ORANGE PARK – Benjamin Stein, 5, of Middleburg sat on the floor with 19 other children, hammer in hand, and set out to enter one of Judaism’s most holy days of the religious …
ORANGE PARK – Benjamin Stein, 5, of Middleburg sat on the floor with 19 other children, hammer in hand, and set out to enter one of Judaism’s most holy days of the religious calendar.
Benjamin, accompanied by his father Ed, took two pieces of wood, four nails, nine thumbtacks, nine metal rings, nine washers and some glue to construct his very own Chanukah menorah. Staff at the Kingsley Avenue Lowe’s guided Ben and the other students through the step-by-step instructions to produce one of the key symbols of the Jewish faith – the menorah.
Drilled with nine holes, when complete, the menorahs will be used to teach the children why celebrating Chanukah is important to the Jewish tradition.
Charles Davis of Jacksonville was there with two of his grandsons who, like Benjamin, busily crafted away at the menorah project. Davis said by having children make a menorah, it gives them a greater understanding of what Chanukah is all about.
“Chanukah is about a miracle happening – they had enough oil in the jar to light the menorah for one day, but it lasted for eight and that was the whole miracle of it,” Davis said. “To me, tradition is everything. You have to hand everything down, so it never changes and it’s a festive holiday that we all can enjoy.”
Chanukah’s roots date back to the second century when the Holy Land was ruled by the Syrian-Greeks known as the Seleucids who tried to force the Jewish people to accept Greek culture and beliefs and abandon their way of living. Judah the Maccabee led an army of the people of Israel to defeat the Greeks and drive them from the land. They reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to serving God. When the Jewish people set out to light the Temple’s menorah – a seven-branched candelabrum – they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks. Miraculously, they lit the menorah and the one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days, until new oil could be purified for future use. Jewish sages instituted the festival of Chanukah to commemorate the miracle.
The menorah clinic is but one way Rabbi Shmuel Feldman of Chabad of Clay County works to educate children about the Jewish faith. He said having children build a menorah is only one of many activities families can do with children to help them better understand Chanukah.
“There are different ways to get them involved, get them excited about the holiday. If they get involved, they get more excited about it. Certain people grow up with it, it’s part of their life, some people are not so involved because they’re not part of a big Jewish community, so there are different ways to get them[kids] excited about the holiday.”
Chanukah begins at sundown on Dec. 24. Jewish families light a menorah and place them in a doorway or window. The menorah is also lit in synagogues and other public places. In recent years, thousands of jumbo menorahs have cropped up in front of city halls and legislative buildings, and in malls and parks all over the world.