The Daily Portion
Celebrating Eid Al-Banat (Girls' Day) and listening to the candles

Not only have Jews arrived here from many lands, but their traditions and customs, too. This is a special one, for women and girls only.

Sivan Rahav-Meir ,

Sivan Rahav-Meir
Sivan Rahav-Meir
Eyal ben Ayish

Today is the first day of the month of Tevet. Today is called Eid Al-Banat, or Girls' Day. Many North African Jewish communities were accustomed to celebrating this day in the past, and today in Israel the celebration has been renewed. Dozens of Eid Al-Banat events with singing and learning are beng held on ZOOM. And what are we celebrating? Sisterhood and female power.

In Tunisia they would hold a celebration on this day for all girls who had reached the age of mizvah performance during the year. All the Bat Mitzvah girls would gather together, thank their mothers and grandmothers, and receive gifts - the most precious of which was the opportunity to perform mitzvot.

In Thessaloniki, Greece, women would ask forgiveness from one another with deep emotion, just like on Yom Kippur eve.

On the island of Djerba, this was known as the day of bachelorettes, who gathered together for the occasion. Participation in an event on this day was considered a good omen for getting married in that same year.

Miriam Peretz spoke tonight to a gathering of women about her childhood memories from Morocco: "We would stop everything for the sake of this day that was all about me and you, a day of saluting the daily heroism of women. Heroism is not only on the battlefield, but also in the education of children and in community life. This was a holiday for all the heroines of daily living."

There is an ancient source for the significance of this date. In the days of the Second Temple, at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, intermarriage was common. But on this day, the first of Tevet, Ezra ordered an end to assimilation. Men stopped marrying foreign women and instead established their homes with Jewish girls.

We are part of the ingathering of the exiles generation. Yet not only have Jews arrived here from many lands, but their traditions and customs, too.

Happy Eid Al-Banat.

Some girls arrive in Israel and experience conversion to become part of the Jewish people. Elena, a new Jewess, tells us of the penetrating light of Hanukkah.

"Shalom Sivan, My name is Elena and I have been a Jew for one month. We hear a lot about the distress of business owners due to the corona, the distress of singers and entertainers, the distress of students. But it seems to me that no one speaks about the distress of those converting to Judaism. We have had to endure the cancellation of classes in Judaism, the recitation of prayers on ZOOM only, and lockdowns on holidays that we so much wanted to observe in the traditional way – through participation in large public prayer services.

Because of lockdowns and isolation, time after time I was unable to visit the wonderful host family that has accompanied me throughout this process. Yet these difficulties only strengthened my resolve and I felt a greater sense of self-sacrifice and desire to overcome every obstacle in my path. I saw that the corona could change the world, but not my decision. I exerted myself, invested every effort, finally stood before the Beit Din (rabbinical court), and joined the Jewish nation.

I am now fulfilling the mitzvah of lighting Hanukkah candles for the first time as a real Jew, and this is enormously symbolic for me. Judaism has brought tremendous light into my life - light that penetrates all my thoughts. I learned that there is a deeper reality and my vision is no longer confined to superficial impressions. In the past, as an Israeli only, I saw Hanukkah as a nice legend that included eating sufganiot and latkes but not much more. But now these days of Hanukkah are radiant with profound meaning – as an expression of Jewish culture, spirit, heroism, and eternal hope. It is said that we are supposed to take the light of Hanukkah and have it accompany us throughout year – to see more depth and meaning in everything around us thanks to the candles' penetrating light."

Thank you so much Elena, and welcome.

And while we celebrate today's special women's holiday and Rosh Chodesh Tevet in which Elena can join us for the first time, we also light the Hanukkah candles. What are they telling us?

According to a famous Hassidic saying, "We need to listen to what the candles are telling us." Here is a portion of what the Lubavitcher Rebbe learned from the candles:

1. *The importance of tradition.* As opposed to the other holidays, the events of Hanukkah do not appear in the Bible. They took place later on and therefore the Sages found no passages to explain our celebration of Hanukkah. It was only over many generations that its celebration was fixed in the Talmud. Thus, the essence of the holiday teaches us about the importance of tradition, the words of our sages, and the oral Torah.

2. *To be ready for darkness.* We do not light the candles in the morning but rather when darkness falls. We know that life brings periods of darkness and so we need to be prepared and exert every effort to bring light.

3. * To light up the world.* We light the candles inside our home with the candles facing outwards. Our home is a source of light that shines more brightly than any outside light.

4. *To add light.* The manner of lighting on Hanukkah increases light since we add one candle each night. It does not matter how much we did yesterday, we must go forward and do a little bit more each day.

5. *To be immovable.* The candles are set in a certain place and it is forbidden to move them. A Jew who is preoccupied with lighting up his surroundings needs to know that this mission is established in his soul, is part of his everyday life, and that he is immovable in fulfilling it.

6. *To give light to others so they can shine on their own.” The candles continue to shine on their own after we light them. When we educate and influence, we need to make sure that what we teach is meaningful. If we do this, our students will shine on their own throughout their lives.

* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin