Two lights entered into the life of Rabbi Chaim Lispkier on Tuesday.
The first was his fifth child, who was born at 3:45 p.m. The second was the light of the grand menorah erected outside the Student Union, the first candle of which was lit three hours after the birth of his child by UCF President John C. Hitt at Chabad's annual Hanukkah ceremony.
Lipskier, the executive director at Chabad, said that Hanukkah was an excellent impetus for a community to come together and celebrate joyous occasions.
"It's a beautiful thing. It's a big celebration. A new baby in the family brings a lot of life and joy into the family, and essentially the miracle of Hanukkah is all about light and joy," Lipskier said.
This year marked the eighth time Chabad has lit its grand menorah at UCF. More than 75 students, three Greek organizations — Alpha Epsilon Phi, Alpha Epsilon Pi, and Zeta Beta Tau — and one registered student organization — Knights for Israel — attended the 30-minute ceremony, which doubled as a toy drive for the charity Jewish Adoption and Foster Care Options.
Sagar Mistry, a senior computer science major and the president of Zeta Beta Tau, said that his faith and his experiences as a child motivated him to rally his brothers to donate to the toy drive.
"In the spirit of the holidays, you come to the realization that there are kids out there, less fortunate people, who don't get to celebrate, who don't get toys," Mistry said. "I was one of those kids. I always felt disconnected from my classmates who got toys — it was tough. I hope that, with the donations that we were able to give, that kids will be able to celebrate the holidays, to be more joyful and, most importantly, to have fun."
For Dr. Abraham Pizam, dean of the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, Hanukkah was a way to bridge the gap between generations. He sang a blessing during the lighting of the menorah that had been in his family for more than a century.
"The traditional blessing for the Hanukkah lighting is of different melodies throughout the Jewish world — there are melodies in Israel, melodies in America," Pizam said. "The one I'm using is a melody that was written five generations ago by my great-great grandfather. I keep that tradition and teach it to my children and grandchildren."
At the ceremony's end, Lispkier closed with a rumination on the meaning of light as it pertains to the holiday.
"I think that's essentially what the message of Hanukkah is: adding light," he said. "You take a dark room, you put a little candle in it, darkness is gone."
Bernard Wilchusky is the Editor-in-Chief of the Central Florida Future.