Tuesday 17th December saw a fantastic day of learning and inspiration for all students from Years 7-10 when they enjoyed a number of different sessions throughout the morning.
There were classroom based sessions with Kodesh teachers which were centred on understanding Chanukah as a day of הודאה – examining the centrality of gratitude and giving thanks in the Torah. The students examined sources to discover the theme of thanking and praising Hashem in the days of Chanukah. They also wrote letters of thanks to people who have helped, supported and encouraged them in life.
GIFT also ran a number of activities based on multi-sensory learning and inspiration sessions for Chanukah, including making Chanukah cards for people who may be lonely in care homes. One group shared their experiences of what they had done for GIFT and other Chesed organisations and it was really impressive listening to the girls and learning about how much they have done. The group making cards explored the idea that something small, like a match, can spread so much light.
Rabbi Zeidman looked at the Hebrew word ‘Yavan’, which is made up of three unlinked lines, and linked this to how one uses physical beauty. If beauty is directed toward Chesed, such as presenting a meal for a family beautifully, then it has a value, but physical beauty for its own sake is an attribute of Yavan.
The fourth group had fun with dreidels and a Chanuka quiz.
The centrepiece of the event was the Chavrusa Extravaganza – with over 350 young women learning together in the hall; younger years learning with older years, examining the battle between Greek ideas and the Torah at the time of Chanukah. They worked through a detailed source sheet with extracts from the Mishna and Gemara.
Rabbi Bennett ended the morning with the closing words of inspiration. Other speakers included: Rabbi Moshe Levy, Executive Director of Chazak who addressed Year 10, and Rabbi Eli Birnbaum, Director of Aish, London, who spoke to Year 9. His dynamic presentation began with Pepsi adverts and ended with ideas about developing intuition. Even though most people preferred the taste of Pepsi, when it came to shopping, they bought Coca Cola. Coca Cola held the market because of its intuitive associations with family, togetherness and distinctive branding. Miracles are also intuitive. We just seem to know when something is a miracle.
Rabbi Levy spoke to Year 10 about proof. How do you prove that there is a G-d? How do you prove that Shabbat is Shabbat? How do you prove that the oil is holy? This was how the Greeks challenged the Jews …and many fell to that challenge. This was the threat that the Hashmonaim faced at the time of Antiochus Epiphanes (Epipanes!) Yet the Hashmonaim fought against the Greeks, even though certain death against a vast, well equipped army was likely…and they won. A miracle. G-d made the miracle of Chanuka to remind Am Yisrael why we exist. When the impossible happens, when things are not mathematically or scientifically provable, they are a miracle and this reminds us that there is a G-d and we should believe in Him. This was a very powerful message for the Year 10 girls and they were certainly impressed and inspired.
Thank you to Rabbi Bennett for his superb organisation of this Yom Iyun. Chanuka is so much more than doughnuts and latkes and Tuesday’s event certainly helped our students to go into Chanuka as informed young women.