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Chanukah Lights Up the World
By by David KoginI was invited over by my friends, Eddie and Judy, for their Chanukah party. I came late and found them sitting around the table eating some home made jelly-filled doughnuts.
"Come on, and join us," Eddie motioned towards the sickening looking mess on the table.
"My wife made these specially for Chanukah."
I took a seat around the table and surveyed the people. Besides Eddie and his wife, there was Hirsh, an old pain in my side and Arnold something or other, who was a book keeper or accountant.
As normal, when Hirsh is around, he was monopolizing the conversation. What can you do? He is one of those brilliant types that know every thing. They were discussing the placement of the menorah. Judy had placed it on a small table near the window.
"You know it might just be that the dining-room table is a better place."
"Oh, come on now, Hirsh. We're sitting at the table. Not only that we always light the candles by the window. Even when I was a child, my father lit the candles at the window."
Hirsh was never impressed by anything. "Listen maybe your father lit them by the window 'cause you lived in a house?"
"Yea, so, what's wrong with that?" Judy gave it back to him, while offering me her rendition of a jelly doughnut. An oily doughy substance, which was half covered with sugar. Yeech! "Here, take, I made it myself!" she said radiating pride in her hand work.
I was trapped. Her doughnut looked like an invitation to pepto-Dismal. "Thanks, I was just going to sample one. They look so good. You made them yourself?" I lied through my teeth trying to smile.
"If you live on the first floor, or maybe even the second floor, you can light next to the window. Why, because people from the outside can see the lights. But you live here on the twelfth floor. No one can see those lights in your window." Hirsh was oblivious to the doughnuts. Once he begins to talk, forget it. Nothing else exists.
"Oh come on now Hirsh! People can surely see our candles if they look up! Yes," she turned to me, "I got the idea, because in Israel, people don't eat latkes, like us here. They eat these jelly-filled doughnuts"
"Yea, but the normal person in the street doesn't see what is up so high. So when you lived in a house and the window was near street level, so fine, people outside saw your father's menorah. But the eye of some one passing in the street will not notice your menorah way up here."
"Your doughnuts are really delicious, don't you agree Arnold?"
"Ugh, yes, certainly." Arnold's mind was always hovering somewhere around the ceiling.
"Here, take another one" I passed the tray to Arnold. Let's get rid of this so I don't have to eat another one.
Unwillingly, Arnold yielded and took one.
Hirsh continued, "The reason for the lighting of the Chanukah candles was to make the miracle of Chanukah known to all. But they said that if you live up high it's better to light inside." Hirsh could talk for hours. Maybe I could get him to eat one of these horrid stomach-ache makers.
"Hey, Hirsh, your plate is empty!"
Ignoring me in the typical Hirshian style, he continued, "Some say that it's even preferable to light on the table, that way it publicizes the miracle to those who live in the house."
I could see that Arnold was struggling with the doughnut as the jelly came oozing out and dripped down on his chin. Serves him right for taking a gigantic bite, I thought.
"You know some even say that today we actually need to light the candles on the table inside even if you have access to a ground floor window next to the street."
My stomach was sending signals up to my brain. "Stop eating this or it will be sent back up!"
"Hirsh, come on, take a doughnut. Don't you have the Chanukah spirit?"
How do you feel when some one continually ignores you? This guy Hirsh, seemed to go on like this for ever.
"The reason is like this: In the old days when the Jews were really on a high spiritual level, so they could advertise out side some thing spiritual to those who are on the 'outside.' But today, we are not on a really spiritual level, therefore we need to publicize the miracle to ourselves."
"Hirsh, what do you mean? Do you think that we aren't on any spiritual level? Here take a doughnut!"
Hirsh turned towards me and stared at me for the longest time before continuing. "To many, our physical is our spiritual. But in reality our spiritual is our physical."
Eddie walked over to the window and brought the menorah to the table.
from the December 1997 Edition of the Jewish Magazine