Photo Credit: Shmuel Yitzchaki and Rosally Saltsman
Peacock chanukiyah which he donated to a children’s home.

Shmuel Yitzchaki’s parents made aliyah from Yemen in the 1950s to Binyamina, in Northern Israel. Circumstances in those days were very difficult to the point that the family couldn’t afford a chanukiya. So Shmuel’s father made one out of wood and bottle caps – a kosher, if not mehudar, chanukiya.

When Shmuel was in elementary school, he convinced their carpentry teacher to have the class make chanukiyot for the upcoming holiday. He brought the chanukiya home to his mother and holding it out to her said, “This is for you.”


Seeing his mother’s face radiant with happiness at the chanukiya was a defining moment in Shmuel’s life and making chanukiyot became a motif. The 66 year old has made almost 30 unique and artistic chanukiyot, which he lights and displays in Kibbutz Givat Chaim Meuchad, where he lives. The chanukiyot are made from a variety of materials and symbolically represent themes in Jewish history – both biblical and more contemporary.


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It started when he was serving in the army, in the armored division, in Sinai over Chanukah. He was just itching to make a chanukiya and so he did from artillery shells. Next a sergeant asked him to make one for the company, for which he won a prize. As he did the following year.

Yitzchaki became a crafts teacher (teaching kids to make their own chanukiyot among other things) and concurrently started creating his own chanukiyot. He takes time between Simchat Torah and Chanukah every year to design and create a unique chanukiya. He rarely sells them, sometimes donates them, but generally keeps them for an inheritance to his four children and five grandchildren. Yitzchaki says that he’s delighted watching his grandchildren light his chanukiyot.

I put Yitzchaki in touch with Rachel Bar Lev who has a collection of dreidels that I wrote about three years ago, and she has commissioned him to assimilate her dreidel theme in a chanukiya.

Yitzchaki would get up in the middle of the night to sketch an idea which might have just come to him. His chanukiyot are so unique and beautiful that when he got divorced, his wife asked that he leave one of them for her. Which he did, in the shape of a Magen David.

Although Yitzchaki’s childhood home was deeply religious, his father was very strict and the physical and emotional scars of his upbringing led him to distance himself from his religious life, although he still maintains a deep connection. Aside from his service to Hashem via his devotion to his chanukiyot, Yitzchaki blows the shofar on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in shul.

He donated a five-foot-tall chanukiya in the shape of a Magen David to the shul in Binyamina where his father used to pray.


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Of the many chanukiyot he has created Yitzchaki’s favorite is a kinetic one, because its movement is infinite. Yitzchaki would one day like to open a museum of chanukiyot.

Interestingly enough, Yitzchaki’s mother, z”l, who was such an inspiration for his life’s work was called Shoshana when she came to Israel, but her name in Yemen, Sham’a, means candle. She is surely still radiating joy watching her son’s life work, from her place ensconced in Heaven.

My maternal uncle, Israel Leitman, z”l, had a hobby of cutting and engraving paper with poems he had written, then building elaborate structures to hold them, which he then hooked up to lighting. We had a number of these unique creations in my childhood home. Only one survived my aliyah to Israel, a large electric chanukiya which I plug in every night of Chanukah after candelighting (except Shabbat – and except on the eighth night because the circuits can’t handle all that voltage). It’s kind of a Chanukah miracle in itself because it was made around 60 years ago and not to withstand the test of time. But it does attest to the tenacity of the Jewish people over time.

Perhaps that is why the Sages decreed that unlike the stringencies of other ritual objects, chanukiyot can be made of almost any material, be any size or shape (as long as the candles are at the same height). Because they knew prophetically that Chanukah would be celebrated throughout the millennia in a myriad of circumstances and its lights would attest to Jewish faith, Jewish continuity and the unceasing miracles of Hashem, feeding the Jewish people’s eternal flame.

You can contact Shmuel Yitzchaki at [email protected] or at his website

Pictures courtesy of Shmuel Yitzchaki and Rosally Saltsman. With thanks to Joshua Israel Geller and Tzlil Kalish for their assistance. L’illui nishmat Israel ben Kalman and Shoshana (Sham’a) bat Yosef.


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