My Daughter’s Unusual Indian Menorah

My Daughter’s Unusual Indian Menorah

My 2nd-born child, 19-year-old Hallel, has been traveling around India since September. Right now she’s in West Bengal, participating in a study-program learning how to build an ecologically-sound house out of mud (you can see the participants doing just that, in this photo.)

Hallel is one of 4 Israelis there. So, of course, last week, the Israelis created their own mud Menorah which they are lighting at this moment.

When I spoke with Hallel on Friday, I told her that the mud menorah she and her friends built with so much love and determination in this remote corner of South-East Asia reminds me of the menorah the Bluzhener Rebbe used in Bergen Belsen (as told by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair).

“It was the first night of Chanukah. The single light of the menorah gleamed with a strange radiance. Its light came from neither wax nor oil. For this was a very special menorah; a very special Chanukah. This menorah was an old wooden clog. This candle was made from boot polish. This was Chanukah in Bergen-Belsen.
“The Bluzhever Rebbe chanted the first two blessings in the customary festive tune, but the sound of his voice was dulled with pain. He was about to make the third blessing but then he stopped. He paused, and for what seemed like a long moment he looked around the room at each and every face. And then he made the blessing, his voice filled with strength: “Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, who has kept us alive, preserved us, and brought us to this time.” “Amen,” whispered the huddled throng.

“Later, one of the men came over to the Bluzhever Rebbe and said “May I ask the Rebbe a question?” “What is your question?” said the Rebbe. “How can you possibly make a blessing thanking G-d for bringing us to this time. Should we thank Him for bringing us to Bergen-Belsen? For bringing us to a time like this?”

“You know” said the Bluzhever Rebbe “I had exactly the same thought. That’s why I stopped in the middle. But then, I caught sight of all the faces looking so intently at that wooden clog filled with black camp shoe polish. I thought, here we are in the depths of darkness, but look how these Jews stand around the menorah, lovingly hang on to every word of the blessing.

“And I thought – if now is not the place to thank G-d for bringing us to this time – then I don’t know when is. It my holy duty to say that blessing now.”

Happy Chanukah!


  1. The story about the Bluzhever rebbe was beautiful.
    May Hallel and her friends enjoy their menorah and feel Hashem’s light in their remote corner of Southeast Asia

  2. Karen 🔆 torrano

    Hi. I’m not sure if I understand correctly. why would it be a good time to say the bracha during the Holocaust. and for what reason bless Gd? just to be alive, but be alive for that?

  3. The story comes from the book Chassidic Tales of the Holocaust, by Yaffa Eliach – one of my favorite books of all time.
    It has many stories of the Bluzhever Rebbe and his incredible rebbetzin, all so beautifully told by a writer who was herself a survivor.
    I recommend you read it. You’ll be blown away.

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