Santa Barbarans came out Sunday evening to celebrate the first day of Chanukah, braving the rain and cold to see the lighting of the Menorah by Chabad of S. Barbara in its 41st annual Chanukah in the Mall at La Cumbre Plaza.
The crowd gathered in Macy’s court around 5 p.m. for the event, which featured remarks from Rabbi Mendel Loschak, director of Chabad of S. Barbara. Rabbi Loschak thanked everyone for coming despite the weather.
“That’s what Chanukah is all about. Everyone knows the story of the Miracle of the Lights. We’ve been doing this rain or shine. Most of the time in our beautiful city it’s always shining, but even when it’s a little bit rainy we’re still doing it,” said Rabbi Loschak.
The eight days of Chanukah are observed by lighting the candles on the Menorah, but Chabad of S. Barbara gives its ceremony a little twist.
“The last 15 years we’ve tried to come up with a creative Menorah. We’ve done Menorahs out of ice, out of toys being donated to children in the hospital. We did an iPhone Menorah. We did a 3-D printed Menorah. We’ve done all types of things,” said Rabbi Zalmy Kudan, youth director for Chabad of S. Barbara.
This year they may have outdone themselves by asking, “Wouldn’t it be cool to light water?”.
Luckily, three members of the Chabad, a USCB professor, a mechanical engineer and a businessman, figured it out, although they’re not giving out the secret.
“They might tell ya, for the right price!” said Rabbi Kudan.
In three weeks they put the Menorah together using a kiddie pool, a motor and a mysterious arrangement of pipes.
The crowd Sunday arrived to see nine jets of water waiting to be lit.
“We’re going to set a world record! This is the world’s first Impossible Menorah. This has never been tried before!” Rabbi Kudan told the crowd.
With the sun down and the rain slowed to a drizzle, the ceremony commenced at 5:30 and sure enough, the Menorah’s first spout of water caught fire. Only the first jet was lit, as traditionally only one branch of a Menorah is lit each day throughout the eight days of Chanukah.
The display is an analogy for Chanukah, explained Rabbi Kudan.
“Things seem impossible, and people wonder how is this going to work? How is this world going to work? How is our country going to come together? How are we going to make this through?
“The Chanukah message was exactly that. The Jewish people realized that against all odds, they could come out on top,” Rabbi Kudan told the News-Press.
The event also featured traditional potato latkes donated from Trader Joes, and doughnuts brought up from Los Angeles.
After the ceremony ended, onlookers stayed behind in the rain to marvel at the flames dancing on top of the fountain.
“We know that the community in Santa Barbara reflects the impossible. If the weather makes it impossible or whatever challenges are going to be there, we’re going to overcome them. We’re not surprised that people came out. This is it. We’re kicking off Chanukah in style!” said Rabbi Kudan.
The fountain was a one-time display and was removed after the ceremony.
For more Chanukah history and resources from the Chabad of S. Barbara, visit sbchabad.org/holidays/chanukah/default_cdo/jewish/Hanukkah.htm.