Educationally Speaking – November 2019

Strength of Faith

Racheli Morris, Director of Education

Growing up in Israel, my ideas of Hanukkah are associated with the varied practices of Jews around the world. We enjoy l’vi’vot (potato pancakes) which are special here, and known as latkes. We enjoy sufganyot (donuts). The game of sevivon (dreidle) is different. Our tops have the nun, gimmel, hey and peh and outside of Israel there is a shin. The acronym in Israel stands for a miracle (nes), huge (gadol), was (hiyah) here (poh). Also, the entire holiday was our winter vacation so we did not celebrate the holiday in school.

In our temple, we interact with a different culture. The message of Hanukkah translates in a varied manner. The liturgy for Hanukkah focuses on the role of God helping the Jewish People survive and prevail against the mighty non-Jewish Greek Assyrians. The Jewish law sources (halachah) focuses on whether there should be a Hanukkah celebration at all, and how the candles of the Hanukkah menorah should be lit. The backstory of the sacred oil is also told in connection to the debate over how the Hanukkah menorah should be lit.

So, I focus on the children of the Torah School. What do I want the students to understand about Hanukkah? How do I want them to act? The struggles of our ancestors were not done in vain. We have suffered tremendously over our history and have learned that we have been fortunate to survive the many travails in our lives.This teaches us that we may struggle, but those struggles will only defeat us when there is no more chance for us to act.

Our identities are cherished. We may not always have ease in practicing our Judaism, yet we are strong and worth the struggle. The struggle reinforces our Jewish identities.

Miracles are possible. Even if things are hard for us, we don’t give up, because if there is any possible way for us to prevail as Jews, we may yet prevail.

We can see that there is a sense of getting A+ as the only acceptable outcome but our history has taught us that sometimes just getting to tomorrow is a major accomplishment. The war of Hanukkah was hard, deadly and threatening. Somehow the Jews had the good fortune and means to overcome a world empire to rededicate their Temple and to say that one’s religion must not be forced upon a people from the outside.

Our celebration of Hanukkah at the Torah School will enable the students to hear the story of the Maccabees and their faith, remember that our faith makes us able to prevail against the powerful in the world and to enjoy the foods and celebrations of our community.