REGINA — The tradition of lighting the first light of the menorah on the first night of Hanukkah began 40 years ago in front of Independence Hall, Philadelphia, according to Rabbi Avrohom Simmonds of Regina’s Chabat Centre. That tradition came to Saskatchewan last year and was continued this year Dec. 16 in front of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall accompanied by Simmonds and his father Rabbi Eliyohu Simmonds, who came from Winnipeg for the event, in a crane-lifted bucket lit the first lights on the 3.6-metre menorah placed in front of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building.
Prior to the lighting ceremony, Wall, addressing the gathering in the Saskatchewan Gallery, said the province is thankful for the Jewish population and the contributions it has made to the province.
“It is a flame of hope that burns in places all over the world,” said Wall, referring to the menorah.
Regina Mayor Michael Fougere also referred to the menorah and the message of the season: “We live in a land of tranquility in a world of turmoil.”
Rabbi Jeremy Parnes of Beth Jacob Synagogue recalled the miracle of the burning oil that is symbolized by the menorah: there was only one day’s supply of consecrated oil remaining to keep light in the Jerusalem temple but it burned for eight days until new oil could be consecrated, explained Parnes.
Following the greetings the large crowd moved outside to witness the lighting. The use of the crane-lifted bucket was a change from last year when the premier climbed a shaky ladder to reach the Menorah. Rabbi Avrohom recited in Hebrew the traditional prayers that accompany the lighting and his father Rabbi Eliyohu chanted several additional prayers.
The weather co-operated with a temperature of -5C with no wind. The crowd returned to the Saskatchewan Gallery following the lighting to take part in traditional foods, including potato latkes with sour cream.
Rabbi Avrohom arrived from Winnipeg last year to establish the Chabat Centre. A spokesperson for the centre said there has been steady growth in the numbers attending the various activities offered.