Nanaimo city hall will be aglow in the light from the menorah this week as Hanukkah celebrations begin.
The eight-day festival of lights, which begins Tuesday, Dec. 12, commemorates the Jewish people’s victory over a larger Syrian Greek army approximately 2,000 years ago. The Greeks had destroyed oil the used for lighting candles. A single jug of oil was found and while it was supposed to last one day, it miraculously lasted eight, according to Rabbi Bentzi Shemtov, Chabad of Nanaimo director.
The 2.7-metre menorah (nine-candle candelabra), situated at the front steps of city hall, will be lit at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, followed by festivities at the boardroom with latkes (potato pancakes), doughnuts, a Lego menorah-building contest and dreidels.
Shemtov said there are other traditions associated with the festival in addition to the lighting of the menorah candles, which takes place every night of Hanukkah.
“In addition, there’s the dreidel, which is a little thing that we spin around and it has four letters on it,” said Shemtov. “That was during the time when the Jews were prohibited to study the Torah because it wasn’t the Greek philosophy that the Greeks wanted and Jewish children still wanted to do it and what they used to do is they would go into the woods and study it and when soldiers came, they would hide the scrolls and play the dreidel, so that was the game.”
There are four Hebrew letters on dreidels – Nun, Gimel, Hei and Shin – which Shemtov said stands for ‘a big miracle happened there.’
“Then there’s the chocolate gelt. The original source of that is actually money. Giving money on Hanukkah, because on Hanukkah it’s all about education,” Shemtov said. “We try to educate ourselves and educate our children of how to be good people, how to bring light and good to the world and when you give a child money and you tell them, ‘Look, why don’t you give half to charity and half to yourself,’ it really teaches them value. It’s not all about ‘me.’”
This year, Hanukkah ends Dec. 20.
“In general, the menorah is the sign of religious freedom,” said Shemtov. “That we’re able to go out into the public and just be happy who we are. No one’s being oppressed, we’re all able to live in a multicultural community and everyone is able to practise their religion in a free and open way.”
For more information, go to www.jewishnanaimo.com.