Light My Fire – GOLD NOTES #15

by Matthew J. (Matt) Goldberg


Tuesday, December, 4 2012

Lighting candles—whether on Shabbat or Chanukah—is an act of joy. Saying or chanting the blessings and sharing the ritual with family and friends is comfortable, wonderful and reassuring. The specific act of lighting the match and igniting the shamash? Stripped of ritual and meaning, it’s simply a means to an end. I have a fault or two; pyromania is not one of them.

After watching a remarkable video a few hours ago, however, lighting a menorah will never seem the same again. Yes, I realize that you’re now entitled to a good explanation and a workable link. Both are coming—real soon.

My brother, who lives with his wife and four daughters in Ra’anana, sent me an email with the subject line This is brilliant. It was accompanied with just a link, and no other message. I’m not complaining, as we had exchanged other messages earlier in the day. This was quick and to the point, and it was a win-win. It would either wow me or give me an opportunity to offer up some variation of a McKayla Maroney-esque “not impressed” reply.

So, here’s the link, courtesy of youtube, and you can make up your own mind. Its title was intriguing: Rube Goldberg Machine – Technion Israel – Hanukkah 101. And yes, other than the somewhat monotonous music, what is not to love about this? I immediately did what I often do with really cool (and G-rated) videos: I shared it with my four-year-old son, Benny. He was impressed enough to want to see it three or four more times. I gladly obliged.

Now, I must admit that I don’t have much of a mechanical sense whatsoever. My aforementioned brother is a mechanical engineer and this vid would have an even deeper appeal to him. I can even envision him being part of a team that would consider lighting a menorah with a robot and everything else they could find, including nitroglycerin. I may be crazy enough to think about it verbally, but I even have trouble arranging more than ten dominoes in a way that they all fall over one-at-a-time. And as far as playing with fire is concerned, if you want me to strike a match, kindle the candles and perform the blessings, I’m a pretty good choice. If you’re looking for it to be done with creativity while bending some of Newton’s laws, then I’m not your man. The faculty of Technion, Israel Institute of Technology—which enjoys a brilliant reputation worldwide—was the ideal choice.

Rube Goldberg, as far as I know, is no relation to your friendly Gold Notes scribe. I am highly amused and amazed by his cartoons and inventions, each defined by Wikipedia as a “contraption, device, or apparatus [that] is a deliberately over-engineered or overdone machine that performs a very simple task in a very complex fashion, usually including a chain reaction.”

After watching something of this nature which is both brilliant and silly, it usually makes me smile for a few minutes. At times, it also makes me feel a little ashamed that I have no ability to begin to think in these terms. With words? Maybe. With my hands? Never. Perhaps, this video put me in a slightly more positive frame of mind. It paid off.

Benny had dropped his new yo-yo a few too many times on our hard floor, and his heart was as broken as the little toy. With my wife tied up, he appealed to me to fix it. Poor kid, right? Wrong. I sprung into action, figured out how to put it back together, and yes, it’s working again. Sure, what I accomplished was not even a miniscule step for mankind, but for this man…a man who still gets a warm glow from the memory of once successfully changing my car oil 25 years ago…it was a nice achievement.

That dubious achievement aside, I can hardly wait the four-and-a-half days until it’s time to joyfully light the menorah. The old-fashioned way.…

GOLD NOTES is a weekly feature that is, well, about something, if not quite everything, or nothing. To leave a comment, please reply below or send Matt an e-mail.

For information about Matt’s books, sports columns, speaking events and requests for appearances and custom writing, please visit, or contact him via email. Please also like his new Facebook Fan Page (“to like, to like, l’chayim”), which can be found here.

Filed Under: Gold NotesHumor


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Matthew J. Goldberg About the Author: An author, speaker and custom writer from Cherry Hill, NJ, Matt loves to entertain people through his writing and public speaking. Laughs, Smiles and just enough Wisdom reach his audience through the magic of his written and spoken words. More about Matthew

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