The First Candle

Last week, a group from our Women’s Club gathered to celebrate Chanukah (a little early).  As part of my teaching, I prepared eight meditations on the theme of light.  I looked up the word in a thesaurus and discovered that the many synonyms for this word made interesting concepts on which to create a theme for each day.  The group suggested that these would make a good blog post, and so I will attempt over these next eight nights of Chanukah to share with you eight reflections on the theme of light.

Chanuakah1

Light – Polished / Resplendent / Rich

Chanukah is a great time to indulge in the tradition of chiddur mitzvah, beautifying the mitzvah.  Our tradition derives the concept from Rabbi Ishmael’s comment on Exodus 15:2 “This is my G-d and I will glorify G-d.”  Rabbi Ishmael wrote, “Is it possible for a human being to add glory to his Creator?  What this really means is: I shall glorify G-d in the way I perform mitzvot.  I shall prepare before G-d a beautiful Lulav, a beautiful Sukkah, beautiful tzitzit and beautiful t’fillin.” (Midrash Mechilta, Shirata, chapter III)  The Talmud adds to this list with a “beautiful shofar and a beautiful Torah scroll which has been written by a scribe with fine ink and fine pen and wrapped in beautiful silks.” (Talmud B., Shabbat 133b)  The midrash suggests that it is not only the mitzvot that are enhanced by making them beautiful and special, but also the Jew who performs them (Midrash Song of Songs Rabbah 1.15).

When you go to a Judaica store, it is easy to observe that beautiful and interesting chanukiot are a typical way to observe the tradition of chiddur mitzvahThey come in every shape, size, color, and theme.  But, Chanukah is a messy holiday.  Even if you purchase “dripless” candles, it is difficult to really keep your chanukiah (or Chanukah menorah) clean and looking fresh.

So, as we approach this first night of the holiday, let’s concentrate first on shining the light on our chanukiot and on the many ways we can make our holiday polished / resplendent / rich.  Remove last year’s wax, buy some beautiful dripless candles, polish up your menorah to make it look new.  If you are like me, you’ve probably received a lot of Chanukah themed gifts over the years.  By the time you receive them, it’s too late to use them and quickly they get put away and forgotten.  Get them out!  You’ve got eight days to use your  Chanukah themed hand-towels, mugs, socks, and apron.

Chiddur mitzvah isn’t only about appearances, though.  You should try to appeal to all of the senses: sounds, smells, tastes, textures, colors.  There is more to Jewish music for Chanukah than “I Have a Little Dreidel.” Ready for a new generation of cool and contemporary tunes to light the menorah by?  Check out “Chanukah Today.”  You can get the CD hereor purchase mp3s for download here.  You can also visit oysongs.comto look for new music.  Or if you just want to listen, I highly recommend Jewish Rock Radio (they also have apps).  Go to YouTube and view some of the fun videos.  Two of my favorites are by the Maccabeats and Six13.

So, as we approach this first night of Chanukah let your senses be your guide.  May this first night be polished and fresh, may it bring you joyous sights, sounds, smells and tastes.

Happy Chanukah!

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