What does the Menorah symbolize?


What does the Menorah symbolize?

Menorah in Temple Photo Courtesy of Temple Institute

As one of the most popular Jewish symbols in existence today, the Menorah stands for light, wisdom, and Divine inspiration.

Background

Originally, the Menorah was a seven-branched candelabra beaten out of a solid piece of gold that served as one of the sacred vessels in the Holy Temple. It stood in the southern part of the Temple and was lit every day by the High Priest. Only pure, fresh olive oil of the highest quality was suitable to light the Menorah.

Symbolism

As its unique design communicates, the Menorah endures as a symbol of Divine light spreading throughout the world. To this end, God commanded that the Menorah’s goblets be turned upside down on their stems, emphasizing the importance of spreading light to others. This design reflects the Menorah’s exact purpose in the Holy Temple, which was to spread the light of Godliness to the entire world, not to illuminate the Temple itself.

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The seven lamps of the Menorah also allude to knowledge, with six of the branches representing human wisdom, guided by the center branch of Divine light. The Menorah’s design and the ideas it communicates endure as an inspiration for universal enlightenment.

Since God dictated the creation of the Menorah from 100 percent pure gold, our sages deduced that we must strive for “solid gold” with regard to our motives and behavior. In other words, our shining character traits on the inside should reflect the holy actions we take on the outside, and vice versa. In this way, the Menorah teaches us to bring out every soul’s inner Divine light so that we shine internally and externally.

The Menorah’s structure also inspires us to embrace holiness. The Menorah begins with a central stem that branches outwards, just as our demeanor, behavior, personality, and especially good deeds should branch out and influence others to illuminate the world around us.

Holy Temple

Contemporary Uses

Even though our Holy Temple was destroyed, a Menorah must still be lit in every Jewish home on the holiday of Chanukah. Although today’s modern 9-branch Chanukah Menorahs are quite different from the original one used in the Temple, they still share the same basic function of spreading light.

When the Talmud asks, “What is Chanukah?” the Rabbis’ answer focuses on the miracle of the oil. We light a menorah, according to the Talmud, to commemorate the miracle of light, which is the purpose for which the holiday is celebrated. The laws and customs observed on Chanukah, especially the lighting of the Menorah, are designed to publicize the fact that Hashem performed miracles then, and continues to perform wonders in our personal lives.

As a reminder of the ideas that are the nation’s very essence, the Menorah lives on as a powerful symbol for the Jewish people, and the world.

 

 

Jerusalem CoinThe Jerusalem Coin features a menorah of seven branches, an enduring symbol of peace and light unto the nations. We pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for the temple menorah to once again radiate eternal light throughout the world. The other side of the coin depicts the “Jerusalem of Gold,” capturing the unique splendor and spirit of Jerusalem.

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