Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The Chanukah Question: What Do You Light, Candles or Olive Oil?

When I was growing up, that wasn't a question.  When we remembered, we lit candles.  Yes, when we remembered.  I wasn't raised in a Torah observant family, but we did have a Chanukah menorah or two.  I even remember one so small that the only thing you could possibly light in it were birthday cake candles.

My parents who were traditional in a way, they knew what they and we kids were missing in terms of Judaism,  looked down on the few neighbors who had electric menorahs in their windows.  If you were going to have a menorah, it should be dripping with wax and not be light bulbs controlled by a switch.

My in-laws also lit candles. That was the modern Jewish American way.

Olive oil ready for Erev Shabbat and
Motzei Shabbat Chanukah 5774 lighting.
So, it never occurred to me that there was any other way to light lights on Chanukah.  But after a number of years in Israel I began to notice that many other people lit oil on Chanukah.  I don't remember exactly when or even why, but at some point I bought myself a very inexpensive Chanukah Menorah aka Chanukiya.  And then I bought a few more and some extra glass cups for them, and for over twenty years already I only light olive oil.

His and Hers Chanukiyot, night six
My husband still prefers lighting candles
I must admit that at first we tried buying various cheaper "Chanukah olive oils," but then I realized that they were fakes, just cheap oil with green coloring. Sometimes they didn't burn or when they did the house went black. I also heard about saving money by adding some water to the oil.  Of course only the oil burned, and if you were lucky you didn't get burnt or cut by the exploding glass cups that held it all.  So now, even when our money is very short I get good edible olive oil, like the Meshek Achiya olive oil produced in Shiloh.

It's hard to believe that Chanukah is almost over.

What do you light, olive oil or candles?

Rami Levy, Sha'ar Binyamin, Chanukah 5774


Hadassa said...

Shalom and Hanuka sameah!
We use only olive oil and only from Meshek Achiya.

Tzivia in AliyahLand said...

Wow, I have never heard of the fake oils - what chutzpah!!! I tried something else (canola?) in a pinch once and the smoke was terrible.
I love the idea of local olive oil; how wonderful.
Since becoming frum (20-some-odd years), olive oil is my only thing. My husband prefers candles, so every year I give him my spiel about good, better, best, mehadrin min hamehadrin, and someday, it will sink in. Never heard of such a thing growing up, but I think it's so beautiful when there are a few oil menorahs (sorry, chanukiyot) in a family glowing together. Generally, though, the kids use candles. And we sometimes use a candle shamash even on an oil menorah... just because it's more practical.

Batya said...

Hadassa, It's the best.
Tzivia, good olive oil can't be inexpensive. I don't bother trying to convince my husband to switch. Change is tough for him.

Lorri M. said...

I use candles, my daughter uses oil, and our Menorot reflects both types.

Batya said...

Lorri, so it seems like it's a rare family to have only one kind of chanukiyah