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Preparing for Hanukkah

Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 12/6/17

ORANGE PARK – Now that December is here, many Clay County families are preparing for Christmas by donning their house with dancing lights or decorating a Christmas tree. A growing number of Clay …

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Preparing for Hanukkah


ORANGE PARK – Now that December is here, many Clay County families are preparing for Christmas by donning their house with dancing lights or decorating a Christmas tree. A growing number of Clay families, however, aren’t putting up a tree or hanging stockings, but rather, they’re hanging a Star of David and setting up the family Menorah.

In an effort to welcome in the holiday of Hanukkah, which officially begins Dec. 12, Rabbi Shmuly Feldman, the co-director of the Chabad of Clay County, with help from the Lowe’s near Orange Park, hosted a Menorah-making event last Sunday. As nearly a dozen kids made their way to the back of the lumber aisle in Lowe’s, they were treated to donuts, selfie stick fun and the story of Hanukkah.

The event began with donut decorating. Sure, donuts are a delicious food that most people love but they also have significance with the holiday.

“Because of the significance of oil, we bring in the holidays by eating foods cooked in oil,” Feldman said. “So, potato pancakes, donuts and other foods fried in oil usually accompany our meals around this time of the year.”

After decorating and eating their donuts, the children were able to don a kippah – also known as a yarmulke – and take a selfie. Once everyone’s selfies were done, Feldman asked them to join him for the story of Hanukkah.

“In the ancient temple of Jerusalem, there was a menorah that was lit each and every day,” Feldman said. “When the Syrian Greeks took Jerusalem, they defiled the ancient temple and destroyed everything, including the sacred oil used to light the menorah.”

After some time, the Jewish people were able to take Jerusalem back. When they returned to the temple to light the menorah, they found only one container of oil.

“This oil wasn’t just any oil,” Feldman continued. “It was ritually pure and carried the seal of the high priest to signify its purity.”

The one container of oil they found should have only lasted one day and one night but according to Feldman, it miraculously lasted eight days and eight nights.

“That’s why we celebrate Hanukkah for eight days,” Feldman said. “Each day is meant to commemorate the miracle of this oil and the Jews over the many and their ability to have taken back Jerusalem.”

The word Hanukkah means “dedication” because it is the time the Jewish people celebrate the rededication of the Holy Temple with a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers, and the fried foods Feldman mentioned.

Lowe’s staffers talked the children through the process of making their very own menorah until each kid left with a fully-constructed and painted menorah.

This year marks the second time Feldman and Lowe’s have worked together to host an event like this, but according to Feldman, events like this happen throughout the country around this time of the year. This year marks the first year that Jerry Smith, a Jewish resident of Clay County, has formally introduced his children to the traditions of Judaism.

“This is the first time exposing them to this,” said Smith. “I think they’re beginning to understand it and the arts and crafts aspect of this event really helps to expose them to the practice and tradition.”

The Chabad, which is one of the largest Jewish religious organizations in the world, and its movement is always looking for ways to get children involved, according to Feldman.

“[Children] love hands-on stuff so doing something like this, having them make a menorah, really speaks to them,” Feldman said. “They’re getting involved and learning about Hanukkah at the same time.”