The Menorah and the Hanukiah
They sat side by side, almost twins. But their emotions were as dissimilar as their shape was similar.
“I am so excited!” chortled the Hanukiah. “It is almost that time of year. Soon the house will be filled with the smell of Latkes and the warmth of my favorite holiday.”
“I wonder what that could be!?!?” grumbled the Menorah, standing tarnished and forlorn by her younger sacred symbol.
“Why are you upset, you sound jealous?” replied the Hanukiah with a hurt tone of voice.
“What if I am,” the Menorah responded angrily.
“Why are you jealous? Hanukah comes but once a year. Ok, so I get lit for 8 days in a row!” (He positively shivered with delight). “But you are the most important symbol of the Jewish people. For one night every single week, you are brought out and lit! Songs are sung and prayers are said wonderful food is eaten. I envy you!!!!”
“But that is just it, I am not brought out once a week, or once a month or even once a year. I am forgotten, a meaningless relic, a useless ornament in the breakfront.”
The Hanukiah felt bad. “I…I didn’t know,” he said quietly.
“Well I am not putting up with this neglect, this abuse. I am leaving!!!” And with that the Menorah pushed with one of her 7 branches against the glass of the breakfront.
Don’t do that,” cried the Hanukiah, “the glass will…” and with that there was a crash and a thud as the Menorah broke the glass and fell to the floor. “I told you,” called the Hanukiah.
“Well, I don’t care, I am leaving!” cried the Menorah, tears running down her branches, as she brushed herself off and began to make her way through the living room towards the front door.
“Where are you going?” Cried the Hanukiah.
“Home!” Shouted the Menorah and then again, more quietly, “Home!”
“And where is home?” called out the Hanukiah.
For a moment, there was no response, then the faint sound of brass against brass as the Menorah strived and succeeded with a grunt to open the door. Then as the door swung wide, the Hanukiah heard the answer. “I am headed to Israel. That is where all of this started and that is where I intend to find out where I come from and why I have been so forgotten.
For years The Menorah struggled in its travel. It found its way onto buses and trains, into the trunks of cars until finally it found its way into the suitcase of an Orthodox Jew on his way to Israel. When the Menorah arrived, it climbed out of the suitcase and waddled its way onto a bus heading for the Negev, the desert of wandering. It felt as if it was drawn by an irresistible force to the ancient desert dwelling of our ancestors. Somewhere near Ein Gedi, that ancient oasis in the desert, it threw itself from the bus and struggled through the passes and wadis until, exhausted, it collapsed against a strange looking plant a sweet smelling plant, a sage plant.
As it rested, dully gleaming in the sun, the plant called to it. “Welcome home my child.”
The menorah was shocked. “How can a plant speak it wondered aloud.”
“In the same way that a Menorah can waddle,” the plant laughed, “Ask the author. Clearly, you are here for a reason. You have returned to your source.”
“Yes, I have come to Eretz Yisrael, my source, where it all began. Maybe I will learn why I am so forgotten, so useless?”
“Yes yes, Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel, but more importantly, you have returned to me. For I am your source, you were patterned after me. Thousands of years ago, when the people called, Ivrim, Bnai Yisrael, Yehudim, created your ancestor, the Menorah in the Holy Temple, they designed it, and therefore you, to look like me. I am the plant Moriah. Do you know what my name means?”
“No, I don’t.” exclaimed the Menorah in wonder, beginning to examine this strange plant more closely.
“It means the teaching of G. You were meant to remind all Jews of their relationship to G, the source of all, the source of life, the source of holiness. You were meant to be a pointer to the great lessons of life. Shabbat, which you also represent is a time to reflect on life, and love and oneness, indeed all the great gifts that humans take for granted.”
The Menorah laughed bitterly. “Yet I am forgotten. The Hanukiah is shined and used and the children sing songs and play games around it and I am left in the cupboard, forgotten and alone.”
“But don’t you know that the Hanukiah is your spiritual child. It was created to look like you, to remind, as you remind.”
“But that is just it, the Hanukiah reminds the children and their parents of the glory and the power and the spirit that was long ago. But I do nothing, I am nothing, I am only a relic.” And the Menorah wept, droplets of oil rolling down its branches, as it was held by the Moriah in the wilderness of loss.
Meanwhile, there was one in the Menorah’s former home who did notice that the Menorah was missing. Her name was Rinah Tal. She was the youngest daughter of the family who had purchased and then ignored the Menorah for so long. She was 12 and there was excitement in the house as everyone was preparing for their trip to Israel. This was to be her Bat Mitzvah present. Her family was going to travel to Israel and celebrate her Bat Mitzvah at the Dead Sea, near an ancient oasis called the well of the goats, Ein Gedi.
Rinah had always liked the Menorah, been somehow drawn to it, touched by it. She enjoyed looking at it in the breakfront and wondered why it was never used. She had read the stories of the Temple of long ago and the Menorah, the Ner Tamid, that seven branched candelabra that had been lit daily there.
The day finally came, the family had traveled by taxi and bus and plane and private car to the beautiful resort at the Dead Sea. She had done her Bat Mitzvah by the waters of Ein Gedi and everyone had been proud of her and awed by the stark beauty of the place. She had been showered with praise and gifts, yet for her, something was missing. The day after her Bat Mitzvah, she snuck out of the hotel early and caught a bus, by herself up to Ein Gedi, the sight of “her day”. She wandered in and out of the groves that grew along the water. She felt elated and yet…
Then she saw it. Tangled in a sweet smelling plant hidden from view was… a menorah. No, not a menorah, THE MENORAH it was the one she had loved, the one she had longed for, the one she had missed. She tried to pull it free and as she did some of the plant came away with it. She was ecstatic. She was so happy she wanted to sing and dance. But then she felt a powerful sadness, loneliness. She felt, almost heard the feeling coming from the plant wrapped Menorah, the need to be used, to be lit, to be a symbol once again of the ancient ways that were as new as the new day dawning. She said out loud, not at all embarrassed to be addressing the plant encrusted Menorah:
“My beloved Menorah, you are my Bat Mitzvah gift, my heritage gift, my sacred connection. I will light you every Shabbat as a reminder that I am Bat Mitzvah; I am part of the sacred history and spirit of my people. You are a symbol of my connection to G and to my people and to my soul,” She shouted in joy.
She ran back to the bus and took it to the hotel where her parents were up and worried about her. When she showed them the Menorah they were in shock. They tried to explain away its presence, not willing to accept that this was a place of signs and wonders. But Rinah Tal would have none of it. She insisted that this was her Menorah from back home. She insisted that from that time on it would be lit every Shabbat, SHE WOULD LIGHT IT EVERY SHABBAT. She quietly muttered; “This is my Bat Mitzvah present, this is the meaning of my trip to Israel, this is who I am.” And her soul was filled with the light of an inner Menorah, a Ner Tamid that would never be extinguished. And she insisted that the sprigs of the plant that had attached itself to the Menorah NOT be removed, ever.
Standing in the breakfront, next to the Hanukiah, the Menorah smiled with a dull shine of pride and awareness. Candle droppings covered it as a Talit of Rainbow colors. It was home and it was fulfilled.