Local officials light menorah at B’nai Israel
EASTON — A short menorah lighting service at B’nai Israel Temple Thursday, Dec. 6, was light and informative, as Rabbi Peter Hyman gave a history of Hanukkah and some traditions surrounding the holiday.
“Any questions about Hanukkah?” Hyman asked the congregation. “I have one: Why do my kids who are 32 and 34 still get a present tonight?”
Hyman talked about why people of the Jewish faith eat fried foods like latkes during Hanukkah, saying the traditions vary based on the location of those practicing the religion.
“Doughnuts were more of a tradition coming out of the Spanish and Portuguese and North African heritages, and potato pancakes, which are called latkes, came out of Europe,” Hyman said.
Hyman talked about why people of the Jewish faith give out chocolate gold coins during Hanukkah, saying the “gelt” goes back to the story of Hanukkah. Hyman said when the Maccabees defeated the Greek Syrians, they made a decree about the currency.
“One of the first things the Maccabees did was to require that coins be minted that were unique and separate and distinct from the Greek Roman Syrian coins,” Hyman said. “So the coins are a sign of global, national independence.”
Hyman said there was no particular reason the menorah lighting service was taking place on the fifth day of Hanukkah. He said usually the congregation tries to schedule a menorah lighting service for the second to last day of Hanukkah, so more people can attend.
Hyman thanked his menorah lighters, who were assorted local government officials, including Talbot County Council President Corey Pack, Easton Mayor Robert Willey, Sen. Addie Eckardt, R-37-MidShore, and Talbot County Councilwoman Laura Price.
Hyman also thanked Pastor James Nash of Saints Peter and Paul Parish for his donation of a piece of Hebrew calligraphy. The piece hangs in the back of the lobby of the B’nai Israel Temple.
“If you look at that, the Hebrew that is calligraphed on that piece is the same phrase that is written here on the left of the Torah reader stand,” Hyman said. “’It is the tree of life to those who hold on fast to it,’ and the antecedent to the pronoun it in this case is the bible, is the Torah.”
As the congregation moved to the lobby where an electric menorah was waiting, Hyman said the miracle of Hanukkah. When the Maccabees rededicated a temple won back during their war with the Greek Syrians, they found one jar of oil that lasted for eight days.
Symbols of this miracle, the ner tamid or eternal light can be found throughout the sanctuary, Hyman said.
The service closed with a final blessing before lighting the electric menorah.
“The first blessing says, ‘Blessed are you oh God, holy spirit of the universe, who sanctifies us by your commandments and commands us to light the lights of Hanukkah,’” Hyman said.
Sen. Addie Eckardt, R-37-Mid-Shore, pushes a button on the electric menorah to light it during the menorah lighting ceremony at B’nai Israel Temple Thursday, Dec. 6.