Great Miracles Are Happening Right Here
Great Miracles Are Happening Right Here

The shloshim (thirty day memorial) for the victims of the anti-Semitic massacre in Har Nof takes place on Hanukkah. Kinot (elegies) will be, or already have been, written for these holy martyrs, but on Hanukkah, it will be the sound of a traditional song of salvation and yearning that brings them to mind.

Maoz Tzur, the magnificent hymn sung after lighting the Hanukkah candles, lists some of the murderous enemies of Israel through the ages and tells of how G-d miraculously saved His people each time they were threatened. In its sixth and last stanza, it pleads with G-d to shorten the time till the Redemption because there is so much evil attacking us and our exile has gone on for so long, but it is nevertheless a song of gratitude and hope.

When comparing the historical events in the hymn to the threats currently facing the Jewish People, it is clear that the sea that covered the Egyptian army, described in the second stanza, is not yet drowning today's Pharaohs, while we can hardly build the Beit Hamikdash of the third stanza - and do have to deal with the situation prevailing on the Temple Mount. And the sons of Haman in Iran, who may end up hanging from a tree as told in the fourth stanza, are once again threatening to annihilate us.

But wait! look! Here in Jerusalem, the miracle of the holy oil in the fifth stanza of the song continues on; the oil that lit the Menorah is still shining brightly, shining in the eyes of Jewish kinderlach, Jewish children..

Five minutes from the site of the attack on four holy Jews, kedoshim, at prayer, little Jewish children in the Morasha Talmud Torah are celebrating their mastering of the aleph bet by dipping cookies, baked by their mothers in the shapes of all the Hebrew letters, in honey.

Aleph Bet Cookies
Aleph Bet CookiesINN: Morasha

Torah is like milk and honey on the tongue, say our Sages, interpreting the Song of Songs. Torah is light, Torah is consolation, Torah is what the Maccabees fought for.

And they won. Here is the proof. In Jerusalem, where prayer books were spattered with blood, where the Maccabees cleansed the Temple.

Looking at the children, a much-treasured Yiddish folksong comes to mind –"Oyf im pripishik brent a fierel" (On the hearth, a fire burns).  No fireplace in schools today, but as in the song's first verse, the rebbe, in this case Rav Aviezer, still teaches little children the same aleph bet. He, too, continues to tell his beloved kinderlach to "remember..what you are learning here" and "repeat once again 'kametz alef ah'" - with an Israeli accent.

Letters in Honey
Letters in HoneyINN: Morasha

Yet there is a change. These children understand what they are learning to read because Hebrew has miraculously returned to everyday life in our times, but what is unchanged is the truth of the next stanza:.

"When you, children-dear, grow older/ You  will understand/ How many tears lie in these letters, how much weeping..."

The children know about those tears.  In that sense, they are "older" already.There is no way to hide terrorist attacks from children in Israel, they have to be warned about suspicious objects and people, their families, friends and neighbors are sometimes involved, especially in this school whose teachers are in active IDF service.

But the strength of Torah and true faith in Hashem make this is a joyful party, an event that is all about Jewish continuity and faith in the Jewish people's future.

Dancing at Aleph Bet Party
Dancing at Aleph Bet PartyINN: Morasha

And the light shines on in Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion, ten minutes south of Gilo, Jerusalem, where another miracle takes place five minutes from the site of the three teens' abductions and a young woman's murder at a bus stop.

Here are the adorable and excited first grade children of Orot Etzion elementary school, right here in the area whose vastly outnumbered defenders were shot dead in 1948 by the Jordanian Legion while holding up a white flag of surrender and where in 2014, four sweet-faced young people met their barbaric terrorist murderers.

But the return of the Jewish people to their homeland is an ongoing miracle and there is no stopping it. There are six – yes, six – first grade classes in Orot Etzion – and this count is in only one of the several elementary schools in the Gush and does not include the Efrat branch. The children don't even have a school building that can hold all of them and some are housed in the community center.

They are acting in a joyous Hanukkah performance to which grandparents are especially invited.  Yehuda Eisenberg, the principal, informs us that there are families with four generations of Gush Etzion residents present in the auditorium. A miracle that, G-d willing, will give light for eight generations and more.

We Will Stand Strong Like Maccabees INN: Orot Etzion

Young as they are, the children declaim lines about being strong in the face of those who are against us, just like the Maccabees were. They understand exactly what that means. "We have come to chase away the dark" they sing. And they do.

And while that dark is gradually dispelled, they dance to the words "Chai, chai, chai, Am Yisrael chai - this is the song my grandfather sang to my father - and now I do".

Happy Hanukkah!

Am Yisrael Chai
Am Yisrael ChaiINN: Orot Etzion