Oferet Yetzukah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, January 14, 2009

Children throughout Israel sing the Chanucah ballad by the great modern Hebrew poet Haim Nachman Bialik: “Teacher bought a spinning top for me, solid lead — in whose honour, do you know? In honour of Chanucah.”

The term oferet yetzukah means a solid mould of lead and conjures up images of families playing dreidl, with Chanucah candles shining on the window sill. Bialik’s poem features a child enumerating the ways the adults in his life made Chanucah a joyous festival. While the child sees father lighting candles, teacher giving out dreidls, and mother serving latkes, he/she senses the love in every gesture and knows that it is all in honour of Chanucah.

When the Israeli government decided to launch a military operation in Gaza during Chanucah, it chose the name Oferet Yetzukah. The translation “Cast lead” has an awkward sound in English. To the modern Hebrew speaker, the association with Bialik’s poem links the campaign to the time of year and to the spirit of the Maccabees protecting their land. Oferet Yetzukah also suggests an image of uncompromising strength.

Oferet Yetzukah touches particularly on the aspect of children in the Chanucah festivities. In choosing this name, the army declared that protecting Israeli children is a priority of the campaign.

Will we be able to sing about lead dreidls again next year with the same innocence as in years past?

Last updated: 4:30pm, January 14 2009