My Chanuka Experience 2017
By: Shloime Greenberger (2nd Year)
“Shemen, Menorah, Chanukah!” when the bachurim of Bais Yisroel hear this famous, highly articulate announcement in the dining room at dinner time, they know that the holiday spirit is upon them. Sure enough, there’s Yisroel the dinner guy with all of his menorahs, oils, wicks, and what not, laid out on a table. The first-year guys cautiously sully over, poking at the merchandise, inquiring about the price. And while there is that one place in Geula that you can get a set for five shekels cheaper, most guys buy from Yisroel for a triple victory: all proceeds go to tzedakah; a little hakaras hatov for the man who serves you dinner every night. The exasperated outbursts of “I’m too lazy” (American), “I can’t be bothered” (English), and “soy muy slojo” (Spanish) make the third reason readily apparent.
But this is not the first sign of Chanukah’s approach. Aside from Naftali Gerstman’s special sweater, Chef Aharon’s delicious chocolate donuts appear more frequently by breakfast after Rosh Chodesh Kislev. Amazing powdered jelly-filled suvganiot arrive soon after. Then the Hanukah Harold sign goes up in the dorms. “What are you getting your guy? What in the world should I get my guy? Is this guy even in Yeshiva? I have no clue who he is!” These all become the commonplace phrases. Hopefully you receive your gift before the end of Chanukah…unless it’s a hamster of course. Those don’t work out very well.
Next thing you know, it’s Erev Chanukah, and the new schedule kicks in. Bleary-eyed, unaware bachurim stumble in into the Bais at three in the afternoon for Mincha, to find a nearly empty Bais Medrash. Yes, that’s right, Mincha was at 2:15. I hope you rested well, because now you need to shlep up the hill to catch Mincha at Kehillos Yaakov.
The candle lighting ceremony is about to begin. Whether you have to pour the oil into the cups yourself (because they were cheaper- I mean- to be torayach in the mitzva) or you bought the ready-made ones (since you are lazy-ahem-shtark and wanting to learn for those extra few minutes), things are about to heat up. Some guys light in their rooms. Most light outside in the front of the dorms. There are others that still have not yet made it back from Bnei Brak. (From the levaya of Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman Z”L) But in sprit, everyone is lighting together.
Achdus is practically tangible as Maoz Tzur is sung in the classic tune, with Shwekey’s Chasof as the grand finale. Then the fun begins. Everyone runs into the street and starts dancing at the top of their lungs. No car gets through until it’s been adequately “Baised”. When we get on the busses, drivers and passengers alike get fired up. (Some with different ways of expressing it than others)
The Chaburas were on Wednesday after Maariv. A representative of each shiur in the yeshiva gets up to speak. The bachurim giving the chabura gets the thrill of being a Maggid Shiur to the whole Yeshiva, while those in the crowd are inspired by the fact that the average Bais guy could attain such a level. The halftime break, featuring Chef Aharon’s delicacies, culminates with a spontaneous dance (accidently) started by Rabbi Glick. Following the Finale, from the boy in the Rosh Yeshiva’s shiur, the olam heads downstairs and enjoys a special treat. You know what they say: go nuts for donuts.
By the time Thursday comes around, everyone is way too excited to focus. Plans for the weekend that have been being planned for weeks are about to put into action. Immediately following shiur, the dorms are filled with cries of “Don’t forget the…” and “Wait! I didn’t pack yet!” and the like, until eventually there’s an unearthly and highly unusual silence. Upon their return, some boast about their crazy adventures in Teveiria or Tzfas. Thursday afternoon to Sunday night isn’t necessarily what I would call a vacation, but, hey, we’ll take what we can get.
When you go to your Rebbe’s house on Chanukah night, he might put out a few snacks and drinks, or have a five-course meal ready for you. Whatever it may be, here is a helpful tip: prepare a vort beforehand. It doesn’t have to be much. Spare yourself and everyone else the awkwardness of your Rebbe staring you down from across the table as you try to remember the Bais Yosef’s question. Oh, yeah, and the whole, “he stole my Dvar Torah” is a horrible excuse.
Finally, the Yeshiva Mesiba. Fleishig lunch! Could you believe it! Never mind the pareve dinner to follow, this stuff is amazing! While everyone is chowing down on their special meal, a special guest speaker comes along to make things even more memorable. Then, to end off with a bang, watch both Rabbi Berman and Rabbi Glick dancing on their chairs.
On that note, I’ll take my leave. I need to sort things out with my chavrusa. He accused me of missing second seder for a week. Doesn’t he know that there is no second seder… Wait! There is! Uh oh.
A Few Questions for the Hanhala
- Why does the schedule not include a lunchtime nap?
- Why is Chanukah Vacation not a real vacation?
- Why is the minhag that each bachur says a vort by their Rebbe?
- What is better, extra two minutes of learning or preparing oil and wicks?
1)Was this your experience in yeshiva?
2)What is different about your Chanukah now?
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Upcoming…..Yarchei Kallah in New York and London!
May 21st in New York, at R’ Ginzberg’s shul – Chofetz Chaim Torah Center – 7 Derby Ave, Cedarhurst, NY.
June 18th in London, at Beis Hamedrash Nishmas Yisroel – 4 Brent Green, London, NW4 2HA.