To Electrify or Not?


When I was growing up, my family and I would light the Hanukah menorah every night in the kitchen.  We had one for the family.  It would sit on the counter and we would light together and then sing Maoz Tzur in an English translation that I never understood.  My brothers or I would run our fingers quickly the flames as my mother would tell us to stop it.  We rarely had presents.  I remember wondering why we didn’t have an electric menorah like so many of my friends.  My mother would say that it wasn’t a REAL menorah.


As I became an adult, I learned about the custom of “publicizing the miracle.”  We needed to show off our remembrance of the miracle of a little vial of purified oil lasting 8 days instead of 1.  So, I would light my candles in the  window, sing Maoz Tzur in Hebrew, and then turn my hanukiyah around so the entire world could see the “miracle.”  It didn’t matter that for most of my adult life, I’ve lived on a high floor in the city.


One year, a parent gave me an electric chanukiyah for a gift. It was beautiful dark mental with delicate lights.  This gift changed my entire Hanukah life!  While we still light candles every day, the electric hanukiyah would “burn” brightly from our 4th floor window.  And while I am not sure that it really was visible from the street, or the neighbors across the broad NYC avenue,  it changed our evening.  Now, instead of having the candle burns for just a 1/2 hour or maybe more, they would seem to be lit all night.  That hanukiyah with the delicate lights has been changed for one with larger lights.

When I was in Jerusalem, I remember coming home from school and being excited to see all the hanukiyot in the windows. I may not be in Jerusalem, but when I came home last night and saw our electric menorah shining from across the street, it was very exciting.
Happy Hanukah y’all

About Gail F. Nalven

Jewish Educator, Rabbi, Tefillah Leader, Songleader, Teacher, and Freelance Jew
This entry was posted in Chanukah, Hanukah, Jewish Holidays, Teaching/Education and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to To Electrify or Not?

  1. Beth says:

    Electric Hanukiot can be beautiful and they are safer, too, as long as you don’t leave it on 24/7.

  2. I grew up using an electric menorah that my mother bought years ago. Her grandmother, my Russian Jewish great-grandmother, had to close the curtains in her upstate New York home before lighting Shabbos candles for fear that her Italian husbands employer (US Steel) would find out she was Jewish (and he would lose his job). Also, great-grandma’s orthodox parents held a funeral for her when she married her Italian Catholic husband.
    From my perspective, I am simply grateful that my strong-willed Jewish mother reminded us that we were indeed Jewish with that simple and beautiful electric menorah. I still use it today.

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