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Museum Musings
December 2022


Miniature Oil Hanukkiah   Ludwig Wolpert, Israeli goldsmith   Silver&Glass  1974  6 ½’’ x 6½’’  
Hebrew inscription: “To praise You is a delight.”
Donated In memory of Mollie and Abraham Bresnick, by Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Bresnick

Hanukkah is one of our most “celebrated” Jewish holidays. Whether this is because of its place in the Gregorian calendar or its symbolic significance in Jewish life is unclear. 

Whatever the reason, on 25 Kislev, the first night of the eight-day festival of Hanukkah, (this year, Sunday evening, December 18 through the night of December 25,) Jewish families all over the world will light their hanukkiot during this Festival of Lights.  In doing so, they will commemorate the miraculous defeat over 2000 years ago by the Maccabees over Antiochus and the Seleucids who had desecrated the holy Temple in Jerusalem. We celebrate the rededication of that Temple (Hanukkah means dedication) and recall the “miracle of the oil” as the Menorah in the Temple, after the Temple was cleansed and purified, was relit. In modernity, particularly in Israel, Hanukkah has become a symbol of national liberation.  Another focus is on the value of environmental awareness and energy conservation in relation to “the miracle of the oil”.  “The hanukkiah shown here, is an oil burning one. “Oil, as the original source of light in the Temple menorah, the Shabbat lamp, the ner tamid (eternal lamp) , and the Hanukkah menorah (the hanukkiah), symbolizes the divine spirit which dwells among the Jewish people.” (Frankel and Teutsch, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Symbols.)  For this reason, it is also customary to eat foods fried in oil (latkes, sufganniyot.)  It is also traditional to place one’s hanukkiah in a window, or outside one’s door.  If you go to Israel today, you can see many hanuukiot placed in this way, with homes, particularly in Jerusalem’s  Old City having outside niches for that purpose. Rashi, in a note to Shabbat 21b, said their purpose was”to publicize the miracle/to proclaim the miracle.”   The hanukkiah shown here is one of many which are in the Abraham and Natalie Percelay Museum of Temple Emanu-El.  As well, other ritual objects are exhibited in display cases throughout the synagogue. Jewish artists though all ages and cultures, have been inspired by the concept of hiddur mitzvah, to “embellish/enhance the mitzvah,” to create these magnificent lights that delight. Of silver and glass, brass and pottery, and using oil or candles, this little treasure is but one of the inspiring and inspired hanukkiot in our collection.

--Ruth Page, Museum Director
Contributions to the museum are a special way to remember those you wish to honor or memorialize.  Send your donations to the synagogue, Attn:  Museum

Thu, July 25 2024 19 Tammuz 5784