Chanukah ended with a big celebration outdoors in Forest Hills. Bicycle stunts on ramps, a DJ, the lighting of an 18-foot menorah, and hundreds of chocolate coins and mini-parachutes tossed from a 30-foot FDNY Tower Ladder were just part of Chabad of Forest Hills North’s Seventh Annual “Chanukah on the Park,” which took place on Sunday, December 5. Hundreds attended, many of them children.

Police from the 112 Precinct and the anti-terrorism unit provided security. The street in front of Yellowstone Park in Forest Hills was closed off to traffic.

FDNY Ladder 138 from Corona provided the extended ladder so Rabbi Mendy Hecht of Chabad of Forest Hills North could light all eight oil lamps. Before lighting, Rabbi Hecht gave a d’var Torah.

Wicks must be used when lighting a menorah. “Our sages teach that the wick represents Torah study and Torah knowledge, and the flame stands for mitzvos – action. Knowledge alone is insufficient – it must translate into action.”

Theory that does not change the way we live is empty and meaningless, said Rabbi Hecht. The Syrian-Greeks had academies and libraries, “but in practice they were entirely different. They lived and promoted immoral lifestyles. They idolized the physical body and pursuit of material pleasure with no higher purpose or value.” They wanted the Jews to do so, too.

The Syrian-Greeks appreciated the study of the Jewish religion, but not the practice. “The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches us that the Chanukah candles must be a combination of flames and wicks. The victory of Chanukah is expressed in the fact that we don’t just study. We allow our knowledge to change the way we live.”

 “Let’s all take a moment to look inside ourselves and think: What action can I do today to make the world a brighter place?

How can I be a shining flame? How can I make my wick strong by learning Torah, and how can I make my flame bright by putting what I learn into action and practicing the Torah?”

Chanukah means a lot to Halsey Junior High School student Ariel Paltielov. He says Modeh Ani, washes his hands, and puts on t’filin before going to public school.

“Even though other children at school do not understand me, and they may even make fun of me for it, I still choose to practice my religion openly and hold strong to my belief.”

The Maccabees were few and weak, but they stood strong against the many and the mighty. “I am the minority, but I choose to practice my religion and I choose to do so openly and with pride.”

Paltielov is part of the C-Teen Junior Club at Chabad of Forest Hills North. He learns with Rabbi Hecht every Wednesday.

“I choose to be like the bright Chanukah lights and make this world a beautiful place, a place where G-d is comfortable to dwell in,” said Paltielov.

Last year’s Chanukah celebration was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. This year, boys dressed as dreidels danced, BMX Bike Show provided ramps and stunts, DJ Jonathan provided danceable Jewish music, a Chabad Mitzvah Mobile broadcast the message of Chanukah, and hundreds of jelly doughnuts and bottles of water were given out.

By David Schneier