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The menōrah is a characteristic symbol of #Judaism. The six-branched lamp stand with a seventh central lamp was reportedly already present when the Israelites crossed into Samaria (#Canaan) and pitched their tabernacle tent in the town of Shiloh during the late 2nd millennium BC.
The #Hebrew name menōrah is related to the word נור (nōr), meaning light, made feminine (by means of the post-fixed ה) and prefixed with the particle מ, which denotes a noun of place. It literally means lamps-stand and is closely connected to the #Arabic word منار (manār).
In Exodus 25:31-32, God reveals the design of the menōrah to Moses: "Make a lamp stand of pure gold. (...) Six branches are to extend from the sides of the lamp stand; three on one side and three on the other." It was to light the tabernacle tent and the Temple of Jerusalem.
This suggests that the menōrah was mostly seen by priests, who had access to these holiest of places. The familiar representation of the lamp stand is actually based of a relief on the Arch of Titus in #Rome, which depicts Romans carrying away the spoils of the Second Temple.
Different interpretations of how the menōrah would've looked like were thought out, for example by the famous Andalusian Jewish scholar Maimonides in a manuscript of his "Commentary on the Mishna". The rounding of the arms, however, became the most accepted depiction.
Evidence does indeed suggest that the menōrah or other lamp stands where round-armed. During excavations in the ancient city of Magdala, a synagogue was found which contained a rectangular stone, which had on its surface a depiction of a seven-lamp round-armed menōrah.
The Magdala synagogue is one of the oldest in #Israel, in use during the Second Temple period (50 BCE-100 CE). That makes the stone carving the oldest depiction of the menōrah, and found a significant distance from Jerusalem where the original menōrah stood.
The symbolism of the menōrah is strongly connected to light. The light given by the gold lamp stand in the tent and the Temple would've been a powerful image of #God's light and holiness. This is related to Isaiah 42:6, where God calls the Israelites "a light for the nations."
This connection is repeated in Zachariah 4, when the prophet answered the angel: "I see a solid gold lamp stand with (...) seven lamps on it", to which the angel replies: "This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit."
In Jewish religious beliefs, the menōrah represents the light of God, and the light of those that worship him. His light is knowledge and faith, truth and glory; enlightenment. Fresh olive oil of the purest quality was burned daily to light the menōrah's lamps in the Temple.
After the sack of the Second Temple (painting by Francesco Hayez (1791–1882)), the original Temple menōrah was brought to Rome, and kept there as a reminder of the Roman victory over #Jerusalem. After the conquest of #Rome by the Vandals in 455, its fate is completely unknown.
Synagogues today hang a lamp, or ner tamid, in front of the ark. This light represents the Temple's menōrah, God's light and His eternal presence. The Talmudic Menachot 28b indeed states that "a person may not construct a menōrah corresponding to the menōrah in the Temple.
That means that #Jews can't construct the Temple menōrah outside of the Temple, although they may use other forms of candle stands with five, six or eight branches, or symbolic representations like the ner tamid or an image of the .menōrah that can be found in many households.
A 1908 illustration depicting the large, original menōrah that lights the tabernacle tent, which the Israelites used as a makeshift temple to worship #God in the desert. This is from "Bible and Its Story Taught by One Thousand Picture Lessons" by Charles Horne and Julius Bewer.
The passage concerning the menōrah for the tabernacle in Exodus was written around the 5th c. BC by the so-called P source, the Priestly code that is one of the 4 original sources of the #Pentateuch. The iconic form of the lamp would therefore exist from at least that century.
The menōrah is a much more native symbol to #Judaism than the hexagram Star of David/Seal of Solomon, and therefore important with regard to the development of #Jewish iconism throughout the religion's history. Enlighten yourself (pun intended 😁)!

A stylized menōrah at Psalm 67 of a 1441 #Italian prayer book, Italian rite, vol. 1. Written in #Hebrew and Aramaic, such a "mahzor" is used by Jews on their High Holy Days. This book originated from Florence, which had a large #Jewish community. Thx @red_loeb for posting this.
@red_loeb When #Israel was established in 1948, a contest was organized to find an emblem for the new state. Gabriel & Maxim Shamir submitted their design (left), which was chosen as the winner and adopted in 1949 based on the final sketch signed by prime minister David Ben-Gurion (right).
This became the official emblem of Israel. The menōrah is flanked by two olive branches and above the #Hebrew ישראל (Israel). The menōrah image was heavily influenced by the aforementioned #Roman Arch of Titus.
An 1806 #French print depicts Napoleon Bonaparte emancipating the #Jewish community of France. The text reads: "Napoleon the Great restores the cult of the Israelites the 30th of May, 1806." The woman holding the Ten Commandments next to the menōrah represents the #Jews.
Based on the Talmud’s prohibition, an exact reproduction isn’t allowed. Many #Jewish households use instead other forms of candle stands with five, six or eight branches. This gave rise to the so-called ḥanukkiyah, a nine-branched candelabrum lit during the holiday of Hanukkah.
As it doesn’t resemble the traditional menōrah, it’s completely legal in religious terms and it became as a matter of fact one of the most widely produced articles of Jewish ceremonial art.
So @cahklaten78 was cool enough to share a 10 agorot (worth 10 x 1 #Israeli agora) aluminium-bronze coin. Issued in 1985, the coin's obverse features a seven-branched menōrah, based on the original coins of Hasmonean king Antigonus II Mattathias (d. 37 BC) of Judea.
Indeed, these 40-37 BC bronze coin reverses issued by king Antigonus II Mattathias do effectively feature a menōrah, indicating its importance as an emblem/symbol among the #Jews of Judea. Antigonus was executed by the #Romans for him leading the Jewish separatist movement.
In the early 20th century, two old stone tablets were uncovered at the #synagogue of Peki'in, northern #Israel. One of these tables depict a menōrah, dated between the late 2nd and early 3rd century AD. The synagogue, rebuilt in 1873, has a large menōrah outside on its roof.
Corinth had a large Romaniote presence. The Romaniotes are a distinct #Greek #Jewish community, its traces going back as far as two millennia ago. Remains of a 6th c. AD synagogue were found not far from the city's agora, notably a column capital with menōrahs. Thx @AlexPetrelis.
So @BL_HebrewMSS posted this 18th c. paper codex. Written in cursive #Hebrew, one of the pages features a beautifully stylized menōrah. This is in fact a so-called shiviti, a meditative representation of a menōrah used for contemplation over #God's name.
One of the cap badges (a badge worn on uniform headgear) worn by the First #Judeans was a menōrah with קדימה (forward) written under it. These badges were rewarded by the British in 1919, after WWI. The First Judeans was established by the veterans of the so-called Jewish Legion.
The #Jewish Legion of the #British Army was a name used to refer to 5 battalions of Jewish volunteers fighting against the #Ottoman Empire during #WWI. After the war, many veterans established the First Judeans, the only official armed Jewish force in post-Ottoman Palestine.
The flag of the First Judeans unit featured a menōrah on a blue and white background. After the #Palestine Riots of 1920 and 1921, the First Judeans was disbanded by the British Army, effectively pushing some of its members into forming the Hagana paramilitary organization.
B'nai B'rith (Children of the Covenant) is the oldest #Jewish service organization in the world. It invests in educational programs, community development and awareness on Jewish unity and identity. Historically organized in a system of fraternal lodges, its symbol is a menōrah.
So @ByzantineLegacy posted this picture of a 3rd-4th c. AD marble menōrah relief from the Priene Synagogue. The synagogue was built in the 2nd c. AD in a region (#Asia Minor) known to have counted a large #Jewish population around the start of our Common Era.
A menōrah flanked by two peacocks and a stone carving of a menōrah were found in the same area and have been attributed to the Priene Synagogue as well. As the only other #synagogue in #Anatolia at the time, the Sardis Synagogue, was much more inland, this is most likely correct.
There exist #Umayyad #Muslim copper coins minted in #Jerusalem featuren the menōrah and the Islamic shahāda. Below example is dated 692 AD, struck by caliph ʿAbd al-Malik ibn Marwān. Though a strange sight, it shouldn't come as a surprise.
The first Umayyad #coins were adaptations of #Byzantine and #Sassanid imagery, including (modified) crosses. The copper coinage was left to local authorities, including the governor or #Jerusalem, who might've adopted the local menōrah symbol, albeit depicting it with 5 arms.
This shouldn't come as a controversial find, though it was presented as such by #Israeli archaeologists Assaf Avraham & Peretz Reuven, who interpreted this in the Jerusalem Post as an Umayyad approval of the #Jewish Temple's holiness, which may of course serve another agenda...
This beautifully decorated carpet featuring a menōrah belonged to the synagogue of Padua, #Italy. Produced around the mid-16th c. in the workshops of #Cairo for the Jews of Venetia, it is a #Mamluk carpet with #Ottoman and European influences.
The lamp's base, however, comprises four clawed paws, contrary to descriptions in the Scripture. This could mean that the frontispiece of a book of #Jewish mysticism may have inspired this decoration. Indeed, the menōrah has been used to illustrate the Sephiroth.
Malkhut, the Emanation (Sephirah) closest to the material world, is placed at the base. The base, with its four points, is related to the four elements of the world (Fire, Air, Water, Earth), themselves associated with the four Creatures of Ezekiel, hence the paws.
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