Hendel does Israel

While I may no longer technically be in Israel, I have no intention of stopping who I am or what I am about. We all know the timeless Chabad teaching of "Mach Doh Eretz Yisael" - its very empowering. I'll let you know about my journey, my struggles and my dreams. JaHbless.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

the lights of chanukah!

This week, Jerusalem is alive. The truth is, that Jerusalem is always alive, but this week, it is a lot noisier, and a lot more alive. The streets are overcrowded, and the buses jam packed. The temperature has dropped below ten degrees, but somehow, the air is still warm. Chanukah is coming, I can feel it. There are Menorahs of all shapes and sizes being sold on every corner - of every single street. People are shouting and screaming, pushing and shoving, trying to get the best quality oil – for the cheapest price.

It is Chanukah time, and what better place to be, than in Jerusalem. If you walk down the streets of Jerusalem on Chanukah, it is literally lit up by thousands of menorahs, placed next to thousands of windows. Tiny flames reflect off the glass window panes, and dance, creating shadows, over the ancient cobblestone landscape. It is magical and mystical, the entire city glows from the subtle radiance of the lights of Chanukah.

Two years ago, I was also in Jerusalem for Chanukah. At that time I was studying at the Mayanot Yeshivah, and a few students who played music, decided to put together a band. The Yeshivah had organized several Chanukah parties at isolated army bases, and we were scheduled for them. It was all very exciting, especially for me, as it was the first time I was going to perform in front of a large audience. The first night of Chanukah came quickly, and it was time to load our van with musical instruments and doughnuts, as we headed toward our first gig – at an army base next to Ramallah.

When we arrived, the room was full from wall to wall, with well over three hundred soldiers. The energy was high, excitement and anticipation was thick in the air. The General of the army base lit the menorah and we started playing music. Immediately everyone in the room was up on their feet, holding hands, dancing and singing. The soldiers took off their guns and stacked them up in the corner of the room. They replaced their green army berets with our black hats. They continued dancing until they were out of breath and could barely move. I have never seen such joy before, not even at a wedding. That cold winter night, at an isolated army base, we brought the warmth and light of Chanukah to those brave soldiers.

The party went on till late, and by the time we got back to Mayanot, it was well past midnight – and we still hadn’t lit our own menorahs! We were all so tired, we just wanted to go to sleep, but, we gathered around our dormitory doorway, lit our menorahs, and began to sing Hanerois Hallalu. We gazed at our menorahs, pondering what we had done that night, whilst rubbing our eyes, trying to stay awake.

Now, anyone who knows the laws of Chanukah, knows, that the correct time to light the menorah is around sunset, and definitely not at one in the morning! It is also forbidden to eat or learn Torah until the one has lit the menorah. I remembered wondering to myself that night, “How could we wait until early in the morning to light our menorahs? What about the Halacha? What about our mitzvah of Chanukah? What about sitting around, eating latkes and spinning the dreidel? What about spending Chanukah in Jerusalem? If we kept on going to army bases, we would never be able to properly fulfill the mitzvah of Chanukah!" And then it hit me. I realized what Chaunkah is all about. Chaunkah is not just about our own experience. Rather, its about spreading light, its about bringing meaning, spirituality and joy to others. By traveling to that remote army base and playing music for those lonely soldiers, we were fulfilling the mitzvah of Chanukah! Not only we were fulfilling the mitzvah, but we were fulfilling it in the greatest and deepest way possible!

So often, we get so caught up in having our own experiences, that we forget about sharing with others. So often, we forget that only way to be inspired, is by inspiring others. Chanukah is a time when we have to stop forgetting, and start remembering. On Chanukah we remember what being Jewish is really about. It is so much more than eating doughnuts and latkes. On Chanukah, we celebrate. We celebrate the miracle of the oil, a purely spiritual victory. We celebrate the advantage of light over darkness. We celebrate our ability to publicize and express G-dliness in this physical world. We don’t celebrate by ourselves, on the contrary we make every effort to celebrate with as many people as possible.

This year, once again, I am learning at Mayanot. I have taken a few months during my Australian summer to dedicate time to learn torah, and rejuvenate my soul. Once again I am here in Jerusalem for Chanukah, and once again, there is a part of me that is tempted to sit at home and eat doughnuts and play dreidle. However, there is also another part of me. That part of me, wants to inspire others, to connect with others, and to bring light to others. That is why, this year, I’m going with the rest of my Yeshivah, to visit soldiers who can’t sit at home and eat latkes and light their own menorahs - and bring them the joy and light of Chanukah. This year, once again, I am blessed with the opportunity to be able to celebrate Chanukah in the fullest way possible. I hope you get that opportunity too.

Happy Chanukah!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow Moish that is really beautiful, it took me back for a moment to that Channuka, on that freezing cold night. It was an awesome event to be part of. Thanks for sharing it with us again.
Have a wonderful. Channukah. Don't stop spreading that light!!

3:54 AM  
Anonymous ML said...

May I say that it truly wonderful too find you in the blogsophere once again. You must keep sharing.
It is not often that one gets to give up ones' self for another. Channukah is not merely the festival of Lights but rather the spreading of the light. A flame may be burning bright within, but it is stifled by the selfishness of the mind and heart. Light wishes to spread, by its' innate nature it must spread.
You have truly experianced Channukah as it should. May your stories and inspiration, fan our flames to reach others.
The more fuel to the fire, the greater the conflaguration.
Inner Peace.

4:53 AM  
Anonymous avital said...

holy brother,
in the maamer you gave me for my birthday it explained that the wick of the candle is the body, the external. what you called 'eating dognuts and playing dreidl.'
the flame is godliness, the shechina, spiritual light - going to visit soldiers and illuminating their souls.
and how do the two merge together?
how do they become one, so that the wick doesn't burn out in a second which is it's natural tendency? so that it can burn, for long lengths of time.
through the oil. bittul, selflessness. asking not 'Who am I?' but 'What am I doing?'

you're doing great!
your sister

11:16 AM  
Blogger subjewd said...

Wow, amazing coments!
its so good to hear from you moish and ef!

shmagoog! i don't need to say anything!


11:12 PM  

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