Hanukkah Is Almost Here!

In this time of incredible global turmoil, what we need is more LIGHT. Bring it down!

Backlash

There is a force that hates beauty and light.  We call it simply “the other side.”

It’s pure physics.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The other side hates holiness.  Whenever I express holiness, there is sure to be some kind of pushback.

Fortunately, this time it only came (heaven protect me) in the form of a broken tooth, in a place in my mouth that will require an implant because of the other dicey teeth in the immediate vicinity.  I was eating a potato chip, to honor the holiness of Hanukkah by eating something fried in oil.

Well, it’s off to put on my silk underwear, under my pajamas, because for some reason I have no heat tonight.  Hmmmm.

Eff you, other side.  You may cause me discomfort, but the light will grow anyway.

Third Light From The Left

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This is a Yerushalmi Hanukiyyah.

That is, it’s an antique Hanukiyyah, made in Jerusalem at least a hundred years ago, of brass which was, like so many things, probably salvaged from the sheet brass used in old automobile reflectors.  Not very old in Jerusalem years!

I bought it in downtown Jerusalem, six or eight years ago.  I was about to get on my bus–the number 21 bus that goes to the German Colony, Dov–when a flash of brass and glass caught my eye.

Before and during holidays in Israel, tables go up on every reasonably flat surface, and the place becomes a heaving jumble of street sales.  Most of it is table cloths, needful supplies, decorations…And occasionally something very special.

This was so very, very special that I stepped backward off my bus, nearly causing the sort of cultural disaster that only happens in ethnic groups like mine, where men and women are never supposed to touch one another in public.  But I couldn’t stop for that.  I had to run and make my deal with this guy before he got away or sold it to someone else.  No, impossible.  This Hanukiyyah is mine!

He hailed from an old Mizrachi Yerushalmi family, by way of Cairo.

Mizrachi means “from the East,” and Yerushalmi, “Jerusalemite.”

That is to say, after having been dragged off into exile from Jerusalem by the Persians, Babylonians, Greeks, or Romans, his family either made it directly to Egypt, or got there courtesy of Queen Isabella in 1492, when many of those who were exiled from Spain–Portugal headed for Cairo to join family there.  In the 1500s there was a migration back into the Holy Land, with further tricklings here and there, augmented by serial expulsions of Jews from Cairo, minus their wealth….

But not without their breathtaking skill at making something out of nothing.  In this we excel, having had to do it over and over and over and over and….

How much is it?  Kamah zeh???

Alpayyim.

Two thousand????   I don’t have that much!!!!

Appraising look.

Aht Amerika’it, nakhon?

Well, yes, I was born in America, but now I am from Jerusalem…

Ahhh…Aht be’emet Yerushalmit???!!!

Yes, I am a Jerusalemite-ess!!!

Tov, az, yesh kaspomat shamma.  (Hooks shoulder in the direction of ATM.)

Beseder, aval ain li col-kakh harbe kesev ka’zeh…Fine, but I ain’t got that much money!

We settled at rather more than I would have liked to have parted with…But he saw that my eyes were firmly dilated and fixed on this magical carpet ride of a light box…And I reminded myself that when one finds an object of great power and beauty, it is not an accident, and we must pay whatever we can raise, to draw it near to us.

And now I sit, on the other side of the world, and dream of the magic this Hanukiyyah has brought me.

Like the time a tour guide tapped at my open door, in my ancient Jerusalem neighborhood where the custom is to light one’s Hanukkah oil lamps out of doors. 

I had mine blazing inside this very Hanukiyyah, balanced on a stool in the stone archway of my home.

The guide explained that he had a group of college girls from Petah Tikvah, and could they come in and listen to me play the violin?

Oh dear, I had not counted on anyone actually hearing me play!  I was just doodling, you see….But by that time my living room was full of giggling fresh faced girls.

To put them off the violin, I ran in the kitchen and fetched the box of fresh sufganiyot I had bought for a party later that evening; also mugs and hot cider.  Soon they were giggling and nibbling, and I pitched into an old-timey American fiddle tune and made their toes tap inside the ballet flats in which every Israeli school girl runs over the hard stone pavers.

A sufganiyah…now that is the substance of which years of joy are made.

It is nominally a filled doughnut.

But nothing, nothing like American jelly donuts, ugh, or even Boston Cremes!

Sufganiyot are filled with things like pistachio, halvah, almond paste, and of course chocolate (bitter, milk, white), dates, oh, what endless varieties of flavors, and can be had in spelt flour too.  But fried.  Always fried, because the secret of Hanukkah is in the Oil.