The menorah lighting was put on by the Chabad of Paso Robles
PASO ROBLES — Paso Robles celebrated the first night of Hanukkah, Sunday, Dec. 18, with the city’s first-ever menorah lighting at the Downtown City Park. The 9-foot menorah was set up near the park’s gazebo and was lit at sundown, with festivities kicking off at 5 p.m. The menorah lighting was arranged by Rabbi Meir Gordon and his wife, Etty Gordon, from Chabad of Paso Robles.
“We moved to Paso Robles about a year ago, a little under a year ago, and we found that there’s much more of a Jewish presence than we thought, and we felt that it was the right time to have a public menorah at the downtown city park,” stated Gordon.
The eight-night holiday of Hanukkah, which lasts until Monday, Dec. 26, celebrates the victory of the outnumbered Jewish people defeating the Syrian-Greeks who had taken over ancient Israel. And the miracle of the single undefiled jar of oil found in the reclaimed temple lasting eight nights to light the menorah instead of one.
“By gathering here this evening in unity, we show our belief that light will triumph over darkness and pray that good will defeat evil,” Gordon stated at the menorah lighting. “This same message can be found today when the world’s in such a state of chaos. In these dark days, it’s good to join together to celebrate the victory of light over darkness. The few over the many. May all of us go from here rededicating our efforts to spread light in the world with deeds of goodness and kindness.
“This year is a special year, a Hakhel year; every seven years, men, women, and children would gather together in temple times and hear words of Torah and words of inspiration from the Jewish king of Israel to be inspired to increase in acts of Torah and mitzvah and acts of goodness and kindness. Today, we too are gathering here, as a Hakhel gathering, to unite and to be inspired, as the message of Hanukkah is that wherever you stand today, tomorrow you must do more.”
The evening started with hot soup, latkes, and donuts. And there were fun stations for the kids, like cookie decorating under the gazebo. And Jay the Juggler made an appearance as the evening got closer to sundown. There were also tables run by Yeshiva students from Los Angeles with complimentary Hanukkah menorahs and candles for people to take home and light for the rest of the eight nights of Hanukkah.
Many local dignitaries were also in attendance, including Mayor Pro Tem and Councilmember John Hamon, Councilmember Chris Bausch, County Supervisor John Peschong, and Paso Robles Cheif of Police Damian Nord.
“Happy Hanukkah. This is something special for Paso Robles,” Hamon said. “Thank you for coming. We’ve got a great crowd.”
The Paso Robles Fire Department also teamed up with Chabad of Paso Robles by dropping chocolate gelt (Yiddish for money) in little parachutes from the top of one of their ladder trucks. The chocolate rained down on the children in the crowd, adding to the Hanukkah fun.
At sundown, the Shammus (helper candle) and the candle commemorating the first night of Hanukkah were lit, along with the three blessings that are recited on the first night of the holiday.
“What we can learn from Hanukkah starts with the more global and general message,” Gordon said. “With the Hanukkah menorah, on the first night, we light one candle; the second night, we light two lights; third night, three, etc., until the eighth night, we light eight lights, and as we light one more candle each night, one more than the night before, each night the world gets a little brighter. It reminds us that we should always aspire to increase in all the positive things that we do. If yesterday you did one good deed, today we should do two good deeds, and always try to add and increase and do good.”
For more information on Chabad of Paso Robles and to see the programs, events, and services they offer during the year, go to chabadpaso.com, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can give them a call at 805-635-8684.
“Chabad of Paso Robles is a local nonprofit Jewish organization with a mission that there should be a place for all Jews, no labels, no affiliations, to develop a sense of community, enhance the experience of being Jewish, to learn and to have fun,” Gordon concluded.
Photos by Christianna Marks/PRP and Contributed