Not only were the girls treated to an amazing week of HIPE activities to enlighten the physical joy of Chanukah, they were also inspired by a fascinating Yom Iyun created by the phenomenal Rabbi Bennett, which was based on the theme of finding light and meaning in the darkness.
Year 7 enjoyed an interesting presentation on the light of the Menorah compared to the evil of the Nazis. The girls learned in Chavrutot about the origins and halachot of Chanukah. Zara and Amalia remarked that ‘it was a really interesting way to learn’. They liked ‘going off into little groups’ and having a ‘whole year experience’. The link between the Holocaust and Chanukah was particularly effective, as Rabbi Bennet used the image of the Posner’s Menorah juxtaposed against the Swastika banner in Kiel in 1932. The Nazis are no more, but the descendants of the Posner family are flourishing in Beit Shemesh.
Year 9 were treated to a Shiur with Rebbetzen Aimee Sandler, Director of Aish Essex, and Year 10 had the choice of Rabbi Gideon Goldwater, Director of Aish on Campus, or Rabbi Daniel Fine of the Beis and Stanmore Synagogue.
They also had a special learning session on ‘Yavan, Beauty and Tzniut’. Mrs Abecasis spoke of the descendants of Yefet, who became Yavan, a nation of beautiful people who worshipped outer beauty. The influence of Yavan was so great that even the Cohen Gadol at the time became a Hellenist. Moving on, through a revealing video, the Year 10 girls saw how perceptions of beauty have changed over time. The Greeks associated external beauty with internal beauty. Judaism is clearly the opposite as ‘Hashem sees into the heart’ (Shmuel Aleph). Following the PowerPoint presentation, Year 10 learned in Chavrutot using Pesukim from Eishet Chayil, which explore the importance of the internal beauty of women such as Bat Sheva and Ruth.
Rabbi Fine gave an in depth Shiur to a small group of Year 10 girls with Mefarshim, based on the Gemara in Shabbat 21b ‘What is Chanukah?’ He quoted R’Yonatan MiLunille who actually said that the main miracle was the war, and this was why the festival had to be eight days, as the victory should be celebrated for as long as our longest festival. The main miracle was the war- had we been defeated, that would have been it. By winning, the Hasmoneans were able to keep the Jewish people, religion and state alive. Rashi prioritises the miracle of the oil. WHY? This was the thrust of the shiur- discussing revealed and hidden miracles.
Years 7-9 also had a special learning and craft session centered on the Tefilla of Al HaNissim. During the GIFT session, the students considered the importance of the Torah value of Chesed and made care packages of NHS and key workers in Barnet Hospital.
All of this action took place between periods 2-4 on Wednesday morning, turning the school into a hive of Chanukah activity and learning. Having dipped into a number of these sessions, as a teacher and as a parent, I can really testify to the value of a Yom Iyun- a real chance for the girls to grapple with the issues, ideas and inspiration of Chanukah.