Thursday, December 17, 2009
Why is there a menorah in my pocket?
There's a menorah in my pocket. A small brass menorah has taken up residence, if you can call it that, in the left pocket of my green jacket. I almost forgot. It's been a good long while since I wore a jacket. I have two heavy wool sweaters that keep me as warm as the Triple Fat Goose down parka that lives in the back of the van, "just in case." I got the khaki green jacket in Warsaw mostly to shut up all the nosy ladies who felt obliged to tell me every day that I should "wear a jacket." The green jacket came home from Warsaw packed in a box that I sent by way of China, Samoa and New Zealand so I didn't have that jacket for a very long time. And lo, and behold, I got it out and there's a menorah in the pocket. We already have a beautiful menorah, a very beautiful blue china menorah with a white dove, so we didn't need another one. But I got this little brass menorah just outside the entrance to Lazienki Park one fall day because, it seemed to me, I should have a menorah from Poland. The vendor was always there with his small collection of ancient items, books and what nots, reminiscent of a long-ago and now mostly lost Poland. I bought the menorah not because it was the only one I'd seen in the country, not at all, but because I liked the look of the old man. He reminded me of something, in fact he reminded me of the old Poland that was mostly gone forever. Now the brass menorah lives near my desk, where I see it every time I sit down to write. I can't find candles small enough for it but that's okay, it is a beautiful symbol of a faith and a culture and a way of life that enlivened all of Poland's spirit for centuries. There is much to say, yes, very much to say about Poland and Judaism. And tonight is not the night for it. Except to say that, while hard to do, you can find signs of Jewish culture and life in Poland yet today. And a project very near to my heart is underway, a Museum of the History of Jews in Poland. Lighting the candles of the menorah is a reminder of tenacity. And faith. And courage. And cussedness. "We will survive, damn it. We will." Of course, the 20th century history of Europe tells a different story; Nazi intentions nearly won out. But not entirely. And this menorah is one more proof of it. Happy Hanukkah! Shalom!