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A Prayer for the Season of Miracles : Hanukkah: Wouldn't it be wonderful if all the guns could be converted into menorahs,givers of light?

November 27, 1994|ELI HECHT | Rabbi Eli Hecht is director of Chabad of South Bay-Lomita

Every day in California, another innocent person is maimed or killed in a senseless shooting.

The number of violent deaths by guns is frightening. A report from Atlanta's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that from 1988 to 1990, half of the homicides and about two-thirds of suicides occurred in private homes. Of those homes, 43% had guns in them.

The latest tragedy was reported in Louisiana. Parents arrived home and discovered a noise in a closet. The father went for his gun and mistakenly shot his 14-year-old daughter to death.

I remember living 35 years ago in a quiet area of Brooklyn. Holdups, robberies and rapes were nonexistent. One year, tragedy struck, destroying our quiet neighborhood. It happened around Hanukkah.

My teen-age cousin escaped from Europe during World War II and convinced the Navy recruiter of his readiness to fight the enemy. "Hitler isn't only the enemy of the Jews; he is the enemy of all democracy," he said.

After the war, he worked producing ammunition for rifles, guns and other weapons of destruction--also belt buckles for the U.S. military. His favorite line was, "Without me, men can't go to war; their pants would fall down."

One of his sons worked in a drugstore, helping the pharmacist with deliveries and general upkeep. Late one night, a hoodlum came into the shop demanding drugs. Before the pharmacist could get him the drugs, the hoodlum panicked and shot my cousin's son in cold blood. I thought the family would never recover from this tremendous loss.

On a recent shopping trip to New York I came across all kinds of menorahs. Some were made of silver; others were ceramic and others were made of tin. One was remarkable. It was a wide piece of metal on a unique stand with places for the eight candles. Taking a closer look at it, I was struck that the candle holders were made from a heavy copper. Examining further, I saw that the candle holders were the shells from M14s. The base of the menorah was one of those anti-aircraft shells that are used to pierce armor. Here, finally, objects of weaponry were transformed into an object of harmony and hope. I wondered, who could have produced such a menorah?

I was determined to buy it, but it was not for sale. This menorah was to be a lesson for the gun dealers and the gang members. The very same machinery that produced weapons was now producing candle holders and menorahs, bringing light and happiness to the world. As you may have guessed, this menorah was created by my cousin, the father of the murdered boy.

Starting tonight, Jewish people will celebrate Hanukkah, the festival of lights.

The lighting of the menorah commemorates the event of the temple's rededication by the Jewish priests, called Kohanim, 2,100 years ago. When lighting the menorah with a one-day supply of oil, it miraculously burned for eight days.

If only we could change all the guns into menorahs, what a miraculous and bright Hanukkah we would all have.

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