For the last several weeks, it has been dark when I have left for school in the morning and dark again when I have arrived at home. With the winter solstice approaching, we will soon see increasing daylight hours, but until then, I find myself craving the light. Perhaps it is fitting then that the Festival of Lights arrives in the midst of this darkness imposed by the Earth’s axis and its rotation around the sun.

Fortunately, there has been plenty of (high)lights to go around this week. Saturday night brought with it the first night of Hanukkah and the closing performance of Shlemiel the First. This group of talented high school actors shown on the stage as they made the audience laugh until we cried with the antics of the residents of Chelm. The “wisdom” of the Chelmites defied logic and the performance amazed and delighted. Kol HaKavod to Joan Freedman Cohen and the cast and crew!

The days brightened some more with our Hanukkah Haggigah (holiday celebration). Middle school and high school students thoroughly enjoyed the rhymes, rhythms, and music of Bible Raps performer Matt Barr. Students (and Rabbi Bernstein and Rabbi Josh) joined in on stage for portions of the performance as they used this medium to explore the holiday and their connection to Judaism.

Glow sticks, strobe lights, and candle light pierced the darkness during the middle school dance. In addition to our own students, we were joined by students from Solomon Schechter Day School of Queens and East Midwood Hebrew Day School. This was a wonderful opportunity to bring students together from the schools within the Schechter Network. We closed the night with a communal candle lighting and the singing of Maoz Tzur.

There is a Talmudic argument between the houses of Hillel and Shammai over how candles should be lit during Hanukkah. Shammai’s disciples promoted starting with all eight candles lit and reducing the number of candles each day while Hillel’s students thought that we should should increase the candles until all eight were burning the last night. While everyone knows which school of thought we follow on this issue, it is clear to me that, at least this Hanukkah, we have seen the light increase as we have moved through the holiday.

Shabbat Shalom v’Chag Urim Same’ach!

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