Gloria Lippert of Flossmoor lit the first Hanukkah candle on Thursday, Dec. 7, on the menorah in Flossmoor Park while her husband, Jeffrey Lippert, related the story of Hanukkah’s origin and recited the three first-night blessings.
He told the story of Antiochus, a Greek king who ruled about 200 BCE. Antiochus outlawed many Jewish practices and desecrated the temple in Jerusalem, the holiest site for Jews.
“He wanted all the people under his influence to worship him,” Lippert said. “Obviously, the Jews weren’t all that happy about that.”
He told about a group of Jewish resistance fighters, led by Judah Maccabee, who fought back against Antiochus’ forces and eventually reclaimed the temple.
“Above where the laws were kept in the arc there was the eternal light, which we have today in all of our synagogues over the area where the Torah is kept. This eternal light is supposed to always be on,” Lippert said.
However, there was only enough oil to last one day and it was going to take eight days to get more.
“The story is that one day’s worth of oil lasted eight days,” he said, and the miracle of the lamp oil is why Hanukkah is a celebration of lights that lasts eight days.
Before he recited the three blessings, Gloria Lippert explained the purpose of the ninth candle on the menorah.
“The center candle is called the shamush, the helper,” she said. “We would never take one of the regular candles and light the others. We start by lighting the shamush first. Then we do the blessing.”
The first blessing: “Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tsivanu l’hadlik ner shel Hanukkah,” which means, “Praised are you Adonai our God, sovereign of the universe, who has made us holy by mitzvot and instructed us to light the Hanukkah candles.”
The second blessing: “Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, she-asah nisim laavoteinu v’imoteinu bayamim hahaeim baz’man hazeh,” which means. “Praised are you Adonai our God, who performed miracles for our ancestors at this season in ancient days.”
The third blessing, the shehecheyanu: “Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, shehecheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higiyanu laz’man hazeh,” which means, “Blessed are you Adonai our God, sovereign of the universe, for giving us life, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this moment of joy.”
After saying the blessings, Jeffrey added additional explanation for the third blessing.
“By saying this blessing, we thank the one who gave us life, however you understand and whatever you call that miraculous unknowable power,” he said. “The routine of our life sometimes lulls us into a kind of slumber. We start to take things for granted until the experience of something new and out of the ordinary wakes us. At that moment, we’re shaken out of our spiritual slumber suddenly and keenly aware that we are alive. We feel our deep gratitude for the gift of life. That is the experience of a shehecheyanu moment.
“Practicing our Judaism sweetens our appreciation for not only the new in our lives but the every day as well. If we look closely enough, this is what the shining light of Hanukkah helps us see.”
Before and after the ceremony, the Flossmoor Community Relations Commission (CRC) served hot chocolate. Commission member Jackie Riffice said the commission offers guests the warm refreshments on the first night of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
The Kwanzaa candle lighting ceremonies will be held at 5 p.m. in Flossmoor Park starting Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. The CRC will be back with hot chocolate on Dec. 26.