HANUKAH at Etz Hayyim – 24 Kislev – 1st Dec. 2010
Etz Hayyim and its fraternity and friends celebrated the first night of Hanuka as is usual since 1999. This year the celebration was especially notable as we had over 60 people. For three days before the Festival members of the Havurah worked hard at getting the Synagogue in order – all of the benches were oiled, the cushions and carpets aired and on the morning of the Eve the hanukiote were polished and wicks and oil in preparation. By the time that people began to arrive the atmosphere of the Synagogue was rich with the smell of cypress from the polish that we had used on the benches rather than the still, on occasion, lingering smell of burnt wood from the fires. (Recipe – if you wish – 1 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup wine vinegar and 1/3 cup cypress or cedar or even oil of spike-lavender. To be shaken frequently during application with a soft cloth).)
Nikolay Kiesling, the president of the Friends arrived from Herakleion in good time to inspect the progress on work in the new library that is being brought to a close and that he has generously funded and with him was Const. Papadopoulos who has been committed to the Synagogue since its re-dedication. Bizarrely enough (for Crete) everyone was present well before the service began. Minha prayers had been said earlier and then Arvith and we had the short service initially when the lamps were lit and the blessings recited. Fortunately Gabriel Negrin was with us and he and Stavroulakis as well as other members of the Havurah lit the hanukiote. After this Stavroulakis explained some aspects of the Jewish festival of light in which he placed it in the very ancient traditions that determined the celebration of light in the midst of winter darkness. He stressed very much the manner in which we are called upon to be ourselves lights and to find ways in which we can bring greater love and peace into the world…as the Prophet Isaiah called upon us to be. At the termination of the ceremony two large tables had been set up to hold masses of traditional food served at Hanukah – all from Sephardi recipes which had been prepared by the participants. We even had potato pancakes that were light and easily digestible as the Sephardi variation does not incorporate matsah meal, as do Ashkenazi ‘latkes’, but rather a greater proportion of eggs and the addition of liberal amounts of allspice and nutmeg. Needless to say there was good wine and tsikoudhia on hand as well. The celebration went on until quite late and Gabriel and Lorenzo led many of us in singing Ladino songs.