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You are here: about - Rabbi Wittenberg's Weekly Message - 11 Dec 09 / 24 Kislev 5770

Rabbi Wittenberg's Weekly Message

Erev Shabbat 11th December 2009 / 24 Kislev 5770

Dear Community,
 
I could measure out my life in the making of Chanukkiahs.
 
I remember my father’s Chanukkiah. I can’t ask him now, but I think he made it in his teens and, deservedly, won a prize for it. It’s either brass or bronze and beautifully proportionate with its clean angles and perfectly balanced branches. The cups hold either a candle or olive oil. In his last years he preferred the latter; my parents enjoyed the clear, peaceful flame. The sages of the Talmud say that nothing burns with as pure a light as beaten olive oil.
 
I recall how my father made a Chanukkiah for my brother. At a later stage in its development, I had the job of carving the letters of the berachot into the base with a small, fine chisel. Raphael uses that Chanukkiah to this day.
 
I remember making my own. I searched for little clay pots in the market by Jaffa gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. I bought fine copper wire behind Machaneh Yehudah to make curved holders for the pottery jars; I wanted them to be held firm, but not so tightly that they couldn’t move or dance with the currents of air. The base is of European pinewood. I subconsciously needed to balance the different places where my spirit felt at home.
 
My hands still recall the feel of the tools when I made a Chanukkiah for Nicky. It wasn’t my first ever gift to her, but it was the first thing I made for her myself with real love. She adores olive wood, so that had to be the material for the base. I polished it until the ancient grains glowed, and they still do.
 
Since then Mossy and I have had many adventures finding the right pieces for him to create a Chanukkiah which burns oil. We still need to complete the puzzle. A special Chanukkiah was my father’s gift to Libbi for her Bat Mitzvah. He didn’t survive to reach the celebration; we bought it on his behalf during his final days, and he saw it and gave it his blessing. My mother is giving Kadya her new Chanukkiah tonight.
 
The Chanukkiah holds the light our ancestors garnered from their often harsh experience. In it is God’s light from beyond us and God’s light from within us, from the soul. In it is the light of humanity, of the visions, wisdom and values lovingly passed from generation to generation through this world of confusion and mortality.
 
Tomorrow is Kadya’s Bat Mitzvah, our third and youngest child. I’m grateful to Nicky, to my family, to our community, and, more broadly, to Judaism, to God and to life that we have the privilege of passing to her this light. May it burn strong in her, and in us all.
 
Shabbat Shalom and Good Chanukkah
 
Jonathan Wittenberg
wittenberg@masorti.org.uk

Shabbat Chanukkah is the Synagogue’s Birthday
So, with two such Shabbatot, we have a double birthday this year.
Happy 35th, New North London!
May we have the wisdom, humility, love and courage
to learn from and be faithful to
our ancestors, our contemporaries and our children.