Memories associated with lighting candles
Susan Elkins, past president, Lawrence Jewish Community Center, 917 Highland Drive:
Hanukkah is a minor Jewish holiday based on the freedom to worship one’s own religion. We remember the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem, and we celebrate its rededication by a small band of Jews who successfully fought off the Romans. We talk and sing about the small container of oil that was found in the temple, enough for one day, but it lasted for eight days — the miracle of Hanukkah.
Our Hanukkah memories are associated with the celebratory lighting of candles. We add one new candle each successive night for eight days. Children and adults delight in the lit menorahs. The lights dance off the walls, shine in our windows for all to see, and light our way back to the actual year of the Hanukkah miracle, over 2,174 years ago.
One Hanukkah I remember took place when the children, now grown and far away, were little. The youngest had made a glazed clay menorah at the old Arts Center as part of a holiday art project. It looked just like a set of purple McDonald’s arches. There was no question where her inspiration had come from. Her sister’s was more artfully done, but the arches menorah was truly unique. It was not easy to light, because the tiny clay candle holders made by small hands didn’t fit very well under the arches. But seeing her amazed look when her menorah’s candles danced and flickered made us thankful both sisters had been able to create ritual pieces of art all by themselves.
The melding of art and spirituality is a very powerful tool. It can make religion meaningful at the youngest ages. Although the arches menorah broke years ago, we still remember it fondly every single Hanukkah.
— Send e-mail to Susan Elkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Menorah unifying element in Lawrence
Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel, Chabad Jewish Center, 1203 W. 19th St.:
Growing up in Brooklyn, I always enjoyed counting the hundreds of flickering flames shining forth from the high-rise apartments overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a true delight to hear my neighbors on all sides harmonizing to the same Hanukkah melodies evoking love and warmth.
Surprisingly however, my favorite Hanukkah memory is not from my past, but rather from the holidays spent here in Lawrence. I will never forget our first public lighting. The menorah was magnificent. Not necessarily because it was so fancy or imposing. Its beauty came from its location. Standing alone amongst the swirling snowflakes in South Park, this was the finest menorah that I had ever seen.
As the final touches were being put in place, I stared out at the blackness of the winter night outside and thought, who in their right mind would step outside on a night with a wind chill well below zero?
But then they gathered; 10 of them, and then 20 more, and then another few. Men, women and children of all ages holding hands as the freezing cold winter night melted with dancing and singing of traditional Hanukkah tunes in midst of downtown. We all seem to be joined in a moment of shared inspiration. Almost like a family.
We never know how many hearts and lives are touched and, yes, even transformed, by the sight of the miraculous Hanukkah lights, shining into the darkest reaches and reminding us of miracles long ago and not so long ago.
The country and times that we live in today are truly miraculous. Jewish tradition says that the menorah should be lit in a window or porch in an area where the miracle can be publicized to others.
How grateful I am to live in a community and a country founded on the right to worship as we choose. This expression of freedom is warmly embraced as governors and mayors join dignitaries across the country, in city after city, as people of all walks of life gather in the spirit of common fellowship to light this beacon of freedom. So join us once again as we light our ice menorah at 6 p.m. this Sunday in South Park. Let us melt the ice, together.
— Send e-mail to Zalman Tiechtel at email@example.com.