Written by Jane c.2005, and published in the Springfield Republican for Hanukkah 2011.
Once upon a neighborhood, there was a little brass lion who ran away…and then came back. I know this is a true story because I heard it from Ronnie, the maintenance man at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City.
Here is what Ronnie told me.:
“One morning I had to hurry up and put together a really big brass Hanukkah menorah for a Hanukkah party. It was stored in a box, and came in lots of pieces. I put all the pieces on a table and then put it together like a puzzle. When I was almost done, there were three little lions left. I finally guessed that they were the three feet of the big menorah. But, when I reached for the third lion, it was gone. I looked everywhere, but I could not find it. It had completely disappeared.”
Ronnie grabbed a block of wood and took the Hanukkah menorah up to the party room. He stuck the wood under the menorah where the lost lion should have been, and hoped no one would notice. But everybody did.
“Where is the third lion?” asked Rabbi Garfinkel.
“Hmmm, there must be a third lion,” said Professor Roskies.
“Eifoh ha aryeh ha-shlishi?” asked Ms. Krohn.
Meanwhile, the little brass lion had indeed run away. He ran away because he thought there must be something more exciting than being the third foot of a Hanukkah menorah.
The first thing he did was to ride an elevator up to the top floor of the building, and there, he sneaked into a very quiet room where people were reading very old and precious books. To his surprise, he found a whole bunch of lions. He wondered why so many books had lions in them. He saw a shiny gold ink lion and asked him.
“It must be great fun for all of you to be together.”
The shiny gold lion answered him in a whisper, because that’s what you do in a library, “You’d think so – but that’s not true, because we can never get together. Each of us lives in a different book and we can only see each other when someone takes a book off the shelf and opens it. The little brass lion thought that was very sad.
He quietly closed the door behind him and continued on his journey.
As guests arrived for the Hanukah party, they all said things like: “What a big beautiful brass menorah. But, where is the third lion?” You can imagine how upset Ronnie was!
The little brass lion made his way down Broadway. Along the way, he tried to have a conversation with a pigeon, but the pigeon was too busy pecking at the ground to notice. Continuing along the sidewalk, the little lion reached the gate of Columbia University. He saw a sign that said “No Dogs Allowed.” Since he was a lion and not a dog, he decided he could go in.
There, he found a great big bronze lion standing in the center of a brick path. And looking up at him, our little lion asked: “It must be wonderful to be so big and strong like you.”
The big bronze lion looked down at him and answered: “What makes you say that? Look at me. I am stuck in this position. I have to stand here on this spot forever. The students walk by and they never talk to me.”
The little lion walked all around him carefully. He looked up at the lonely lion and thought how sad this was.
Back at the party, latkes and jelly doughnuts were being served. But even the waiters were wondering where the third little lion was!
The little brass lion found a set of twin lions guarding the main entrance to a huge library. Only their heads showed and the brass had not been shined in so long that they had turned green. He ran up to one of them.
“You must be very important lions to be guarding this huge library.”
One of the lions raised an eyebrow and said:
“Important you say? Do important lions have rings through their noses? And look what someone tied to my brother. Do you think he feels important with a bicycle stuck in his face?”
The little brass lion looked at the bicycle and the rings and thought how sad this was.
As he turned away, a thought suddenly came to him.
“I am a Hanukkah menorah lion. I have a job to do and people are waiting to light the Hanukkah candles. My poor menorah must be lopsided without me. And my brother and sister probably miss me – and I miss them – and we have fun together, and I have never been lonely. Hanukkah is a very happy time and I have never ever been sad at Hanukkah.”
The little brass lion ran and leapt and pranced up Broadway. As he entered the seminary building he could smell the latkes.
This is where Ronnie picked up the story again.
“I turned to the door because everyone else was looking, too. There, in the doorway, was the third little brass lion! I ran to scoop him up, and I placed him gently under the menorah in his very own place. I think he was smiling at me.”
The singing began and the Hanukkah candles were lit. The little brass lion proudly held up the Hanukkah menorah with his brother and sister lions.
He thought back on his adventures in the neighborhood, and knew that now he was in the very best place there is to be.