Third Night of Hanukkah 2009
Posted by Avital Pinnick on December 14, 2009
My husband’s hanukkiah (menorah) is a different style of oil-burning lamp. He bought it in a gift store in Jerusalem over 20 years ago, when he was a student, so it’s not an expensive one. It’s made of cast metal with a couple screws holding the cover of the cups to the base. The shamash, that is, the single light at the top used for lighting the lights at the bottom, is a separate piece but it’s very difficult to light the wicks with a lit lamp unless the wicks are all at exactly the right angle and length.
Very few people use this style of hanukkiah because it is so fiddly to set up and clean. The cotton wicks have to be twisted and forced through the hole with a wire. The cups hold a very small amount of oil but will usually burn over 3 hours on average, so I guess you could say it’s fuel efficient. Did I mention that it leaks? Yes, if you fill it a little too full, the seams where the cups are joined to the tops lets the olive oil seep all over the table, which is why we keep it on a foil-covered tray.
When the wicks burn out, the house is filled with the smell of burning oil. Ahhhh — tradition….
People often complain about the time involved in setting up and maintaining the regular oil-burning hanukkiot with glass (or sometimes plastic) cups and pre-made wax-covered wicks. This old-style hanukkiah makes the newer ones look like a mode of convenience. Needless to say, my husband is in charge of filling and maintaining this hanukkiah. I have a small set of surgical instruments (minus the scalpel) that we use only for this hanukkiah. The probe is great for forcing the wick through the hole in the cover. The forceps are necessary for pulling up a bit of fresh wick each night, squeezing out excess oil if the hanukkiah has been prepared several hours in advance, and quenching a smoldering wick before it starts smelling up the living room.
I photographed a neighbour’s hanukkiah box because it’s not a common style. This box has the shamash in its own compartment above the lights themselves and hinged doors instead of the usual drop-down pane of glass in front. The glass isn’t very clean, so it is almost impossible to see the lights themselves but the low profile of the hanukkiah and the brightness of the light indicate that it is almost certainly an oil-burning hanukkiah. If you look closely you can see the glass cups for the oil.