Eight candles burning very bright, on eight extraordinary nights

By Bella Adler, Freshman

When it comes to Hanukkah, most Jewish families have certain customs and traditions to celebrate this joyous holiday that are unique to them. Many of these customs start with the menorah, which is lighted with candles over an eight-day period to commemorate the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by outside forces.

“When I was in college, a couple of premed students took a test tube rack with eight test tubes and one taller flask to make a menorah,” explained my uncle, Zevi Adler of Cedarhurst, N.Y. “Not only was it cool looking but it also was creative and truly said something about the person using it.

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Uncle Zevi continued: “There was another guy who carved a menorah out of a potato. There was even a guy who returned from the Israeli army who used eight large caliber bullets as a personal statement of who he was. I thought how cool it was that in the end even the most expensive solid silver menorah served the same purpose as the one made of a potato.”

For eight nights starting this year on Tuesday, Dec. 20, menorahs will be lit all over the world and set near windows for everyone driving by to see. Over the eight nights the menorah will get brighter as another flame is lit, and families sing and rejoice to the miracles of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights.

Each person in my family has his or her own menorah and it is meaningful to the individual using it. Maybe there was a secret story to go along with it or maybe it was a gift from a very special person.

My grandmother, Adinah Raskas, talks about the very special menorah given to her when she was sick in the hospital. “A very close friend came in my room to wish me a Happy Hanukkah, when she handed me a menorah. In it, the words ‘nes gadol haya poe’ (‘a great miracle happened here’) were inscribed. She told me that this was a very unique gift because a great miracle will happen here, in my hospital room, and that I will recover soon.

“At that time, it was unthinkable that I would ever be the same,” my grandmother continued. “It was a true miracle, two months later I was released from the hospital. This hanukkiah (menorah) has true sentimental value to me because it reminds me of the miracles that happened on Hanukkah, the ones in my hospital room, and the ones that occur in our everyday lives.”

Epstein Hebrew Academy 8th grader Shira Lichtenfeld also has a special menorah. “It is special to me because I received it for my bat mitzvah, Shira said.

Nava Brief, a teenager from Israel who spent a year in St. Louis doing her national service, explained through an email that the menorah on the Israeli emblem shows the dedication of the Jewish people to their holidays. Though the menorah on the Israeli sign has only six branches with a shamash, which is used to light the other candles, it still serves as a national symbol for the country.

Although as Jewish people we all celebrate Hanukkah, there is a special opportunity to make the customs of this holiday unique and personal. There is no right way to build or decorate a menorah. The beauty of Hanukkah is that it can reflect our individual interests, while still being a shared holiday.