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                                     Passing the Torch

                                                        Rabbi Dovid Simon


Chanukah is a festival in which our children take an integral part. While this is somewhat true for many of the festivals, when Chanukah comes around we see that in one way or another, our children are always involved in the spirit of the day. Although according to the basic halachah only one candle per household need be kindled on each night of Chanukah, we find that Jews throughout the ages have universally adopted the custom of mehadrin min hamehadrin, in which every member of the household lights his own menorah; adding an additional candle on each consecutive night. In addition to the lighting of the menorah, the  customs that we observe on Chanukah are also of a nature which particularly draw the attention of the children, like playing dreidel, or enjoying the taste of hot, crispy, potato latkes. What is special about Chanukah that we go out of our way to include the children so much?


As is well known, the difference between the persecution that we were saved from on Chanukah and the edict of the wicked Haman on Purim were totally different in nature. While on Purim the Jews were faced with physical destruction, on Chanukah the danger was a spiritual one which threatened the religious beliefs of the Jews much more than their lives. Perhaps this is at least part of the reason why Chanukah is so geared for children; spiritual salvation is truly pointless unless we make an effort to communicate our religious values to our children and ensure their transmission to the next generation. In this light, Chanukah is indeed an appropriate time to evaluate our relationships with our children, and see how we can take the different aspects of life, the spiritual - represented by the menorah, and the physical - by the latkes, and use them to bring our children closer to Hashem.

We cannot assume that just because we learn Torah and fulfill the mitzvot, that the future of our children is sufficiently guaranteed. If we want to ensure our children’s spiritual future, it will be necessary for us to invest a lot more energy and mesirut nefesh. Just as Matityahu and the Chashmonaim were able to topple the spiritual decrees of the Greeks with their total dedication to Hashem and His Torah, our rising to the spiritual challenges which we face in our generation also hinges on our commitment to living as Torah Jews at all costs. Without question, this means that we must even be prepared to go against established societal norms when the spiritual welfare of our children is at stake.  Only in this way can we provide them with a fertile environment in which they can grow and flourish as dedicated Torah Jews.

The Torah tells us, “Ve’aileh toldot Yitzchak ben Avraham, Avraham holid et Yitzchak” - These are the descendents of Yitzchak the son of Avraham, Avraham bore Yitzchak. Why does the Torah need to tell us that “Avraham bore Yitzchak” after already having told us that Yitzhak was the son of Avraham? Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt”l explained that the verse is telling us that as Yitzhak totally embodied the values that Avraham represented; anyone who saw him knew immediately who his father was. This is the ultimate goal, not to just rely on the fact that maybe our children will take on the values that we believe in, but rather to invest the energy that is required so that when others look at our children it will be immediately recognizable who their parents are from the type of behavior which they emulate. Certainly, Hashem does not expect us to change our attitude towards parenting overnight, however Hashem does obligate us to move consistently in the right direction.

As we light the Chanukah candles this year, let’s take a few extra moments to think as we gaze into the flames; What practical steps can we take to better ensure that the Torah values which the Chashmonaim fought for will be passed down to our children so that their whole being will proudly declare to all who encounter them, “We are the children of . . .”