I never did it, but I’ve often heard about people who taught their children to swim by throwing them into a pool. At least the parent can jump in to help the child. My very dear friend, Dr. J.S. took the pool tossing idea one step further: He wanted me to learn how to drive a manual shift car, so he put me in his ancient VW Beetle and sent me from San Jose to San Francisco with directions, he said, to a “certain Lombard street.” “By the time you finish driving up Lombard, you’ll know how to drive a stick! By the way, don’t forget the choke,” he said as he waved goodbye.
I had no idea of what a choke was, but, he was right; I had to stop at a traffic light at the top of Lombard, one of the steepest streets in the U.S. A Rolls Royce pulled up just behind me. I couldn’t let the car roll backwards as I shifted into first. I used both hands to roll down the window so I could signal to the car behind me to back up 100 feet or so. Unfortunately, there were about ten cars behind him. I was stuck. I was forced to learn what the choke was. I did learn how to drive a stick shift that day. By the time I returned Dr. S’s car, his hair had turned white. Despite his bravado, and Dr. S is a truly brave man, for some odd reason, he didn’t trust my driving. I guess I wasn’t the only ne to Dive Up Lombard that day.
The interesting thing is that I often find myself in Driving Up Lombard: Being faced with a challenge and being forced to overcome my fears and develop new skills using whatever meager resources are available.
When Matityahu sent his followers into battle, he was sending them up Lombard. They were Kohanim – Temple Priests – not warriors. They won a few battles and had to drive up Lombard again as they negotiated with Antioch and Rome. I suspect that they were as nervous as I was at the top of Lombard, but their glory is in their willingness to constantly drive up new Lombards and master new skills no matter how meager their resources.
Chanukah celebrates Lombard people who refuse to measure their responsibilities by their resources and who approach every challenge with a sense of a small jar of oil burning as long as is necessary.
I never told Dr. S that I fit six large teenagers into his car. I can fit in a few more. Care to join me?
Shabbat Shalom and Chanukah Sameiach v’Or,
Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg