“The Hanukkah light represents the symbol of hope, the symbol of freedom, the symbol of joy, the symbol of perseverance,” says Rabbi Yossi Spritzer, director of Chabad of Chatsworth. “And today right now the world needs that message even more.”
On Tuesday night, rabbis from three North Valley Chabad centers hosted their ninth annual community-wide holiday celebration at the Porter Ranch Town Center. The evening’s festivities kicked off with songs by a choir of tots who attend Chabad religious schools, crowing, “Shalom, shalom, shalom,” peace, peace, peace.
In addition to the lighting of a giant menorah near the corner of Rinaldi Street and Corbin Avenue, “Chanukah on High” featured a tight wire act by aerialist Chris Grabher who juggled and walked through fire while balancing above the onlookers.
This minor Jewish holiday commemorates the victory of a small band of zealots over the conquering Syrian-Greeks who had overtaken and desecrated the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the second century Before the Common Era.
Harkening back to ancient times, Rabbi Eli Rivkin, director of Chabad of Northridge notes, “We always want to be thankful to the armed forces, who make all of this possible, make sure that we have a strong country and a place of freedom. That's what Hanukkah's all about: freedom.”
Tradition holds that once the temple was reclaimed, there was only enough undefiled oil to burn in the holy menorah, the eternal light, for one night but it miraculously burned for eight. Today, that “miracle” is celebrated by eating foods cooked in oil, and by kindling an increasing number of candles from the first to the eighth Hanukkah night. Tuesday was night four. Trader Joe’s provided the latkes (potato pancakes) and the sufganyot (jelly doughnuts) came from Universal Bakery.
Rabbi Yochonon Baitelman, director of Chabad of Porter Ranch, holds a spiritual view of the holiday. “Hanukkah is the festival of light,” he says, “and a little light expels a lot of darkness. We don't chase away darkness with brooms and sticks. Instead we do it with light. We need to add as much light as we can, as we do with the menorah, adding another light every day as in expanding and growing the light of Torah and Judaism.”
Rabbi Spritzer takes this message universal. “If everybody does one act of goodness and kindness, even just one mitzvah, that can change the world for the ultimate good. So we need everybody to think about one action that they can do, any mitzvah, any goodness and kindness, whether it's a smile or a helping hand to the needy, reach out and help somebody else and make this world a better place. This is the message of the menorah, the symbol that it represents, the light of the Hanukkah lights.”