First day of Hanukkah celebrated across the Island

First day of Hanukkah celebrated across the Island
Rabbi Meir Kaplan of the Chabad of Vancouver Island lights the candles on a menorah.

Sunday marked the first day of Hanukkah which was celebrated around the world.

On the steps of the B.C. legislature, a nine-foot-tall menorah will be lit at sundown, which will be at 4:20 p.m. with a ceremony starting at 4 p.m. It will be livestreamed on Facebook.

“There is no question in light of antisemitic events we remind ourselves of the importance of being part of who we are and celebrating it,” said Rabbi Meir Kaplan of the Chabad of Vancouver Island. “You’ll see all the young children here will be celebrating their identity, that is really the biggest victory against any hate that is being spread in this world.”

This year’s public menorah lighting carries added significance as Jewish communities worldwide celebrate the Year of Hakhel, or gathering, which is a once-in-seven-years tradition.

“Unity is what makes a strong community, ” said Rabbi Bentzi Shemtov, who directs Chabad of Nanaimo. “Hakhel is a time for us to tune in to this, because together we can accomplish great things. There is no greater display of the literal light it is in our power to bring into the world than to gather together and light the menorah. This is what the world needs.”

Hanukkah lasts eight days until Dec. 26. There are nine candles in a menorah, one for each day and a ninth helper candle, known as a shamash, which is used to light the other candles. On the first night the shamash and one other candle is lit, then one candle each night is lit after that until all nine are burning.

On the first day of Hanukkah, the shamash and first candle are lit.

The candles represent the everlasting light of good, driving out the darkness of evil.

“Our response to hatred of any kind must never be to cower or hide our faith,” said Shemtov. “The story of Hanukkah is the tremendous power of light to overcome darkness. We can have no better response to negativity we encounter than to gather together in even greater numbers and celebrate the light of the menorah in public.”

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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