She'arim Alum Turn Time Off Into Time On

 

She’arim Alumni Turn Time Off Into Time On

 

“You never really leave She’arim” is not just a cute line. Months, years, and even decades after their full time learning, alumni from around the world return to She’arim for a ”booster shot” of She’arim’s unique blend of text-based life-focused Torah learning.

Chava Avner was a full time student at She'arim twenty years ago. After spearheading a tremendously successful Shabbat Project and Challah Bake in Chicago, Chava and her husband treated them themselves to a 5 day visit to Israel. Five days- and two of those days found Chava right back at She’arim, once again eager to learn. In Chava’s words, “There is nothing like the depth and sincerity of the She’arim learning experience. It was wonderful to be back.”

“ I had a day off so I came in to learn.” Miriam is an She’arim alumna from several years ago. She has been working as a school psychologist while attending professional development courses at Hebrew University. But classes at Hebrew University had not yet resumed after the holiday break and Miriam found herself with several days off. For She’arim alum, a day off is an opportunity for a “day on”. A key level one tutor was away at the same time Miriam had her extended vacation. Miriam was thrilled to be able to give back to She’arim by filling in to tutor over the course of two weeks, and stayed to attend several classes. " It was as if the classes were given just for me- it was just what I needed to learn".

Alum Shoshana Laks practically danced into the level three classroom. “Hashem loves me”

“Yes He does”, replied the teacher.

“But I’m only here for today.”

“You are here today -Let’s hear your story.”

Shoshana shared “I knew that I wanted to live in Israel , and after studying at She’arim for four months, I knew that if I wanted to live in Israel I had to learn Hebrew. I made aliyah, signed up for ulpan- and put off worrying how I would afford to live once ulpan was over.”

Shana came in to learn part time whenever her ulpan schedule allowed. Towards the end of the fourth month of ulpan, Rebbetzin Pavlov passed on the description of a job opening that a She’arim alum had sent her. The job was in computers at the same company where this alum worked.

And, Shoshana told us ”Ulpan was over yesterday- my job starts tomorrow and TODAY I can learn”

So let’s learn!

Our alumni are eager to take any opportunity to come back to She’arim, from near and far, for a booster shot of She’arim inspired Torah. Because it is true that ”you never really leave She’arim” and any chance to come back to She’arim during time off is truly a day “on”. So if you are on vacation or live in Israel, come to She’arim for a visit - to learn, to reconnect, to shmooze. Come home. And remember, you don’t have to be in Israel to be in touch!

 

Seeing the Charisma in Chanukah

 

 

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Seeing The Charisma In Chanukah

Chanukkah 5778 2

 

Seeing The Charisma of Chanukah

Rebbetzin Lynn Finson

 

Over the last many years, in my work teaching Baalei Teshuva, I have always found it fascinating that Chanukah was the most widely observed holiday by the majority of my students, long before they became religious. There was something about the lighting of the menorah that spoke to them and their families. Although they may not have known it at the time, the power of those lights, those colorful candles arranged in a row, was profound.

We are meant to benefit from Shabbos candles as a source of light to eat, read or to generally create a peaceful atmosphere in the home. Chanukah candles, on the other hand, can only be looked at. We may derive no physical benefit from them. What an interesting mitzvah Chanukah candles are! We make the brachot and we fulfill the mitzvah just by gazing at them. Yet this mitzvah of “just” looking can often ignite our very souls.

The Maharal explains, the sense of sight is multifaceted. For when we “see” we are not only activating our physical ability, we are discerning and perceiving deeper messages. We even use the term, “I see” to mean “I understand”. Clearly, when we look at the Chanukah candles we are meant to perceive and discern a very important spiritual message. Rebbe Tzadok HaCohen from Lublin went so far as to say that there is something hidden in the Chanukah light which is a tikun for the eyes. He explains the verse in Parshat Shlach, Sefer Bamidbar: “You shall not seek after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you will go astray.” The heart he says, directs the eyes and motivates them. By looking at the Chanukah candles a person can connect his inner desires, his heart, to a mitzvah that can purify the eyes. It is no wonder that so many Jewish people gravitate to the mitzvah of Chanukah. Even when they don’t realize it consciously, there is so much to be gained. How much more so when they do.

The Beis Hamikdash was purified during Chanukah. So too, every single Jew no matter where he has been and what he has done, can come clean on Chanukah. The Sfas Emes tells us that every individual who perceives the miracle that took place on Chanukah has the opportunity to start anew. In fact, there are Chassidic sources that teach that one has until Chanukah to receive a final din v’cheshbon (spiritual accounting) on the previous year. It is as if in a certain sense, the year actually can begin anew at this time.

The idea of individual renewal, even for those who have gone astray, is hinted at in the halacha which permits certain oil and wicks that are not allowed to be used for Shabbat as acceptable for the Chanukah menorah. The Sfat Emet teaches us that these materials are prohibited for Shabbat use because the flame has a hard time clinging to the wick. Similarly, the radiance and meaning of Torah is unable to reach certain people even on Shabbat. Yet on Chanukah, these same wicks can be used. So too, even those people who are not inspired by Shabbat can be spiritually uplifted by observing Chanukah.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis Z”L used to quote her father Rav Avraham HaLevi Jungreis ZT”L who said, ”In every Yiddishe neshama (Jewish soul) there is a holy spark from Sinai, a jug of pure olive oil that in an instant can become an eternal flame, capable of kindling the Menorah for eight days, for all eternity.” This holy spark, which some call the “Pintele Yid” can never be profaned. It is always there, just waiting for the moment when something touches and nurtures it.

The Greeks, in their zealousness to destroy this spark of divinity, went to great lengths to strip the Jews of the very things that nurtured our souls; Shabbat, Brit Milah, and Rosh Chodesh. Three major areas of Jewish mitzvot and connection to Hashem were outlawed. Why these three? Shabbat is all about sanctifying the world with a unique holiness. The Greeks were all about the here and now, the physicality of the world, the unchanging order of “nature.” Brit Milah adds a spiritual quality to the body by removing something, but the Greeks believed that the body was perfect and tampering with “perfect physicality “is tantamount to a crime against humanity! Rosh Chodesh represents man’s involvement in sanctifying time to make it holy. The Jewish calendar goes beyond physical nature. It connects us to Hakadosh Baruch Hu in a very real way, and the Greeks didn’t want us to have anything to do with a G-d that was not tangible and manageable by their definition.

As the Greeks pounded us harder and harder the “pintele Yid” came to the fore and rebelled. Chanukah is a celebration of preserving our spiritual heritage against all odds. We were willing to bear physical oppression, but we could not accept giving up the lifeblood of the Jewish soul, our connection to Hashem.

In every Chanukah, there is at least one Shabbat, one Rosh Chodesh and a holiday consisting of eight days. That in itself is a message to the Greeks of the world, and more importantly a message to ourselves, that the connections we have with Hashem will never be severed.

It is said that Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchiv zt’l would gaze at his Chanukah candles for seven hours. One can only imagine the infusion of strength and inspiration he gained from this. When we gaze at the dancing flames of our candles this year let us all contemplate the miracles Hashem does for us not only “in those days” but that which Hashem does for us every single day. The symbol of the unbreakable bond between Hashem and His children is clearly your Chanukah menorah. 

 

She'arim Alum Turn Time Off Into Time ON

 

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