June 19, 2024 |


Posted on December 3, 2017

Today, Gesher students made video commentaries of their interpretations of keter shem tov, the crown of a good name, found in Pirkei Avot 4: 13. They noted that they bring honor to their names and to those for whom they were named through their Bnei Mitzvah celebrations and their mitzvah projects. They led the Amidah during our tefillahwith grades 5 and 6.  During their session with Bar, they learned that some Israeli currency has the names and faces of female poets including Rachel haM’shoreret(Rachel the poet) and Leah Goldberg.  They learned that the poet Rachel had a special relationship with the Sea of Galilee (also know as the Kinneret.) And though, the Sea of Galilee is the source for 10% of Israel’s drinking water, you can swim in the sea and Christians believe that Jesus walked on water there. Gesher students also learned that up to 83% of Israel’s water is recycled.
Gesher students were challenged to make a tower of plastic cups using a rubber band with 8, 18” strings attached to it.  They worked together, proposed ideas, listened to each other and tried different strategies.  It was hard and frustrating but the group worked together very well and nobody gave up.
Hanukkah begins in just ten days.  We wondered about the miracle of the oil realizing that it is probably a fabrication by the rabbis but since it has become part of our collective memory, it may not matter if it actually happened or not.  We read a story, The First Hanukkah Light in Bergen Belsenby Yaffa Eliach.  The story paints a bleak and disturbing picture of life in the concentration camp.  A group of men stand around a wooden clog (their hannukiah), with a wick (of string pulled from a concentration-camp uniform) and black shoe polish, their “pure oil.”  The rabbi recites the Hanukkah blessings and then he hesitates prior to reciting the She’hechyanu.  Nonetheless, he does say, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has kept us alive, and has preserved us, and enabled us to reach this season.”  Another man challenges him, “How could you say this blessing when hundreds of dead Jewish bodies are literally lying within the shadows of the Hanukkah lights, when thousands of living Jewish skeletons are walking around in camp, and millions are being massacred?  For this we are thankful to God?  This you call ‘keeping us alive?’”

The rabbi responds, “You are a hundred percent right.  When I reached the third blessing I also hesitated… but I noticed that behind me was a large crowd of living Jews, their faces expressing faith, devotion, and concentration as they were listening to the rite of the kindling of the Hanukkah lights.  I said to myself, if God has such a nation that at times like these, still stands in devotion, listening to the Hanukkah blessing, ‘Who made miracles for our ancestors in days of old and in this season,’ then I am under a special obligation to recite the third blessing. The Hanukkah miracle of oil may or may not have happened but this miracle did take place.  Concentration-camp inmates kindled the lights, recited the blessings and stood together sustaining life and hope for one more day.