Interlocking menorah tessellation art by seth bareiss

Caution: This is not yet a tessellation.

Happy Hanukkah. Why did it take me sooOOooo many decades of looking at menorahs and Escher art before I stumbled into this idea?! To come up with this tessellation idea took me half of a lifetime in thoughtless observation, a second of inspiration, and 15 minutes of photoshopping.

It should be pointed out that a proper tessellation does not have visible "air" (gaps) in it, so this photoshopped picture with white unoccupied spaces will eventually have to be replaced with a proper version. That proper version will have no gaps. ~~ Seth, December, 2011.

If you'd like to see another Jewish-themed tessellation, one that's particularly easy to draw, take a peek at "Tessellating Dreidels" on this website.

A classic hanukiah with one candle cup lower than the others. From

Another traditionally shaped hanukiah - this one with one candle cup higher than the others. From

You may wonder, "Hey, there are only 7 candles! Aren't there supposed to be 9?" According to where you can see so many of these in an amazing array of shapes and materials, what we usually call a menorah is more accurately called a 'hanukia'. A 'menorah' is a seven-stemmed candelabra found in most synagogues. A 'hanukia' is the special nine-stemmed candelabra we light for Hanukkah.

Imagine my shock at learning this, at age 48. I grew up with a Rabbi living across the street, and never knew I was using the wrong word. It's like hearing for the first time at age 50, "Hey, you know those little round hats you've been calling 'yarmulke'? Well, they're supposed to be called 'ten gallon hats'."

Here's one more addition to your vocabulary: if you have more than one menorah, you don't have 'menorahs'. The plural is 'menorot'. So, when you help celebrate Judaism, remember to admire the menorot and wear your.. uh.. 'ten gallon hats'.

Also, the menorah I chose to use has the candles at several different heights. That's OK, but a hanukia also very often has 8 candles all at the same height, with candle number 9 at a different height. Why?

Well, the 8 are for marking the religious holidays. The Jewish religion says we're not supposed to use those 8 for anything but religion-- they shouldn't be for work like doing homework, or play like making a shadow puppet theater on your living room wall.

The odd one out-- candle number 9-- is for everything-but-religion. That's so you're not tempted to use the other 8 for shadow puppets, reading comic books, toasting marshmallows, finding the fridge for a midnight snack, or setting fire to your math homework.

Rabbi (and high school math teacher) Benjamin Resnick of California's New Community Jewish High School (the logo for which is, coincidentally, a menorah) wrote in to let us know:

"THE menorah (in the Temple) probably DID have all cups at the same height (like Israel's symbol). I think the reason that many synagogues have twisted arms or different heights is to show that they're not recreating the actual Temple menorah, which is reserved for only the Temple in Jerusalem."

Heesch type = CCCC