The first night of Chanukah was the fourth anniversary of the death of Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman, zt”l, who passed away at the age of 103 after decades of teaching, leadership, and empathy for all. Here are several of his thoughts on the holiday of Chanukah:
“If we really want to learn something from Hanukkah, there is much to learn. Generally people do not think about it sufficiently because they are too busy. They sing a little, eat a little something, but fail to see what the holiday is teaching us: It’s about the power of individuals and the power of faith.”
“Chanukah is the holiday of pirsum haness (publicizing the miracle). When someone is joyful, it is natural for him to want to share his joy with others. When someone celebrates Hanukkah, and he himself is a source of joy, he invites others to share it with him. And so we demonstrate our joy on Chanukah.”
“Sometimes we observe a mitzvah and don’t feel anything, there is no vitality to it. On Chanukah we describe all the miracles in detail and give thanks for everything, in order that we should learn to always be grateful, to pay attention to every detail in life, to every kindness, in order that nothing will happen to us without actually feeling it.”
Songs for the Soul
The roof of the Binyanei HaUma Convention Center in Jerusalem nearly blew off from the incredible energy generated inside last week. The occasion was a women’s concert I was privileged to host as part of Tzama, an annual Chasidic music festival.
Yuval Dayan chose to sing “Vezkeini Legadel” (May I merit to raise [wise children]), from the prayer said over the lighting of the Shabbat candles. “I thought about the millions of women who always whisper these words, but perhaps the time has also come to sing them loudly together,” Yuval said, and 1,500 women and girls in the audience sang/prayed with her that they would have the privilege of raising children who would light up the world.
Singer Nechami Ruben is a mother of three who lost her husband Yehuda in the Meron tragedy. She related that since she became a widow it is sometimes difficult for her to speak, but to sing is easier for her. Speaking sometimes weighs her down, while a niggun (Chasidic tune) gives her strength.
I was especially moved by songwriter and singer Ruhama Ben Yosef’s songs without words. Sometimes speaking is not necessary. The melody rises above confining words and enters straight into the soul.
And Leah Shabbat related how faith was always there, in all her songs: “Just Because of the Spirit,” “A Piece of Heaven,” “The Song that will Bring You Love,” and others. She was visibly moved to sing ancient Chasidic songs for the first time and asked humbly for the crowd’s assistance. Yet she actually did not need any help as she gave memorable and soulful renditions of King David’s words from the book of Psalms.
I understood from this evening that songs are not merely a playlist of arbitrary background music, since they enter deep into each of our souls. At this concert, through the tears as well as dancing of the audience, I saw what a positive influence they can have.
(Translation by Yehoshua Siskin)