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MENORAH (Heb. מְנוֹרָה; "candelabrum"), the name given to the seven-branched candelabrum which, according to the Bible, was a prominent feature of the *Tabernacle erected by the people of Israel in the wilderness, as well as in the Jerusalem Temple. In archaeological finds in Ereẓ Israel and Syria dating from the Middle Bronze Period onward, lamps have been uncovered in the form of a deep bowl, with seven spouts on the rim for inserting wicks. At the high place (bamah) discovered at Nahariyyah, several bowls, similar to those of the Middle Bronze Period, have been found. Some lamp bowls have a clay, stone, or metal stand, thereby transforming them into menorot. At Taanach such a menorah has been unearthed, consisting of a small bowl with seven spouts, set on a stand whose circumference, narrowing in the middle to form a grip, broadens out at the bottom into a base for placing it on the ground.

The Tabernacle

Among the vessels of the Tabernacle mentioned in the Priestly Code, reference is made to a menorah of gold, whose form is given in two parallel passages (Ex. 25:31–40; 37:17–24). A pattern of this menorah was, it is related, shown by God to Moses at Mount Sinai (Ex. 25:40), as He also showed him the pattern of the Tabernacle and all its furniture (Ex. 25:9). Six branches, three on each side, curved upward from the menorah's central shaft, which stood on a base (Ex. 25:31; Num. 8:4) whose precise shape cannot be determined. The shaft and each of the branches were ornamented respectively with four and three carvings of cups made like almond-blossoms, each subdivided into a knop and a flower. Under every two branches that were of one piece a knop was carved on the central shaft, making a total of three knops "for the six branches going out of the menorah" (Ex. 25:35). These three knops were probably an integral part of the cups on the central shaft and not, as some (A.R.S. Kennedy, S.R. Driver, and others) hold, in addition to its four cups. The fourth cup was at the top of the central shaft, above the places where the branches joined it. The uppermost cups of the branches were similarly at their top, with all of them – as well as that of the central shaft – ending at the same height. The flowers on these uppermost cups served as receptacles for the seven lamps.

The entire menorah was carved from one ingot of gold, "beaten work" (Ex. 25:31), and its vessels, also of gold and including the lamps, were carved separately (Ex. 25:37–38). The menorah was placed in front of the veil (parokhet) "on the side of the Tabernacle toward the south … over against the table" (Ex. 26:35; 40:24). When the lamps burnt they gave "light over against it" (Ex. 25:37) "in front of the menorah" (Num. 8:2–3), that is, the spouts of the lamps and the wicks faced northward, so that their shadow was cast on to the wall. The measurements of the menorah are not given in the Bible but the Talmud stated that its height was 18 handbreadths, which are three short cubits (Men. 28b; Rashi to Ex. 25:35). The use to which the Tabernacle menorah was put is described in the Priestly Code. The lamps (nerot) are said to have burned from evening to morning (Lev. 24:3), were lit at dusk and trimmed in the morning by the high priest (Ex. 30:7–8), and hence are called ner tamid (a perpetual lamp; Ex. 27:20; Lev. 24:2), that is, they were lit according to a fixed routine and for the nighttime only. This is specifically mentioned in connection with the lamp in the sanctuary at Shiloh (i Sam. 3:3). However, in the Second Temple (see below) three of the lamps burned throughout the day, the rest being lit in the evening (Jos., Ant., 3:199).

The First Temple

In the Temple built by Solomon there were ten menorot of gold, five along the northern and five along the southern wall of the Heikhal (the hall; i Kings 7:49; ii Chron. 4:7). These were ornamented with carvings of flowers and furnished with appliances of gold for tending the lamps (i Kings 7:49–50), the number of which on each menorah is not stated. Some scholars hold that the passage listing the golden vessels made by Solomon for the house of the Lord (i Kings 7:48–50) is a later addition; but this view should be rejected. All the vessels of gold in Solomon's Temple, including the ten menorot, were cut in pieces at the end of Jehoiachin's reign by the Chaldeans who entered the Heikhal during their siege of Jerusalem (ii Kings 24:13). Hence neither vessels of the Heikhal nor menorot are mentioned in the description of the Temple in Ezekiel's vision (Ezek. 41:1–4), for this description is apparently based largely on the actual appearance of the Temple in Jerusalem after the exile of Jehoiachin.

The menorot in Solomon's Temple may have had branches, and these may have numbered seven on each menorah. For the Heikhal, which Solomon built and which measured 40 by 20 cubits (i Kings 6:2, 17), was too large for only ten lamps to give it adequate illumination. Hence it is probable that each of the ten menorot had not one but several lamps, arranged on a central shaft and on branches, and that they numbered seven. Further support for the similarity between the menorot of Solomon and the one in the Tabernacle is to be found in the fact that the former, too, were ornamented with carvings of flowers (7:49), resembling the latter which had "cups made like almond-blossoms" and flowers. Moreover, the menorot in Solomon's Temple were made of pure gold (ibid., loc. cit. zahav sagur, apparently the equivalent expression for zahav tahor used in the Priestly Code; see Ex. 25:31, 39; et al.; see *Metals). The vessels of the menorah in the Tabernacle consisted of lamps, tongs, snuff-dishes, and oil vessels (Ex. 25:37–39; Num. 4:9); the first three are among those mentioned in connection with the menorot in Solomon's Temple (i Kings 7:49–50).

In addition to the vessels in the Heikhal, there were others in Solomon's Temple treasuries whose collection was started already in the days of David (ii Sam. 8:10–11), and which were left as objects consecrated to God but not used in worship. The passage in the Book of Chronicles enumerating the gifts prepared for the Temple by David before his death refers to the menorot of gold and silver in the Temple treasuries (i Chron. 28:15; and cf. 28:12). When the First Temple was destroyed the Chaldeans removed from it all these vessels, among which menorot are again included (Jer. 52:19), but they were not those of the Heikhal. No actual specimen of the menorah in the Tabernacle nor of one with a different number of branches has up to the present been uncovered in archaeological finds. Only reproductions of the menorah of the Second Temple are extant (see below).

Although according to the critical views the Priestly Code's account of the subject is legendary tradition, the artistic and architectonic elements of its description are undoubtedly based on an actual art style and derived from reality. Many scholars of the Wellhausen school held that the Tabernacle menorah was a literary projection of the one in the Second Temple. Their theory proceeds from that school's basic view that the Priestly Code was compiled at the beginning of Second Temple times, and hence its need to explain the entire Tabernacle as an imaginary reflection of the Second Temple. If, however, it is maintained that the Priestly Code was committed to writing earlier and is the production of the Jerusalem pre-Exilic priesthood, it must necessarily be held that the menorah described in it reflects a historic situation preceding the Second Temple. That the menorot in Solomon's Temple provided the pattern for the menorah in the Tabernacle is, indeed, not impossible.

The Second Temple

According to rabbinic legend, when the Temple was about to be destroyed the menorah was hidden away and it was later brought back by the exiles (see L. Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, 4 (1913), 321; 6 (1928), 410–1). In reality, however, the menorah of the Tabernacle, as a hallowed emblem mentioned in the Pentateuch, had an influence on the interior of the Second Temple, in which from the outset one menorah as in the Tabernacle, and not ten, as in the Temple of Solomon, was placed. The menorah in the Temple of necessity had to conform to that in the Pentateuch, which became its archetype. The force that the menorah of the Tabernacle had in Second Temple times as a hallowed and binding emblem can be seen from the claim, incorporated by the Chronicler in Abijah's speech, that the people of Judah, keeping the commandments of the Lord, every night lit the lamps of the menorah of gold (ii Chron. 13:11). Elsewhere, however, the Chronicler repeats the evidence of the Book of Kings by stating specifically that in the First Temple there were ten menorot and not one (see above). This contradiction between the enduring and binding validity of the menorah mentioned in the Pentateuch and the ten menorot in Solomon's Temple was met by the Sages with the above-mentioned statement that the menorah made by Moses was used during the entire existence of the First Temple, where all the menorot were placed on the south side, five on its right side and five on its left, and that of Moses in the middle (Men. 98b).

The golden menorah which stood in the Second Temple in the early stage of its history (it is referred to by Ben Sira – 26:17) was removed in 169 b.c.e. by Antiochus Epiphanes iv (i Macc. 1:21). Judah Maccabee made new Temple vessels, including the menorah, after the cleansing of the Temple (i Macc. 4:49–50; ii Macc. 10:3). According to the Talmud the first one was made of iron overlaid with tin (or with wood): "When they grew richer they made it of silver; when they grew still richer, they made it of gold" (rh 24b, Av. Zar. 43b); according to Josephus (Ant., 12:238), however, it was made of gold from the outset. It was seen by Pompey and his men when they entered the Temple (ibid., 14:7) and remained in Herod's Temple until its destruction (Jos. Wars, 5:216–7). After the destruction of the Temple it was borne by the Romans in Titus' triumphal procession (ibid., 7:148–9) and depicted with the other vessels on the wall of the triumphal arch called after him (see below). Elsewhere, however (ibid., 6:387–8), Josephus relates that during the siege of Jerusalem by Titus one of the priests went out and handed over to him two lamps of gold similar to the lamp in the Temple. On the erroneous assumption that the reference is to the menorah, some maintain that there were in the Second Temple several copies of the menorah of the Heikhal, one of which was carried in the triumphal procession (see below). In the Second Temple three of the lamps of the menorah burned throughout the day, the rest being lit in the evening (Jos., Ant., 3:199). The Talmud states that the priest who entered used to clean and trim the lamps except its two eastern ones which he found burning, and that its western lamp burnt continuously, and from it the priest relit the menorah at dusk (Tam. 3, 9; 6, 1; Sifra, Emor, 13, 7; Sif. Num. 59; Yoma 33a; et al.). If the western lamp was extinguished it was interpreted as boding ill for the future (Yoma 39b). Josephus (Apion, 1:22) similarly reports in the name of Hecataeus that on the Temple menorah there was a light which was never extinguished by night or by day. According to some, the western lamp mentioned by the sages refers to the second of the two easterly lamps, according to others, to the middle lamp, designated as "western" because its spout faced westward, that is, toward the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies (see Rashi to Shab. 22b, and to Men. 98b; Maim. Yad, Beit ha-Beḥirah, 3, 8). According to the latter interpretation the tradition of the sages accords with Josephus' statement (Ant., 3:199) that three lamps burnt throughout the day, that is, the two eastern and the western lamps.

[Menahem Haran]

Menorah on the Arch of Titus

The most important testimony for the form of the Temple menorah is the candelabrum on the Arch of Titus in Rome, which ought to be considered in conjunction with Josephus' description. Only three sides of each octagon of the arch are visible. They show reliefs within a threefold frame: in the middle shield of the upper cone two eagles face each other and hold a garland in their beaks; the other shields have different types of sea-monsters. The upper part of the menorah is, by and large, in accordance with biblical tradition and archaeological evidence. The hanging leaf-ornament of the middle shaft shows the Oriental (Persian) origin (cf. the pillars of Persepolis). The problem of the Arch of Titus menorah is, however, its pedestal, which consists of two octagonal casings, a smaller above the larger, giving a cone-shaped form. Though its proportions are rather large, it does not necessarily cast doubt on the fidelity of the sculptor, since this was a peculiarity of Roman – and later Christian – artists. What does make this representation of the pedestal suspect is that according to all Jewish sources (cf. Men. 28b) and archaeological finds the Menorah stood on three legs, usually lion's paws. These paws are particularly distinct in the Nirim Mosaic (see below). The Bible speaks of the yerekh of the candelabrum (Ex. 25:31), which Rashi explains as a plate with three legs (see S. Shefer (ed.), Enẓiklopedyah le-Inyenei ha-Mishkan…, 1 (1965), 126ff.), and so it appears in the wall painting of *Dura-Europos and perhaps on the coin of Mattathias Antigonus, the only ancient coin depicting a menorah. The few extant specimens of this coin are, however, badly preserved, one only showing, besides the plate, a rudimentary foot.

This divergence between the Arch of Titus and the sources has given rise to a lively controversy beginning with Relandus' De Spoliis… (1716) which maintained, on the basis of the biblical prohibition of depicting animals, that the pedestal of the menorah on the Arch of Titus could not be an authentic reproduction. In point of fact, as E. Cohn-Wiener pointed out, there is a difference in style between the lower and upper parts of the menorah. The upper part, dating from the time of the later Hasmonean kings (see above), shows characteristics of late Hellenistic style, whereas the pedestal is typical of a later Roman style. Important too, is the evidence of Josephus, who must have seen the menorah often, both in Jerusalem and in Rome, and who has proved reliable in matters such as these, e.g., the Masada excavations. Whether his description supports or contradicts the authenticity of the Arch of Titus menorah depends on the interpretation of the relevant words used by him. According to W. Eltester (in bibl. cf. Michel-Bauernfeind's edition of Josephus, Wars, 2, 2, 1969), the words translated from Greek, "the central shaft arose firmly from the pedestal," seems to confirm the Arch of Titus representation which indeed gives this impression of weight and firmness. Another interpretation would be that the central shaft "stretched" out of its pedestal, that it was of one piece with it. This would not only be in accordance with the biblical injunction of Numbers 8:4 (cf. Ex. 25:31, 36; 37:17, 22), but also with Josephus' statement preceding the above quotation that the menorah was different from those in general use. These were put together from separate parts (cf. Pliny, Nat. Hist. 34, 6, 11).

Various suggestions have been made to solve the difficulty. Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog, after summing up all other proposals, suggested that the original pedestal had been broken in the transport from Jerusalem to Rome and was replaced by the work of a Roman artist. Another hypothesis is that of W. Wirgin (iej 11, 1961, no. 3) who suggests that in order to carry the menorah in the triumphal procession without mishap, a Roman artist built a box-shaped covering from relief plates – well known from Roman censers – around the base to give it greater stability. A third suggestion is that the menorah on the Arch of Titus had as its model another menorah, perhaps one given as a gift to Rome by Herod. In fact Josephus (Wars, 6:388) relates that after the capture of Jerusalem, a priest handed to Titus "two lampstands similar to those deposited in the Temple." The Talmud (Ḥag. 26b, 27a) also mentions duplicates and triplicates of all Temple vessels in case the original ones were defiled. The Jerusalem Talmud (Ḥag. 3:8; 79d) and the Tosefta (Hag. 3:35) report the cleansing of the menorah on the Sabbath which provoked the derision of the Sadducees. This would not have been done had there been a duplicate but in any case it does not solve the problem of the Arch of Titus, since the duplicate would have been an exact replica of the original.

Reproductions of the Temple Menorah

Though the menorah of the Arch of Titus was widely known – the medieval pilgrims' guide Mirabilis Urbis Romae mentions the arcus septem lucernarum – it was not copied in late antiquity or the Middle Ages. While church candelabra and manuscript illustrations have animal feet, only one example of the Arch of Titus type is known: the Gothic candelabrum in Sta. Maria i Vulturella near Rome (see bibl. P. Bloch).

Several sketches of the menorah have been preserved from the time of the Second Temple in Jason's Tomb, Jerusalem (see Rahmani, in: Atiqot, 1964, Plate xii no. l and 2), and in the two pieces of plaster excavated in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1969, an artisan's sketch; three feet or triangle-basis are visible, but with knobs on them, a feature not corroborated by any other ancient literary or archaeological source (see the publication of this find by Li-hi Habas from 2003).

The Later History of the Menorah

Vespasian deposited the menorah together with the other booty in the special Peace Temple which he erected after the Jewish War (Jos. Wars 7:148–50; arn1 41, 133). The subsequent fate of the candelabrum is uncertain. Procopius of Caesarea, the sixth-century Byzantine historian, in his introduction to the history of the Gothic War, reports that the "treasures of the Jews" were carried in Belisarius' triumphal procession in Constantinople (Byzantium) after his victory over the Vandals, who had taken them to Carthage after their sack of Rome in 455. Procopius goes on to relate that a Jew had warned a high official at Justinian's court not to keep the sacred vessels in Byzantium, as they had manifestly brought ill luck to Rome and Carthage, whereupon the Emperor had sent them hurriedly to Jerusalem, where they were deposited in one of the churches. As the result of the Persian and Arab invasions of the seventh century, their fate once more became unknown. This story has little credibility; no other source, such as the reports of the pilgrims, can be adduced in its support, nor is the menorah mentioned explicitly in this story.

On the other hand, medieval sources speak of the presence of the candelabrum in Constantinople. The seventh-century apocalypse Milḥemet Melekh ha-Mashi'aḥ ("War of the King Messiah") mentions Temple vessels deposited in the palace library of Emperor Julian. The learned emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus (905–59) reports that a Heptalychnos, i.e., a seven-branched candelabrum, was lit for solemn processions. The imperial palace is said to have included a "Dome of the Seven-branch Candelabrum" It is not clear whether all these reports refer to the original menorah or a later copy. If the one or the other was really in Constantinople during the Middle Ages, it must have shared the fate of other ancient masterpieces when the town was sacked in 1204 in the course of the Fourth Crusade. It may appear odd that no reference to it is found in later medieval chronicles.

[Heinrich Strauss]

In Kabbalah

From the early days of Kabbalah, the menorah appears as asymbol of the structure of the Sefirot. As far as is known, it was *Asher b. David, in his Perush Shem ha-Meforash (published in Ha-Segullah (1932) pamphlet 2ff.), who first explained the menorah in kabbalistic symbolic terms as reflecting the world of the Sefirot. He was followed by *Baḥya b. Asher and especially by Menaḥem *Recanati and others. There is little difference between the interpretations of Recanati and Asher b. David. The basic idea is that the menorah, despite the fact it is composed of branches, bowls, etc., is not a combination of parts but is one solid whole made from "one bar." Similarly, the world of the Sefirot, despite its multiplicity, is a unity. The seven branches symbolize the seven lower Sefirot. Asher b. David and, following him, Recanati, placed special emphasis on the middle branch, which is equal to the Sefirah Tiferet ("glory"), which is called the "middle line." This Sefirah is directed toward the "attraction of the body" of man, in contrast to the other lower Sefirot which are directed toward the arms and legs. The middle branch, which stands on the menorah itself, toward which all the other branches face, therefore naturally stands for the "middle line." This Sefirah is imbued with abundance flowing from above which is transferred from it to the others. The oil which is put in the branches and is the force for the light of the menorah signifies the dynamic stream influenced by the *Ein-Sof. This stream is the inner soul of all the Sefirot which operate within every Sefirah. For the same reason – these kabbalists maintain – the Torah calls the seven lower Sefirot "lights" and days of the week according to Genesis. The oil as a symbol of the streaming of abundance from above is a commonplace idea in kabbalistic literature. There were kabbalists who explained that the oil and the light indicate the three higher Sefirot.

According to the view of several kabbalists that Divine Providence is exercised through the Sefirot. Recanati interprets the saying of Zechariah (4:10): "These seven are the eyes of God," to mean that God governs by means of the seven Sefirot symbolized by the seven branches of the menorah.

The *Zohar itself gives no details of the symbolic significance of the parts of the menorah. In the Tikkunei Zohar the symbolism differs from that of the kabbalists mentioned above. In one place the menorah symbolizes an angelic power outside that of the Sefirot. The wick stands for the last Sefirah, Malkhut, equated with the Shekhinah; the oil is the Sefirah Yesod ("foundation"); and the light is the Sefirah Tiferet (Tikkunei Zohar, Introd., 146, ed. R. Margulies).

In a 14th-century kabbalistic manuscript Psalm 67 is interpreted as signifying the menorah and the counting of the Omer (Vatican Ms. no. 214). A reproduction of the text of the psalm in the form of a menorah has since become widespread among Oriental Jews and appears both in prayer books and in the form of amulets on walls in homes and, especially, synagogues.

[Efraim Gottlieb]

the menorah in art

After the destruction of the Temple the menorah became "the most important Jewish pictorial motif, and from an implement it became an emblem." Out of 1,207 reproductions in the third volume of Goodenough's standard work, Jewish Symbolism in the Greco-Roman World (see bibliography), no less than 182 are representations of the menorah. This number has considerably increased through later findings. Here only a short review of the various kinds of archaeological remnants together with the most important examples can be given (the numbers refer to Goodenough).


actual menorah

Upper part of brass menorah from En-Gedi (Barag-Porat, in Qadmoniot 3, 1970, 97–100, back-cover; see below).

stone fragments and capitals

Stone screen from Ashkelon (575, 576), from El Ḥamma (629), stones from Eshtemoa and Naveh (615, 618); Capitals in Capernaum (478), Beit Jibrin (542), and Caesarea (997, 998); on a column in Gaza mosque Djami-el-Kebir (584); and on stones in Pergamon (877), Priene (878), and Ostia.

mosaic floors

In Beth Alpha (639); Hammath-Tiberias (in both these and many others are two menorot right and left of the Ark); and Maon (Nirim, see above; the Nirim menorah is reproduced on the Israel 50 lira banknote).


The only preserved example is in Dura-Europos, and it is a conical base with three feet near Ark (602). It appears twice in narrative paintings: Aaron in the Temple (Goodenough vol. 11, color-plate x), and Moses giving water to the tribes (color-plate xii).

On Tombs


In Bet She'arim, a menorah on the head of a warrior (56).

on doors of tombs

Ibelin: ymhey 17 (1953), nos. 3 and 4; Kefar Yassif (44); Kefar Tamra, near Shefar Am (Haifa Municipal Museum), which shows the menorah on the top of a date tree.

fresco and sarcophagus in the torlonia catacomb, rome (817, 818)

In the catacombs the menorah is often the only indication of Jewishness.

sarcophagi in vigna randanini catacomb, rome (789)

Now in the Museo di Terme, the menorah is in a medallion, borne by two winged Victorias; on gentile sarcophagi such medallions show the head of the buried person or a Medusa. Here the menorah is the distinctive emblem of Judaism on an artifact common to other religions as well.

lead sarcophagi in the israel museum, jerusalem

The same type as made for pagans, Christians, and Jews. On the Jewish sarcophagi (from Bet She'arim) menorot – in contradistinction to the ornaments – are pressed on the three sarcophagi (see bibl. Katz reproductions nos. 104, 120).


Frequently in catacombs (e.g. Randanini and Monteverde in Rome: 33 example in Goodenough).


Ossuaries (rare): menorah (220, not certain): Ḥanukkah lamp (198).



Glass-Bottles: 391, 411, 424, 428, 961.


From catacombs (963–974), with peculiar techniques: between two layers of glass is the golden design (mostly ritual objects, Ark, lions).


Bronze. K. Katz, From the Beginning, pl. 109, p. 126: Reifenberg Collection, now on loan to Israel Museum; ceramic lamps: with various numbers of holders for oil lamps, but very frequently with a menorah design (more than 40 reproductions in Goodenough).

amulets, seals, rings, cornelians

On these small artifacts too, the menorah is the most frequent symbol indicating the Jewishness of the owner (1012–1027). A good example is a glass amulet (third–sixth centuries) showing a menorah among other ritualia (Hechal Shlomo Museum).

The Middle Ages

Representations of the menorah are found frequently in medieval manuscripts, Jewish and Christian, of both Spanish and Franco-German origin, depicted alongside other Temple vessels. Earlier even, and of particular importance in this context, is the one in the Codex Amiatinus (Italy, c. 500, see bibl. H. Strauss and P. Bloch), which no doubt still reflects an older, classical-Oriental tradition (cf. Strauss, in Ereẓ Yisrael, 6, 1960, 126/7; Roth, Warburg-Courtauld 16, 1953, 37–38). B. Narkiss, Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts (1969), reproduces (and describes in detail) five medieval manuscripts with menorah representations: Plate 1: Bible (Leningrad), probably from Egypt (Introduction, 23); Plate 6: Cervera Bible (Portugal, ibid., and note 53); Plate 16: Farḥi Bible (Spain-Provence, Introduction, 23); Plate 23: British Museum (11639, Franco-German, ibid., 28, note 95); and Plate 24: Pentateuch (French, ibid., 26; note 96). In the British Museum plate, Aaron is twice depicted lighting the menorah (ibid., 114a and 122b), the differences in style suggesting two artists. The frequency of this representation may be connected with the fact that it is based on Numbers 8:2–3 and with its ample treatment by the Midrash. All five examples reflect faithfully and impressively their local background: the first three, the influence of the iconoclastic Islamic art, including the playful one of the Reconquista in no. 2: the burning lights turned toward the center and the variant of the oil flowing in the same direction; while the last two show the influence of the late Gothic French environment with their wealth of figures and drolleries. Numerous seven-branched candelabra may also be found in medieval French, German, and Italian churches.

A hitherto unpublished menorah with its appurtenances (Ex. 25, 38) painted in gold and color, is contained in a Spanish 14th-century Bible-manuscript on parchment, which was shown in an exhibition of the Jewish National and University Library (Jerusalem April–May 1970, Catalogue No. 6). This menorah has three feet with rather rare knobs (as in the recently excavated piece of plaster from the Old City of Jerusalem, see above), and snuff dishes like goblets with coats of arms: the tongs hang from the outer branches of the candelabrum and are shown in perspective before and behind the branches. It is apparently the work of an artist of the late Middle Ages, already accustomed to perspective. It frequently appears as an emblem also on book plates showing *Ḥanukkah lamps, printers' marks, and community seals.

Modern Times

In modern times the menorah has continued to be used as a religious symbol, particularly in synagogue art: wall-paintings, stained glass windows, mosaics, and – in spite of the talmudic prohibition (see below) – as a seven-branched metal candelabrum. In imitation of the ancient mosaics, some synagogues place a menorah to the right and the left of the Ark. The menorah representations in modern American synagogues reveal the problem of expressing ancient symbols in terms of modern art. In many cases little is left of the original tree-and-branches motive, but in some this has been preserved, in spite of modern simplicity. Independently of the synagogue, Benno *Elkan created several tree-shaped bronze menorot, of which one stands in Westminster Abbey, London, and another in the vicinity of the Knesset building in Jerusalem. Marc *Chagall incorporated a lighted menorah and olive leaves (Deut. 33:24) in his Tribe of Asher window (Hadassah Synagogue, Jerusalem). The Warsaw Ghetto memorial (1963) embodies two outsize menorot flanked by lions. The U.S. Jewish artist Ben *Shahn, who is responsible for the mosaic in the Ohev Shalom synagogue in Nashville, Tenn. (Kampf, ibid., 134–6), has produced as its sketch a menorah (with shofar) in tempera (Ben Shahn, 1966, no. 116) and another one as the colored frontispiece of a Passover Haggadah illustrated by him (1965). Jankel *Adler has a menorah – together with several ritualia – in his "Jewish Still-Life" painted in the 1930s. In literature Stefan *Zweig devoted his short story Der begrabene Leuchter ("The Buried Candelabrum; 1937) to the saga of the menorah. The Arch of Titus menorah was adopted as the official symbol of the State of Israel, expressing the idea of Judaea Resurrecta, 2,000 years after the last Hasmonean prince had used the same symbol on his coins.

According to the Talmud it was forbidden to make an exact copy of the seven-branched candelabrum (rh 24b; Av. Zar. 43b; Men. 28b), and this prohibition is largely observed to the present day. On the other hand, the discovery of the upper part of a small bronze menorah during the excavations of a synagogue of the Byzantine period at En-Gedi (see above) shows that this prohibition was not always observed. It is possible that the bar of brass connecting the seven branches on their upper end which is also found in mosaic, stone-and-oil-lamp-representations of the same time (Bet Alfa, Ashkelon, oil lamp from Syria: Good-enough 3, p. 941) may have invalidated the above prohibition. J. Gutmann suggests that since the prohibition is found in a baraita in the Babylonian Talmud only, it was not accepted in Palestine. Gregorovius reports (History of the City of Rome… 2, 2, 3) that in the time of King Theodoric (c. 500) the Jews of Rome used to assemble in their synagogue on Sabbaths and festivals to the light of a gilded seven-branched candelabrum. The Hanukkah lamp, having eight branches, did not violate the talmudic law.

[Heinrich Strauss]


A.R.S. Kennedy, in: Hastings Dictionary of the Bible, 4 (1914), 663–4; K. Galling, in: zdpv, 46 (1923), 23–29; Galling, Reallexikon, 348–9; Gressman, Bilder, 134. fig. 467; E. Cohn-Wiener, Die juedische Kunst (1929), 73–75; M. Kon, in: peq, 82 (1950), 25–30; G. Widengren, The King and the Tree of Life in Ancient Near Eastern Religion (1951), 64–67; S.R. Driver, Exodus (1953, Cambridge), 275–8; Goodenough, 4 (1954), 71–98; Y. Herzog, in: Sinai, 36 (1955); M. Dothan, in: iej, 6 (1956), 19; Ḥ. Albeck, Seder Kodashim (1957), 427, 429; W. Eltester, New Testament Studies, 3 (1957), 102–4; Y. Levi, Olamot Nifgashim (1960), 255–8; E. Peterson, Judentum und Gnosis (1959), 31ff.; W. Wirgin, in: iej, 11 (1961), 151–3; M. Haran, in: Scripta Hierosolymitana, 8 (1961), 277–8; idem, in: iej, 13 (1963), 54–55, 57; A. Negev, in Eretz-Israel, 8 (1967), 193–210; L. Yarden, Tree of Light (1971). in kabbalah: I. Weinstock, Be-Ma'gelei ha-Nigleh ve-ha-Nistar (1970), index; G. Scholem, Ursprung und Anfaenge der Kabbala (1962), 348; idem, in: Judaica, 19 (1963), 97–98; Lu'aḥ ha-Areẓ 5708 (1947–48). in art: K. Katz et al. (eds.), From the Beginning (1968); P. Bloch, in: Wallraf-Richartz Jahrbuch, 23 (1961), 55–190; idem, in: Monumenta Judaica (1963), 21–25 and plates 76–88, 97, 100, 102; C. Roth, in: peq, 87 (1955), 151–64; H. Strauss, in: Warburg and Courtauld Institute Journal…, 12 (1959), 6–16; idem, in: Muenster am Hellweg, 15 (1962), no. 4, 60–63; S.S. Kayser and G. Schoenberger (eds.), Jewish Ceremonial Art (19592), 14–15, 120ff.; D. Sperber, in: jjs, 16 (1966), 135–59; J, Gutmann, in: zntw, 60 (1969), 289–91; M. Simon, Recherches d'histoire judéo-chrétienne (1962); A. Kampf, Contemporary Synagogue Art (1966), index; Roth, Art, index; J. Zwarts, De zevenarmige Kandelaar (1935); Schuerer, Gesch 1 (1901), 636–7; 2 (1898), 342–4; 3 (1898), 717. add. bibliography: J. Guttman, "A Note on the Temple Menorah," in: J. Guttman (ed.), No Graven Images. Studies in Art and the Hebrew Bible. (1971), 36–38; V.A. Klagsbald, "The Menorah as Symbol: Its Meaning and Origin in Early Jewish Art," in: Jewish Art, 12–13 (1986–87), 126–34; L.Y. Rahmani, "Representations of the Menorah on Ossuaries," in: H. Geva (ed.), Ancient Jerusalem Revealed (1994), 239–43; A. Amar, "The Menorah of Zechariah's Vision: Olive Trees and Grapevines," in: B. Kűhnel (ed.), The Real and Ideal Jerusalem in Jewish, Christian and Islamic Art: Studies in Honor of Bezalel Narkiss… (1998), 79–88; Y. Yisraeli (ed.), In the Light of the Menorah: Story of a Symbol (1998); L.I. Levine, "The History and Significance of the Menorah in Antiquity," in: L.I. Levine and Z. Weiss (eds.), From Dura to Sepphoris: Studies in Jewish Art and Society in Late Antiquity (2000), 131–53; R. Hachlili, The Menorah, the Ancient Seven-Armed Candelabrum. Origin, Form and Significance (2001): L. Habas, "An Incised Depiction of the Temple Menorah and Other Cult Objects of the Second Temple Period," in: H. Geva (ed.), Jewish Quarter Excavations in the Old City of Jerusalem, vol. 2 (2003), 329–42.


views updated May 29 2018


Menorah is a Hebrew word that generally designates in the Bible the sacred candelabrum that was one of the chief appointments of the tent of meeting and the Temple. The word (Heb. menôrâ ) is used only once in the Old Testament (2 Kgs 4.10) to denote a lamp for profane use. The menorah as described in Ex 25.31 was a seven-branched lampstand made of pure hammered gold. It had a central shaft with three arms reaching out on each side. On each of the six branches, as well as on the middle column, there was a bowl for holding olive oil and a wick (Lv 24.2). These seven bowls were refilled and trimmed daily (Ex 27.21). Josephus states that three of the lights were kept burning during the daylight hours, and all seven were lighted at night. Later rabbinical commentators give a conflicting account, reporting that the lamp was lighted only at night.

Representations of the menorah as a symbol of Judaism were common, especially in the 1st century, on coins, on the walls of synagogues, and in Jewish catacombs in various parts of the Roman Empire. The seven-branched candlestick represented on the Arch of Titus in Rome is the most authentic and the earliest reproduction of the menorah known today; it depicts the candelabrum of the second Temple that was carried off by the soldiers of Titus in a.d. 70 at the end of the siege of Jerusalem.

Throughout the centuries the Jews have found the figure of the menorah rich in symbolic meaning. Josephus, for instance, interprets the seven lamps as the seven planets. Others have thought of it as portraying the tree of life. This is suggested by its arboreal shape and its bowls molded like almond flowers. At times it has been interpreted as symbolizing the creation of the universe in six days, the center light representing the Sabbath. Of greater interest and relevance is the judgment of E. R. Goodenough, who construes the portrayal of the menorah on Jewish tombs in the Greco-Roman period as being the mystic symbol of light and life. This is equivalently, he believes, the symbol for God manifest in the world, through whom the Jews hoped for immortality.

A direct development of the Temple menorah is the Hanukkah menorah used at the feast of Hanukkah or dedi cation of the temple. This differs only slightly from the menorah of the Temple in that it consists of eight rather than seven lamps. At times a ninth lamp is added to serve as a pilot light and called the shammash (servant), since from it the other lamps are lighted. Legend connects the Hanukkah menorah with the ceremony of the rededication of the Temple by Judas Maccabee in 165 b.c. following its desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes three years earlier (1 Mc 4.3739). It is alleged that, when the perpetual light of the Temple was to be relighted on the occasion of this rededication, it was found that there was oil enough for only one day; miraculously, however, the oil sufficed to sustain the light for eight days. In memory of this prodigy, the Hanukkah menorah is lighted, one lamp at a time on the eight successive days of the festival of Hanukkah.

Bibliography: philo, Questions and Answers on Exodus (Loeb Classical Library, Suppl. 2; 1953) 7382; De Vita Mosis, (ibid. 1935) 2.105. Josephus, Bell. Jud. 5:217; Antiquities 3:144146, 199. e. r. goodenough, Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period, 10 v. (Bollinger Ser. 37; New York 1953 ) v.4. r. wischnitzerbernstein, Symbole und Gestalten der jüdischen Kunst (Berlin 1935); Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, 10 v. (New York 193944) 7:487490. The Jewish Encyclopedia, ed. j. singer, 13 v. (New York 190106) 8:493495. b. hessler, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765) 6:991992. k. galling, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (Tübingen 195765) 4:332333.

[j. c. turro]


views updated May 18 2018


Menorah ("lamp") refers in the Hebrew Bible to the seven-branched candelabrum of the wilderness tabernacle and Jerusalem Temples. As described in Exodus 25:31–40 and 37:17–24, the menorah was hammered from a large piece of pure gold by the craftsman Bezalel. Based on a tripod, three branches curved from both sides of a vertical shaft; these, with the central stem, were decorated with cups carved in the shape of open almond blossoms, the uppermost holding the lamps. According to 1 Kings 7:39 (and 2 Chronicles 4:7), ten pure gold menorot adorned Solomon's Temple (tenth century b.c.e. to sixth century b.c.e.), five on the south side of the main hall and five on the north. The Second Temple (fifth century b.c.e. to first century c.e.), following the priestly directions for the wilderness tabernacle in Exodus, had one golden menorah. According to the first century c.e. Jewish writer Flavius Josephus (Antiquities 3.9.199), three of its lamps burned all day; the rest were lit in the evening. The Babylonian Talmud relates that the westernmost lamp, closest to the Holy of Holies, was never extinguished. The Temple menorah was removed in 169 b.c.e. by Antiochus Epiphanes IV of Syria during his desecration of the Temple. Judah Maccabee supplied a new menorah when the Temple was cleansed (1 Maccabees 4:49–50; 2 Maccabees 10:3). Josephus recounts that when the Second Temple was destroyed in 70 c.e., the menorah was carried away by the Romans (War 7.5.148–49). The Temple menorah appears to be depicted on the Arch of Titus in Rome, although there is some controversy over this rendition's accuracy, particularly regarding the double octagonal pedestal, since according to all Jewish sources and considerable archaeological evidence, the menorah stood on three legs. Since 70 c.e., the seven-branched Temple menorah has been an enduring Jewish religious and national symbol, frequently appearing in synagogue, domestic, and funerary art; it also appears on the emblem of the State of Israel.

In the United States, the menorah is most popularly associated with the holiday of Chanukah, which commemorates Judah Maccabee's rededication of the Temple. This menorah, more precisely designated a chanukiah, has nine lights, one for each of the eight nights of Chanukah and the ninth for the shamash (Hebrew for "servant"), which is used to kindle the others. Each night an additional light is added while blessing are recited. A Chanukah menorah has no required shape—originally nine individual oil lamps were used; Judaica collections preserve chanukiot made of clay, porcelain, tin, silver, and brass embellished with historic and decorative symbols and images of all kinds. A talmudic injunction against making chanukiot resemble the Temple menorah was ignored by medieval times, and eight- and nine-branched chanukiot became common. Contemporary artists create chanukiot in all shapes, sizes, and materials; most utilize candles. In recent times some have suggested instituting a menorah for Yom Hashoah, the commemoration of the Nazi murder of almost six million Jews; however, the kindling of six separate yellow memorial candles remains more usual.

See alsoJewish Identity; Jewish Observance; Judaism; Material Religion; Ritual; Synagogue; Temple.


Baskin, Judith R. "Menorah." In TheOxford Companionto the Bible, edited by Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan. 1993.

Dosick, Wayne. Living Judaism: TheCompleteGuide toJewish Belief, Tradition and Practice. 1995.

Ross, Lesli Koppelman. Celebrate! TheCompleteJewishHolidays Handbook. 1994.

Judith R. Baskin


views updated May 17 2018

me·nor·ah / məˈnôrə/ • n. (the Menorah) a sacred candelabrum with seven branches used in the Temple in Jerusalem, originally that made by the craftsman Bezalel and placed in the sanctuary of the Tabernacle (Exod. 37:17–24). ∎  a candelabrum used in Jewish worship, esp. one with eight branches and a central socket used at Hanukkah.



views updated May 23 2018

Menorah (Heb., ‘candelabrum’). Jewish seven-branch candlestick, which from early times became a symbol of Jewish identity. According to the Hebrew scriptures, the menorah was an important furnishing of the tabernacle in the wilderness and of the Temple in Jerusalem. In 1948 it became the official symbol of the State of Israel. See also MAGEN DAVID.


views updated May 29 2018

menorah Sacred, seven-branched candelabra that became a worldwide symbol of Judaism. It is rich in symbolic meaning: some interpret it in terms of the seven planets, the tree of life, or the six-day creation of the universe with the centre shaft representing the Sabbath.