Inside the stately Monument Avenue home of Frances Lewis, renowned collector of modern art, lies a feast for the senses. Colors and shapes and textures fill every square inch of the rooms in which she lives. Paintings, chairs, rugs and decorative objects, collected by Mrs. Lewis and her late husband Sydney, create a symphony of spectacular creativity that delights, amuses and informs. Topping off this visual treat is a spiritual element that takes on particular significance during this holiday season - a group of 14 menorahs, as varied as the entire Lewis collection. What started off as one simple brass menorah, its purchase circumstances long forgotten, has become a collection of candelabra that are fun and fanciful, austere and sculptural. "I bought that a long, long time ago. That's the one we used for years," Mrs. Lewis says of the first of 14. A heavier brass menorah, made by an artist named Karpel, was a gift from Mr. Lewis to Mrs. Lewis. Together, the Lewises bought a colorful Venetian glass menorah a decade ago while visiting Venice, one of their favorite European destinations. Perhaps the menorah with the most important pedigree is the one made by sculptor and metalworker Albert Paley. Paley is known locally for the intricate iron gates he crafted for the West Wing of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. A friend of Mr. and Mrs. Lewis, Paley made this sculptural steel specimen in response to the Lewises' suggestion that he try his hand at making a menorah. "You know, he makes marvelous candlesticks," Mrs. Lewis says. "So, we said to him, 'Why don't you make a menorah?' A couple of years later, he did. Of course, I had to go out and buy different kind of candles for that one." When asked about a porcelain menorah featuring tea-set elements, she laughs, "Oh, that one! My grandson Drew and his wife took a wedding gift that they hated and made it into a menorah and presented it to me." She shows obvious appreciation of the manifestation of an inside family joke. Other family members have caught on, too. Son Andy gave her a wooden menorah crafted by Charles B. Cobb. There's one menorah that features miniature replicas of synagogues of Europe. "That one came out of a Saks catalog," says Mrs. Lewis. Another, a cut-tin moose, made in Haiti, with the candles springing out of his antlers, also came from a catalog. "I couldn't resist it," she admits. "It was just a terrific idea." It seems fitting that the former owner of Best Products, which had a bustling catalog business for years, should turn to that medium to shop. Friends Ann and Bob Burruss have given her two menorahs to add to the bounty. One is downright silly, with little ducks in a tub. The other is made simply of watery green frosted glass, sophisticated and soothing. "Hanukkah started off as an insignificant holiday," says Mrs. Lewis. Its proximity to Christmas seems to have changed all that. Of the fun that retailers are having with the menorah, she says, "I think Christmas has rubbed off on this. And the artists have taken to it." So, with so many beautiful candles - that's nine candles on each of 14 menorahs, a total of 126 - does Mrs. Lewis actually light all of her menorahs? "Oh, yes." And when the holidays are over, the menorahs won't be wrapped in tissue. They'll stay on display mixed in with all of her other treasures. "Yes, you could say that decorative objects have gotten a hold on me." Yes, and we're glad of it. Evening Blessings The only religious observance related to Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of rededication, is the lighting of the candles of the menorah, a candelabra that holds nine candles, one for each night, plus a shammus at a different height. On the first night, one candle is placed at the far right. The shammus is lighted and three blessings are received. The first candle is then lighted using the shammus candle, and the shammus candle is placed in its holder. The candles are allowed to burn out on their own after a minimum of 30 minutes. Each night, another candle is added from right to left. American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise web site
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