My four menorahs

Besides the menorah that I showed in the previous post, I have three others. I inherited this one from my parents. It dates back to the late 1950s. It takes candles as you see:

The camera’s close-up focus makes it seem lopsided.

It’s ready to be lit on the fifth night of Hanukkah which is December 22nd this year. The five Hebrew letters for the name Israel are crafted into the arms of the menorah. See if you can spot the angled, descending yud, sin, reish, alef, and lamed from right to left.

I bought this next menorah in Buenos Aires when I visited over Hanukkah 2000-1. This was Argentina’s summer, so it was short-sleeve weather.

This menorah is modeled after the one in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem of old. The Temple’s menorah had only seven lamps — on three arms jutting up from the stem on both sides and the seventh lamp on top of the stem. This seventh lamp was only as high as the other six. It was not a shamesh servant. The lamps were lit by a priest on the ground much like gas streetlights were lit many years ago.

The taller cup of this menorah is for the shamash — the servant light from which the other lights are lit. A fixed oil cup doesn’t work for a shamash, though. Only a candle holder that releases the candle.

The silver needs polishing, which I’m not motivated to do.

My third menorah (in no particular order) is electric:

This is not a substitute for candles or oil. The Rabbis of old enacted the rules, and the electric age changes nothing. It has to resemble the Temple’s menorah as much as possible.

I lit this menorah in a window that faces passersby — neighbors in the complex that I live in and their visitors and guests. Let them be reminded that a little bit of light banishes much darkness.

The menorah that I use every year is below. I posted a picture of it in yesterday’s post.

All eight lights are burning on the eighth night of Hanukkah three years ago.

There’s nothing better than sipping a cup of hot tea with sugar while studying the Hanukkah lights. What are they telling me?

Happy Hanukkah

I’m posting this during the Jewish holiday Hanukkah, eight days of festivities centered on the candles that we light. On the first night we light one single candle for the holiday. On the second night we light two candles, and so on, until all the eight candles are lit.

Some of us light small olive oil lamps with cotton wicks in place of candles. This reminds us of the candelabra — Menorah — in the Holy Temple that stood in Jerusalem at the time of two miracles.

The miracle that took back the Temple from the hand of the Syrian Greeks was a military victory, about 2,160 years ago. An uprising of a small Jewish army defeated a world power that had taken the Holy Land as a colony. The interloper’s occupation was too costly, so they left. We can see that this is a miracle.

The other miracle was private, in the sanctuary of the Temple, known only to the priests, descendants of the Bible’s Aaron, of the holy compound — an area where no one but priests entered.

In order to light the Menorah, seven arms holding lamps connected to one stem and its base, the priests used pure olive oil of the highest sanctity. They found only one cruse that would last one night and the following day. G-d made a miracle, and the oil didn’t burn down but lasted for eight nights and days until new oil could be procured.

We see that the military victory which spilled blood has been downplayed, and the miracle of the oil has been designated by the Rabbis as the miracle to celebrate.

In our homes, we also call our candelabras menorahs, but all have receptacles for eight lights rather than the seven of the Holy Temple. Menorahs come in all sizes and designs.

My menorah — as you will see — is simple and utilitarian. I’ve had it since my early or mid-twenties when I was first out on my own. (I’m now 71.)

This picture was taken on the eighth night of Hanukkah on December 29, 2019, my first Hanukkah in Arizona.

The prominent mezuzah is fixed to the right doorpost of this room as you enter. The Hanukkah lights are placed to the left opposite the mezuzah.

The beeswax candle is call a shamash — a servant with which to light the lamps or candles.

Many Jews place their menorahs in a window seen from the street. This publicizes the miracle to passersby beside to members of the family.

Many organizations place kerosene or electric menorahs to be seen in public places in cities and towns across the world. Think of a menorah that is about 20 feet or 7 meters tall.

The White House has such a menorah on its lawn. There’s been a menorah lighting ceremony inside the White House every year since the term of President Ronald Reagan, if I’m not mistaken.

The victory in the Holy Land of a small number of determined men and women against a world power should have been a lesson to the Soviet Empire and today’s Russia. You can’t occupy a foreign country and prevail. The Soviets should have known this before they tried to occupy Afghanistan during the 1980s. The people of Afghanistan made it too costly for the Soviets to remain.

It may be unreasonable for the Soviets to learn from the ancient Jews, but they should have learned from weak Afghanistan the lesson that today’s war and occupation of Ukraine would be costly and futile.

Let’s hope and pray that no more Ukrainians die and that they prevail against aggressive Russia. Victory may not seem like a miracle, but it is certain. History has told the Russians so.

May the light of Hanukkah spread and penetrate even the darkest corners of the world. Let all celebrate freedom from tyranny, ignorance, and hunger — for spirituality as well as for relief from poverty.

Desert Milkweed in bloom

Mid-December| Phoenix, Arizona

This Desert Milkweed is blooming. I would have thought that this is too early in the season. It is visited by Monarch butterflies and bees who are cold blooded and need a warm temperature. Around here, the hottest it’s getting during the day is in the 50s and low 60s. On the other hand, the sun is quite powerful and warm. After swimming the other day (in a heated outdoor pool), I sunbathed (and no one else at that time) as I was drying up.

A couple of years ago at this time, I visited the Desert Botanical Garden and saw a flock of Monarch butterflies visiting a patch of Desert Milkweed. Will a few find this lone plant?

There’s another, single plant that I’m aware of about a mile away. Interested people planted a row of native plants with identifying signs along a sidewalk in a public park to help green the Town Center.