These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

[Staff Guest Post] The Magic of Chanuka

Posted on December 9, 2013 by Debra Weiner

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by Debra Weiner, staff member since 1998

Pardes is more than a place to work, Pardes is family. Staff and faculty are connected outside of the office and Beit Midrash. This year I had the special zechut (privilege) to spend the last night of Chanukah with Arlene Harel. Arlene lives in the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem, and for those of you who know Arlene-Arlene IS Nachlaot!

The last day of Chanukah is referred to as Zot Chanukah, from the verse read on this day in the synagogue Numbers 7:84, Zot Chanukat Hamizbe’ach: “This was the dedication of the altar”). So it was particularly meaningful for our family to celebrate this last night of Chanukah in a neighborhood filled with spirit.

Arlene’s home can be found in a small alleyway just across from Shuk Machane Yehuda. Following several calls for directions we made it. Arlene’s hospitality is infectious. We warmed up in her living room and then the lighting began. Arlene lit her chanukia just outside of her apartment and set out a plate of candies with a sign sharing the joy of Chanukah but to please just take one candy.

Across the way from Arlene’s home, a Chassidic couple was beginning to light. The man is Michah Razel, patriarch of the Razel family- the brothers are well known performers in the Chassidic world andmore recently their music has been played on mainstream radio stations. We listened as he chanted the Brachot and lit the 8 glasses filled to the rim with oil.

From there we made our way through the winding alleyways to the home of Yehuda Razel, in time to watch them light the enormous chanukia, he had found in the garbage and refurbished. The glass globes were filled with olive oil, one of them still burning from the night before. Yehuda patiently gave children an opportunity to light a candle, and my great nephews, visiting from Beit Shemesh were delighted to climb the step stool and reach out to light. Yehuda then took out his guitar and led a magnificent rendition of Maoz tzur.

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Arlene expertly led us to her favorite parts of the neighborhood, all aglow with Chanukah lights. Each chanukia more beautiful then the next, in boxes set outside. Some housed sterling silver chanukiot; others used whiskey or wine glasses filled with oil. The light was dazzling.

We made our way to the home of Aharon Razel, who also had guitar in hand. His little son, not yet 3 lit his own chanukia. Another son sang Hanerot Hallalu. We headed around the corner hoping to catch a glimpse of Yonatan Razel, the most popular of the brothers. We weren’t disappointed. There he was just standing there. As my niece from Raanana remarked: “only in Israel do we have the opportunity to be front and center with celebrities who behave just like regular people.” Yonatan sang, and his father and brothers joined in.

This 8th night of Chanukah and its lights have continued to linger in my memory. Arlene shared her love for her neighbors and her neighborhood and the miracle of Chanuka with all of us.