Menorah: history and curiosities

The Menorah Is the official symbol of the Jewish nation. It is a seven-branched candelabra of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, one of the most common symbols of Judaism. The word menorá simply means candelabrum or candelabrum, and there were several minoras in the temple in Jerusalem.

According to the biblical book of kings, there were ten candlesticks in the hall of Solomon's temple: "And Solomon made all the vessels that were in the house of the LORD, the golden altar, the table of gold for the bread of the presence, the candlesticks of pure gold, five on the south side, and five on the north side, Interior sanctuary".


It is possible that these men were seven branches, because they had to give light to a room that was"sixty cubits long, twenty cubits wide and thirty cubits high." Ten small oil lamps are insufficient for a room with these dimensions, and it should be noted that archaeologists have found oil lamps in the shape of a bowl with seven jets, supported by candlesticks.

That these ten candelabras were of seven branches is certainly not impossible, but we shall never know with certainty, for all the precious objects in the temple of Solomon were destroyed by the troops of King Nebuchadnezzar in AD 587 BC.


After the Babylonian exile (586-530), Judaism had to reinvent itself. Now that Jerusalem was part of the Achaemenid Empire, there was no king, and religious power came into the hands of the priests, who added texts dealing with correct warfare practices. This does not mean that they were invented, although they certainly included new elements such as the Babylonian calendar, the priestly authors sincerely believed they wrote down what had been practiced before 586. At this time the following description of the seven-armed Menorah was written:

"And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold. The base and shaft of the candelabrum will be of hammered work; Its cups, its capitals and its flowers will be of one piece with him; And there shall be six branches that go out from its sides, three branches of the candlestick on the one side, and three branches of the candlestick on the other side; Three cups made like almonds, each with its capital and flower, on a branch, and Three cups made like almonds, each with the capital and the flower, in the other branch - so for the six branches that come out of the candlestick; And in the lampstand four cups made like almonds, with their capitals and flowers, and a capital of one piece with her under each pair of the six branches that come out of the candlestick. Its capitals and its branches will be of one piece with him, a whole piece of hammered work of pure gold. And thou shalt make for it the seven lamps; And the lamps will be set to give light on the space in front of him. His glasses and his trays will be pure gold. Of a talent of pure gold will be made, with all these utensils"

The priestly author of these words believed that the Menorah had been made by Moses, and had been with the Jews when they wandered in the wilderness. The Menorah of seven branches would have burned from the evening until the morning (Leviticus, 24: 3).

The measurements are not given in the Bible, and reproductions of the Menorah are absent in this period; Perhaps the measurements can be derived from the Talmud (Menahot, 28b), which says that the Menorah was eighteen inches tall.

Period of the second temple

When the temple was rebuilt, there was only one Menorah, not ten. The object is mentioned with some emphasis in the book of Chronicles, which was written immediately after the Exile, and is based on the Kings. The following line, however, has no parallel in the Kings, and therefore is an insertion by the author of Chronicles:

"The priests offer to the Lord every morning and every evening burnt offerings and incense of sweet spices, put the bread of the offering on the table of pure gold and take care of the golden candlestick whose lamps burn every night"

This line is a discourse that lists the priestly duties, and it is obvious that the author considered the Menorah very important. It also refers to Ben Sira, who wrote and takes for granted that everyone knows the Menorah. According to 1 Maccabees 1.21, the Menorah was stolen by Antiochus IV Epiphanes

This chandelier is described by Flavius ​​Josephus and shown in the Arch of Titus in Rome. The lower part of the central axis shows an oriental design very similar to the columns of Persepolis.

It is perfectly possible that the Menorah made by Judas Maccabee is an exact copy of a candlestick made immediately after the return of the Babylonian exile. For now, the Menorah was never extinguished. According to Josephus, three candles were permanently burned (the others only lit overnight). Cleanliness, lighting and clipping were among the tasks of the high priest.

Later history

After the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, the Menorah was taken to Rome. The representation in the Arch of Titus raises a minor problem, because the pedestal (an octagon) is different from all other representations, which almost always show the Menorah with three legs.

Worse still, the octagon displays eagles with garlands on their peaks and capricorns on their upper level, and aquatic animals on their lower level: these symbols are not known by the Jewish art of Christ's earlier centuries and violate the second of the Ten Commandments . "An idol will not be made for you, either in the form of anything that is in heaven, or that is in the earth, or that is in the water beneath the earth." Eagles and water snakes do not belong to the Jewish cult.

Perhaps this is not the real Menorah, perhaps the pedestal is a Roman restoration because the Menorah was damaged during the looting of Jerusalem (there is no evidence), perhaps the pedestal is in fact a bunk, designed to give stability of the object during the procession.

However, this was the Menorah that was in Rome, and was deposited (with other objects of worship from the temple of Jerusalem) in the Temple of Peace in Rome. Temple treasures may have been moved to another place after the Temple of Peace was destroyed in a major fire in 192, and were probably brought to Carthage by the Vandals who sacked Rome in 455.

In his Vandal Wars, Procopius of Caesarea claims that the sacred objects of the Jews were brought to Constantinople and carried through the streets during the triumphal procession of Belisarius.

If we believe in the testimony of Procopius of Caesarea, the Menorah was sent almost immediately to Jerusalem, because a Jew told Justinian that the candlestick had brought disaster to every city where he had been. The presence of the object in Jerusalem, however, is not recorded, perhaps because Palestine was later conquered by the Muslims.

Historical background

About 2100 years ago, the Land of Israel came under the rule of the Syrian-Greek emperor Antiochus, who issued a series of decrees designed to force his Hellenistic ideology and rituals on the Jewish people.

He forbade the study of the Torah and the observance of its mandates, and profaned the Holy Temple in Jerusalem with Greek idols. A small number of numerically disadvantaged Jews fought the powerful Greek armies and expelled them from their land.

When they recovered the Holy Temple, when they wanted to light the menorah of the temple, they discovered that the Greeks had contaminated virtually all the oil. All that remained was a puddle of pure oil, enough to last a night, and it would take eight days to get new pure oil.

Miraculously, the supply of a day lasted eight days and nights, and so the Hanukkah celebration was established. To commemorate and transmit these miracles, the Menorah of Hanukkah Chanukah (also known as chanukiah) is lit on each of the eight nights of Chanukah.

Elements of the menorah

The basic elements of a kosher menorah are eight headlines for oil or candles and an additional holder, separate from the rest, for the shamash candle ("wizard"). Chanukah lights can be candle flames or oil-filled.

Since the miracle of Chanukah happened with olive oil - the small amount of oil that lasted eight days, a menorah of oil is preferable to a candle, and olive oil is the ideal fuel. Cotton wicks are preferred because of the soft flame they produce.

The Jews try to make an article of the Mitzvah as beautiful as they can acquire, so that, if possible, the Menorah should be made of silver. The beautification of a Mitzvah is the way to express gratitude. The eight candles of the menorah should be arranged in a straight and uniform line, not zigzag or with some lights higher than others.

If it is an oil menorah, the oil cups should contain enough oil to be turned on for the required time, at least 30 minutes on week nights and up to an hour and a half on Friday night.

If it is a candle holder, the candles should be large enough to be lit for the required time. Electric menorahs are great for display purposes, and they are a wonderful medium for reporting the Chanukah Miracle. But the Chanukah lights used to fulfill the Mitzvah must be real flames fueled by wax or oil, like the flames in the Holy Temple.

The Shamash

The shamash or"auxiliary"candle used to light the other lights, is placed a little higher or lower than the other candles, in the ninth branch of the menorah. Many Jews have the tradition of using a beeswax candle for the shamash.

Although the primary function of the shamash has been served once the candles have been lit, we do not extinguish the shamash. Instead, it is placed in place adjacent to the other lights, ready to"serve"in case a candle goes out.

Another reason the illuminated shamash is left is because it is forbidden to use Chanukah lights for any practical reason. In this way, if a candle is needed, the shamash is available for use, preserving the holiness of the lights of the mitzvah.

Who participates in the tradition?

Both men and women are required to participate in the lighting of the menorah. In some families, the head of the house lights the family's menorah while everyone else listens to the blessings and responds,"Amen."

In many other families, all household members, including children, light up their own minorities. Either way, it is important that everyone be present and involved in the holiday commemorating the miracle of Chanukah.

Where the menorah lights

The Jews light the menorah in their own houses. If you are spending the night in a Jewish home, you have the option of giving your host a symbolic contribution to the expenses of the menorah. At home, there are two favorite places for the menorah.

You can configure the menorah in a central door, in front of the mezuzah. In this way, when you pass through the door, you are surrounded by two mitzvot - the mezuzah and the menorah. Ideally, men's lights should be between 12 and 40 inches off the ground.

When to turn on the lights of the Chanukah

The lights of Chanukah are lit every night of Chanukah. The Maccabees expelled the forces of darkness with swords, now it is symbolized with light. The custom of many communities is to light the menorah shortly after sunset.

In other communities, the menorah lights up after dark (about thirty minutes after sunset). Either way, the menorah must contain enough fuel to be on for at least thirty minutes after dark.

Regardless of the custom of the different Jewish communities, on Friday night the menorah lights up before sundown, and on Saturday night it lights up after dark. Ideally, you should turn on the menorah at the earliest possible opportunity.

It only delays if the arrival of family members who wish to be present when the menorah is turned on is delayed. Chanukah lights can be turned on as long as there are people on the streets, or as long as there is another member of the family awake to participate, but not later than half an hour before dawn.

Lighting the menorah

The lights are placed on the menorah. On the first night, a candle is placed on the far right of the menorah. The next night, a second light is added to the left of the first, and then a light is added every night of Chanukah from right to left. Everyone should gather around the menorah. The shamash candle is lit, the appropriate blessings are recited.

The Blessings

Before lighting the Chanukah candles, thank God for the incredible miracles of Chanukah:

"בָּרוּךְ אָּתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֹלֵהניּוּ מֶךְלֶךְ הֹוָםלָם אֲשֶׁר ּוּ בִצְמֹוָתָיו וָּנוּוּ לַדְהִלקינֵ נֵר חֲנֻכָּה

בָּרוּךְ אָּתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֹלֵהניּוּ מֶךְלֶךְ הֹוָםלשֶׁעָשָׂ שֶׁעָשָׂה םים לֲאֲבוֵתניּוּ בָּיִמםים הֵםהֵם בַןמַן הַזֶּה"

(El-ha-a-shi-a-sha-nu-be-mitz-vo-tav ve-tzi-va-nu le-had- Ba-ruch A-tah Ad-nai E-lo-he-nu Me-lech Ha-olam ella-a-sa ni-sim la-avo-te- Zeh)

"Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with your commandments, and commanded us to light the light of Chanukah. Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our ancestors in those days, in this time."

On the first night of Chanukah, the following blessing is made:

בָּרוּךְ אָּתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֹלֵהניּוּ מֶךְלֶךְ הֹוָםלשֶׁ ֶחֱהָניּוּ וְּיָנמּוּ וִגִּהעָניּוּ לַןמַן הַזֶּה

(Ki-yi-ma-nu ve-higi-a-nu liz-man ha-ha-ha-ha-Zeh)

"Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has given us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion."


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  2. Rony, R. (2011). The history of the menorah. 25-1-2017, from Website:
  3. Kagedan, B. (2013). Menorah: History of a symbol. 25-1-2017, from Website:
  4. Syme, D. (2016). Hanukkah: Customs and Rituals. 25-1-2017, from Website:
  5. Dillon, R. (2016). The Seven Messages Of The Menorah. 25-1-2017, by Synagog Uechm. Website:
  6. Lang, Y. (2016). How to Light the Menorah. 25-1-2017, from Website:
  7. Spero, S. (2009). THE MENORAH PSALM. 25-1-2017, by SHUBERT SPERO JEWISH BIBLE QUARTERLY Website:

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