Photo © Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by David Harris
Stone Hanukkah lamp with additional cavity for used wicks
Steatite (soapstone), carved
L: 15; H: 4 cm
Carl Rathjens Collection, on permanent loan from Salman Schocken, Tel Aviv
Accession number: L-B03.022 ; 118/357
The use of stone – a material “which is not susceptible to impurity” – in the making of Hanukkah lamps represents the vestiges of an ancient practice. Stone symbolizes time, tradition, and nobility. The choice of stone rather than shiny metal also stemmed from reasons of modesty, to avoid antagonizing the Arab neighbors. For the same reason, the exteriors of Jewish houses in Yemen were made to look humble, and Jewish women would wear jewelry mainly at home or conceal it under the folds of their garments. At times, the names of the owners or craftsmen would be inscribed on the lamps. These were in all likelihood made by a family patriarch, and were then handed down from one generation to the next. Such practices of inheritance were customary among Yemenite Jews, as well as among the Jews of southern Morocco.

Digital presentation of this object was made possible by: The Ridgefield Foundation, New York, in memory of Henry J. and Erna D. Leir