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Student perspectives

Sinai Scholars Shabbaton


Good Shabbos everyone,

Over break I had the pleasure of joining my mom in attending a session of a Kabbalah class she has been taking over the past couple of months. The class focused on Hanukkah and its relation to the importance of education. Therefore, in the spirit of Hanukkah and the Sinai scholars shabbaton I found it would be most fitting to share with ya’ll what I had learned. When looking at the Hebrew word Hanukkah, which means dedication, the shoresh or root of the word is Chet nun chaff, coincidentally (or maybe not) those same three letters are also the shoresh for the Hebrew word chinuch which means education. Already we can see the two must go hand in hand. It is important to note the interdependence of education and dedication. In order to be educated in something you must dedicate your time to learning it, and likewise if you are dedicated to something you are more than likely to be very educated in that particular subject. With that being said, how is education connected to the holiday of Hanukkah? As we all know, Hanukkah is the celebration of the miracle of the lights. Yet, Hanukkah is also a commemoration of the victory over the Syrian-Greeks after their attempt to annihilate the Jews by making the observance of Judaism an offense punishable by death. While all Jewish acts were prohibited, the Syrian-Greeks targeted three specific mitzvot: Rosh Chodesh, Shabbat and Brit Milah. So the obvious question here is why these three? And not just why, but what do these three mitvot have in common?

The Syrian-Greeks had one ultimate goal, to destroy the Jewish religion. Therefore it was not enough to prevent people from observing their traditions, but it was even more important to keep them from passing the traditions on to their children so the religion wouldn’t live on. It is here we find our answer. All three of these mitzvot are future-oriented. That is, they are celebrated with the future in mind. By having a future-oriented mindset one is displaying a sign of hopefulness, indicating their intention to persevere. Rosh Chodesh is the celebration of the coming of the new month. It always falls when the moon is practically invisible. Though we could say this is the darkest time of the month, instead we see it as the time where the moon has the most potential to grow. At its smallest point, the moon can only get bigger. Therefore, Rosh-Chodesh is celebrated with the future in mind. On a side note, Hanukkah is the only holiday that is split over the span of 2 months, which means a Rosh Chodesh always falls during Hanukkah. Similarly, Shabbat represents fulfilling the ultimate purpose of creation. It is said that in the world to come all will be Shabbat. So, when we celebrate Shabbat we are doing so with the intention that our efforts have a destination, that we are going some place. Last but not least Brit Milah is the covenant between man and God, symbolizing the commitment of being a Jew. That is, by performing a Brit Milah you are making a contract with God to live your life by the Torah, yet again, a future-oriented idea.

So as we can see all three of these mitzvot represent the continuation of Judaism and the intent of tomorrow. And finally tying it full circle, the only way to ensure the continuation is through education. Hanukkah demonstrates to us the importance of education and how it is through the transmission of our traditions from generation to generation that Judaism still persists today. With that said, I have gained so much not only from Rabbi Zev but from everyone involved in our Sinai Scholar class and I can confidently say I am ending this program more knowledgeable than when I started it. I have enjoyed our Wednesday night intense discussions and I am looking forward to our last few sessions together. Thank you and good Shabbos.

Shana is pictured about on the left.

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