The Pasta Menorah: Turning “Give Me” into “Give You”
by Rabbi Ron Symons
Well aware that the “give me” attitude can be pervasive during the Hanukkah season, Temple Sinai in Pittsburgh has developed an annual tradition of turning “give me” into “give you.” Our goal is to provide a vehicle through which every single person who wants to give, no matter the size of his or her gift, can do so. Modeled on the sacred individual gifts of the Israelites when we built the desert tabernacle, modeled on the heroic individual contributions of Maccabees to the war effort, our “World’s Largest Hanukkah Menorah Made Out Of…” project allows each gift, however small in its individuality, to be multiplied when joined with the individual gifts of others.
On December 16th, Temple Sinai celebrated the end of Hanukkah by building the world’s largest Hanukkah menorah made out of Pasta Boxes. After three years of building world-record menorahs out of cupcakes (culminating in a 2,595-cupcake-menorah in 2011), the temple decided to move to pasta as a new challenge. I praised all those who donated pasta to the effort by comparing each of them to a Maccabee whose individual effort 2,000 years ago was amplified through their shared efforts. In their day, the Maccabees fought tyranny; our contemporary Maccabees are fighting food insecurity. Recently, my entire family – including my wife, Rabbi Barbara Symons (of Temple David in Monroeville, PA), and our children, Aviva, 16, Ilana, 15, and Micah, 12 – recently completed the Food Stamp Challenge, living for an entire week on $4.50 per person per day. I chronicled our experiences on Temple Sinai’s blog.
Our world-record menorah was built by adults, teens, and children from our congregation and celebrated by the students and families of the Temple Sinai Religious School. The 838 boxes of pasta that made up the menorah are being distributed to: Squirrel Hill-Shadyside-Greenfield Meals on Wheels, which is housed at Temple Sinai; the Squirrel Hill Food Pantry of Jewish Family and Children Services, and the East End Cooperative Ministry, of which Temple Sinai is an active member.
Next year promises to be even bigger.
We have turned “give me” into “give you.” It is a Hanukkah miracle!
Rabbi Ron Symons is the director of lifelong learning and director of the Tikkun Olam Center for Jewish Social Justice at Temple Sinai in Pittsburgh, PA.