraid to host this controversial leader.

Rabbi Kahane was a very cordial guest, and paid attention to my small children. He told my five year old son to notice that “there is Shabbat in your soup!” He also told us that when he blessed his own children every Friday night, he would add the words, “May you always know what is important in life, and what is not.”

I was reminded of this lesson, this past Shabbat. We were planning on lighting our Chanukah candles, together with other hotel visitors. I was one of the few who diligently brought an oil Menorah that would burn the necessary thirty minutes after the stars came out. Other people were not aware of this detail of Jewish law, and lit wax candles.

As I was preparing to light my oil Menorah, I turned my head for a moment, only to realize that someone had mistakenly lit it. I was very disappointed that I was now unable to properly perform the Chanukah ritual.

I randomly struck up a conversation with a nice looking, religious man. I said to him, “Can you believe how some people could be so thoughtless and now I didn’t fulfill my Chanukah obligation.” That gentleman put me in my place, in a way that I will never forget.

He politely told me that I shouldn’t get upset over such trivialities. His son had gone to the festival on October seventh. He left the house at four a.m., and was murdered by six thirty a.m.

I told him how sorry I was for him, and later, watched him say Kaddish. I thought back to the wise words of Rabbi Kahane. We must never lose perspective of what is truly important in life, and what is not.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at www.cafehebrew.com