Biblical Origins of the Menorah

Jewish ethical and legal law is found in the Torah (Hebrew for Instruction). This consists of the five books of Moses. They include Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. The laws and restrictions set in these books guide the everyday lives and customs of the Jewish People. These books also contain the history of the Jewish people from the time of creation to the formation of the Jewish nation.

The Menorah traces its origins back to the Torah. The first Menorah was designed for the first Jewish Temple (Jerusalem) in accordance to the instructions given by God. The artist, Bezazel, was instructed to fashion the Menorah in accordance with the instructions that Moses was given on Mt. Sinai. The design of the Menorah is outlined in Exodus 25:31 - 40:

Make a lampstand of pure gold and hammer it out, base and shaft; its flower like cups, buds and blossoms shall be of one piece with it. Six branches are to extend from the sides of the lampstand - three on one side and three on the other.

Exodus 25: 31 - 32

In total the Menorah has seven branches, three branches extending from each side and a middle branch. The Menorah was designed for use in the temple and was kept lit from evening to morning in accordance to the command given by God.

In the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain that is in front of the Testimony, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the Lord from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come.

Exodus 27: 21

Fresh consecrated oil was used to light the lamps daily. Only the purest quality of olive oil would be used for this purpose.

The Menorah is symbolic of universal enlightenment. The central lamp represents the light of God. The six side lamps are representative of the branches of human knowledge. The six lamps branch or curve into the central lamp which is symbolical of the guidance of God. The Menorah is also a symbolical representation of the creation of the world in six days. The central candle represents the seventh day on which God rested, the Sabbath.

Although the original Menorah had seven branches, the Talmud prohibits the use of seven branched Menorah outside the temple. The Hanukkah Menorah used in homes today therefore has nine branches, each of the eight branches represents one day of the eight day Hanukkah festival. The ninth branch is the Shamash, an auxiliary branch used to light the other eight candles.

The eight day holiday of Hanukkah is a celebration of the re-dedication of the Jewish temple following a successful Jewish revolt. The concentrated olive oil recovered for the lighting of the seven branched menorah in the temple was only enough to keep it lit for one day. However, the supply miraculously lasted for eight days after which a new supply was procured. Thus Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days.

The seven branched menorah has been used since ancient times as a symbol of Judaism. It is used as a state emblem for the nation of Israel.