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Lubavitch of Arkansas will kick off the celebration of Hanukkah at 6:30 p.m. today with a public menorah lighting at the corner of Bowman Road and Chenal Parkway in Little Rock.

The first candle of the 10-foot-tall menorah will be lighted and hot latkes (potato pancakes) and doughnuts -- traditional foods of the holiday -- will be served, and Hanukkah gelt (foil covered chocolate coins) will be handed out. The event will also feature music.

The menorah will also be lighted the other seven nights of the eight-day holiday -- at 5:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, at 3 p.m. Friday and at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 31. The public is welcome to attend the nightly events, all of which will include holiday foods.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is scheduled to greet the crowd and assist in lighting the menorah on Thursday.

On the final night of the holiday, after the menorah is lighted, a "Mobile Menorah Parade" will follow, with a procession of vehicles adorned with menorahs traveling to the Clinton Presidential Center.

The public menorah lightings, sponsored by Lubavitch of Arkansas, are a longtime tradition. The Little Rock affiliate of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement (which has its roots in the Hasidic movement within Judaism in the 18th century) was established in 1992, and the public menorah lightings began shortly thereafter. Public menorah lightings were encouraged by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the seventh leader of the movement, as a way to share the message of Hanukkah with everyone.

Hanukkah is referred to as the "Festival of Lights" for its theme of light overcoming darkness.

Rabbi Pinchus Ciment, director of Lubavitch of Arkansas, said the holiday commemorates a Jewish victory over religious oppression. It happened in 165 B.C. when a small group of Jews defeated the much larger Syrian-Greek army in what is known as the Maccabean war. After the defeat of their oppressors, the Jews reclaimed and rededicated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem but they found only one container of oil -- enough to keep the menorah lighted for one day.

"Miraculously, the small amount of consecrated oil lasted for eight days," Ciment said. Hanukkah celebrations and the nightly lighting of the menorah recall this "miracle of the oil."

The menorah has eight candles to represent the eight days, along with a ninth candle in the center known as the "shamash" or "helper candle." It is used to light the others, starting with one candle on the first night, two on the second and so on.

Ciment said the helper candle on the large menorah in Little Rock is lighted with a small blow torch.

"Unlike the Temple menorah, which was lit in the morning, we light the menorah's lights as the darkness descends upon us, symbolizing the importance for all humanity to take the time to create positive acts of goodness and kindness to help brighten the darkness and confusion throughout the world," Ciment said. "The most effective way to get rid of darkness is by increasing light."

Ciment said the holiday also stresses the importance of "increasing light" through actions.

"It is incumbent upon us to increase our acts of unselfish kindness to others as a means to foster greater unity and worthiness of another," he said. "The menorah serves as a symbol of Arkansas' dedication to preserve and encourage the right and liberty of all its citizens to worship God freely, openly, and with pride."

Information is available online at arjewishcenter.com or by calling (501) 217-0053 or (501) 772-4119. The menorah lighting events will be at 520 Bowman Road.

Religion on 12/24/2016

Print Headline: Menorah lightings continue tradition

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