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Listen in: Chabad of South Orlando's Rabbi Yosef Konikov says Chanukah remains a season of light despite heaviness of ongoing pandemic

Photo: Chanukah
Photo: Chanukah

Chanukah or the Festival of Lights has begun in Central Florida, with its eight days of prayer, traditional food and family get-togethers. And, of course, the lighting of the menorah.

WMFE spoke with Rabbi Yosef Konikov of Chabad of South Orlando about how this year’s celebrations will be different with the dual threat of anti-Semitism and COVID, while the message of light and peace remains the same.

Rabbi Konikov: We haven't been seeing, you know, a lot of violence recently or anti-Semitic, you know, gestures or, or even verbal, you know, attacks very recently. We did see several months ago, but it's been pretty quiet. And hopefully it's gonna remain that way.

Danielle: You know, do you take that into consideration when you're thinking about safety? We saw, obviously the truck attack on that Christmas parade just a few weeks ago?

Rabbi Konikov: Yes, it was always a concern. But, you know, in Judaism, we are always taught that no one could really decide the fate of any person, aside from from God, and we believe that we, we have to both have trust in God. And it's important to continue and be proud of who we are and what Chanukah represents. Which is, which is light and positivity. And if we were to slow down on any of that, because of, you know, hatred, we would be really allowing the, the bully, so to speak, to succeed in what he's trying to do.

Danielle: What does it mean to you to be able to do in-person events and celebrations after two very long years of this pandemic?

Rabbi Konikov: Yes, it is very exciting for us. And for the people that are participating. You know, there are people that we haven't literally have not seen in a couple of years, that came out for some of the events that we had so far, and hopefully for some of the other events that we will be having during the rest of the week of Chanukah. So it is very exciting. And you know, it was it was a difficult time and we're still you know, still have challenges with COVID now. But you know, while we're still careful, and we're you know, that we need to continue what we what we do and live life to its fullest.

Danielle: Every year, the message of Christmas is different for me. What is what is the message you're getting this year for Chanukah?

Rabbi Konikov: I think you know the message of Chanukah is is if you look at the menorah, you'll see there's another candle that sits above all the others. And what's interesting is that that higher candle is not even one of the essential candles, there's only supposed to be eight candles and the higher candle is just the one that lights the others. So it's interesting that we put that one even higher than the others and that is the server that is the lighter of the others. Because one of the messages of Chanukah is that having light is great. But sometimes giving someone else light, sharing with someone else, and illuminating someone else's life, it could be by doing them a favor, it could be by showing them love, it could be by giving them a smile, it could be by helping them with with advice, it could be schoolwork, it could be homework, it could be you know at the workplace and assisting others and working together as a team.

And that's another message of Chanukah that often we we miss because we talk about the eight candles of Chanukah but that Shamash as it's called the server is a message that sometimes even greater than all is this idea of, of sharing with others, sharing the light you know that the candle lights the others.

Danielle Prieur is WMFE's education reporter.
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