Skip to main content

Chanukah - Inward and Outward - Parashat Vayeishev 5780 - December 20, 2019


On Wednesday of this past week, our Middle School Girls led a program called Light of Torah, in which each student presented their research on a righteous life of a figure in Tanach. Each of the students spoke either by video or in person. Dozens of parents, grandparents and friends came to learn from our students. Thank you to Morah Anat Kampf, Morah Tzippy Hollander and Morah Sara Wende for their work in leading this program.

To open the program, I connected the students’ work with the upcoming holiday of Chanukah.

Each Jewish holiday prompts us to reflect on themes and values that are central to our religion. One of the central themes of Chanukah is the primacy of protecting and defending our values and our Jewish way of life. The Maccabees’ bravery in the face of the Syrian enemy, the re-establishment of the Jewish monarchy and the removal of anti-Jewish laws are examples of themes which highlight national victories. In examining these themes more carefully, they represent parochial victories – successes garnered exclusively by the Jewish people. They are exceedingly important themes – but, in truth, they are nationalistic and particularistic themes.

There is another type of theme explored in Chanukah – one conveyed by the location of the placement of the Chanukah lights. In the exile, we usually place our chanukiyah inside of the house. There are many good reasons for this practice. However, the halacha, as it was originally codified, is to place the chanukiyah outside of the house, near the adjacent courtyard. The purpose of this public placement is to project the message of the Chanukah lights to the world around us. Chanukah teaches us that we have a responsibility to project the values and ideals that we have learned to those with whom we come into contact. Unlike the themes explored above, this theme is a universalistic theme – a theme that helps us consider our role in the world.


In delivering the Torah that they had learned to the community this week, our Middle School Girls developed themselves and grew through their study and through their research. However, what made this program exceedingly special was that they shared their Torah with us and through their efforts we all became enriched. Like placing the chanukiya in the public sphere, our students projected their values and Torah to all of us.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Dwelling Securely - Parashat Behar 5779, May 24, 2019

Our seventh and eighth grade students returned this past week from the ten-day Junior High Israel Experience program. Mrs. Anat Kampf, Chazzan Ricky Kampf and I were honored to chaperone this inaugural program, and, on behalf of the students, we are very thankful to the parents, to the community and Lemsky Fund for their support of this endeavor.
Our students soaked up the land, the people and the Torah of Eretz Yisrael. At school, we learn Torah. In Israel, we experienced the Torah. At school we learn about the impact and significance of the State of Israel. In Israel, we experienced the geography, history and people of the State of Israel. In school, we learn Ivrit. In Israel, we spoke Ivrit.
Our students experienced the breadth and depth of the land. They had both an urban experience – sleeping in Yerushalayim for six days – and a more pastoral experience – sleeping in Kibbutz Lavi. They visited sites of destruction and death that now have renewed vitality and significance – the Ko…

The Antidote to Arrogance - Parshat Tazria 5779 - April 5, 2019

This and next week’s parshiyot are called torat hanegaim – the laws related to tzara’at – the Divine Punishment of an “eruption” – a nega – on the home, clothing and/or skin. Tzara'at is not a naturally occurring disease in the sense that its cause is not exposure to disease nor is it communicable. Rather, tzara'at is a Divine Punishment brought on by sin. Rashi explains that this punishment is prominently associated with two sins - lashon hara – sins of speech – and gasot haruach – arrogance.

Some averot – like not eating kosher food or having illicit relationships – typically stem from physical desire. Others – such as not believing in the existence of G-d – can stem from a philosophical mistake. But averot like lashon hara and gasot haruach are members of a unique class of sins. These are sins that stem from a character flaw – a problem in the person’s personality.

In next week’s parasha, Rashi teaches a foundational principle about tzara'at: the process of atonement fo…

Accepting Guidance - Parashat Shemini 5779 - March 29, 2019

This week’s parasha, Shemini, deals with the eighth and final day of the inauguration of the mishkan.
At the beginning of the parasha, the Torah presents a list of korbanot – sacrifices – that are to be offered on this inauguration day. Two of these sacrifices include a command for Aharon to bring a calf as a sin offering and for the People of Israel to bring a goat as a sin offering. Rav Matis Blum, in his sefer, Torah Le’Daat, discusses why, on the final day of the dedication of the mishkan, there was a command to offer not one, but two, sin offerings – Aharon’s calf and B’nei Yisrael’s goat.
Maimonides, in his Guide to the Perplexed, suggests reasons why specific animals were commanded to be offered in the mishkan and in the beit hamikdash. In discussing the calf and the goat as sin offerings, HaRambam explains that each of these animals has an association with a previous sin of the Jewish People. The Rambam suggests that the calf is connected to the sin of the Golden Calf. On this …