Chanukah Heroes – Third Night

AS WE LIGHT THE THIRD CANDLE, we consider how fostering Jewish, Zionist and Hebrew education and Jewish spiritual and cultural values help to preserve our Jewish identity. Antiochus sought to eradicate Jewish peoplehood by preventing the observance of religious practices, and we continue to fight against such bigotry. Zionism is an important force in the strengthening of Jewish identity and values. Our commitment to Hebrew language and literature, and Israeli culture and society enriches our lives.

Hannah Senesh

Chanukah Hero:
Hannah Senesh, Israeli National Heroine

Hannah Senesh (1921-1944) was a poet and playright who wrote in both Hungarian and Hebrew. At the age of 18, she took the initiave to immigrate from Hungary to what was then Palestine. Her dedication to serving the Jewish people motivated her to join the Haganah, the beginnings of the Israeli defense force. After enlisting in the British Army and becoming a paratrooper, she parachuted into Yugoslavia in March 1944 on a daring mission: to save the Jews of Hungary from deportation to the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz. She was caught at the border with Hungary, but even under torture, she refused to betray her fellow parachuters. She was executed by firing squad on November 7, 1944.

Senesh is a Chanukah hero because:

  • She was a brave fighter on behalf of the Jewish people, who acted on her belief in defending and strengthening Jewish identity and culture
  • She was a talented young poet whose words continue to inspire us today

Activity: “Blessed Is the Match”

This touching and inspirational song was the last Hannah Senesh ever wrote. She had already been daringly parachuted into a partisan camp in Yugoslavia when she composed it.

Musical score, Hebrew, and English available here.

Read the text and discuss the questions that follow:

“Blessed is the Match,” by Hannah Senesh, 1944

Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame.
Blessed is the flame that burns in the secret fastness of the heart.
Blessed is the heart with strength to stop its beating for honor’s sake.
Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame.

  • What does the concept of a burning match mean to you?
  • What is the message? How does this message relate to an understanding of Israel and the spirit of the Jewish people?
  • What emotions do you feel when reading this poem? How can you relate to it on a personal level?

 

Chaim Bialik on an Israeli stamp

Chanukah Hero:
Chaim Nachman Bialik, Israel’s National Poet

Chaim Bialik (1873-1934) is known as Israel’s national poet. Born in the Ukraine, Bialik was active in Zionist and literary circles in Odessa, writing in Hebrew long before it was the modern language of Israel. He wrote nationalistic poems about the Jewish people, love poems, and nature poems. He moved to Tel Aviv in 1924, where he was celebrated as a famous literary figure.

Bialik is a Chanukah hero because:

  • He worked to revitalize Hebrew as the national Jewish language
  • His poems expressed the unity of the Jewish people and its bond to its historic homeland Eretz Yisrael

Activity: “I Didn’t Win Light in a Windfall”

Read this poem by Chaim Nachman Bialik and discuss the questions that follow.

I DIDN’T WIN LIGHT IN A WINDFALL (Shirim, 1966)

I didn’t win light in a windfall,
nor by deed of a father’s will.
I hewed my light from granite.
I quarried my heart.

In the mine of my heart a spark hides –
not large, but wholly my own.
Neither hired, nor borrowed, nor stolen –
my very own.

Sorrow wields huge hammer blows,
the rock of endurance cracks
blinding my eye with flashes
I catch in verse.

They fly from my lines to your breast
to vanish in kindled flame.
While I, with heart’s blood and marrow
pay the price of the blaze.

  • What does the concept of light signify in this poem? What meaning does it have here in comparison with the Chanukah story?
  • How does this poem relate to an understanding of Israel?
  • What emotions do you feel when reading this poem? How can you relate to it on a personal level?

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