Menorah often refers to the symbol of Jewish people or Judaism. The Menorah is actually a candelabrum with seven branches that the Jewish are using in their Temple. This candelabrum plays an important part of the religious practice by the Jewish, as they lit during the Jewish’s holiday Hanukkah (or Chanukah, for a more traditional spelling). With such an important meaning, you might find that some of the most interesting facts about Menorah surprising.
Since Menorah has religious value, it is no wonder that Menorah has a lot to talk about. It becomes part of religion’s long history and each part of the Menorah itself may represent or symbolize something. While not all of us is Jewish, learning some Menorah facts from history’s point of view could be quite entertaining. Besides, understanding some of these Menorah facts might help us to give respect to other people with different beliefs.
1. How Many Branches are There?
Menorah refers to a candelabrum with several branches to light the candle during Hanukkah. Interesting Menorah facts say that there are two versions of Menorah. To this day, Jewish people who celebrate the Hanukkah holiday use the nine branches of the Menorah, because they celebrate Hanukkah for eight days. Therefore, the Menorah has eight branches, each one is for each night during the Hanukkah. The name of the ninth candle is Shamash, which purpose is to help to light the other candles.
However, this kind of Menorah is quite different from the original Menorah that we find in the Temple of Jerusalem. The original Menorah used to have seven branches. This is where the Menorah facts are getting interesting. It is said that after the Temples were destroyed, the traditions say not to duplicate anything from the original Temple, and that is why the nine-branched Menorah is used.
2. Menorah as the Symbol of Light
Generally, the candles of Menorah have the meaning of the divine light. Chanukah (or Hanukkah, both are correct) is literally the holiday that is also famous as a Feast of Light. In the original Menorah that has seven branches, the seven candles represent the seven days of universe creation.
Now, both Menorah (the seven branched candelabrum) and Hanukkah refer to the same artefact, and even the meaning of the latter corresponds to the first one. But the tradition changed slightly different. For the Hanukkah celebration, one light is for one night, and people lit each candle in the evening when the stars appear. Interestingly enough, some Menorah facts mention that there is public Menorah lighting, so that everyone could see it.
3. Menorah as the Symbol of Israel
Interestingly, other Menorah facts also involve the candelabrum as the symbol of Israel. No wonder, Israel is a country whose majority of the residents are Jewish. The Menorah becomes a part of the emblem of the State of Israel. The Menorah in the emblem has seven branches. A branch of olive tree, which symbolizes Israel’s wishes for peace, surrounds the Menorah.
The symbol is based on how the Menorah looks like in the Arch of Titus. The arch itself is the Roman Triumphal Arch back in circa 81 CE. It shows the Roman victorious in the Jewish War when Jerusalem got sacked and the Roman brought its wealth along with them.
4. Women Don’t Work When Menorah is Lit
The law about working during the time the Menorah lights, adds it’s way to Menorah facts. It refers to the saying that the people need to notice the light of the Menorah. So we cannot use the light of the candle for any kind of purpose. Others also say that women can work, but only after the first half hour after the candle burns. Each custom tradition may differ.
While some places allow work, some custom laws says women not to work during the whole time the candle is burning. The work here means household work typically done by women of the house, such as doing laundry or sewing. The only household that women can do is cooking, as people are not allowed to fast.
5. People Should Lit Menorah Before Sunset on Shabbat
As Hanukkah lasts for eight days, there will come the day of Shabbat during the Menorah lighting. When this day comes, the rules to light the Menorah also change slightly. Shabbat itself is the day in Judaism which happens to be the rest of the week’s seventh day. This means, Shabbat occurs during Saturday.
It’s a Menorah fact that people need to lit the Menorah lights in Hanukkah after sunset. This sometimes refers to nightfall time. However, if Shabbat occurs, then they need to lit the light of the Menorah before the sunset. This is because in Shabbat, they can’t light fire after sunset. So, most Jewish people proceed with Shabbat about twenty minutes before the sunset.
6. Menorah Does not Necessarily Candles
Menorah is basically a candelabrum, which by definition means a place for the candle, or simply said, it is a candle holder. However, as the Menorah facts goes, people don’t have to lit the Menorah using a candle. Other than wax candles as the source of the light, any type of oil will do, with olive oil as an ideal choice.
The story goes a long way. It is said that when a tyrant from Damascus forced the Jewish people to worship Greek gods, there were some Jewish rebels who fought and reclaimed their place in Jerusalem. However, to do the prayer in the Temple, the oil they have only enough to light for one night. Then there are the miracles that the flames lasted for eight days. This story suggests that people can also use oil to light the Menorah.
7. The Original Menorah
As an addition to Menorah facts, the Bible actually mentions the original Menorah. It says that the Menorah should have pure gold as the material. It should contain seven branches; with each side containing three branches, and one branch on the top of the other six. Aside from the branches, the Menorah also consisted of twenty two cups, nine flowers, and eleven fruits. The flowers mentioned are ornamental ones, whose shapes are similar to roses.
8. Menorah Reconstruction for Temple
The Temple Institute, which is based on the city of Jerusalem, has been working to replicate some historic artefacts for over the years. One of the artefacts restored is none other than the seven-branch Menorah. The Menorah recreated by the Temple Institute is made from 45 kilograms of 24-karat solid gold. The scholars of the institute researched the evidence, both from archaeological and textual resources so the Menorah would be closely similar to the Menorah mentioned in the Bible. Now, the reconstructed Menorah is displayed in the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem.
9. Menorah’s Counterpart in Other Cultures
Other than the Menorah used by the Jewish people, it turns out that different cultures around the world also have similar objects as part of their religious beliefs. In African American and Pan-African culture, the recognize the object as kinara, the candle holder that supports seven candles. It is used in Kwanzaa, a holiday that family and communities celebrate. During this day, people lit three red, three green, and one black candles in a specific order. They lit the candle on each day during the seven days celebration.
They will lit the one black candle first. It represents unity, and represents the African American and Pan-African people itself. The three red candles represent separate principles, such as self-determination, responsibility, and cooperative economics. Lastly, the three green candles represent specific principles, such as the principle of purpose, creativity, and faith.
10. Many Forms of Menorah
Nowadays, the Menorah used in Hanukkah has nine branches; they will lit eight candle each day, and one to assist in lighting the other eight branches. As cultures move and develop, Menorah nowadays is not necessarily look like a candelabrum like the old times. Sure, it would be impossible to have the exact same Menorah as the ancient time since the material of the old Menorah is pure gold. Further, the innovation on the candelabrum also changed its classic shapes into many modernized and simpler forms.
For instance, the material used to make Menorah can be almost anything. Start from wood-based Menorah, glass, ceramic, and metal, whether it is silver, bronze, or even brass. The shapes also vary. But whatever the size and the shape is, it is a known Menorah fact that it becomes a treasured possession in Jewish homes.
11. Different Lights in Different Holiday
Other Jewish holidays also consist of lighting the candles as a part of ritual. In Hanukkah, people use the Menorah as a place to light the light. The same goes for Shabbat, apparently, but these two holidays use the candlelight a little bit differently. Interesting enough for Menorah facts, that in Hanukkah (or Chanukah), the light of the Menorah is there for people to enjoy during the time for reflection.
Therefore, no one can use the light by any other means other than just to see it. In Shabbat, however, the candle light serves a different purpose. The light on Shabbat is to be ‘utilized’. Also, while we need to put the Menorah in the place where people can see it (such as in the doorway or window), we need to place the Shabbat lights inside the house to represent the inner light of Jewish people.
12. The Biggest Menorah in the World
As the light of the Menorah is there for people to see, there are also some public Menorah for communal purposes. However, most of the public Menorah is often set up as something that people can disassemble. Some others, much to add to fascinating Menorah facts, have permanent designs.
As the Guinness Book of Record list goes, there is one Menorah that is the largest Menorah in the world. It was designed by Yaacov Adam. The model was based on the original Menorah in the Temple of Jerusalem. The size, however, was massive. It is 32ft tall, 28ft wide, and weighs about 4,000 lbs.
13. Menorah Appearance in Fictional Literature Works
Other than the classical Bible, Menorah also gets its mention in fictional literary works. As far as Menorah facts go, it gets its mention in none other than one of Sir Conan Arthur Doyle’s works. Sir Conan Arthur Doyle is a British writer who became famous for his works on mystery novel series ‘Sherlock Holmes’, with the titular character as the eccentric detective who loves to solve mysterious cases.
Now, The Jew’s Breastplate might not be one of his most well-known works among the Sherlock Holmes series, but it has a fascinating story of a missing artefact of a museum. The missing artifact turned out to be a Jewish artifact, thus referring to several important artifacts in Jewish history, including the Menorah.
14. The Menorah in the Second Temple is in Rome
The original Menorah was sacked during the Roman’s triumph in the Jerusalem war, and the Menorah was brought to Rome. But what happened after that, still raises many questions to this very day, which adds the colors to Menorah facts for many people.
Some say they display the artefacts in a certain place, which is the Peace Gardens in Rome. However, the supposedly place was destroyed overtime. By the year 455 CE, Rome itself had been sacked several times. However, some claim that after that, the Vatican, Rome, is the place that keeps the Golden Menorah. Some other claims that it is lost in the Tiber River in Rome. Others say it eventually had already melted down to make use of the gold.
15. Why Olive Oil?
To light a Menorah, the choice is to use either beeswax candles or oil (this actually depends on the type of Menorah you have). However, if the Menorah is the type that uses oil as its source, many Jewish prefer to use olive oil. This might refer to the story of the olive oil miracle. However, there is actually more reason to use olive oil as the fire source.
In many other cultures, olive symbolizes victory. A notable myth comes from Greek, that the Goddess Athena blessed the people of Athens with the first olive tree. Since then, olive has become part of the Greek’s life, either as fuel for the lamp, as a body oil, and also perfumes. The ancient Olympic games used olive oil as a prize for the winning athlete. But aside from the myth, people also believe that olive oil produces a purer and clearer light for Hanukkah.