A Hanukkah Prayer
At Hanukkah, our Jewish people recite this prayer:
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our ancestors in those days at this time.
The late Vera Schlamm was a Holocaust survivor who understood such prayers. In the story of her journey to faith, Vera wrote:
I didn’t grow up asking how I could go about believing in Jesus. It is not something to which most Jewish people aspire. If I had to choose one word to explain how it happened, I suppose the word would be “prayer.” One could almost draw a portrait of my life by playing “connect-the-dots”—for my life has been dotted with prayers which shaped both the events and the decisions of my existence.
One such prayer was uttered by her nurse when, as a small child, Vera was taken ill and needed care: “I’m small, my heart is clean, no one should live in it but God alone.” Says Vera: “That was the beginning, the first ‘dot.’ …”
A second prayer was voiced some years later when the Schlamm family attempted to leave Germany for Holland, following the infamous Kristallnacht of 1938. While waiting for their guide, Vera recalls that “I prayed the whole time. My prayers that night were the second big “dot” in …how I came to believe in Jesus.” The guide never showed, and despite being captured by the Gestapo on their return to Germany, the family was released and were soon able to escape.
The third prayer concerned Hanukkah. In 1943 the family was sent to Westerbork, a kind of “holding camp” in preparation for camps like Auschwitz. Vera’s parents were soon removed to another camp called Vught. “I prayed and prayed for my family to be returned to me. On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, I formulated the idea that God would bring them back to Westerbork by Hanukkah. There was no reason to think this would happen. Yet, I told my friends with great certainty that God would answer my prayer.”
The story continues:
As Hanukkah approached, I began to hoard whatever food I could so that we could celebrate our reunion as well as the holiday…. Not only did my family return in time for Hanukkah, but the four of them were the only ones aboard the transport! As far as I know, sending a transport to carry only four people is a unique event in the history of Nazi concentration camps. I saw that as a clear answer to prayer. This prayer, and the many others I offered up for the survival of my family during our time in the camps, comprised the third major “dot” which helped to shape my faith.
Surely Vera Schlamm knew the meaning of another Hanukkah prayer, the shehecheyanu, which we say on the first night:
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season. Amen!
You can read Vera’s full story and those of other Jewish believers in the book Stories of Jews for Jesus.