Wednesday, December 23, 2009

the miracle of Chanukkah

Not to make light of my religious observances, but we had our own little Chanukkah miracle -- the Chanukkah candles that kept burning for four extra days.

The last night of Chanukkah was the night the snow storm started - the night all eight of the Chanukkah candles plus the shammus (which makes 9) are lit. My menorah is not a conventional Chanukkah menorah. First of all it does not conform to Halakhah (Jewish rules of observance and ritual). Halakhah requires that the eight candle holders for the eight nights all be the same height, no one more important than any of the others, and only the shammus, the candle used for lighting, is at a different height.

The year I converted (1981), for my first Chanukkah, I asked my father to create a simple menorah for me. I gave him instructions, but he did not understand that the instructions were based on Halakhah. He assumed that I was just trying to describe the simplest possible design. He wanted to do more for me. So he created the beautifully turned candle holder pictured below, which followed conventional western, (non-Jewish) ideas of design. I decided that love trumps Halakhah and have used that menorah every year since, despite its failure to conform to ritual rules.

The second way that my menorah is unconventional concerns the size of the candles it takes. Because Halakhah requires fresh candles for every night, most families' Menorahs are sized to take small candles, just slightly larger than those for birthday cakes. But in my instructions to my father, I asked for a menorah that would take regulation size tapers. That I have come to regret over the years since it takes 44 candles for all eight nights.

Since one uses fresh candles each night, I have quite a store of partially burned candles from year to year that I use for other things. At this point I had nearly 50 such candles that were more than 3 or 4 inches in length plus a few brand new, unused candles from this year (we forgot to light candles one night).

When the power went out, we just kept the menorah on the mantel filled it with previously used Chanukkah candles and kept the family room alive with warm light. Not enough to read by -- for that we had our LED headlamps -- but it made everything seem cozy and added warmth literally as well as figuratively for the duration of the power outage.

P.S. Note the really intriguing way in which the wax from the center candle (which is not lit) is drawn towards the flame of the lower candle.

1 comment:

Beth P. said...

Thank you for this post, Sue--
I didn't know you'd converted to Judaism. It's an amazing religion.

I loved the sharing about how heart trumps protocol...

Thank you.