Lighting the menorah on Shrewsbury Town Common is no easy task, but I've done it nearly every night of Hanukkah for the past 17 years. The first night's lighting is always well-attended, since we invite the community to participate.

People often come to assist me or just watch while I light the kerosene lamps. Sometimes it's just me. Today was one of those times. Or so I thought.

Rabbi Green setting up Menorah

As I finished kindling the lights, I alighted from the ladder and began to head back to my van when a man came over to greet me.

"Are you the rabbi who lights this menorah every day?" he asked.

"Yup, that's me," I replied.

"Thank you for doing this," he said. "I'm not Jewish, but I really appreciate this. May I give you something as a token of appreciation? Please wait here for a minute." He ran to his car parked nearby and returned with a small clear-lucite box that contained a small rock glued to a miniature pedestal.

"This rock is from Dachau," he explained. "My grandfather helped liberate it in 1945. I went there several years ago to see it for myself. Please accept this rock as a keepsake. We want people to have them so that no one ever forget what happened there."

The rock from Dachau

The rock from Dachau

After a brief conversation, I was surprised to learn that his 95-year-old grandfather and namesake, R.F. Gouley, a veteran of the U.S. Seventh Army’s 45th Infantry Division, is alive and well, and still living here in town. I asked if his grandfather might be willing to speak to groups about his experiences. He replied that his grandfather cannot speak about the horrors he witnessed, so a mere rock from the concentration camp would have to suffice.

After the obligatory selfie, he thanked me again for lighting the menorah in town, and I thanked him for teaching people about his grandfather's experiences. More importantly, I asked him to convey my deepest gratitude to his grandfather for liberating my fellow Jews who survived the horrors of the first Nazi concentration camp.

Mr. Gouley and me

Mr. Gouley and me

As I returned to my van clutching a rock from Dachau in one hand and my menorah lighter in the other, I couldn't help but consider the significance of this fortuitous encounter.

I felt as though the souls of the kedoshim, the holy martyrs murdered at Dachau sent me a greeting. The rock that witnessed untold horrors and darkest crimes against our people needed to bear witness to the light of our nine-foot menorah proudly illuminating the Town Common of Shrewsbury, MA. From darkness to light.

No, I'm not alone when I light the menorah. Even in snow, sleet, or subzero temperatures. It's never just me.

I am accompanied by all my ancestors from the Maccabees until modern times.

I am joined by the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe (R' Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson) who fearlessly fought to preserve Judaism in the dark days of Stalinist Russia.

I am accompanied by my Rebbe, Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the faithful shepherd of world Jewry who rekindled the menorah of our people from the embers of the Holocaust.

And I am accompanied by holy Jews throughout history who lit the menorah with mesiras nefesh, personal self-sacrifice, heroes and heroines who fought to live as Jews, and who died for being a Jew. They are all with me.

Menorah lighting

These kerosene lamps that I faithfully kindle each night are no mere "festive lights." They bear testimony to the Rock of Ages. Let that rock from Dachau witness the Rock of our Salvation, Maoz tzur y'shuati.

That's why our light is unstoppable.

That's why our light will ultimately succeed in illuminating the world, in transforming darkness to light.

When you light your menorah, it's not just you. You are not alone.

You are part of something awesome and invincible. You are a modern-day Maccabee.

Your light will prevail.

Happy Hanukkah. Spread the light.