COLUMBIA — The table was already set. Rabbi Avraham Lapine put a silver menorah on a desk near the doorway.
The nine-branch candelabrum is usually put near the doorway or by the windows to bring the light to the outside world, Lapine said.
The Lapines are emissaries for their faith — an international sect of Orthodox Judaism known as Chabad-Lubavitch. Through active outreach to other Jews in Columbia, and especially to college students, they hope to encourage greater observance of the Torah and a closer connection to God. (This story is available to Missourian digital members.)
After turning on a stereo connected to his iPod, which played a traditional Hanukkah song in the dining room, he went to an inner room to pick up something.
In his hands were two large paper menorahs.
"They were made by our children's baby sitter," Lapine said with a smile on his face.
Each paper menorah had nine small cylinders reflecting the nine branches of the silver menorah, and each cylinder contained a wrapped gift for two of the three Lapine children, who were watching a video of the Lubavitch rebbe, the late leader of an international sect of Orthodox Judaism known as Chabad-Lubavitch.
"He (the rebbe) is basically why we came to Columbia," Lapine said.
Inspired by the spiritual leader, Avraham and Channy Lapine, originally from New York, came to Columbia two years ago to help establish a Chabad house for Jewish students at MU. They also named their son after the rebbe.
It was 6 p.m. Wednesday, and the annual ritual of lighting the menorah was beginning. Lapine — wearing a black suit with a black gartel, or belt, winding up around his waist and a black hat — lit the candle, which is to be put in the center of the menorah as a Shamash.
After singing three blessings, he lit the first oil lamp on the right of the menorah with the fire of the Shamash candle. The Shamash, a helper candle, lights the rest of the candles on the menorah. It might not always be in the middle of the menorah, but it's usually the tallest.
The family then began to sing a special song for Hanukkah. They clapped hands and danced.
After the ritual was completed, Lapine's son, Mendel, and daughter Pesaleah each began to open one of the paper menorah cylinders to get a present.
This year, Hanukkah falls during Thanksgiving for the first time in 125 years. The eight-day celebration, known as the Festival of Lights, ends the evening of Dec. 5.
The holiday commemorates the Jews' victory over the Syrian-Greek army and the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
In Columbia, Congregation Beth Shalom will also hold a Hanukkah party at 6 p.m. Dec. 4. Traditional Hanukkah foods such as latkes with applesauce will be served. The cost will be $5 for each person age 3 and older and $20 for each family of four or more.
The Chabad of MU and mid-Missouri will hold a series of activities including Hanukkah parties and a public menorah lighting at 6 p.m. Dec. 4 at Tiger Plaza. Deputy Chancellor Michael A. Middleton and other university officials will attend.
Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev. Usually it falls during the month of December. Next year, Hanukah begins Dec. 16 and ends Dec. 24.