Generation to Generation
When my husband Buck and I were doing bi-annual wholesale art shows in Philadelphia, we had the opportunity to hear what the buyers thought about our various offerings. The piece that had the most discussion was the l’dor v’ dor translated to english, “Generation to Generation”.
I had long ago found the tradition of lighting a memorial candle on the anniversary of a loved one's death like an advertising pitch. The small white glass 24 hour candles have the name of the company that makes these candles on them. I found it offensive the light of my love was covered with advertising for the likes of Manischewitz or Rokeach.
So why would I light a candle that bears the name of even the most respected Judaic manufacturers?
I became intent in creating a meaningful piece of art that could hold the glass jar but hide the advertising.
This expression is very important because it is believed, after death, we rely on our family to offer our actions to the merit of our soul. The reason is quite simple. Once we leave our bodies there is no way for us to continue gaining merit for the Mitzvahs (good deeds) we do. However, if someone does a Mitzvah in your name it literally is accrued to both of your credit.
With this background I proudly took my new design to the next wholesale show in Philadelphia.
But no sooner than the doors to the exhibit opened, I found not everyone was as pleased as I was with my solution. I stood by and watched the representatives of existing and new clients getting into disagreements with each other over Halachic (Judaic Law) as to the appropriateness of using figures against the biblical warning not to make or graven images. Many people, when discussing if these dancing candle holders were idol worshiping at worse and image prohibition at best, hit a raw nerve. Many people said they would have to go back to their rabbi for clarification, others dismissed such arguments with,” if they don’t like them, they don’t need to buy them”. But my favorite conversation was between a husband and a wife. The husband loved them. The wife, not so much. They stood in the booth for 20 minutes or so trying to convince the other to see things in a different light when finally the husband announced,” its like us and ice cream. You love vanilla, I love chocolate. We need to agree to disagree and order 6 to see what the congregants want.” I have found people love them or not. But when they love them, they often buy in quantity because it is such a lovely gift after someone has passed or on their yahrzeit (anniversary of passing).
What was the motivation in taking my uplifting award-winning menorahs dancing figures, rolling a reduced sized stripe of them into a circle that allowed the manufactured glass holder to be enclosed by these figures? When lit, it looks like the deceased is surrounded by loved ones with the flickering light of their soul in the flame. The flame uplifts their memory as the light of Eternal memory . The light seemed to shine brighter when symbolically surrounded by family and friends.
When I designed another menorah, “The Circle of Friends” I added a matching Yahrzeit candle holder to my collection. It's the light in the middle surrounded by the community.
Going back to Philadelphia and listening to hundreds of people viewing the yahzeith I also learned a secondary value of the glass containers to Jewish Immigrants from the corporations producing them. Both companies, Manischewitz and Rokeach, were formed in 1888 as immigrants were flowing into the Lower East side. The Jews left their homelands in Europe seeking a new beginning from the problems that pursued them. They brought very little with them but they prioritized maintaining their rituals. Soon, their cupboards were filled with these small glass jars. Being innovative, after they were used for the memorial ritual, they were cleaned and became their drinking glasses. When a family was invited to someone's house for a meal, they brought their Yahrzeit “glasses” with them. Often they were left behind but there was no problem. When people next came to their apartment , their inventory was restocked. This was an early example of recycling.
My memorial candles also have a dual reusable purpose after the primary use has run its course. Put them in a prominent place as lovely decor and daily reminder of its use once a year. Even without a candle, the form reminds you of happy moments with your loved ones.
There is no disrespect if you create your own ritual. In fact, let me know how you are using this object d’art as a connection with and for those you love.