Rabbi Avrohom Mordechai Hershberg is the past Chief Rabbi of Mexico. He met the Seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson when the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s father-in-law was still alive. Rabbi Avrohom had gone to Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch (Rabbi Schneerson’s father-in-law) to consult with him about a Rabbinic position that he had been offered in Chicago. Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak told Rabbi Avrohom to consult his son-in-law.
Rabbi Avrohom spent almost a whole night with Rabbi Schneerson and relays that during that time he and the Rebbe discussed tractates upon tractates of the Talmud and he was simply blown away by the knowledge and ingenuity of the Rebbe. From that night on Rabbi Avrohom maintained a connection with the Rebbe and consulted with him regarding both public and personal issues.
In 1980 the American embassy was occupied by the Iranians and Rabbi Avrohom was scheduled to travel to Iran for a public service project. Many tried to persuade him to forgo the trip due to the tense political atmosphere. Rabbi Avrohom turned to the Rebbe for advice and in stark contrast to others the Rebbe encouraged him to go and said, “You are certain to light the Chanukah menorah in Iran.”
This statement puzzled Rabbi Avrohom because his plans did not involve him staying until Chanukah in Iran. Obviously, if he had planned to there was no question that he would light the menorah there but it was simply not on his agenda to stay that long.
Rabbi Avrohom’s mission ended up taking a lot longer than expected and during his visit he developed a relationship with a few Iranian officials. Rabbi Avrohom knew of six Jewish hostages in the American embassy and asked permission from the officials to light the menorah with them. The Iranians replied that in the same way that they granted permission for a priest to meet with the Christians among the hostages on their holidays, so too they will allow Rabbi Avrohom to meet with the Jews among the hostages in honor of their holiday.
And indeed, that year Rabbi Avrohom lit the Chanukah menorah that year in the barricaded American embassy in Iran, just as the Rebbe had emphasized.
Each year on the festival of Hanukkah Jews world-wide light Hanukkah Menorahs and as this story demonstrates, throughout the ages Jewish people have been lighting the Menorah sometimes in the most unexpected of places. May we merit to continue spreading the light, both physical and spiritual in all the corners of the world.