Menorah

February 12, 2014

“Menorah” – Candelabrum, a large branched candlestick, where the word “candle” is definitely not meant to exclude other types of fuel than wax candles; most particularly, oil. In fact, the first Menorah referred to in the Bible is the seven-branched candlestick constructed for and used in the Mishkan, the portable Temple set up by the Jewish People in the Wilderness, after their Exodus from Egypt. The material used for fuel in that Menorah was “shemen-zayit zach,” pure olive-oil. The “Kohen Gadol,” the High Priest, was commanded to tend the Menorah on a daily basis, making sure it had an adequate supply of oil.

The Menorah of the Mishkan was constructed of pure gold; its base, shaft, decorative cups, knobs and flowers, with its lamps on top, all hammered out and of a piece, with no soldering involved in its construction. In fact, according to one legend, Moshe did not understand how to make it, and HaShem told him to just throw the gold into the fire, and HaShem Himself would make the first Menorah; according to another legend, he was shown a model of the Menorah in fire when he was with HaShem on the top of Mt. Sinai.

The purpose of the Menorah was, of course, to provide light. But it had two interesting special features. Somehow, the lamps were positioned such that their light was angled towards the central lamp. Also, the nature of the windows of the Mishkan and later of the Temple was unusual. Usually, windows are made as large as possible to capture the outside light; in the Mishkan, the windows were small. The Mishkan, the House of G-d, had no need for outside light; rather, the Mishkan had small windows, through which its spiritual light radiated to the outside world.

The Menorah is also the central symbol of Chanukah. This Menorah, soldering permitted, consists of eight branches, corresponding to the fact that Chanukah is an 8-day Holiday. The fuel used in the Chanukah Menorah is either wax candles or olive-oil, and blessings are recited, praising HaShem for giving us the “Mitzvah” of lighting the Chanukah lamps and in commemoration of the miracles he performed for the Jewish People at the time of the original Chanukah (in 165 B.C.E.; see link to Chanukah). On the first night, a special blessing is recited praising HaShem for preserving His People throughout its very “challenging” history.

Candles are also lit on “Erev Shabbat,” the Eve of Shabbat, to usher in that holy day each week. Their light symbolizes “Shalom Bayit,” Peace and Harmony in the Family, and lighting them is a privilege reserved for the wife and mother of the household.

The Menorah is also the symbol of the modern State of Israel, that has been revived with the help of G-d, in our time, after an Exile of 2,000 years.