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.
One thought on “Happy Hanukkah”
“The White House has such a menorah on its lawn”– It seems that the national menorah has been situated on the lawn of the Ellipse since President Carter’s time.
“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.” — May only be since President George W. Bush.
“kerosene” — Clear, odorless lamp oil, probably. I need to catch up with the times.