June 13, 2024
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June 13, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Welcome back to “How Should I Know?”—the column that puts the “light” in “light comedy.”

Dear Mordechai,

Every year I buy exactly enough Chanukah candles before Chanukah, and then I come home and reach into the closet to take out my Chanukah stuff, and how do you like that? I have some candles left from last year! And the year before! And the year before! This has happened several years in a row, and we just keep accumulating more and more candles. What should we do?


Dear E.,


There are other ways to get rid of Chanukah candles besides lighting them on Chanukah:

– Tape two or three together to make a travel havdalah candle.

– Start sending it to people as part of bedikat chametz kits, along with an envelope to send you money, so you can keep buying the spoons and feathers for the kits.

– Know of a grab bag going on? Wrap it up and throw it in. No one will know it’s from you.

– Start a blackout kit for really short blackouts, or keep chain lighting them every half hour for longer blackouts.

The problem is that if you have too many Shabbat candles, you can just light them for ambience, but you can’t light a single Chanukah candle for ambience.

“It’s a candlelight dinner! Eat quickly; it’s going out in 29 minutes.”

And also in part because you can’t get a single candlestick that small. You have to use your menorah, and light the candles in multiples of nine. And then you have people walking in and saying, “I didn’t know it was Chanukah,” and ruining your whole ambience.

For some reason, it’s also not socially acceptable to use a menorah any other time of the year.

So I want to suggest something, and it might be a little bit sacrilegious, but how about this: Maybe don’t buy your Chanukah candles before Chanukah.

(I look forward to your letters.)

Buy them ON Chanukah, once you’ve taken out your stuff and seen what you have. If you’ve ever made Chanukah before, you probably have at least one candle for that first night. Even the Chashmonaim—their entire Beit Hamikdash was ransacked, but they still had enough to get started.

Also, they looked around to see if they had any before ordering more.

Just be happy that you’re home, and the only thing you have to check for is Chanukah candles, and if you’re in a bind, you can always use salad dressing and Q-tips. Last year in shul on the first night, right before Maariv, the gabbai of my shul suddenly realized that we didn’t have a lighter. (Apparently, no one who was present… um… binds seforim.)

Now if this happens at home, you can light your shamash from the stove, and then walk across the house with your hand in front of it to remind yourself not to, in your eagerness to do the mitzvah, walk fast enough for it to go out. But our shul didn’t have a stove. Nor did it have two sticks we could rub together. Wooden hangers? We also couldn’t use the magnifying glass that someone had in his shtender unless we were going to wait for the sun to come back out.

So we said, “What would the Chashmonaim have done?” And then someone found—in the back of that closet under the bimah—a lighter that we’d used a few years prior. Unfortunately, though, it didn’t seem to have any fuel left. But we kept flicking it anyway, and miraculously, there was just enough fuel for eight nights!

Ok, so we have no idea. Someone bought a new lighter the next day. But there was enough for one night, if we held the candle right there as we swiped the lighter and then lit it quickly. And we were able to light the menorah, which stayed lit for the whole entire Maariv! And then someone suggested that maybe we should use the shamash to light a shiva candle, so it would be available for the next seven nights. People would walk into shul and say, “Who died?”

“The lighter.”

Have a question for “How Should I Know?” As soon as you ask, I’m going to realize that I already have a whole bunch of questions from previous weeks. Maybe I can stick those in a grab bag.

By Mordechai Schmutter

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