First Signs of Chanukah Emerge in Australia

J-Wire

Rabbi Pinchus Feldman lights the Menorah in the presence of Premier Barry O’Farrell.

The traditional lighting of the Menorah took place in the NSW State Parliament in Sydney last night. Although the latkes have yet to make their appearance, politicians and State identities were offered platefuls of doughnuts as they entered the function room in Parliament House.

Messages to the community were delivered by Don Harwin the president of the Legislative Council and Speaker Shelley Hancock before Premier Barry O’Farrell, donning a red yarmulke took to the podium.

He reinforced the relationship between the State Government and the Jewish community highlighting the contribution the community had made to Australian society .

Greetings came, too, from John Robertson the Leader of the Opposition.

After all eight candles on the Menorah were lit by Rabbi Feldman, Chazan Yehoshua Niasoff sang “Maoz Tzur”.

For the community, and for State Parliament, the festive season has begun.

The following is the text of Premier O’Farrell’s address:

An early Chag Sameach.

Once again, I’m pleased to celebrate the festival of Chanukah with you.

As Rabbi Feldman has outlined, this time of the year is a joyous event in the Jewish calendar.

And for me, it always has a happy meaning.

I’ve been privileged many times to participate in the lighting of the menorah, both in my own community and here in the city.

Although I’ve been advised that, as Premier, I’m not allowed in a Chabad cherry picker without a harness!

By the way, you may have noticed I’m wearing my ecumenical red yamulka, but I’d like to reassure the rabbis here I’m not planning to follow in their clerical footsteps –although it may come in handy sometime with my own religious faith!

I know Chanukah is also the time when I have to resist the temptation of eating too many donuts and latkes.

Instead, it’s safer and less calorific to play the dreidel with my wife, Rosemary, my Eshet Chayil, and our sons, Tom & Will.

But this can be costly—having to give Chanukah gelt— but it does underscore a message of the season: the importance of charity and good deeds.

When it comes to dauntless spirit and might in the face of overwhelming odds, Chanukah is one of the world’s most inspiring sagas.

And when we speak about might and strength in Hebrew, the word used is interestingly “Oz”, which I’d like to think reflects a link with Australia.

It’s a fact that the Australian Jewish community has a proud history of loyalty and commitment dating back to the First Fleet, and has made—and continues to—makes an outstanding contribution to all facets of Australian life.

From my ongoing involvement in a wide range of Jewish community activities, I continue to learn and admire the strength and beauty of your traditions.

Each morning, for example, I believe you recite a bracha—a blessing which thanks God ―for giving the rooster understanding to distinguish between day and night.

Now for those who think this might be unusual compared to other blessings, there’s good reason for this which is relevant to our daily life.

As my Nationals and Liberals colleagues know roosters cleverly seem to sense when dawn will break, as if they have an internal alarm clock—that even takes daylight saving into account!

We all can apply this to our own lives—with light each day symbolised by our peace of mind and clarity in our thinking.

But there also can be times of darkness, when we’re confronted by difficulties and challenges, of which the Jewish people are well aware, having suffered and endured in times of persecution through the ages.

So we can actually learn from the rooster that such problems or darkness will be soon be overcome and replaced by light and peace of mind.

This means we all should always be optimistic and thankful for what we have.

I can see my parliamentary colleagues from both sides of the House nodding in agreement.

I’ve always been impressed by the focus in Jewish life on the importance of education, through teaching and nurturing each generation to be able to continue your beautiful traditions handed down since biblical times.

It’s fascinating, then, to find that the Hebrew word for education, “chinuch” shares the same roots as Chanukah, which we’re celebrating today.

And the menorah itself is more than a link with the story of the long-lasting oil of the Maccabees.

It’s a source of inspiration for the Jewish people and its lights have given the strength to persevere, even during such horrors as the Holocaust.

Today, the menorah is recognised as the symbol of the Jewish people’s love for liberty, something which Australia advocates strongly in our belief in freedom and respect for all religions, race and cultures.

It also is the emblem of the State of Israel, with whom I share your prayers that there soon will be Shalom, the achievement of a true and lasting peace so as to be able to live in peace and security.

On that note, I ask you to join me in raising your glasses for L’Chaim . Am Yisroel Chai.

9 Comments

  • 4. Roddy Munoz, MBA wrote:

    B”H

    Shalom Alechem,

    Interesting. I was also under the impression that Chanukah began on 25 of Kislev.

    Great to see recently more Schluchim wearing the hat brim up which was the Minhag of the Previous Rebbe. I wonder if this is because the dress standards of their communities are more strict.Examples which come to mind are Boro Park, Flatbush, Williamsbuerg, New Square, Monsey, etc.

    Kol Tov,

    Roddy Munoz

  • 5. Chanoch wrote:

    Rabbi Pinchus Feldman Shlita was told by the Rebbe to learn HOW to be a ROV from Rabbi JJ Hecht, as when he came to Sydney he was the Rov of a chosheva Hungarishe congregation.
    Possibly thats where the up hat came from…

  • 6. sum guy wrote:

    OISH! It’s not even DEC. 25th yet!!!
    Did they at least sing some carrols & give presents?
    Where’s the tree?
    Where’s the grubeh chazer in the red suit?

  • 7. Rabbi Eli Feldman wrote:

    B“H

    The reason why the event was held now is because it was the last sitting week for NSW Parliament in 2011 and the only way to get all of the Parliamentarians to attend is to have it on a sitting week when they are at Parliament.

    The MPs live all over NSW, some up to 10 hours drive away, and if it was held on Chanukah itself, when Parliament is not sitting, most of them would be unable to attend.

    My father SHLIT”A announced at the ceremony that it is being held prior to Chanukah and therefore he said the Brochos without Hashem’s name.

    Boruch Hashem the event was a major Kiddush Hashem, with the majority of Parliamentarians from all sides of the political divide there, including councillors from Councils across Sydney and other community leaders.

    One of the important elements of Chanukah is Pirsumei Nisah, and that was definitely acheived by this event!

    The Menorah is actually now on permanent display in Parliament’s historic Parkes room, so the thousands of people that visit Parliament throughout the year can see it, undercoring the deep friendship between the NSW Parliament and the Jewish community.

  • 9. sum guy wrote:

    As we say in V’AL HA’NISSIM – …Bayomim hohaim, B’ZMAN hazeh!

    Pirsumei nissa before the ness ACTUALLY happened – does not accomplish anything!
    Mitzvah value: 0%
    Foolishness value: 100%
    Confusion value 1000%

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