October 11, 2006

Menorah Memories

2006 1528 page31 caprass. A solid round base with seven slender branches arching upward, each encircling a miniature candle. An ancient sacred relic. The polished surface gleams in the reflection of its seven flickering flames. It is a menorah, delicately fashioned yet without ornate design; a reminder of Israel’s desert sanctuary. To me, it is a symbol of worship, of unity, of security.
The menorah originated as the seven-branched candlestick in the wilderness tabernacle of Moses. The lights burned continuously, never extinguished all at once. It was part of the special furniture in the holy place, pointing to the heavenly sanctuary. It was also the basis of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, a celebration of the time the wicks (so it’s been said) miraculously burned without oil for eight days during the Maccabean fight for freedom.
2006 1528 page31Friends purchased this menorah in the Holy Land and gave it to my parents when I was still in diapers. It has traversed land and sea, destined to become an intricate element in my childhood memories. Now it rests on our living room coffee table, lovingly dusted and polished each Friday. It is used most often on those special occasions my family calls “sundown worship.”
Reviewing the past, I am flooded with memories of family life. I think of special suppers, agape feasts, and Christmas banquets when this menorah graced the table as an elegant centerpiece. More often, though, it played an important role in our family worship traditions. Supplied with a fresh candle in each branch, the unlit menorah would wait for sunset to arrive. We would gather on the floor around the coffee table, eagerly waiting our chance to participate.
Mother would pass around matches, each of us lighting two candles, starting from the outside and working toward the center. We would then take turns sharing a praise or “thank you” from the ending week. My father always went last, lighting the center wick, unifying the row of tiny flames.
Menorah. The very word awakens an aura of specialness, of family tradition, and of a child’s trust. And yet, this was only the beginning of its beauty to me.
Looking into the future, I dreamed of a new menorah continuing to create memories of home. But this was not the home of my youth; I dreamed of a home of my own. A home in which God would provide a companion in eternal union. This husband and father would also light the center candle. He would be the leader of unity in my new family. Here, too, there would be small children, turning their expectant faces into the glow of candlelight, eagerly waiting their turn to take part in the family ritual.
I am now grown and married. We have our own traditions for family worship and ushering in the Sabbath hours. Someday we will have children. Perhaps for them the menorah will become a symbol of equal importance that it has been for me. I hope they will learn to treat it with the tenderness
I knew as a child. For them it can also become a token of family, security, and oneness in worship to God.
But the menorah can symbolize even more. Beyond my little home, my husband, and my memories, I see it as a symbol of the Father’s eternity. I dream of touching the heavenly “candlestick,” of experiencing that security of home. But this feeling will be different from the one on earth. It will be a knowledge of eternal peace, and of atonement between Jesus and my sinfulness. This will offer an overwhelming sense of completeness, accomplishment, and ultimate victory. To me, that will be the most meaningful security of all.
Sarah K. Asaftei is a pastor’s wife, an author, and a speaker. The founder of ReDefinitionMinistries.com, she travels widely to speak about God’s plan for biblical womanhood, romance, and Christian identity.