Archive for the 'menorah' Category


The Story of a Wooden Menorah…

Yesterday, Shabbos Chanukkah – Parshas Mikeitz – my shull‘s Rabbi, Rav Chaim Aryeh Stamm ended his drosho with a story, as he always does. There was something about it that made me want to repeat here; it is a true story that happened not too long ago in upstate New York, only the names have been changed.

Harry Jones, the local town’s mechanic, had achieved the American dream through had work and dedication. He had a beautiful wife and two sons, a nice house, a dog, a successful business and two late model cars. Life was good, his neighbors liked him; his two boys were studious and had many friends. But… Harry… had a secret that no one in town suspected. Harry was born in Warsaw and named Hershl Miller or Heshy, as his parents and siblings called him. Harry Jones was really a Holocaust survivor, a Jew!

Heshy was the youngest of five brothers and three sisters. His siblings were always teaching him games, walking him to cheder or just happened to be there whenever he’d get in trouble. all that idyllic life ended abruptly when the Nazi hordes marched into Warsaw. Rav Yerucham Miller and the whole family were crammed into a small apartment with three other families. There was never enough food; daily “selections” soon became the norm and families were torn from each other to be sent to different labor camps. Through all these tribulations, the Millers managed to maintain a semblance of normalcy; Shabbos was still a fairly joyful day, and whatever food was available somehow tasted better.

Three days before Channkkah the Nazis barged into the apartment and took Heshy and three of his brothers with them. A few hours later the boy found himself in the Auschwitz death camp. Thirteen year old Heshy grew up very quickly during the next three year of horror, surrounded by sickness, death and the stench from the crematoria. He couldn’t understand why Hashem did not deliver his people as he’d done many a time before. How could the Almighty ignore the voices, the cries, the prayers of thousands of Jews? Somehow, he managed to survive and as soon as the war ended he set out to find his family. Once again, he told himself, the Millers would sit together on Shabbos amidst song and delicious foods as the candlelight and its warmth surrounded them. All too soon he realized that no one but him was left, his life, his dreams had all been destroyed.

Whatever faith he still had, now crumbled. If Hashem had so utterly abandoned him, he would abandon Hashem. On reaching America, his connection to anything Jewish was discarded. Harry Jones as he now called himself soon learned the trade of mechanic earning enough to pay for college and room and board. After a while he met a girl with a very similar life story, and married her. They moved to upstate New York and kept the secret of their origins deep within their hearts, never revealing it to anyone. Being hard working, honest, and dependable, Harry built a reputable and successful business. For the next 15 years, all went well and the memories in his heart started to become blurred, but then something happened…

As Jason – Harry’s oldest – was about to turn 13, his father told him that on his birthday he would take him to the mall to choose whatever young Jason might like – price would not be a consideration. Of couse the young boy was excited with the idea and couldn’t wait for the day.They had barely entered the mall when Harry realized Jason was not at his side. He found him a short distance away, his face glued to the window of an antiques store.

Dad, this is amazing! Come see this!

Come, Jason, why would I care about some old junk? Besides, the toy store is nearby.

But Dad, look at it, this is soo cool! What is it?

Harry gave a quick glance and saw his son looking at a handcrafted wood menorah. Some long buried memories painfully emerged in his mind, but he wasn’t ready to face the past…

I’m gonna check it out,” Jason hurried into the shop and headed straight for the wooden menorah.

Harry followed his son hoping to dissuade him. “Dad I want this for my birthday,” said Jason, as he held the menorah in his hand and looked at it in fascination. Nothing his father said, could dissuade the boy. “You said I could have anything, this is what I want!” Harry couldn’t understand what could possibly draw the boy to an object he could not even play with and which he had no idea how to use? But he’d made a promise to his son, and however distasteful it might prove, he would keep his word. As he approached the counter, the man behind said, “That item is not for sale, sir. You see, it’s actually a ritual Jewish lamp, a menorah. Jews light it on the holiday of Chanukkah. This one was handcrafted from woodchips during WWII, and will likely be worth a great deal of money for its historical value someday.

Harry did not want the menorah, but his son pressed on, “Dad, you said I could have anything no matter the price. This is what I want!” Harry had no choice, he had given his word and was not about to break it. He haggled with the man until he reached $1400, at which point the storekeeper realized that he couldn’t ask for much more, or he would risk getting nothing.

Jason was all smiles as, together with his father, he left for home. Jason went to his room with his new toy and tried to figure how to play with it, while Harry sat down in the kitchen to talk to to his wife. Suddenly a loud crush from the upstairs room was heard, Harry fearing the worst run up. His fears realized, the menorah had fallen and shattered into many pieces. He was about to berate his son, but saw on the boy’s face that he was already punishing himself. “Let me help you clean this up,” muttered Harry. As he was picking up the pieces, he found a rolled up piece of paper in one of the hollowed arms of the menorah. Curious, he fished it out and found a note in Yiddish. He read it as he became gradually pale and paler. Harry screamed and fainted. It took a while before he could recover enough to stay conscious without fainting again.

What did the note say?” asked his wife; Harry read it to her: I made this menorah with the hope that I will light it on the first day of Chanukkah. I don’t know if I will make it through the next seven, or to the next Chanukkah. I have concealed this note in the hope that whoever finds it will say Mishnayos for my soul, and try to perform as many mitzvos as possible for me. it is the only hope I have left.
– Rabbi Yerucham Miller, son of Rabbi Hershel Miller.

My father’s name was Yerucham Miller,” Harry said, though his tears, “and I was named Hershel, after my grandfather. My own father made this menorah!

Does that mean we are Jewish?” asked Jason

Yes,” said Harry, “and today is a special day for you. It was your Bar Mitzvah, something I never thought you’d have, but things are going to change now. The Almighty sent me this note and the message burned itself directly into my heart.

Harry Jones, once again became Heshy Miller; he moved his family to a Jewish community where they slowly began to practice what Harry and his wife had once discarded from their lives. Heshy Miller is today a talmid chochom…

Gentle reader, is there such a thing as a coincidence?!? Is not Hashem‘s hand guiding us every minute of our lives, even if we don’t see it?


[When I asked Rabbi Chaim Aryeh Stamm where this powerful story came from, he told me he found it in Stories That Warm the Heart by Rabbi Binyomin Pruzansky.]


Jew in the City

Last Thursday eve, at Manhattan’s Kehilath Jeshurun, Allison Josephs – blogger extraordinaire at Jew In the City – launched her video (JITC’s Orthodox Jewish All Stars)  featuring 10 Jewish Orthodox celebrities. The event was proudly sponsored by Freeda Wigs, The Patchke Princess, Gift of Life and this very blog (The Kosher Scene), among others.

Allison was interviewed by Marshall Hyman from The Wall Street Journal…


Allison Josephs and Marshall Hyman from The Wall Street Journal.

Allison Josephs and Marshall Hyman from The Wall Street Journal.

…as well as by Atara Abersfeld from The Jewish Press, Tammy Marks from New Jersey’s Jewish Star and more.

Allison Josephs with the all star Maccabeats and Dimitry Salita

A delicious latke bar (with lots of topping choices), was presented by mother and daughter catering team of Michicas, as well as a donut fondue bar and a superb selection of Israeli wines by Shlomo Blashka (from the Royal Wine Corporation).

Sara Lasry (The Patchke Princess and Kosher Street) this event’s main organizer, followed Dimitry Salita. She explained the significance of this event and what made it important to the media.

Sara Lasry

Sara Lasry

A member of the Maccabeats lit the candles for the sixth night of Chanukah…

No event of this kind would be complete without lighting the Chanukia.

No event of this kind could be complete without lighting the Menorah.

After the lighting, Allison herself gave an emotional speech about her 7 year journey of breaking down stereotypes about Orthodox Judaism. In describing the occasion and her video she said:

This video celebrates freedom – Chanukah is about freedom and contrary to popular belief, Orthodoxy is freedom – it is freedom to seek our path in an elevated way, to become what we are meant to become, the best possible version of ourselves — in a way that is true and fine and full of substance.

The video features nationally known figures from the world of politics, arts, entertainment, sports, publishing and more. It was not only an enjoyable evening with delicious food and wine, not only was a video launched, but the close to 200 people present saw proof positive (as will anyone else watching it) that being an Orthodox Jew does not in any way shape or form preclude following one’s dreams or reaching the highest pinnacles in one’s profession. Nothing of importance is closed to an Orthodox Jew, and neither does he or she need to sacrifice one’s beliefs.

During immediately after the speeches, a interesting and enjoyable music ensemble took over, The Brooklyn Jazz Warriors

Y.A. Gootblatt, vocalist and keyboard player - Brooklyn Jazz Warriors

Y.A. Gootblatt, vocalist and keyboard player – Brooklyn Jazz Warriors

Bravo, bravissimo Allison! I’d be remiss if I did not again mention Sara Lasry’s herculean efforts, the driving force, in putting together this beautiful event in just two weeks.



Elegant Desserts

Recently I stumbled upon Elegant Desserts website and having tasted some of their delectable creations at various catered affairs I couldn’t help but order a few items…

This past Friday eve, to cap off a delicious Shabbos meal, we shared some of the goodies…



We started out with the Hazelnut Pyramid, it comes with nuts and chocolate in hazelnut ice cream. A superb opening salvo of flavor! We followed with a Strawberry Rose Sorbet


…a Green Apple Square (green apple sorbet topped with a lemon sorbet rosette), Strawberry Square (strawberry puree sorbet with strawberry sauce and white drizzle), and a Mixed Berry Tower (mixed berry puree sorbet one with a vanilla rosette and one with a lemon).


Frankly, the fruit sorbets and puree tasted so incredibly fruit like, it’s obvious that instead of using a common base for sorbets and adding flavors (as most American manufacturers do), Elegant Desserts obviously prefers real fruits! We loved all the flavors and the only thing that marred everyone’s delight was that I hadn’t ordered enough!

Although I’d gotten some items that I was planning to bring out during Chanuka, it was hard to contain ourselves and we succumbed to temptation at Shabbos lunch…


We started with the set of four Dreidlach (lemon,green apple,cherry,orange) and finished the meal with the Menorah


Flavors were great, my personal favorites were the Green Apple Square and the green apple puree, followed closely by the Strawberry Flower and the Strawberry Square; the lemon flavored sorbet, however, received more votes from the rest of our company.

Now I’m left with no other choice but to order their Chanuka specialties again!



Rekindling the Soul

Tonight Jews around the world will celebrate the first of the eight days of Chanukah. Does the celebration solely commemorate a miraculous military victory? Does the festival of lights merely reflect a historical re-enactment of the providential discovery of a tiny jug of consecrated oil which relit the Temple candelabra, and whose miraculous radiant flame lasted eight days instead of one?

After years of serving as a temple to some Greek idol, the Holy Temple’s service was reinstated in 167 BCE; why then, do we concentrate on the miracle of the Menorah instead of the renewal of proper worship to Hashem? What is so special about the Menorah?  As we read in Mishley – Proverbs (20:27): Ner Hashem nishmat adamHashem’s candle is the human soul; the candle is a representational symbol of that soul as  Hakadosh Baruch Hu shines His divine light upon us through the Menorah. The essence of that divine light is Torah!

"Chanuka gelt" - Chanuka chocolate "money"

It is customary, even praiseworthy, to use pure olive oil when lighting the Menorah. Why? Ve’atah tetzaveh et Bney Yisrael: Vayikchu elecha shemen zait zach… And you will command the Children of Israel thus: Take to yourself pure olive oil… (Shmot 27:20)”  ChaZa”L  likened learning Torah to olive oil;  they taught that living within those teachings makes us pure. Just as pure olive oil enhances the flavor of the food it is combined with, so too does the pure learning and living within the Torah’s teaching enhance our lives, enabling each and every one of us to reach his/her true potential.

In Ohev Yisrael, the Apter Rebbe – Avraham Yehoshu’a Heschel of Opatow, writes that the reason the word “elecha – to yourself”, is used instead of just saying “vayikchu shemen zait zach… – take pure olive oil…” is in order to stress that one must do more than just just follow a command. Hakadosh Baruch Hu wants us to go beyond simple obedience, He wants us to absorb His word until it totally melds into and becomes one with our being, therefore the individual is told “take to yourself,” even though vayikchu is plural!

The Boreh Olam, The Creator, stresses and reminds us, year after year, what is of  greatest intrinsic value to Him. It is the absorption, saturation, and reflection of His message within us. It is the purity and beauty with which we bring ourselves to and act out His guidelines without defiling ourselves amidst the galut of our own history making as we talk, walk and act out the roadways of our individual and collective lives. May this Chanukah rekindle in each of us His the brigh lights of Torah and re-establish our own internal worthiness and sense of purpose. May our hearts and spirits become again that pure consecrated olive oil empowered to light and return us to our former greatness meriting the rebuilding of His Holy Temple in Yerushalayim, bimherah biyamenu. Amen!!!

A freilachen Chanukah, Chag Chanukah same’ach, a happy Chanukah!


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