Advice for Parents on Chanukah

Chanukah has become a festival in Jewish life although it lacks, in its origin, all the elements of the Yamim Tovim. These eight days were orginially days dedicated to Hallel and Hoda’ah — Praise and Thanksgiving for the miracle of salvation from the Greek hordes. It has but one ceremonial, the mitzvah of kindling the lights.

The lesson of Chanukah, however, has served to give to it the aura of a Yom Tov. The meaning of faith, the Almighty’s guardianship of Israel, are driven home in the story of Chanukah. Israel’s feeling that salvation is not man-made is conveyed in the Hallel and Hoda’ah. The mitzvah of kindling lights is soul-inspriring. The requirements of parsumei nisa — publicizing the miracle — by kindling the lights where they will be seen from the outside is a source of pride in our heritage of emunah.

Jewish children react with warmth and inspiration to the observance, the kindling of the lights. They should be allowed the privilege of having their own lamp. The singing of Haneros Hallalu and Ma’oz Tzur should be conducted by the parents, displaying interest in these songs. Just gettting it over with kills an opportunity for spiritual nurture on an elevated level in the child.

Jewish children react with warmth and inspiration to the observance, the kindling of the lights.

The story of Chanukah can be aquired in English and children should read and know the story. They should be well acquainted with the herosim of the Chashmonaim. They should be impressed with the fact that G-d’s holy priests, the Kohanim, and their religious followers — who died for the sanctity of the Shabbos — had the courage to bear arms and rise in battle against the Greeks. They should become impressed with the fact that the religious Jew, the Torah Jew, is perfectly capable of coping with Israel’s national and international problems.

One of the greatest necessities in Jewish education today is the creation of the realization that Torah is all-embracing. Our children must become infused with the feeling that being religious Jews does not place limitations upon them but rather opens them the broadest vista upon life and all its problems. The story of Chanukah, if learned through its true perspective, can help greatly in this direction. This means that there must be a careful selection of the reading material on Chanukah. Many of the truths of Jewish history have been distorted and the story of Chanukah has also been subjected to the surgery of historical falsification.

The Chanukah play in school is another means for enriching the child’s inspiration with the Chanukah heritage. However, it might be advisable to point out here that preparation for the Chanukah play should not be a reason for slowing up the daily program of study. This defeats the very purpose of the festivity. In our best Day Schools, we cannot afford to lose any time devoted to study.

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