Clearwater rabbi finds COVID lesson in his creative Hanukkah tradition

Hanukkah always puts Rabbi Levi Hodakov in a creative mood.

This year, bags of potato chips were his muse. They covered the giant menorah he lit in Clearwater Thursday before an audience of about a hundred people.

"The word chip stands for 'Celebrate Hanukkah In Pinellas,'" Hodakov exclaimed.

Chips are also fried in oil, which works with Hanukkah's tradition of celebrating the Maccabean defeat of the Seleucid empire with an oil lamp they thought would last for one day, but made it eight.

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"When we make the holidays exciting, we make them come alive for the young, the old, they will remember it for a long time and they will pass on that message for their children about the importance of celebrating Hanukkah," the rabbi explained.

Hodakov says another big part of Hanukkah and Judaism is taking care of others, particularly during a pandemic.

"The Torah talks about preserving life, anything we can do to preserve life, any precautions we can do, it is incumbent on us to follow the rules and regulations of the area we are in," he said.

Perhaps appropriately enough, masks make it impossible to blow the menorah candles out -- a reminder that the message of Hanukkah is perfect year-round.

"Each and every single one of us can walk away and be a super spreader in a positive way, to have a positive impact on a family member, friend, a neighbor, and this will hopefully have a domino effect to making this world a better and brighter place."