Ask The Rabbi

For the week ending 21 December 2002 / 16 Tevet 5763

Yahrzeit Candles - Lions

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Yahrzeit Candles

From: R. L.

Hi Rabbi,

Somebody was asking me what you do with the glass once the yahrtzeit candle has been used. I am sure you have some answers.

Dear R. L.,

[Rabbis note: It is a custom to light Yahrzeit candles each year on the date of passing of a beloved family member and on certain festivals in that persons memory.]

There is nothing specific that needs to be done. Any use which is not disrespectful is perfectly acceptable. Plenty a bubby (grandmother) used them as measuring cups. As I young child I remember seeing a Passover recipe at home that read : "One yahrtzeit glass full of matza meal. "

Having said that, I was in a home once where there was a long row of small, beautiful plants on the windowsill. I didn't ask them but I am pretty sure that they were planted in matching Yahrzeit candle holders. I thought that this was of especially beautiful significance. In this way we are reminded and inspired by the "seeds" planted by the deceased in this world, that grew and grow in this world and in the World to Come.

Jewish Lions

From S. F.

Dear Rabbi,

Where can I get information on why the lion is found so often on Jewish objects. Thanks.

Dear S. F.,

The lion is the symbol of the Tribe of Judah and it has many important connotations in Judaism.

The lion is, of course, the king of the beasts. Rabbaynu Bechaya (an early classic philosophical commentary on the Torah) explains that the word lion in Hebrew is "aryeh". It is spelled aleph, resh, yud, heh. The letters aleph, yud and heh are all found in the Name of G-d. The resh represents the word "ruach", which means spirit. The lion is a symbol of what true kingship is supposed to look like. A Jewish king must contain the dimension of Divinity together with the correct spirit to be able to rule over both himself and others.

Why was Judah and his tribe chosen for royalty? Because Judah had the ability to admit when he had made a mistake and to rectify the mistake. A Jewish king needs to able to accept that he is not infallible, and that he needs to listen to those who offer him correct advice. King David is the classic example of someone who was able to recognize that he had acted in an incorrect way and to be able to grow spiritually from the process of repentance.

A king leads, unites and serves as an example for others. The attachment of lions to so many Jewish objects may very well be symbolic. Every Jew should see himself with the responsibilities and obligations of monarchy to lead and unify all people in fulfilling their purpose to G-d and each other.

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