Contact Us

What One Menorah Lighting Can Do

What One Menorah Lighting Can Do


There was always something about lighting a menorah. Even when I was in foster homes as an adolescent, it was something I wanted to do. Maybe it was knowing that my ancestors did the exact same thing, or that millions of people all over the world were staring at the candles too. Or maybe it was just that candlelight is so warming when the ground outside is covered in snow. I’m not sure, but I certainly never expected that lighting a menorah would have any impact on my day-to-day existence.

Nearly three years ago I decided to drop Judaism entirely. I was fed up with the entire venture. The temple I attended was costly and uninviting, not at all what I had expected. There would be no community to raise my daughter with, no traditions to pass on to her. Needless I decided to drop Judaism entirelyto say, I was a little bitter about the whole thing.

But, of course, every year I lit a menorah. When my daughter was old enough to appreciate it, I decorated the house with Chanukah flags and garlands, window stickers and crafts. Maybe at some point in her life she too would enjoy the feeling of comfort and safety that I got from the flickering candles.

The temple with which I dropped membership proceedings still sent me a newsletter occasionally, and that year I saw that various synagogues were holding public menorah lightings around the county. A giant menorah! Perfect! I dressed up my little girl in a pretty blue dress and built her anticipation to see a menorah as tall as a tree.

It turned out to be less dramatic than I had hoped—just a few people had gathered to see the lighting. Some homeless men were milling around. There was talk of free latkes and hot drinks in a nearby building afterwards, but as soon as the lighting was over I scooped up my daughter and made a dash for the car. My exodus was interrupted the rabbi. He introduced himself and gave my daughter a little menorah necklace.

“Do you belong to a synagogue?” he asked.

“No,” I replied. The memory of the other temples I had been to, their high fees and constant focus on what my occupation is, rather than who my daughter and I are, made me suspicious of this rabbi. Does this one want twice the cost of my medical insurance for my daughter to play around his children?

The rabbi told me the address of his synagogue. I narrowed my eyes. ”And how much does it cost?”

His face lit up. “This is why I do this,” he said. He told me there were no membership fees. I was astounded.

So I went to the local Chabad Lubavitch. Yes, it was awkward. There was a definite language barrier, and I often had trouble following the service. But the people were friendly, and I didn’t have to sign There were no membership fees. I was astoundeda contract to be there. So I went back again, even though going to a Chabad synagogue if you weren’t raised in the world of Judaism is like diving before you learn to swim.

After some coaxing, the rabbi’s wife, Devorah, convinced me to sign up my daughter for Sunday Hebrew school. On the first day, they were having a shofar factory. The smell of power drills running into animal bones and shellac was awful, but my daughter loved it. She looked around wide-eyed at the other kids, made a friend, and was fascinated with the shofar she shellacked. I was sold.

On my way out, the rabbi said to me, “Look what one menorah lighting can do.” I smiled, but didn’t think much of it.

Time has gone by, and now I can’t forget the rabbi’s words. Yes, when I attend a service I still prefer to hide in the kids’ room, where I have some idea what I’m doing (mostly staring at the fish tank), and most of my agnostic-style views haven’t changed, but plenty has. My daughter finished a year in Hebrew school and is learning a new language. She is so proud of all her projects, and so happy with the friends she has made.

Because she enjoyed Hebrew school so much, I enrolled her in the Chabad preschool. She loves her teachers, and I’m glad that she’s in such capable hands. She has developed socially and gained a bit more confidence. After more coaxing from Devorah, she even attended summer camp. So much has changed in our routine, changes that will be there for years to come. She is making memories that she can treasure for life. That is what one menorah lighting can do.

© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with's copyright policy.
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
1000 characters remaining
Anonymous West Coast via December 7, 2013

Beautiful story! I wish you, and all the readers and those commenting, the best of everything. May you have a lot of pleasure from your daughter and from the community you're involved with. I, too, started at the "staring at the fish tank" level and can look back years later, happy with my choice in life, and delighted with the Jewish education my children received. Keep going strong, and growing strong. Reply

sue Kanata December 6, 2013

I so love you and definitely the Rabbi who approached you. There are people making Rabbis unapproachable and religion a luxury rather than a commitment toward the world. Loving God need not cost anything- it is as simple as providing for your dear little one. Reply

seena bala cynwyd December 6, 2013

to B Abrams........I feel a very heavy deep pain in your comment. Regardless what your faith, your experience of loss & alone-ness is painful. Where there is love & light there is healing, so long as we create the space to let it in. SHABBAT SHALOM Reply

B. Abrahans V December 6, 2013

Why did I have to be a Jew ? So, from early age onward, I studied my Jewish background and in it found strength to go on, notwithstanding I felt around me a lack of love and acceptance for my intellect ; so I got my degree and travelled the world. But then, after visiting Israel, my life literally ended, but I was reanimated and I continued my quest for the "Why?". till I thought to find the answer in the most glorious Khuppa imaginable and a 44 years perfect wedding; although childless. But when for two years, my wife, who had always helped underprivileged children all over the world, fought for her life and nobody seemed to care, I again felt I slowly was dying, and after her Lewaye in Israel my life was over and I wondered why my faith had led me first to Paradise and then to death in Hell. And nowhere and in no way can I be reanimated again now. Reply

Marcella R Colorado December 6, 2013

How true that the lights of the Menorah spark a beautiful flame in us all I shared how our Jewish family celebrates Hanukah at my daughter's non-religious school. To my surprise, the middle schoolers were more interested in the menorah & witnessing the blessing upon lighting the candles than eating latkes, donuts, & playing dreidel. One student shared with me that she had no religion in her home yet she was thankful & appreciative of the 15 min I took to share our tradition . In addition, a boy wants to learn the blessing in Hebrew (reading & reciting) and make his own Hanukiyah to light in years to come (he is not jewish). Reply

Rachel. December 5, 2013

Thanks for this moving story. Thanks for all the remarks, from each & everyone of the readers!

May Judaism light shine on the entire world.


Gerrie Ritchie-Cox Birmingham December 5, 2013

Chanukah Lighting Hello, I am not a Jew, I am a Christian, however I have lite the nine candles today to acknowledge and honour the Chanukah and I am enjoying reading the Torah, happy Hannukkah to you all love Gerrie xxx Reply

Suzanne C. Butler December 5, 2013

To Be Included Distant though I am, I was invited to a former student's home to be included as the father lit the menorah and to bask in its glow, share a wonderful dinner and an evening with a family who is thoughtful enough to share their light - I can tell you, it bridges the gap in the distance! Reply

Stanley Lobo Kalyan India December 5, 2013

Chanukah Lighting One who lights up a Menorah for others will him self not be in darkness, lighting up others life brings much joy into our own hearts & Chabad does just does that.

My personal thanks to to all at Chabad. Reply

Jay Rosenberg gaithersburg December 4, 2013

Hannukah – 15 Billion BC. Hannukah Photons pulsing, quietly, helter skelter escaping, at the speed of light from my menorah's candle flames. When were these photons babies? Whence created in a gigantic womb, a singularity, heaved and abandoned in violent birth, caesarean’d release of an unfathomable proportion, a rupture of creation before time, before dimensions, before things. Before conscience; That big bang was the wick of Hannukah. Reply

Albert Orlando FL December 4, 2013

Chanukah Lighting Your daughter will be a light to humanity. She will always treasure these memories that you have shared with us. May Hashem bless your family.

Shalom Reply

Romeo-(Eli Avbraham ) OHIO December 4, 2013

Sometimes we need to get lost.Finding what you want is very meaningful..As a convert i am much happier. Menorah lighting - I feel closer to G-d all the time. Reply

Anonymous Oregon December 4, 2013

A highly touching story. And, such is the way of Chabad. Reply

seena elbaum bala cynwyd pa December 4, 2013

one menorah lighting may all your efforts always be blessed and may your daughter grow in her love of Judaism & help you with the same!


Anonymous NY via December 2, 2013

Chanukah Lighting Faith is a group concept. Yet individuals still need a point of connection. Chabad helps provide this, whether you're in the liberal west side of Manhattan or in the fields of Wyoming. No matter how distant, an opportunity to reconnect is available. Just sharing in the Chanukah lighting experience is all you and G-d need. Reply

Related Topics