CHANUKAH: THE HUMAN MENORAH
And you shall make a menorah of pure gold
– Exodus 25:31
When the nights get longer and the temperatures lower, the menorah exemplifies our ability to light up the night, to warm up the frost.
The menorah is a pretty basic object. A base with eight branches, cups to hold candles or oil, fuel, wicks, a match to ignite — and, viola, a ballet of brilliant flame!
Do-it-yourself menorahs are quite common this time of year. Take some sort of material, a little arts here, a little crafts there, and you have yourself a handcrafted, bespoke fixture of light.
Can we apply these basic elements to transform our personal lives into menorahs? Can we, as human beings, become fixtures of light in everything we do?
It is one thing to fashion a menorah out of gold or silver. Can we fashion a menorah out of our own flesh and blood?
Well, we can definitely try.
1. BASE LINES
All about that base, no treble.
For a menorah to be a viable luminary it must have a solid foundation. This baseline allows an instrument of light to flourish in all environments, no matter how cold or dark. For our menorahs to stand steadfast and proud, we should build them upon the unequivocal essence of who we are, the constant that is our soul.
2. BRANCH OUT
An embrace requires opening of arms.
Our lives consist of many facets: from family and community to work and entertainment, and everything in between. To turn our multidimensional lives into a menorah, it isn’t enough to be light in one area of life; as a menorah we strive to be lights in its branches.
3. WORLD CUP
Try drinking without a cup.
In every branch of life, we must make a receptacle by which to build our flames and receive our light. Branching out alone is not enough. Picture a vast pool of water, whose width and breadth and depth seem limitless. Do we not need to cup our hands to drink its refreshing delight? Every branch of life is a vast ocean of energy. We need to create the structure and definition — the cup that will contain and utilize its luminary potential.
4. FUEL EFFICIENT
If machines require it, how much more so do people?
Once we make a vessel, we have to fill it with the appropriate fuel. Fuel comes in many forms, ranging form the purest to the crudest. The purer the fuel the purer the light. Generally speaking, the deeper we have to dig to find the fuel, the better the quality of the fuel. Prayer is a great source of fuel, as is study, as is self-reflection.
5. WICK IT
Wick is to fuel what piano is to music.
Fuel alone does not create light. We need a wick, something dry and simple to imbed itself into the fuel so as to ignite it. The simpler and less sophisticated the wick, the better a conduit it will be. Matter at its most material is the best vehicle for the spiritual. Turning a wooden table into a Shabbat table is wicking our fuel; as is giving a material dollar to charity.
6. MATCH MAKER
Can one burn without igniting?
Fuel and wick still do not a flame make. We need to ignite, to get inspired, to spark ourselves with something meaningful. Sometimes it can be a simple conversation, sometimes it can be a profound experience, sometimes it can be through innocently surfing the World Wide Web and stumbling upon an article. They are called sparkplugs because they spark us up and plug us in. And once we are sparked…
7. FLAME BUOYANT
They don’t have to be told to reach upward.
Flames never stop dancing, and always burn upward. Even if we hold a candle down, the flame will gravitate upward. Transforming ourselves into menorahs is the process of always reaching higher, always striving for more, never ceasing to flicker and dance. Though at times life may knock us down, as flames we always reach upward. Though at times our legs may seem shackled, as menorah flames we never stop dancing.
8. SOCIAL LIGHT
The luminance is communal and communicable.
When all the previous seven elements are in place, the result is light. Light is a wonderful thing, unselfish in the extreme. Usually, two people cannot enjoy the same thing without compromise. If two people share a latke, the more one person eats the less is left over for the other. Light is the exact opposite: When one lights a menorah alone, in private, it is nice; but when one lights a menorah in public, with a group of people, the light seems to miraculously multiply.
A drop of oily donut can feed one person; but a drop of pure oil can illuminate the whole world.
RISE AND SHINE
The menorah is an instrument of light. And so are we.
Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, is a celebration of a historical miracle. But no less significantly, Chanukah is the celebration of a present-day miracle: the miracle of you and I lighting up the world.
Some menorahs are made of gold, some of silver, some of plastic. The most profound menorahs are fashioned of flesh and blood, of tears and sweat, of you and I.
We are menorahs. It is time to rise and shine.