One of the most relevant quotes I’ve heard comes from the Talmud: “I have learned much from my teachers, more from my colleagues, and the most from my students.” This is a phrase I see play out in my classroom every day, and although every day I am reminded of just how true it is, it has never been more clear as when we began to prepare for Chanukah.
Every day begins with a countdown to Chanukah. The children are, of course, looking forward to celebrating an exciting holiday, complete with lighting the menorah, eating delicious donuts and latkes, and receiving Chanukah gelt and presents. But it’s more than that, too. Over the course of our Chanukah preparations, the students have truly internalized the beauty of this Festival of Lights.
The students’ excitement is palpable when I tell the story of Chanukah during our lessons. Their sadness at Antiochus’s evil decrees, their joy at learning how the Macabees saved the day, their wonder at the miracle of the oil is truly inspirational – the story comes to life for them, in a way so real it was as if it were happening to them today.
Their excitement also carries over to our hands-on learning activities. They had so much fun participating in our live dreidel game, taking turns to spin in our giant spinning top while chanting “Nun Gimmel Hey Shin – Nes Gadol Haya Sham!” The students loved the game, and I loved watching them play it because their enthusiasm was contagious.
When I think about their enthusiasm for the game, for the entire holiday, in fact, made me wonder. Where is my enthusiasm? Where is my excitement? It’s all too easy to get caught up in the checklists – Do I have my menorah? Did I remember to buy candles? Is there still time to make donuts for the holiday? But it’s important to leave space for the countdown too. Chanukah is supposed to be a celebration, never a chore, and I’m so grateful to my students for reminding me of that.
Every day at school we have a special activity to help us get into the holiday spirit, to remind us what Chanukah is all about – being proud and celebrating our identity as Jews. Come visit our classroom, and you will soon be sharing in the excitement, and maybe even start a countdown of your own!
And to help you kick off your Chanukah celebrations, why not try baking a batch of my favorite donuts with your child? They taste so good, you’ll be elevated to Yehudah Macabee-level hero status!