Dean's Letter Chanukah

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Dear Parents,
Success in business, parenting, fundraising and many other aspects of life are often viewed by people as being either good luck or attributed to “kochi ve’otzem yadi,” our personal education, hard work, effort, or savvy. Fundraisers may be especially prone to making such calculations. I have, however, come to realize that while we are required to put forth effort and research in all our endeavors, our true success is actually based on the handiwork of Hashem.

Chanukah is one such holiday where we learn very quickly that what appears to be nature is actually the hand of Hashem. Please see excerpts from an article by Rabbi Label Lam.

What is Chanukah? The sages learned that on the 25th day of Kislev the days of Chanukah are eight … (Talmud Shabbos)

Men of Understanding…Days of Eight… (Lyrics to Maoz Tzur)

The Sfas Emes points out that saying “the days of Chanukah are eight” means much more than some subtle poetic nuance. There’s a world of difference between saying, “eight days” and “days of eight.” One tells us of the number, the mere quantity of the days while the other tells us about the quality of these days of Chanukah. Somehow, they are “days of eight.” What does that mean and what does that mean to us?

The Greek civilization presented a competitive culture, which sought to substitute and supplant Jewish life. They offered intellectual rigor, spirited sports, the catharsis of theater and art. The Jewish Nation was allured to this sister system, which was at first friendly and only later proved a poisonous and deadly affair.

While the Greeks were genuinely interested in categorizing and artistically mapping the mathematical beauty and truth of the universe, their vision of reality was by definition limited to the distorted lens of the fleshy human eye and its empirical methodologies.

That the world was a seven-day production, and that we operate within that framework creates a natural boundary for even the most perfect description of reality. Everything experienced is enveloped within the arena of our existence. The logical limits of Greek thought and life was by definition within the reach of “seven.”

The word for eight in Hebrew – “Shemonah” – when shuffled as an anagram spells out the word “Neshamah” – the Soul – and also “Mishnah” – the building block of the Oral Torah. Truncate delicately, and we are left with the “Shemen” – Oil, the stuff of the Chanukah miracle and the centerpiece of the celebration.

The Hebrew word for nature is “Teva.” “Teva” has two connotations that may help us gain an insight into the nature of nature. “Teva” implies drowning or sinking, because we are sunken into and swallowed up by this physical world.

“Teva” also is related to the word “matbeah” – coin – referring to a coin that has an image impressed upon it. Similarly, the natural world impresses; so much so that our senses are so stimulated that any inkling of anything beyond is naturally overwhelmed.

The Hebrew word for “The Natural World,” HaTeva, has the same numerical value as the Holy Name – Elokim. This alludes to the idea that of nature is actually “repeating miracles.” If something happens predictably we call it natural. When it happens once, we call it a miracle. We are alerted, jolted to a super state of awareness, a higher consciousness of reality.

Now the idea of the oil, of eight, of soul, of the Oral Torah, rises and rides high above and beyond the confines of mere nature. Eight encompasses the sphere of seven enriching and extending it. When penetrated, it anoints even natural life with a tinge of the miraculous.

“Eight” says Rabbi Lam always alludes to things that are beyond nature. We must always look carefully at the day-to-day happenings and to ascribe them as bearing the footprint of Hashem. Such an attitude will help us deal with the day to day challenges of life and allow us to constantly feel the warm embrace of Hashem.

The hatzlacha of last week’s auction was certainly from Hashem, but it also reflected the hard work of Mrs. Rachel Lewin and a group of parent volunteers, and we thank them. We also thank Mrs. Tzippy Scheinerman for organizing the event as well as Chagiga Heads, Zahava Stern and Kayla Kunslinger and all of the NEAT girls for their preparation of this amazing event. We are looking forward to the annual Pre-k, Kindergarten and PHDS Chanukah celebration and will report on all of the Chanukah festivities next week.
Good Shabbos and Happy Chanukah!