My Batmitzvah on IST
Throughout IST opportunities come every day. An optional hike, a choice of food. We sometimes take for granted the luxury of being able to effectively shape our trip.
Five weeks ago, I sat in my usual spot at the back of the bus engaging in whatever conversation there was at the time. Politics, philosophy and celebrity gossip, all topics were exhausted during these long journeys. Somehow the fact that I was yet to have a Bat mitzvah came up and shortly after the words leaving my mouth Aaron Schneider approached me in shock. He generously offered to teach me a D'var Torah and made sure that I would leave this trip as an offical Jewish women who in fact had been Bat Mitvah'd. And what an idea it was. I believe that opportunities should never be taken for granted. I will never forget my function being shared with 163 peers and friends. Without this specific opportunity i would not of been awarded the chance to delve deeper into the story of Chanukah, understanding the true complexities of the idea of individuality and strength.
There are two miracles we commemorate on Chanukah. The first is the victory of the Maccabees against the Greeks. The second is that of the oil that lasted 8 days. The battle of the Greeks and the Maccabees was not your typical Jewish fight for survival but rather one for religious freedom. The Greeks had enacted cruel rulings against the Jews but they were not ones that threatened their lives, rather their way of life. The Greeks had forbidden the Jews from adhering to the Mitzvot and learning the Torah. The Maccabees decided that this was worth risking their lives for and picked up arms against the Greeks. The first miracle was where the small family of Maccabees were victorious of the full force of the Greek army. The second is the more well known story where apart of their cruel laws the Greeks had desecrated and installed idols within the Jewish temple. Upon victory against Greeks, the Jews entered the Temple and began to re-sanctify the Beit Hamikdash. They soon discovered that only one bottle of pure oil remained for which they could use to fulfil the mitzvah of lighting the menorah. It would take them another week before they could acquire new oil. This is where the miracle lies of the one bottle of pure oil lasting for all 8 days. The truth is we can see both these miracles reflected in the name of the festival. The word Chanukah can be split into Chanu and Ka. Chanu referring to the hebrew word, rest and Ka meaning 25. This refers to the battle being won on the 25th of Kislev and the Jews being able to rest. The word Chanukah can also be related to the words Chanukat Hamizbeyach which means to inaugurate the Temple. This links to the miracle to the oil allowing the jews to re-inaugurate the Temple. There is however a third word which I believe is the underlying theme of the festival. You can split the word chanukah into chanuch and A. Which really spells Chinuch Hashem - Hashem's teachings. This is what the Maccabees truly fought for.. values that go beyond the mundanities of life. It was this victory that allowed the light to shine. It is fitting that Chanukah should fall during IST as this too is the theme that underscores this journey. We came on IST not just to have fun and abuse our commbank travel cards but to elevate and infuse more meaning and significance into our lives. We, 163 students came here to in someway connect to that Chinuch Hashem and to bring it back home with us. So as I look around at all these familiar faces i am nothing more than proud of the lengths we have grown both individually and really as a family. I hope that together we continue on this journey supporting each other with the same genuine kindness and love i feel in this room tonight.
By Chloe Shaw