This has been a week of tremendous celebration at the school. The festivities included the annual Mishmar Chanukah mesiba with divrei Torah, a delicious seudah, and dancing. The annual NEAT Chagiga was an evening of song, dance, fun booths, and refreshment, for the entire community. NEAT also celebrated Chanukah with a variety of special programs, parties, and an ice skating trip. The annual PHDS Chanukah Program featured a choir, play, and video. The Kindergarten play was well-choreographed and parents were able to see their children, in various costumes, perform songs and drama. Our Pre-K enjoyed a special program at which parents assisted their children in working on a variety of special Chanukah Projects. PHDS Student Council organized special programs and treats for every day of Chanukah. I would like to thank the entire teaching staff and administration for all their efforts in organizing such a meaningful week of Chanukah celebrations. (For additional details on the events, please see the corresponding newsletter articles.)
Why do we celebrate Chanukah with a variety of seudos and parties? At the middle school mesiba, I shared a dvar Torah from Rabbi David Begoun. He writes that although we generally relate to the holiday of Chanukah as being of Rabbinic origin, the Chasam Sofer explains that the obligation to establish a festival on the day on which a miracle occurred is, in fact, a Torah requirement. The Chasam Sofer writes, “…Therefore observing the days of Purim and Chanukah is indeed a Torah obligation, and one who fails to do so is nullifying a positive precept in the Torah. It is a long-standing Jewish custom to hold celebratory meals during Chanukah to provide an opportunity to sing and recite praises to G-d for the miracles He performed on our behalf.”
This custom has its origins in the Torah laws of the peace-offerings brought in the Bais Hamikdash. The general law is that the person bringing the offering is allowed two days and one night to consume its meat. The exception is one who brings a thanksgiving offering for surviving a life-threatening crisis, who is allotted only until midnight of the same day to eat the meat and its forty accompanying loaves. This, the Abarbanel (Rabbi Don Yitzchak Abarbanel of Lisbon; 1437-1508; Torah scholar, financier, Spanish Royal Minister, Kabbalist and leader of the Spanish Jewish community) explains, serves to publicize the miracle that the individual experienced: “As it is impossible for him to consume that volume in such a limited time, he will be forced to invite friends and neighbors to participate in the feast. Throughout the course of the meal the guests are bound to inquire as to the events that warranted this banquet, and the host will inevitably detail the miracles and wonders that G-d performed on his behalf.” Were he allowed two days and a night to consume the offering, as is the case with all other peace-offerings, the miraculous events would likely go unknown.
In this sense, holding festive Chanukah meals and mesibos becomes a means for broadcasting the awesome events that occurred and, according to the Chasam Sofer, is considered to be the fulfillment of a Torah commandment.
We at PHDS and our community as a whole have so much to be thankful for to Hashem. Hopefully, this Chanukah offered our students a glimpse into the importance of Chanukah and of thanking Hashem daily for all that he does for us.
Good Shabbos, and enjoy your Chanukah break with your family!
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman