The 7-branch menorah is one of the oldest symbols of the Jewish faith. It is found mostly in temples and synagogues, often up front as an item by itself, and also as a design in stained glass windows, ceilings & wall murals, paintings, sculptures, and more. Interestingly, increasingly some churches also have seven branch menorahs in their sanctuaries to remind them of the menorah that once stood in the Temple in Jerusalem. Although, this should not be such a surprise bearing in mind the menorah’s place in the Hebrew scriptures and the role of the Old Testament in the life of the church & Christian.
In addition, menorahs are popular as display items in both Jewish & Christian homes, and can also be found in schools, museums, art galleries just to mention a few. Unlike the 9-branch hanukkah menorah, the 7-branch menorah has no Shamash (servant), and it has just seven branches; that is because the purpose of the 9-branch hanukkah menorah is to remember the miracle of the oil at hanukkah, whereas the 7-branch menorah is a symbol of the Jewish faith and was always present in the Temple when it stood in Jerusalem.
The 7-branch menorah is made according to the commandment in Exodus 25:31-40. Priests would light it every evening and clean it every morning. Jewish sages teach that this menorah was the vessel that G-d used to blend the spiritual life that is to come with the physical life of this world. Ultimately, the purpose of this menorah is not to illuminate the temple but to spread its light throughout the world. It is a symbol of the nation of Israel and it is a physical reminder of the commandment in Isaiah 42:6 to be a light to the nations. This commandment, given originally to the people of Israel, is often used by Christians to justify the requirement upon them to spread their faith and the gospel, hence, again, the significance of the menorah for them again.
The 7-branch menorah can be of any size. For example, one of the largest menorahs stands in front of the gates to the Knesset building in Jerusalem. It was erected as a reminder of the indestructibility of the Jewish people; a truth that has borne true time and time again despite persecution, wars, and even assimilation. It was the 7-branch menorah that was lit after the Maccabees had their victory and rededicated the Temple, and the oil they found that was only enough to burn for one day actually lasted for eight while more oil was being made and consecrated.
The seven branch menorahs found today can be lit with oil or candles (special glass oil containers with special wics are required for oil burning), and there are even some that are electric; in addition, they can be of any size, ranging from 4″ to over 4 feet. There are various styles of menorahs, with the more popular being the “Large Cups Menorah” which is considered closest to that found in the Temple long ago, the “12 Tribes Menorah” which carries the symbols of each of the 12 tribes of Israel, and various contemporary designs. Many of these menorahs are made in India, so ask before you buy because there is a big difference in quality, weight, and how they are made!
About the Author
Adam Barnett works for Studio Shofar Judaica & Gifts, and hopes to help educate the judaica market to better understand judaica products in general. Visit us to learn more about seven branch menorahs and other judaica items at http://www.studioshofar.com/menorahs.html
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