By Zack Peterson
The Laker/Lutz News Correspondent
At first, it was a low rumble, like the first shakes of an earthquake.
The tables vibrated. Chairs shook. About 60 people’s hands beat as one, rising and falling on their drums like waves breaking on the seashore during Chabad at Wiregrass’s Last Night of Hanukkah celebration at The Barking Lot off 30th Street in Lutz.
Only the blazing bonfire stood still, and only Jana Broder’s voice rang above its crackle.
“It’s time for wind,” Broder said. “Just rub your drum.”
And then, 60 people rubbed their drums while wind blew through the clearing.
“Good. Let’s make it drizzle,” Broder continued.
The group tapped their drums with their fingertips, and drizzle fell in the clearing.
“Get ready to hit your drums hard,” Broder bellowed. “That drizzle turns into a hard rain.”
The night was silent. The sky was clear. Stars hung wreathlike above the tall trees.
On Broder’s mark, the drum circle burst with the intensity of a detonation, each member rejoicing with some newfound fervor.
Broder, a longtime drummer who the Wesley Chapel-based congregation hired for the evening, swayed as she circled the fire. She smiled at everyone she made eye contact with. And when she howled, she lifted her head to the stars.
“I want to see people dancing!” Broder said.
One by one, children peeled themselves from their seats, moved their drums aside and ran around the fire, laughing, shouting and chasing each other.
The moment was set, and nothing could break it — not a catastrophe, not a miracle.
But eventually, the song came to a close, and Broder counted down the ending.
“Seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.”
Everyone stopped together, and all was quiet again.
Broder scanned the crowd.
“Doesn’t it feel good to hit something?” Broder said.
The circle laughed.
“Look, as we were drumming, all these stars came out,” Broder said while gazing up and marveled. There wasn’t a cloud on the skyline. Then she spoke again.
“Wow. This is one of those nights we won’t soon forget,” Broder said.
Performing a special Havdalah ceremony, lighting the eighth candle of the 13 menorahs that families brought and playing in the drum circle — which is a new addition for Chabad — created an unforgettable ambiance, said Rabbi Mendy Yarmush.
Yarmush, 29, said his favorite part of the occasion was lighting the menorahs.
“I really enjoyed the 13 menorahs,” Mendy said. “It provided a warm, wonderful atmosphere.”
On Dec. 15, the last night of Hanukkah, which is commonly referred to as the celebration of light, meant something different to everyone.
Noah Greene, a 36-year-old Chabad member, brought his daughter, Jaelyn Greene, 10, and her good friend, Joslynn Gonzalez, 10, to the festivities.
“I like that the community came out tonight,” Noah said.
But Noah said he especially enjoyed how the community became one during the drum circle.
“You close your eyes and do your thing,” Noah said. “Eventually, you’d be in tune with everyone else.”
Nissi Yarmush, the rabbi’s son, touched on what the night truly meant.
The 5-year-old laughed as he drummed and said he loved the bonfire the most. When the drumming ended, he stared into the burning mound’s underbelly at the ashes and flickering coals. Then he looked away and spoke excitedly.
“It’s lighting the whole world up!”
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