Menorah is the golden seven-candle lamp, used during the ritual service in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem (the word “menorah” – in Hebrew, “lamp”). The Menorah consisted of a central lamp and six symmetrical “branches” extending from it: three on one side and three on the other. The first golden Menorah was created during the wanderings of Jews in the desert, according to the word of the Almighty (Shemot 25: 9).
After the Jewish conquest of the Land of Israel and, a little later, the erection of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Menorah was placed in the inner chambers of the Temple, before entering the Holy of Holies.
Where the original Menorah is today is not precisely known; however, according to the Midrash, even before the destruction of the First Temple, Menorah was hidden in secret places in the Temple Mount. For centuries, Menorah has served as one of the main Jewish symbols. When establishing the state of Israel, the image of a seven-candle lamp was placed on the country’s coat of arms.
History – Menorah
According to the book of Shemot (Exodus), the Golden Menorah used for the Temple service was created during the construction of the Portable Temple – Mishkan (aka the Tabernacle of the Testament). This happened in the first year of wandering in the desert. The Menorah stood in Mishkan, and the high priest Aaron, every day before dark, lit the lamp lamps. In the morning, the lamps were cleaned and prepared for the next ignition.
After the Jews arrived in the Land of Israel, Menorah stood in Mishkan in Shiloh. When King Solomon (Shlomo) erected the First Temple of Jerusalem, Menorah was placed there, along with all the sacred utensils. There was also a menorah in the Second Temple.
As indicated in the Book of Kings (Mlahim I, 7:29), in the First Temple – the Temple of King Shlomo – there were nine more Menorahs made of pure gold.
The Midrash says that even during the time of King Yeoshiyau – shortly before the destruction of the First Temple – the Menorah was buried with the Ark of the Covenant in hiding places in the bowels of the Temple Mount. Some believe that Menorah was returned to the Temple by returning from Babylonian captivity. However, according to another version, another Menorah was already standing in the Second Temple.
Nevertheless, the Menorah also stood in the Second Temple. It stood until the Greco-Syrians stole it after they conquered Jerusalem.
When the Maccabees (Hasmoneans) liberated and cleaned the Temple (see the history of Hanukkah), they made a new Menorah of iron, and the lamps were soldered with tin. Subsequently, silver Menorah was made for the Temple, and then a golden one. The Mishnah (Tractate Hagiga, 3: 8) says that in the Second Temple, there were two or three menorahs.
After the destruction of the Second Temple, Menorah was brought to Rome and carried in a triumphal procession, captured on the famous “Arch of Titus.” It is an interesting fact that the image on the “Arch of Titus” served as a prototype for the Menorah painted for the coat of arms of the state of Israel).
Together with other trophies, the temple menorah was placed in the Vespasian Forum (the so-called “Temple of Peace”), erected in honor of the victory in the Judean War. Over the centuries, all the vessels of the Temple, including the Menorah, were lost.
The Symbolic Meaning of Menorah
The symbolic meaning of the Menorah is exceptionally profound. Here are just some of the explanations:
The Menorah in the Temple recalled the spiritual light that emanated from the Temple and illuminated the whole world. Therefore, the six side branches of the Menorah corresponded to the six “sides” of the world: top and bottom, East, West, North and South, and in the middle – the Land of Israel – Eretz Yisrael.
The seven branches of the Menorah symbolize the seven days of creation, and also correspond to the seven days of the week. It is clear from the description of the Torah that the main branch is precisely the central one – the trunk, from which three pairs of branches depart. Saturday, too, stands as if separately, it is the goal of the whole universe, and the six preceding days are the everyday world, nothing more than a means to achieve this goal. Saturday represents the future world, the world of reward, and bliss, which is achieved when the soul joins its Divine Source. And the present world, preceding the future world, is a testing ground and a place of human labor, where the good prepared for man is “earned.”