Chanukah is a time of beautiful flames. Why ruin that beatific scene with black cups? If the Black cups are getting you down try these instead.
Each year we are faced with the same challenge: How to light the Menorah in a Mehudar way without marring the beauty of the cups for the next night. Like most of you, I grew up using the good-old floaters. You know, the cardboard cutouts in the shape of circles or octagons that float in your Menorah cup. Well, the ones that are supposed to float at least. Some of my fondest memories are poking the hole in the floater, inserting the wick, placing the floater in the cup and watching it sink straight to the bottom. Then, I would stick my finger into the oily cup and pull out the floater, and try again so that the floater could flip upside down. The floaters and I usually played this game for about 15 minutes until I finally placed each one flat on top of the oil. It was an exact science, that I could not afford to mess up unless I wanted to be there all day.
As night fell, it was time to light the Menorah. I would look on proudly as my father would light the floating wicks that I had triumphed over not long before. This scene was beautiful for the first half an hour. However, as the oil is consumed by the lit flame the floater would gradually descend beneath the cup lip. We all know what happens next; Crackle, pop, crackle went the flame in the cup. Rice Crispies has nothing compared to a menorah’s flame as it licks the cup. Then slowly but surely the cup would turn gray, and then black. So much for matching clear Menorah cups.
As I grew older, I figured that there must be a better way. Granted, if you’d like you can wash your Menorah cups daily. But I think that I speak for most of us when I say that that is not likely to happen in my house.
So, I decided to experiment with different wicks and holders and see which would stop the black cup crises. Here is the one that I like best, and a couple of wicks that I found work well:
Tzinoret Hameshubach: These gold-colored wick holders feature a base with a connected pipe. The pipe runs from the bottom of the glass to the top and has several small holes along the length of the pipe. (The reason for this specific shape and design are beyond the scope of this post.) Be sure to check the back of the package to see which will fit in your size Menorah cups.
These pipes can be used with 2 different wicks: White (Cotton) and Red. The package comes with enough wicks for each night, including the Shamash.
Red: These wicks are made of the same material as the floating wicks, (minus the cardboard floater, of course.) They light beautifully, and stay lit. So long as there is oil to be fed into the holder it will continue to burn. Simply add oil to the cup and insert them into the top of the pipe. Wait a few moments for the wick to draw the oil to the top. If you,’d like, you can add some water to the cup as well to bring the oil to the top. (Take care not to get the wick wet as you do this so that it will light.) You may still need to wait a couple of minutes after pouring the oil as the wick starts to soak in the oil.
Note: Some of the wicks often slide into the pipe and need to be pulled out by hand. Also, the size of the flame is often the size of a BB without doctoring the wick. To doctor them, I often slide 1 end of the wick back and forth between my fingers. This will loosen the fibers so as to make it slightly larger than the pipe top and enable a larger flame to burn. Widening the tip should also stop it from falling in.
White Cotton: These are my absolute favorite! Getting them into the pipe can be a bit tricky as the fibers often get caught and come apart as you insert them. Here is my trick: Dip 1 end of the wick into a drop of oil. Then insert it into the pipe from the bottom and twist the wick clockwise to push it up until it emerges from the top. Then place the base into the center of the cup while holding the wick tip with your finger so that it doesn’t drop into the cup. Add oil to the cup, taking care not to knock over the base/pipe with the oil stream. Give the wick a few minutes to soak up the oil and draw it to the top of the wick. (You can also add some water to the bottom so that the oil will rise to the top of the cup but be sure to do the oil at the same time) Light it up and watch the beautiful flame rise by itself!
Still want to stay with floating wicks? Check out this hack!
Wishing everyone a lichtigeh Chanukah from all of us at the Mentch!