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        1) To learn about the different dimensions to the festival of Chanukah.
        2) To think about the relevance of the message of Chanukah to us as
           Jews in the twenty-first century.
        3) To understand Chanukah in the context of other Chagim – both those
           that came before it and those that came after it.

Volume 28                                             Bnei Akiva is proud to be supported by

Issue 10
Shabbat Miketz 5771
Dear Madrichim

Welcome to a new week and a new Choveret!

This is the final Choveret of the term on the subject of Chanukah. Please make it a really fun week so
that all the Chanichim go away with really happy memories of Sviva this term and all can’t wait for it
to start up again in January! Please also make one last big push for Machane and tell anyone who
hasn’t yet got their forms in to get them in tomorrow (i.e. Sunday – the day after Sviva).

Thank you for all your feedback over the course of the term on particular Chovrot which you found
to be useful or difficult. Please take this opportunity between terms to let me know what you thought
of the Choveret in general throughout the term by emailing me at 

Have a wonderful Shabbat, enjoy Sviva, and make sure your Chanichim enjoy it too!

Shabbat Shalom and Chanukah Sameach!

Alan 
What is Chanukah?
The Gemara (Shabbat 21b) asks a question: ‘Mai Chanukah?’ (What is
Chanukah?). Rashi says that the Gemara is asking ‘over which miracle did
they establish it?’ The fact that the Gemara even asks this question is
indicative of the mystery that surrounds this festival – it is the only Chag
that has no source in Tanach. Nowadays, Chanukah has become somewhat
commercialised, but often the true message gets lost in a world of candles,
doughnuts, latkes and dreidels.

So what actually is Chanukah? The Gemara answers that the Greeks defiled
the oil in the Temple, and when the Chashmonaim defeated the Greeks they
only found enough oil for one day, but it miraculously lasted for eight days.

However, if we look at another familiar
ancient source for Chanukah, the Al Hanisim
prayer, we see a very different story. There is
no mention of oil in Al Hanisim, and the focus
is on how the Greeks tried to destroy our
religion, but Hashem helped us gain a military
victory and we re-purified the Temple. The
last line says that Chanukah was established to
thank (l’hodot) and praise (l’hallel) Hashem.

This helps us to understand the significance of
Chanukah, but it is still unclear why we
celebrate it. To help us understand this, we
must put Chanukah in its historical context,
by taking a look at the events of the mid-to-
late period of Bayit Sheni (see right).

After the Chanukah story, the Jews did not
live happily ever after. There were more wars
with the Syrian-Greeks, lots of assimilation,
and even civil wars. The Romans were actually
invited to come in by the Jews themselves to
take control of the Jewish infighting!

The Hasmonean Dynasty ended when Herod
became King and he killed his Hasmonean wife
Marianne and his 2 children plus any other
remaining family members. Shortly after his
reign in the year 66 began the Great Revolt
against the Romans, culminating in the
destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.

So now we have a really big question: If Chanukah celebrates the
rededication of the Temple and the re-establishment of a Jewish state in the
Land of Israel – why do we celebrate it today when there is no longer a
Temple? And to make this question even stronger, we know from Megillat
Taanit that there were lots of happy days that were celebrated in Temple
times but subsequently became annulled because they became irrelevant. So
why did Chanukah remain a regular feature in the Jewish calendar?
The simple answer is to return to our original point about the ‘two miracles’
of Chanukah. Whereas originally the primary reason was the military victory
and rededication of the Temple, once the Temple was destroyed the
emphasis shifted to the miracle of the oil. The Gemara was written around
the 5th Century – much later – so it talks only about the oil as this was
relevant to the time. In contrast, Al Hanisim was written closer to the time
when the military victory was relevant.

But again we can point out that there have been many other mricales
throughout our history which do not get such recognition. What was so
great about the oil miracle that Chanukah has survived all this time?

One answer is that the miracle itself was not such a big deal, but its
significance has made the difference to Chanukah being what it is today. The
Jews had just mobilised an army and won a military victory against the
Greeks with no obvious divine intervention. In fact, without the oil, it
seemed to be a fairly non-religious event. In the absence of any Tanach-
writing prophet, this miracle came as a seal of approval that the Maccabees
had fought a just war, but their victory only came about with Hashem’s help.

One second… we’re talking about a fight for Jewish independence… a Jewish
army… the invisible ‘hand of Hashem’… and debates as to how to celebrate
the victories… sound familiar?

In modern times, the astonishing victories of the Israeli Army
have changed the Jewish world. We now have independence in
our own land and a more secure way of life for our people. But
it is fascinating to see how people celebrate how we got there…

The 5th of Iyar has been designated as Yom Ha’atzmaut, and it is a festival
with many different dimensions. Some Israelis use it as a ‘bank holiday’ to
have fun, but not necessarily a religious day. Others deliberately ignore it,
arguing that since the victories have created a secular state, there is nothing
to celebrate! But many Israelis, Bnei Akiva included, see massive religious
significance in this day. The scale of the victory was a clear indication that
Hashem had helped the army win a just victory. On this day, we should
celebrate by saying Hallel and thanking Hashem for the miracle of the State.

It is fascinating that the Rabbis who saw the religious significance to Yom
Ha’atzmaut (and Yom Yerushalayim later on) based our practice of saying
Hallel on Chanukah. There are clearly parallels between the festivals.

Ultimately, Chanukah has become even more relevant since 1948! Not only
do we face the biggest assimilation problem in our history, but we also have
a Jewish army who fight military campaigns with no clear divine intervention.
The challenge for the Jewish state today is to learn the lesson of Chanukah
and attribute the military successes to Hashem – not to the strength of our
army alone. Ironically, even after Chanukah, we did not fully learn this
lesson, and our state was eventually destroyed by the Romans – yet we still
say Hallel at Chanukah as we must still thank Hashem for the miracles.

Not only because it is the most recent festival is Chanukah the most
accessible and relevant Chag to Jews today. In the life of our nation – where
we experience Jewish independence, mass assimilation, and Hashem hidden
from view – we are living through remarkably similar times to 165 BCE.

                            Peulah Planning
While it is essential to make sure that Sviva is full of fun and games, it is also
very important to make sure that your Chanichim learn something.
This does not just mean that you should give a quick half-a-minute
explanation of why certain games were played and then tenuously link them
to the theme of the Choveret. Rather it means that you should set aside a
significant amount of time each week for engaging your Chanichim in a
discussion about the key issues that come out of the weekly theme.

This is not as scary as it may sound, and it can also be done in fun and
exciting ways. Therefore I have included in this section of the Choveret
both GAMES and DISCUSSION POINTS, to help you ensure that your
Chanichim are getting the most out of Sviva, both in terms of enjoyment and
in terms of knowledge.

   Dreidel: Classic Chanukah game for all the family!
   Doughnut Game: Everyone has to try to eat their doughnut without
    licking their lips! (Not as easy as it sounds!)
   Chocolate Game: Another fun food game for the end of term in case
    you can’t get your hands on doughnuts before Shabbat!
   Advert Game: Each group has to make a TV advert for Chanukah and
    why we should celebrate it – based on some of the actual reasons
    which you must teach them first and not just the commercialised ones.
   Candle Lighting Party: End the term in style by having a mini-Chanukah
    party when Shabbat goes out and lighting the Chanukiah at Mifkad
    when all the parents have just arrived to collect their children!
  (Remember that your Sviva has two excellent games booklets with tons more
  suggestions and also that not every game has to be linked to the weekly theme.)

    Ask the Chanichim what they think Chanukah is all about and lead into
     a discussion about the actual reasons for Chanukah and why they think
     it is that people often forget about these and just treat it a bit more
     like Christmas instead.
    Ask them which aspects of Judaism they treasure the most and under
     what circumstances they would give them up and then teach them
     about how the Greeks tried to make us abandon the traditions that
     were most important to us.
    Ask if any of them have ever spent Chanukah or Yom Ha’atzmaut (or
     even any other Chag) in Israel and get them to share their stories and
     memories. Then talk about how only in the last 62 years have we had
     the option to celebrate all of the festivals in their proper way in Israel.
                      Parasha in Pictures!

‘The seven good                   are seven years, and the seven good

are seven years; it is a single               .’

Ch. 41: Yosef interprets Pharaoh’s dreams and rises to prominence in Egypt.
Ch. 42: Yaakov sends 10 of his sons to Egypt but Yosef takes Shimon captive.
Ch. 43: Yehuda convinces Yaakov that Binyamin must come with them to Egypt.
Ch. 44: Yosef plants a goblet in Binyamin’s sack and Yehuda defends Binyamin.

         Coming soon at Bnei Akiva!
Limmud – your weekly dose of learning
London: special Limmud Chanukah Party on Monday 6th December at 19:30.
Birmingham: continuing every Monday at 18:00 at the standard location.
Manchester: continuing every Tuesday at 19:30 at the Bayit.
For more information or to arrange a Chavruta email Alan at

  22nd - 29th December: Winter Machane, Yr 6-12
      Application forms online now at – please mention it every week at Mifkad between now
       and Machane and encourage all of your Chanichim to apply! See advert below for more details!
      Tafkid applications online now at (pre-camp for Madrichim begins on 16th December).