Grampa’s Menorah

In my family, there are precious few “religious heirlooms”. In fact, other than this menorah, I can really only think of my Grandmother’s small, white, swan-shaped porcelain honey dishes used by my mother each Rosh Hashanah. This menorah is not much to look at. Although it is pure silver, it is small, a bit slanted to one side and it’s missing the shamesh. But to our family, it’s the most beautiful menorah ever.

My mother still remembers that cold winter day when my Grampa brought the menorah home. He was wearing his trademark silk and wool scarf which was easily one and a half times as long as he was tall. He entered the home, menorah in hand. No wrapping paper, no cushioning, heck, no bag. Just the menorah in his shivering hand. This menorah came with silver caps so that you could put the oil right into the cup, place the wick in the oil and thread it through the silver cap. However, by the time Grampa got home that windy evening, a few of the caps had blown away. And, so, the caps were never used. I’m not sure what happened to the shamesh but I wouldn’t be surprised if that blew away too!

Grampa Aaron was something special. He was about as close as I ever got to “the old country”. He had a heavy accent and his English was liberally spiced with Yiddish. He wore long underwear (longe gotkes) all year round including in the summer. He would cross major thoroughfares with absolute disregard for traffic signals and vehicular presence. Holding both arms straight out to his sides as a stop sign was sufficient. When frightened he would say “Oy, I almost became a hearts attack.” Grampa couldn’t understand why ice cream had pits (chocolate chips to me and you) and he, quite simply, did not hear too well. In the summer, Grampa Aaron would sit outside our bungalow in a brown chaise chair, taking in the country air and smiling. He quickly became popular with the colony kids who knew that a quick hello and a smile would yield chocolates, sucking candies and a few quarters for the pinball machine.

I’m not quite sure what it is about this menorah that makes it so special. Perhaps it’s because, like Grampa, though it may be small, old and a bit hunched to one side and though it may be missing a few pieces, beneath it all, it’s pure. And I guess it’s because this menorah is one of the few remaining links of my family’s Jewish past.

8 comments on “Grampa’s Menorah

  1. David Linn,
    Profound piece on pondering the meaning of “pure” and judaica pieces that function like links/connections to meaningful memories & happenstance of the past.
    Packing up my room recently, I was sorting through my old stuff and came across a postcard my grandfather had sent me, he also had that “pure” thing goin on.
    But other paper links to my past were not so stellar and sparkling with spiritual meaning and purity. Like, there was nothing “pure” about my hebrew report card grades ;-) ,but don’t worry those special paper “last links” to my past are now safely filed away in the shredder.

    edh,
    Generally speaking one doesn’t usually function as a link to themselves.
    Would I be the “link” that connects my past to myself ? (even if I hadnt spent some years running away from it)
    I read the “menorah as a last link ” to mean, functioning as the last existential metal and metaphorical link/judaica piece connection, connecting the jewish memories/ancestors & happenstance of the past and the 2007 perfectly profound lawyer/writer/father, authoring the piece.

    But that’s just my subjective conjecturing on the link thing.

  2. Nice post, David. Thanks.

    I think edh got it right, BTW. I imagine Grandpa Aaron is getting a lot of z’chut and nahat seeing you and yours using his hanukiah. The real light is what you have created using his hanukiah.

    Hanukah Sameah!

  3. Beautiful post, David.
    It always amazes me that families keep certain things like a menorah to pass down from generation to generation, especially b/c the menorah represents our “Oral Torah”.
    You are fortunate to have such an item in your family.

  4. “And I guess it’s because this menorah is one of the few remaining links of my family’s Jewish past.”

    Few ? Aren’t you and your children a great living link to your family´s Jewish past ?

  5. Hi David,

    This is actually a very nice story about your grandpa but not controversial enough. So I will start:

    You really should have rebuked him more about the street crossing and the chocolate chips.

    Thank You,
    AJ

  6. You’ve described the grampa of a lot of us more or less your age! My old grampa also was, despite his complete lack of religious observance, an old-country Yid, and he for sure represented our link to our Jewish past.

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