by Rabbi Label Lam
In order to appreciate the Chanukah story, it might be helpful to look through the prism of two quasi-miraculous stories that are really the same.
Uri Zohar was Israel’s top comedian, entertainer, and actor at one time. In mid-career he started to study Torah and became a devoted scholar and educator. When I was in Jerusalem I went to listen to him give a class to a small group. At the end of the session he told an amazing story. He had recently received a surprise call from an old friend. What had motivated the call?
It was a Saturday afternoon, and his friend, like too many others unaware of the laws of Shabbos, found himself at the beach. As the day was winding down he packed up his stuff and made his way to the car. He reached into his pockets for the keys but came up empty.
He cried to the heavens with all his being: "Elokim! Elokim! Give me my keys!"
He walked back to the place where their blanket had been, turned over the trash can and retraced their steps a few more times before deep panic set in. All the cars had already left the parking lot. The sun was a fiery ball over the Mediterranean Sea and soon they would be plunged into darkness.
In a fit of mad desperation this man began to walk across the beach toward the ocean. (Uri stood from his chair with a dramatic flair to act it out) He waded out into the sea up to his thighs and cried to the heavens with all his being, "Elokim! Elokim! Give me my keys!" Just at that moment, his keys were floating atop the water and touching his leg. He returned the car shaken and that night after Shabbos gave a call to his old friend Uri, asking, "Where should I begin...kashrus....tefillin...Shabbos!?"
Nothing and no one is lost in Hashem's world!
I heard the same story here in the New York area. A young family who had recently started observing Torah and mitzvos also registered their children in yeshiva a few months before this story happened. The father had taken his children and a few others out to a large park in Riverdale after school for some recreation before homework, dinner, and bed.
When it came time to head home, he couldn't find his keys in either pocket. His son grew anxious watching him struggle. In an inspired moment the boy, new to the art of prayer, taught a lesson in prayer. He picked up his ball he had just been playing with and held it to his chest as one would a siddur and he said with perfect sincerity, "Hashem, help my father find his keys, please!" Then he flung the ball aimlessly. When he went to pick up the ball, there were his father’s keys, touching the ball.
We ought not to be surprised! We say three times daily, "Hashem is close to all those who call Him, all who call to Him in truth." The answer is different when the call is a call of truth. In the Chanukah story we find a few good men able to overcome incredible odds due to their purity of purpose. When we express ourselves to Hashem with sincerity, the response can be dramatic. Nothing and no one is lost in Hashem's world! He can find anyone and anything: a shidduch, a jar of oil, a job, or keys that unlock the gates of Torah.