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The history of the menorah begins with Bezalel, who created the first six branched lamp in accordance to detailed Divine instructions. These instructions are recorded in Exodus 25:31-40:

“31 And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made, even its base, and its shaft; its cups, its knops, and its flowers, shall be of one piece with it. 32 And there shall be six branches going out of the sides thereof: three branches of the candlestick out of the one side thereof, and three branches of the candle-stick out of the other side thereof…”

After completing the first Temple King Solomon has placed Bezalel’s menorah inside where it stood together with nine more menorahs. They stood there for four hundred years until 586 B.C.E. when Nebuchadnetzar, King of Babylon, destroyed the temple and all its content including the ten pure gold menorahs.

Seventy years later the second temple was build and once it was completed, one seven branches menorah, made out of pure gold was placed inside.

After the great victory of the Maccabees over the Greek, Judah Maccabee and his soldiers went to the holy Temple only to find the golden menorah broken; they have repaired the menorah and decided to light the holy lamp. Unfortunately they could only find oil that will last them for one day. Miraculously, this oil lasted for eight days, giving them enough time to obtain new oil to keep the menorah lit.

At 70 B.C.E the Temple was destroyed again, this time by the Romans, the menorah was taken to Rome by Titus, the Roman general, who displayed the menorah during the triumphant homecoming parade where humiliated Jewish captives were forced to carry the menorah as a symbol of their own defeat. A depiction of this event is preserved on the Arch of Titus that still stands today in Rome.

The gate of Titus

The jewish menorah on the gate of Titus - Rome


Following the destruction of the Temple, the menorah became an important symbol of Jewish history. It is a reminder of the sovereignty of the Temple. And even due the location of the original menorah is unknown today- the symbolism lives on; the national emblem of the State of Israel is a menorah, flanked by two olive branches.

 

Israel Menorah emblem

The Israel Menorah emblem

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