The anticipation of Hanukkah with its twinkling lights, family gatherings and nightly gifts is enough to make any kid impatient.
But, Risa Strauss is trying also to counsel the joys of delayed gratification and regular worship with the children she teaches at Tree of Life Congregation on Trenholm Road.
So Strauss, the religious school director, was inspired to dress as a candle Friday night for a children’s service called Kidz Shabbat, to remind them that there is a place for regular Sabbath worship even amid the excitement of Hanukkah, which begins at sunset tonight.
She planned a skit for the youngsters that featured TOL’s Rabbi Daniel Sherman, and focused on a little candle that didn’t quite know its place.
“Should I be lit for Shabbat or be part of the Hanukkah menorah?” Strauss asked. “Oh, there is a candle that looks like me. Oh, this is where I’m supposed to be, at Shabbat.”
It’s a little bit of fun mixed with a religious lesson, reminding the children that “it’s not Hanukkah yet; it really does begin on Saturday.”
As Hanukkah begins, there will be plenty of celebrations, including a party, “How Jews ‘Jam’ at Hanukkah,” at Beth Shalom Synagogue at 6 p.m. tonight and a carnival at 11 a.m. Sunday at Tree of Life that will feature traditional foods of the holiday, including potato latkes and jelly doughnuts, a popular street food in Israel.
On Sunday, a car menorah parade will leave from the Columbia Jewish Day School on Trenholm Road at 5 p.m. and travel to the State House for the annual Menorah Lighting, events sponsored by Chabad of South Carolina.
“There are going to be 30 cars, 10 with menorahs and 20 decorated with balloons and other things,” said Rabbi Levi Marrus. The children will get light-up necklaces to wear, dreidels to play with and chocolate coins to sample.
On Dec. 14, the second to last night of Hanukkah, the brotherhood at Tree of Life is making a latke and chicken dinner and the seventh grade students will help to lead the Hanukkah-Shabbat service with Rabbi Sherman.
Mayor Steven Benjamin will be on hand for the festivities at the State House, along with newly elected Rep. Beth Bernstein, D-Richland, and other dignitaries. The candle-lighting is in memory of Isadore Lourie. The celebration will include music and food, including potato latkes and cider.
There will be plenty of other family and public celebrations, too, during this annual Jewish festival of lights, which commemorates an ancient biblical miracle. The story dates to the second century BCE, when the Greek-Syrians ruled over Israel and prohibited Jews from practicing their faith. Judah Maccabee and his brothers were among those who refused to worship pagan gods. They mounted a revolt, defeating the Greek-Syrians and reclaiming the second temple of Jerusalem.
As they prepared the temple for re-dedication, the Maccabee resistance fighters found enough oil to light the eternal candle for one night. But, miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days.
Thus, Jews light the menorah, a special nine-branched candelabrum, each night of the eight-day festival - one candle the first night and additional candles each successive night. The center candle, from which the others are lit, is called a shamesh.
Although a minor holiday on the Jewish holy calendar, Hanukkah is a festive time, often coinciding with the Christian celebration of Christmas. Children receive gifts on each night of Hanukkah.