Esor Ben-Sorek
Esor Ben-Sorek

My Greatest Chanukah Gift

In the long years of my life I have not been so blessed and humbled than I am today, on the eve of Chanukah.

A fellow writer for TIMES OF ISRAEL, Saul Chapnick, has given me my greatest Chanukah gift. If you have not read his opus magnum published today, I commend it to you, dear readers, that you too may share in my emotional response.

His magnificent words have touched my heart and are preserved in my soul. I am not deserving of such high praise. I only try to write what my heart and mind dictate to me prior to putting words on paper.

I hope that our esteemed editor, Miriam Herschlag, will share my feelings with him and my never-ending gratitude to Saul as well as to the wonderful staff of TOI in the Jerusalem office.

Writing always came easy to me. In 1947 my first submitted piece won second prize in an essay contest on Palestine (Eretz Yisrael) from the Childrens’ Register # 12505 of the Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael in Jerusalem.

Now, 72 years later, it still hangs in its frame on a wall of my home, as my connection to the pre-state days of the birth of Israel. Palestine is on my wall.

I was emotional then and I am emotional now. In my Bar Mitzvah remarks, spoken in Hebrew, I said “eved anochi l’ivrit lanetzach” (I am a servant to the Hebrew language forever) and I concluded with “livnot et ha moledet al admat ha moledet” (to build up the homeland on the soil of the homeland), livnot u’l’hibanot ba (to build it and to be rebuilt by it).

Over many years, I came to understand that I was not a good farmer. Tilling the soil was far from my skill. At Kibbutz Matzuba near the Lebanese border with Rosh HaNikra (Ras al-Nakura in Arabic), it became quite clear to me that I did not do well with a small turiya (hoe) in the tobacco fields.

I put down the hoe and I picked up the pen and it has been in my hand ever since. I could not contribute to the building up of the homeland through farming but I could make a small contribution through my writing.

And here I am at article # 972 with 28 more to go to reach the goal of 1000 published articles which I had set for myself almost five years ago.

My children ask me what I am going to do after my one thousandth article is published and my goal is reached. I tell them that I plan to relax. To which they reply in unison: who are you kidding? You don’t know how.

Now I must think of ways to prove they are wrong. I would like to travel. To visit Prague and Budapest once again. Perhaps to dare a trip to Berlin. Still, it is not very comfortable to travel alone.

But who am I kidding? I lack the strength to walk the boulevards of Europe. A bus from my apartment in Rishon Lezion to Jerusalem, less than a two hour ride, tires me out for an entire day.

Saul Chapnick used kind words to describe me. He called me an “octogenarian” because he was too polite to put it bluntly… I have simply become an “alte kvetch”.

I don’t play tennis. I don’t play golf. I don’t swim. I don’t play chess. I wake up to a new dawn each morning and give thanks to my Creator for having given me the gift of another day of life.

I wash, dress, say my morning prayers, eat a light breakfast, turn on the television to channel 12 for the up-to-date news which I really don’t want to hear (it is seldom good news), read YISRAEL HAYOM, THE JERUSALEM POST and go online to read the creative works of those who write for the TIMES OF ISRAEL.

Most of my day is devoted to my loving companion, Carmit, our six year old female Israeli Canaan dog. I love talking to her because I never have to listen to her responses. Most unusual for a sabra to be silent.

Tonight the candles are lined up in the chanukiyah. Large sufganiyot which I promised not to eat are leaking jelly onto a paper plate. Mi yemalel gvurot Yisrael otan mi yimneh…. Who can retell the things that befell us, who can count them? In every age a hero or sage came to our aid.

This Chanukah there are very few wise men in our government and too few who can aid us.

By the flickering lights of the candles I recite a silent prayer of thanks, of my deepest and eternal gratitude to blessed Saul Chapnick for his beautiful tribute. And for making my Chanukah a very joyous one.

I have printed it out and have requested that one of my three children will quote from it in the hesped, the eulogy recited at my funeral.

At this tender moment I have broken my promise. I took a big bite of one of the sufganiyot. The jelly has stained my fingers and my shirt is ready for the washing machine.

To Saul Chapnick, to the TOI staff and to all my readers, Jews and non-Jews, best wishes for a Chanukah samayach, happy holidays and a blessed and peaceful New Year 2020.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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