From Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul

The Fire of Hope

Faith is the true force of life.

Leo Tolstoy

This is a story I heard Rabbi Hugo Gryn tell at an interfaith meeting held in the Jerusalem Chamber at Westminister Abbey:

When I was a young boy my family was sent to Auschwitz. For a while my father and I shared a barracks. In spite of the unspeakable horror, oppression and hardship, many Jews held onto what scraps of Jewish religious observance as they were able. One midwinter evening one of the inmates reminded us that tonight was the first night of Hanukkah, the festival of dedication, the feast of lights. My father constructed a little Hanukkah menorah out of scrap metal. For a wick, he took some threads from his prison uniform. For oil, he used some butter that he somehow procured from a guard.

Such observances were strictly “verboten,” but we were used to taking risks. Rather, I protested at the “waste” of precious calories. Would it not be better to share the butter on a crust of bread than to burn it?

“Hugo,” said my father, “both you and I know that a person can live a very long time without food. But Hugo, I tell you, a person cannot live a single day without hope. This is the fire of hope. Never let it go out. Not here. Not anywhere. Remember that, Hugo.”

Rabbi Kenneth L. Cohen

More stories from our partners