Excerpted from The Light That Unites: A Chanukah Companion – Blessings, Teachings, and Tales by Rabbi Aaron Goldscheider
It may be the most unusual menorah in the world. Some would argue that it is the most authentic representation of the menorah that was lit by the Chashmonaim (Hasmoneans) during the first Chanukah. It can be found on a rooftop in the town of Sderot, Israel. It is indeed a unique menorah.
The town of Sderot sits in striking range of Gaza. Ten thousand rockets have been fired into Sderot and the Western Negev since 2001. The Kassam Rocket Menorah sits on top of the Sderot Yeshiva, where hundreds of young men study Torah and also serve in the Israeli army.
When Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, then chief rabbi of Israel, visited this rooftop menorah, he taught that the menorah that was lit at the time of Chanukah was not the golden Menorah in the Temple. The golden Menorah had been removed from the Temple. When the Maccabees returned to the Temple, the Menorah was not there.
The Menorah that was lit was a makeshift menorah made of bars of iron, presumably from the iron spearheads that were used in battle with the Syrian Greek army. Rabbi Lau asked whether the Chashmonaim could really find nothing other than deadly weapons to use for their menorah, and he explained that this special menorah made the statement that even an instrument of death can create light, Ki ner mitzvah, v’Torah ohr (כּי נר מצוה ותוֹרה אוֹר), “for a commandment is a lamp, and the teaching [Torah] is light” (Proverbs 6:23).
In an amazing expression of faith, the yeshiva commissioned a project to take the very Kassam rockets intended for destruction and death and fashion them into an object that would bring light – a menorah made from the very rockets aimed to destroy and to kill.
In doing so, they have brought the prophetic words of the prophet Isaiah to life. They have taken the spears of war and refashioned them into “ploughshares,” a tool that brings hope and light to the world.
The Kassam Rocket Menorah is lit each year during the eight days of Chanukah. During these dark and cold nights, thousands of families in Sderot live under the threat of rocket fire. The menorah on the rooftop in Sderot illuminates the darkness with a message of hope. When lit up each night of the festival, the menorah is visible throughout the town of Sderot and even into Gaza. It offers a message of light and optimism to all who seek goodness and peace.
“The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but the earth He has given to the children of men” (Psalm 115:16).
The Rebbe of Kotzk taught: “‘The heavens’ are in any case heavenly, ‘but the earth He has given to the children of men,’ to make earthly things heavenly.”
Published Oct. 2017