Let me begin by congratulating my dear machatunim, Soraya and Jay Nimaroff, on being the recipients of the Community Service Award at the Sderot Hesder Institutions 18th annual anniversary dinner.
As a token of the organization’s appreciation, Jay and Soraya were gifted with a unique Chanukah menorah – rather than being made out of silver or pewter, the menorah was constructed from a Qassam rocket, one of thousands that have rained down on the innocent residents of the town of Sderot.
Tragically and senselessly, the citizens of Sderot have had to live with fear on a daily basis for years, not knowing if that day would bring the death of a friend or loved one, or if they themselves would be the one whose lives were cut short prematurely and violently.
Initially, when I heard that the menorah was made from the steel of a missile, my first reaction was, “What? A gift made out of scrap metal?”
A split second later, however, I was gifted with a bright flash of clarity and insight and realized how incredibly brilliant and uplifting this menorah actually was. Parts of a weapon created by evil men to wreak havoc had instead been fashioned into a 1,000-year-old symbol of light, hope and the eternity of the Jewish people.
The Chanukah menorah has been an enduring testament to the resilience, faith and tenacity of Klal Yisrael, to their willingness to stand up to and thwart the malicious plots, plans and schemes of their enemies who over the centuries, have tried – and continue to try – to erase them, either through physical decimation or spiritually through forced conversion or open-armed invitation.
The menorah is forever linked with a devout family of priests, the Maccabim, led by their father, Mattityahu, who refused to submit to the will of the Assyrian Greeks who had conquered the land of Israel and wished to Hellenize the vanquished natives: Their agenda was to motivate the Jews – through coercion or cultural attrition – to turn their backs on their own religion and spiritual values and absorb the Greek pagan ones. The Maccabim rallied like-minded Jews and miraculously were able to defeat the mighty Greek forces and oust them from the land. They then went about the sacred task of cleansing and purifying the Beit HaMikdash and re-lighting the menorah, using a flask of kosher oil that lasted way past its 24-hour “expiration date” for an additional week, the time needed to produce more kosher oil.
Chanukah and its symbol, the menorah, have been a symbol of resistance, defiance and optimism in the face of the overwhelming odds against Jewish survival.
There are documented stories of Jewish heroism in the face of death in the camps, where inmates risked their lives to celebrate Chanukah using rags or hollowed out potatoes to create a makeshift menorahs lit by a single smuggled match. With a lookout to warn if there were any Nazi guards approaching, Jews in the barracks fervently recited the Chanukah blessings over their “candles” – boldly proclaiming that Hashem created miracles for their fathers and would do so for them.
A Chanukah menorah made of a weapon created to kill and mutilate civilians, and demolish homes, schools, businesses and houses of worship will burn brightly in a front window in the Nimeroff home for every passerby to see and glean its message of faith, courage and optimism. How inspiring!
This menorah of light fashioned out of the darkness of hatred is a classic example of converting “lemons into lemonade.” Figuratively, this means taking a bad or tragic situation and creating something good or positive out of it.