It was a bit on the chilly side but on Sunday evening, Nov. 28, a crowd of about 50 residents, including Town of Warwick Supervisor Michael Sweeton and Mayor Michael Newhard, gathered just outside Lewis Park as Moshe Schwartzberg, joined by Rabbi Meir Borenstein of the Chabad of Orange County in Goshen, began officiating at the 28th anniversary of Warwick’s Menorah lighting.
And, especially for the children, Santa made another surprise visit.
Schwartzberg began the ceremony by telling the story of how the Temple of Jerusalem was about to be rededicated following its recapture after occupation and defilement by the pagan Syrian-Greeks under Antiochus IV.
A small band of fighters, led by Judah Maccabee, he explained, fought to preserve the Jewish religion and culture and their right to worship God.
Although greatly outnumbered by a much larger and more professional army they recaptured the Holy Temple, which had been defiled with idol worship and pagan sacrifices.
When the Maccabees sought to rededicate the temple, however, they found only one small cruse of oil to kindle the eternal light.
Miraculously, he explained, because God was pleased with what they had accomplished, the oil lasted for eight days. And that provided enough time for the holy oil to be replenished.
Schwartzberg also explained the origin of the Shammash, the ninth candle used to light the others.
But before lighting the first candle, he read the sacred prayers, first in English so that everyone would understand, and then in Hebrew, according to the tradition of the ceremony.
“Blessed are you Hashem, our God King of the universe,” Schwartzberg read aloud, “who has kept us alive, sustained us and brought us to this season ...”
And then he repeated in Hebrew, “Baruch ata Adonai ...”
(“Blessed are you, Lord, our God, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah light(s).”)
Borenstein also brought several small gifts including dreidels for the children along with traditional jelly donuts and latkes, which were also prepared by Wolfies Restaurant. The rabbi brought sheet music and he and Schwartzberg then led everyone in singing traditional Hanukkah songs and dancing.
- Roger Gavan