Sounds like such a simple word, right?
Yet, the ability to communicate (or lack thereof) with others has been the driving force behind the creation and destruction of ideas, families, communities, and even nations throughout the ages.
Effective communication is what turns decent people into extraordinary ones.
It’s what sets great leaders apart from mediocre ones.
And it’s one of the core values we want to impart to the next generation.
So when Rabbi Mandel asked me if I would organize a game for the staff to play during our in-service a few weeks ago, I jumped  at the opportunity to arrange a communication activity. I later played this same game with the students, who loved it as much as the staff .
Everyone sat in a large circle. I told players to write down a sentence about anything they’d like and pass that sentence along to the player on the left. That player would take a new sheet of paper, draw a picture of the sentence, and pass it along to the person on the left, who wrote a sentence about what they thought the picture was. The cycle repeated until the message was returned to its original owner.
Suffice it to say the message had warped and changed in many funny ways along its journey through the room. In the context of a game, this was hilarious and comically entertaining. In real life, however, miscommunications can have unintended results . We used the opportunity to strategize what to do about avoiding those results and how to create a school with good communication habits.
This got me thinking about the communications Hashem (G-d) has sent us throughout the ages.
We know that historically, the Chanukah story occurred at a time when there was no longer direct prophecy, aka communication, in Israel.
This made it a time ripe for existential miscommunications between Hashem and His People.
Does Hashem still love us?
Does Hashem still want us to continue along the path outlined in the Torah?
Do we still have a uniquely special role to play in history?
These were questions the Jewish people had to grapple with collectively as a nation.
Then along came the Greeks. The very fabric of our heritage, tradition, and faith was torn away from us by a foreign nation that forbade us from all Jewish practices. Our people were brutally forced to accept a foreign culture against their own will. The communication from the Greeks was clear – your way of life is no longer relevant. Move on.
But we know, that isn’t how the story ends.
Hashem showed us that with His help, we can accomplish great things. He allowed a small team of righteous warriors to defeat a massive army – an unprecedented victory in antiquity. He allowed a small jug of oil to last long enough for us to know that we still matter to Him. He showed us through His actions that we still have our special mission in history.
Chanukah is about listening to messages and communications from the One Above.
Hashem continues to communicate with us in 5783. His communications are loud and clear at MTA.
A small flame, a small idea, is growing here in Louisville.
It is the idea that every child counts.
That every child has a special role.
That children thrive in an environment where they’re given the right degree of educational challenge.
And this idea is working. It’s a flame that is growing brighter and brighter. It’s one we are grateful to be a part of.
I continue to be excited about the communications Hashem has in store for us.
I hope you are too.
Wishing you a Chanukah full of light, inspiration, and joy.
| If you know me, you know I love this kind of stuff 😊.
 If you’re looking for a fun game to play at your next Chanukah party, this is the one! Reach out, and I can give you more detailed instructions on how to make it even funnier.
 I try to keep that in mind every time I’m in Israel, trying desperately to communicate (in my regrettably broken Hebrew) to taxi drivers. I know where I want to go, and they know how to drive. But when I can’t communicate effectively, I may end up at a shawarma shop in Geula instead of the Kotel in the Old City of Jerusalem.