Latest update: December 12th, 2012
Welcome to “You’re Asking Me?” the column where people are basically saying, “This guy doesn’t know me at all. Let me ask him for advice.”
I must know what I’m talking about, right? I’m in a newspaper.
This week, most of our questions are about Chanukah, for some reason. It’s like people are obsessed.
Where should we light our candles on Motzaei Shabbos Chanukah? We’re going to my in-laws for Shabbos, eating seudah shlishis at a friend, going to a Motzaei Shabbos Chanukah party at my sister’s, and then sleeping at home. Though after all that food, I don’t know if I’m actually going to sleep. I also have to drop off my sons at their respective dormitories, and chances are that some people are going to sleep in the car. Should we just light everywhere?
I would say you should ask your local Orthodox rabbi.
Yes, but local to which location?
It turns out that when Chazal established Chanukah, they graciously made it a nice long holiday, to allow us to visit at least six sides of the family, plus two shul Chanukah parties of our choice. They figured that should be more than enough. It’s enough for each set of great-great-grandparents to host their own party. But still we pack it all into one night, going from place to place, dropping off presents, and having pastries.
For goodness sakes, it’s not X-mas.
What should I get my Bubby for Chanukah? I tried asking her what she wanted, but she said, “No, no, you don’t have to get me anything.”
How about a check for five dollars?
Actually, you might want to get her something she needs, like more fancy soaps for her guest bathroom. Make sure to wrap it in nice paper that she’s afraid to tear.
You could also get her wrapping paper. Bubbys are very into wrapping paper, even though no one likes wrapping paper but the person giving the present, and sometimes even they don’t like it because it’s an extra thing to clean up after the kids shred through it like hamsters.
But wrapping presents is a tradition that allows the surprise to be held until the last minute, kind of like finding out if your baby is going to be a boy or a girl. (Chances are it will be. It’s usually either one or the other.) A lot of people don’t want to know the gender of their baby, because they want to be surprised. But they can just as easily be surprised right now. They need an extra surprise the day the kid is born? They already have plenty going on then! I don’t know anyone who says, “Well, the day my kid was born was kind of happy, but it would have been better with the extra surprise. I already knew how it was going to end.”
If you think about it, though, the average toy is only played with for about five minutes before the excitement is gone. Most of the excitement of a present is the anticipation. This is why most toys are wrapped in a bullet-proof plastic that has also somehow taken self defense classes and will cut you if you attempt to get in. It’s the anticipation. Hence the wrapping paper. Also, the reason Bubby wraps everything is that she doesn’t want to get tackled by excited kids on the way into the room with the presents. Wrapping paper allows her to have the presents sitting there by the time the kids get there.
But my point is that wrapping paper mainly benefits the giver, so maybe you should get her some nice wrapping paper. And also those cards she sticks on that nobody reads.
What’s your opinion on those ready-made oil cups that you just pull out of the box and light?
Let’s put it this way: The miracle of Chanukah happened because to get more oil in those days they would have had to wait more than a week for someone to walk all the way to the olive grove, pick the olives (which is not easy, because they blend into the trees), stomp around on them, pick out all the sock lint and whatever else gets on your feet during a 4-day trek to an olive grove, funnel it into a jar, and get it all the way back to the Beis HaMikdash. How long do you think Chanukah would be if all they had to do was wait until someone opened a box, took out another premade cup, and stuck it in? Chanukah would be like ten seconds. Imagine trying to get to eight Chanukah parties then.
How do I get those colorful Chanukah candles to last a half hour?
You can’t. This is why every year I accidentally set my bread on fire during bedikas chometz. Also, when you have several menorahs of eight candles next to each other, everything melts faster. This is why, in old Europe, they lit their candles in old Europe. It’s colder there.
Actually, experts recommend that if you want your candles to last longer, you should put them in the freezer for a couple of hours. Or just set them up outside, like Chazal said.
Are there any dietetic Chanukah foods?
Well, in order to be a Chanukah food:
A. It has to commemorate the miracle of the oil, and
B. It has to take 8 days to pass through your system.
One of the biggest things about Chanukah is that the Greeks were very into their bodies – they started the Olympics, for example – so we want to show that for those eight days, we specifically DON’T care about our bodies.
So no. The healthiest Chanukah food is probably the chocolate coins. Though I’m not sure how those came about. I don’t remember chocolate in the Chanukah story. There was wine and cheese, but if you decide to eat those for 8 days straight, I think you don’t really understand what happened to the guy who ate the wine and cheese.
If it helps, there is also apparently a custom to eat applesauce.
I live in a region that still has an ongoing blackout, thanks to Hurricane Sandy. And due to the entire neighborhood, including non-Jews, raiding all the stores for anything that looks like a candle, there is nowhere to buy Chanukah candles. What should I do?
There’s always oil.
But you’re not the first person in history to have the problem of not having anything to light. Remember the Chanukah story?
What my wife and I did during the blackout (though ours was only a little over a week) was use whatever candles we already had in the house. So you should do the same. Light 8 yahrtzeit candles. People are going to walk in and go, “Whoa, who died?” If you’re out of those as well, you can use aromatherapy candles, so your whole house will smell like, say, clean linens or burnt vanilla.
If you do have Chanukah candles, though, but you listened to my previous advice and put them in the freezer, you can’t actually take them out since you don’t have power. I apologize for that.
Have a question for “You’re Asking Me?” Put it in the freezer. It’ll last longer.Mordechai Schmutter
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