The Shape of The Menorah
The Torah teaches us about the seven branched lamp in the Sanctuary
which was lit by Aaron every evening. The details about how the
Menorah should be made are regarded by the Torah as being very
important. the shape of the Menorah should have was communicated to
Moses in a divine vision (Numbers 8:4).
We usually think of the Menorah in the Sanctuary or Temple as having
curved branches. It is depicted in this way in many illustrations and
also in synagogue decorations. Many Chanukah Menorahs are made with
curved branches, and this design is often considered a sign of
However, a number of references to the Menorah by the Sages indicate
that it had straight branches. There is even a drawing by the great
Maimonides himself, illustrating the Menorah, which has straight
branches, not curved.
From where did we get the idea of curved branches, despite the fact
that the Rabbis described it differently? One suggestion is that this
comes from the Arch of Titus in Rome.
Titus destroyed the Temple and an arch was built in his honour. On the
arch there is a bas-relief showing the spoils he bought home from
Jerusalem. This depicts a Candelabrum with seven branches, which
curve upwards in the familiar semi-circle. It is likely that the
famous Roman arch influenced the way people later depicted the
Ancient Jewish sources indicate that there were many Candelabra in the
Temple. They may well have been made in different ways. According to
the Rabbis, the Menorah, the one that was in the holy section of the
Temple, was nearly five foot high, and had straight branches.
It has been suggested that the illustration on the Arch of Titus is of
a different, smaller candelabrum. The bas-relief shows a candlestick
with a dragon on its base. The dragon was a Roman symbol. The artist
who sculpted the Arch may never have seen a Jewish Menorah, but simply
used his own imagination.
It is a pity that this has influenced the way Jews think of one of the
most important items in the Temple, constructed with the guidance of a
vision from G-d. However, now that the error has been noted, we can
gradually set the record straight!
The Significance Of The Menorah
The Sages explain the imagery of the Menorah as follows: the seven
lamps represent seven types of divine radiance, called by the
kabbalists the seven "Sefirot". These are seven different aspects of
G-d's guidance of the world: His Kindness, Severity, Mercy and so on.
These seven kinds of divine quality flow downwards, from each lamp,
along the seven branches, into the central stem. The Torah tells us
that there was a design of 'goblets' on the branches. According to
Maimonides' drawing, these goblets are inverted, expressing the flow
The central stem signifies the seventh Sefirah - Malchut - (Kingship),
the central conduit of the divine flow which pours downwards into the
world, giving it life and blessing.
The Menorah therefore expresses the way that G-d pours life-force into