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Hanukkah Menorahs: Green DIY Guide (PHOTOS)

First Posted: 12/15/11 11:09 AM ET Updated: 12/17/11 07:31 PM ET

From Networx:

The Jewish festival of Chanuka will take place this year the evenings of December 20th through the afternoon of the 28th. It is both the celebration of the defeat of the Greek armies in Jerusalem in the second century BCE and a commemoration of the miraculous burning of oil candles in the Temple in Jerusalem which should have lasted less than a day, but lasted eight days.

A large part of the celebration is the lighting of a candle in the eight-branched candelabrum known as a "menorah." An additional candle is lit each of the eight nights of the holiday. Today, many people use either synthetic or natural wax candles. But if the original event occurred with olive oil candles, why use wax? In fact, it seems many people have forgotten that olive oil even burns.

However, as Rabbi Shlomie Chein of Santa Cruz, CA points out, "According to Jewish law, the preferred fuel for kindling the menorah is of course olive oil, since the miracle originally occurred in the holy Temple with olive oil." In other words, wax candles are good, but olive oil is better. And, as it turns out, olive oil is also greener.

Unlike many of the synthetics used to produce solid candles, olive oil is renewable, sustainable and clean. With what other type of fuel source do you feel good about eating the leftovers? Like most DIY endeavors, designing your own olive oil menorah is very satisfying and enjoyable.

The laws regarding the menorah are very flexible, unlike many other Jewish laws. "People actually get creative with how they build their menorahs. It's very beautiful that people can commemorate the miracle and at the same time have their own personal expression with their own creativity," says Rabbi Chein. However, there are numerous details that anyone starting out with olive oil should be aware of. I've been using olive oil for Chanuka since about 2004, and from my experience I present this DIY guide to Chanuka oil menorahs.

How to Pick Your Vessel
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Almost any type of vessel is kosher to use for a Chanuka lamp. "It just shouldn't be rusty or dirty, which would be disrespectful," Rabbi Chein notes. I have found that the most useful and convenient vessels to use are beer bottles or shot glasses. (Ceramic and metal vessels would work too, but don't use plastic or any other material that will melt or burn when exposed to the heat of a flame.) So first of all, you should drink the beer if you're using beer bottles. Then rinse them out and fill the bottle(s) with water up to about an inch-and-a-half to two-inches from the top. The water just takes up volume in the bottle so you don't have to waste 12 oz. of oil in each bottle, which would be enough oil to have your own eight-day burning miracle.

When the bottles have water in them, pour your oil on top of this water (as you'll remember from primary school, oil floats on water). You will then suspend your wick in this oil.

Important tip: Don't ever let the wick dip into the water, or touch water for that matter. The reason is the wick will readily absorb water which will effectively block the flow of oil through the wick. If you wish, you can reuse a wick numerous times as long as it remains saturated with oil and doesn't touch water.

If you're using smaller vessels like shot glasses, just fill with oil.


Filed by James Gerken  |