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Menorah symbol meaning

The Menorah

The seven branched menorah (candelabra) is one of Judaism’s oldest symbols. Its origins can be traced back many thousands of years and there are those who claim that it originally was a variation on the early Mesopotamian Tree of Life.  Along with the Star of David, the menorah is one of the more recognizable symbols of the Jewish faith and in Isiah 42:6 it is described as: “a light unto the nations”.

Did you know? In many homes and synagogues we find, not a seven branched menorah but rather a six branched one.  This is because, after the destruction of the First and the Second Temples a tradition developed of not copying sacred objects from the Temple. 

goladn menorah pendant with red rubi stones


The History of the Menorah

The Book of Exodus (25:31-40) provides a detailed description of how the menorah is to be designed and made – a seven branched candelabra carved from a single block of solid gold. In the same chapter (31:1 -5) the artisan who will build the ceremonial objects is also named – Bezalel.

During the First Temple period (832 BCE to 586 BCE), the Temple was adorned, not with one menorah but with 10.  (Kings1, 7:48) as they were needed to light the Temples which was: "sixty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and thirty cubits high" (Kings1, 6:2)

Seventy years after the destruction of the First Temple, construction of the Second Temple was completed and this also included a ceremonial menorah – but only one rather than 10 (Chronicles, 13:11).

The menorah of the Second Temple is described in the Book of Zechariah (4:2-3): “I see a lamp stand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it; there are seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. And by it there are two olive trees, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”

It is also mentioned following the Maccabean rebellion in the Book of the Maccabees (Maccabees 1, 1:21, 4:49-50; Maccabees 2, 10:3 and also in the “Jewish War” written by the Jewish/Roman historian Josephus Flavious (Jewish War, 7:148-149).  This menorah was built by Judah HaMacabi and is thought to have been an exact copy of the pre-Babylonian exile menorah.

Following the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans and the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, the menorah was taken to Rome as a spoil of war.  After this, the history of the menorah becomes vague with some researchers suggesting that it eventually found its way to Constantinople around 534 CE (Procopius, Vandal Wars 4:9).   From here, all traces of the menorah are lost and today, its final resting place is unknown.

The Significance of the Menorah

Above all else, the menorah signifies God, it is the light that guides Jews as they make their way through life as Gods light guided the People of Israel during the Exodus from Egypt.

The seven branches of the menorah are also said to represent seven aspects or “spirits” of God:  “And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear [awe] of the LORD” Isaiah 11: 1-2.

The menorah’s seven branches can also be likened to the seven days of creation thus serving as yet another reminder of Gods power.  Other elements in the original menorahs design (Exodus 25:31-40) include 22 bowls or cups (the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet), nine flowers representing man’s potential to grow and develop and 11 bulbs that symbolize spiritual pleasure

The Menorah and the Kabbalah

The Menorah is also a central motif of the Kabbalah seen as being a representation of the Tree of Life and the 10 Sephirot.  The design of the menorah, reflects the 10 Sephirot:




























In the original instruction for the design of the menorah it states that it must be made from a single block of gold.   This indicates the perfection and the unity of God’s creation.  Indeed, the menorah is the personification of infinite unity in the same way that the Tree of Life is the result and expression of limitless light (Ein Sof Or).

Each of the seven branches and the central pillar joining them together, represent the 10 Sephirot.  The central pillar that holds together the entire structure is the Pillar of Equilibrium.  The candle holders on the left corresponds to the Pillar of Severity and on the right to the Pillar of Mercy.

Now that you know the secrets and meaning of this symbol, visit our menorah jewelry catalog