The History of the Menorah and its Importance for Jewish Culture

by Staff

Originally a monotheistic development amongst ancient Hebrews, Judaism is now observed by more than 14 and a half million people around the world. While the overwhelming majority have descended from long lines of Jewish ancestors, some have chosen to convert and follow the faith for various reasons.

Something relevant to talk about — because the holiday begins on 28 November — is Hannukah. Hannukah is also known as the festival of light. In comparison to the rest of the Jewish calendar, the holiday is minor, but it’s still celebrated by every practicing member of the Jewish religion. A staple to Hannukah — and the most sacred religious ornament for Judaism — is the Menorah.

Below, we will explore the history of Hannukah and the Menorah, how they’re linked, and why the Menorah is so important today.

Hannukah History

The holiday first started in Jerusalem in the 2nd Century BCE. Around 168 BCE, King Antiochus IV Epiphanes made Jewish practice illegal and defiled the main Jewish Temple by sacrificing pigs. An arm of Jewish followers rebelled and regained control.

During this time, a miracle is said to have occurred. The Menorah — the most sacred and well-known Jewish ritual object — only had enough oil to burn for one day, yet it managed to burn for eight days. Hence the reason behind the Hannukah Menorah, which has nine places for candles rather than seven, which is the number the original Menorah has. The overturning of the temple began the tradition of the Hannukah holiday — also known as the festival of light — paying tribute to the rededication of the holy temple.

Menorah History

That’s the history of the Hannukah Menorah – a sacred and religious ornament that Jewish people use to celebrate the festival of light. But the Jewish Menorah in its traditional seven-branched form was the first Menorah the Jewish people considered a sacred ornament.

The first mention of the Menorah was in the Biblical book of Exodus, in which Moses revealed a lamp to go on top of Mount Sinai. It detailed a candlestick forged of gold with six branches, three out of one side and three out of the other.

The cup stemming from the central shaft, which many perceive the be the main cup, is elevated to signify the Sabbath and is flanked by three lights on either side, hence the three candle branches to each side. Forged by the expert craftsman Bezalel and placed in the Tabernacle, the cups designed to hold the candles were shaped as flower blossoms to suggest a symbolism to the tree of life – something that has deep meaning in Judaism.

Over the years, the tradition of Hannukah hasn’t changed that much, but the Hanukkah Menorah and its design have. Many designs stem further and further from the original gold stem, with six branches. It’s important to remember the Menorah will have seven branches, and the Hanukkah Menorah will have nine. The Hanukkah Menorah is the ornament used to celebrate the holiday of Hannukah.

The Value For Modern-day Judaism

The Menorah is one of the most widely accepted and valued Jewish religious ornaments – any practicing Jewish household will have a Menorah on display all year round, which changes to a Hanukkah Menorah when the holiday comes around. The Menorah symbolizes more than just enlightenment; it symbolizes wisdom as well.

It’s especially important around this time of year as Jewish households prepare to celebrate Hannukah, where one candle lights every day of the holiday, which lasts for eight days.

The Menorah is just one essential part of Judaism, paying tribute to be the history of the religion and modern-day adaptations. Although it’s mainly used to celebrate Jewish holidays, the Menorah is a staple piece for many Jewish homes.

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The New Jersey Digest is a new jersey magazine that has chronicled daily life in the Garden State for over 10 years.

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