Monday, December 14, 2009

"The Two Menorahs" by SY Agnon (translated by Daniel Bouskila)

In the synagogue there stood a Hanukkah Menorah made of tin, and engraved upon it was an impression of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and the candlelighting blessings for Hanukkah. It's candle holders were wide and deep. All year long the Menorah was hanging on the northern wall of the synagogue, in the exact same place where they would hang a Matzah that symbolized the permission to cook during the Passover holiday. Every eve of Hanukkah, the Shamash (caretaker) of the synagogue would take down the Menorah, clean, shine and polish it, place it on a table next to the doorway, place wicks and oil in its cups, and light it for Hanukkah.

It happened one year that a few days before Hanukkah, the Shamash wished to prepare the Menorah for the holiday, but he could not find it. The news of this spread all over the town, and the news ultimately arrived to all of the town's children. God inspired the children to come up with a plan -- they would take all of their dreidels made of lead and bring it to the town's craftsman, so that he would make a new Menorah from all of the dreidels. They brought all of the dreidels to the craftsman, and they promised that his pay would be all of the Hanukkah gelt (money) that they would receive from their parents. It wasn't two or three days, and some even say one day, and the craftsman had already completed the new Menorah. The children took the Menorah from the craftsman and brought it to the synagogue, and that night they lit the Hanukkah candles from this Menorah.

A few months later, before Pesach, when the Shamash was cleaning and preparing the synagogue for Pesach, he suddenly found the lost Menorah under a bench. He picked it up and placed it back in it's natural place. The following year on Hanukkah, the Shamash took the original Menorah and prepared it for Hanukkah. The elders of the synagogue saw this and said, "The children who gave up their dreidels and Hanukkah gelt so that we should all have the mitzvah of lighting the Menorah -- they should have the merit that their Menorah should be used." They established that they should light from the lead Menorah that the children had commissioned, even though the original Menorah looked prettier. And so it was, that the light of the children illuminated the synagogue -- and the entire town -- year after year on Hanukkah.