Ice adds symbolism as Hanukkah begins
By EILEEN SCHULTE
CLEARWATER -- On the first night of Hanukkah, 150 people gathered in front of a Clearwater Beach surf shop to witness the lighting of a 9-foot-tall menorah sculpted out of a massive block of ice.
At 7 p.m., Rabbi Shalom Adler of Young Israel/Chabad of Pinellas County climbed a stepladder in a black suit and hat as he held a glass filled with water with a white candle floating in it. He placed it on one side of the sculpture and put another in the center.
Then he lit the two candles and said: "On Sept. 11, the icy hand of terror reached out and struck the U.S. We are transforming this block of ice into a beacon of light. We will melt the iciness of evil. Virtue will overcome evil."
As the sculpture melted into tiny rivers, he said: "Water is a metaphor for the Torah. It sustains life. It sustains the entire world."
He thanked God for letting the people serve God by lighting the menorah. Then he thanked him again, this time for the miracle of the one-day supply of oil that lasted for eight days in 165 B.C. and for the Maccabees' victory that year over unjust Syrian ruler Antiochus IV. Finally, he thanked God for "letting us celebrate another Hanukkah."
After the five-minute ceremony, the people sang a song called Ma'oz Tzur, or Rock of Ages.
Carl Rutenberg, a member of Young Israel, looked at the menorah and smiled.
"It's symbolic of light to the world and peace," he said.
Donna Mason, a member of the Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity, read about the ceremony in the St. Petersburg Times and decided to attend along with three friends.
"I think it's very touching, very moving," she said. "We're interested in seeing any prayer for peace."
But at 71 degrees, it was too warm a night for the ice sculpture. Just an hour after it was carved by Tampa ice artist Matt Walsh, it began to melt more quickly.
Little children wearing yarmulkes put their hands on the bottom of it and let the water rush over them. So did their parents.
"It will be gone in the morning," Adler said.
Why did Adler choose such an unusual manner of kicking off Hanukkah?
"One of the metaphors of evil is ice," Adler said. "By lighting up a menorah made of ice we are defeating the forces of evil."
For 10 years, Chabad of Pinellas County has lit a menorah in the parking lot of Clearwater Mall. But two years ago, after most of the mall's stores closed, the decision was made to perform the ceremony at the surf shop, which is run by a member of Young Israel.
"I'm grateful. Not only can the Jewish people see it, but everyone can see it," said YosiSofer, a member of Young Israel. "I was talking to my wife in Panama and I said this is something out of this world."
On Sunday night, the end of Hanukkah, another menorah will be lighted in front of the surf shop.
Last year was the first time Adler had a menorah sculpted out of ice. To keep things interesting, he has other plans for next year.
"I'm seriously thinking of doing a sand sculpture (menorah)," he said.
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