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December 25, 1992 - Image 82

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-12-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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I

lluminating the homes of
Jewish families through-
out the world, the
chanukiah (Chanukah lamp)
stands as the traditional sym-
bol of the Chanukah festival.
Representing the miracle
bestowed upon the Jewish
people after defeating the
Syrians, the eight lights sym-
bolize the eight days and
nights the oil (sufficient for
only one day) burned in the
Temple's menorah.
Mordechai Narkiss, author
of The Chanukah Lamp, one
of the most extensive books
written on chanukiot, notes,
‘`. . . as with all ap-
purtenances, the lamps
underwent all the adventures
experienced by their
owners . . . . Like their
owners, they are (products) of
their environment."
Suzanne Landau, curator of
the prestigious chanukiot ex-
hibition at .the Israel
Museum, agrees: "In
Talmudic times, lamps were
placed either outside the
house or in a prominent posi-
tion at the front of the house.
Anti-Semitism in medieval
times forced the Jews to place
them inside. This resulted in
a variety of different
chanukiot. As there is no
definite ruling on the form of
the chanukiah, the designers
were free to give vent to their
imaginations and be influenc-
ed by their immediate en-
vironment."
The design of the
chanukiah also reflects the
architecture of the time, and
was often influenced by
economics, location and local
tradition (Jewish and non-
Jewish). One 18th-19th cen-
tury Moroccan chanukiah is
almost identical in design to
a picture of an Andalusian
mosque in Fez!
The Renaissance artists
also greatly influenced the
Jewish art of the same period
and in 16th-century Italy,
chanukiot with tendrils,
similar to those in the pain-
tings of Leonardo de Vinci,
could be found. Politics were
also an important factor in
the creation of chanukiot, and
the Jews were wise not to ig-
nore the allegiance they ow-
ed their "protectors" — kings,
emperors, feudal lords and no-
ble families — who allowed
them to live in relative peace.
This resulted in chanukiot
combining Jewish symbolism

with emperors' seals, noble
families' coats-of-arms and
king's decorations.
One outstanding feature,
however, characterizes most
chanukiot — the eight
candles are placed in a row.
This results from the Jewish
law which forbids round
chanukiot so that the candles
will not resemble a bonfire
(Talmud, tractate Sabbath 11,
23, 72).
Today there are many
original and unusual
chanukiot designed by major
international Jewish artists.
Displayed in the top floor
study of the elegant Ticho
House in Jerusalem, is an im-
pressive exhibition consisting
of 150 chanukiot from 17th-
century Italy to 20th-century
Israel. Some were given to Dr.
Ticho, a renowned ophthal-
mologist, who treated both
"Jerusalem paupers and
. opulent Arabian princes," in
payment for his medical
services..

The chanukiah
stands as the
traditional symbol
of the Chanukah
festival.

Throughout the ages,
however, four main types of
chanukiot developed: flat oil
lamps made of stone or ear-
thenware, seen in southern
France, Yemen, North Africa
and Israel; back-paneled
lamps resembling Gothic
cathedral facades from Italy,
Sicily and North Africa,
sometimes with a floral pat-
tern; menorah-shaped lamps
in brass and silver from Ger-
many, Holland and Poland;
and star-shaped hanging Sab-
bath lamps used in 18th-
century Germany, Yemen and
the Near East.
The prayer for lighting the
candles, "These lights are
sacred, we are not allowed to
use them, only to behold
them," is the reason why a
servant light (shamash) is us-
ed to light the candles each
night. In early designs this
candle was aligned with the
other eight, but was moved to

alao

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