“Each one of us possesses an inner flame that enables us to kindle our own flames and become lamp lighters who can kindle the flames of others,” said Rabbi Reuven Mintz of Chabad Jewish Center.
“We can bring light, goodness and kindness to others, we can uplift them. This is the season to bring the joys and the light of the holiday to those who are challenged and unable to come out and celebrate. There are also many more struggling this year due to the economic crisis and other challenges; we must not forget those in need as we get caught up in the holiday fever.”
“The miracle of Chanukah actually took place over 2,200 years ago,” Rabbi Mintz continued, “But it’s also about making the holidays brighter for others today.”
Rabbi Mintz explained that the miracle occurred when the Jews in Israel were persecuted and unable to practice Judaism openly. The vastly outnumbered Jews revolted and were finally able to reclaim the temple on Jerusalem’s Mount Moriah.
“A small group believed they would continue to serve God in their devotion and they did not give up,” Rabbi Mintz said. “The flame of Judaism was flickering and almost extinguished but they found one jug of oil. It should have only lit the temple light for one day, but miraculously it burned for eight days, which is why Chanukah lasts eight days. This also leads to the theme of the victory of light over darkness, good over evil.”
Last year, more than 500 people attended Chabad’s Menorah Lighting in Fashion Island. The 6-foot-tall Menorah was made out of hundreds of dreidels, which are four-sided spinning tops. The event also included a special tribute to Eli Litzky, a 100-year-old Holocaust survivor.
This year, Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights, begins at sundown on Dec. 20, and Chabad invites the community to its11th annual Lighting of the Menorah in the Atrium Garden. There will be a children’s choir, face painting, and a variety of crafts and activities for children. The event begins at 4:30 p.m., and this year, the 6-foot-tall Menorah will have a Surf ’n’ Sand theme, decorated with sand, surf boards and boogie boards. Rabbi Mintz is excited to honor Shawn Green, the baseball great, at this year’s event.
A menorah is a candelabra with nine branches; eight are typically the same height, and represent the eight days of Chanukah. The taller “servant candle in the middle lights the others and an additional candle is lit each evening of Chanukah while someone reads a special blessing. The lighting of the menorah is the most important Chanukah tradition.
“A menorah is eight separate branches from one foundation, reminding us that when we are all united and together at the core, we will prevail. We have the source of blessings and energy to tap into,” Rabbi Mintz said. “Also important is that each night we light an additional candle, because the good deeds we do today won’t suffice for tomorrow. We need to keep lighting and sharing and loving each and every day.”
“We will be distributing gifts to over 1,000 deprived children from homeless and fractured families,” Rabbi Mintz added. “Gift giving is an important part of the celebration; attendees are encouraged to bring an unwrapped gift which will be given to needy children and children with special needs in the community. We collect gifts all year long and are fortunate and grateful to our generous sponsors, including Jakks Pacific.”
“We started out a number of years ago with a gift drive to collect toys for disadvantaged children,” Rabbi Mintz continued. “The list of those in need has unfortunately grown brings increased requests. We also visit hospitals, assisted living and convalescent homes and bring smiles and holiday cheer by doing a Chanukah program, complete with singing, candle lighting and Chanukah treats. The highlight of my holiday is when I connect with them and uplift their spirits. We want them to know and feel that they are not alone. We will be covering over 30 facilities. Others can join us and help with the programs at the homes, or volunteer to help by delivering gifts.”
Those at Chabad want to remind people that there are many tangible yet simple ways to make a difference in the lives of others all year long, including visiting the homebound, driving the elderly to medical appointments, picking up groceries for others, and giving gifts or meals to thousands of disabled and needy children and families, regardless of their race, color or ethnicity.