Modern Symbolism of the Menorah
Modern Symbolism of the Menorah
"Make a lampstand of pure gold. Hammer out its base and shaft, and make its flowerlike cups, buds, and blossoms of one piece with them... See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” – Exodus 25:31, 40 NIV
The Menorah has been one of the most enduring symbols of Israel since the time of Moses. In the ancient time, the Menorah was used as a source of light inside the Tabernacle because God prescribed to place it inside the Holy Place. It played a central role in the Jewish faith particularly in the ritual activities in the Tabernacle and even in the Temple of Jerusalem.
Initially, the Menorah is considered to symbolize the burning bush where Moses encountered God on Mount Sinai. Because of this, the Menorah signifies the guiding light of God and even the illumination that comes from His Words. However, because of the destruction of the Romans of the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., the original Menorah loses its function in the worship of the Jewish people.
Though the original purpose of the Menorah was gone with the destruction of the Temple, there are still new symbols that are being used today that put the Menorah in rominent stature. Here are some of these modern symbolisms:
1. The Emblem of Israel
1948 is a historic year for Israel because it marks the date that the nation is recognized again as a state. With the recognition of different countries of the sovereignty of the State of Israel, the country also adopted a lot of national symbols, and one of these is the Emblem of Israel. The symbol shows a Menorah surrounded by two olive branches – one on each side. Below it is the Hebrew word for Israel, and the logo is typically colored light blue and white.
In Isaiah 60:3, it is said:
“Nations will come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your dawn.”
This Biblical promise of God to the nation of Israel is one of the main reasons for using the Menorah as part of the emblem. As the Menorah represents the light of God, it also represents the enlightenment that the whole nation of Jewish people can give to the nations surrounding it.
On the other hand, the olive branches that surrounds the Menorah in the emblem signifies peace and reconciliation. As the light from God’s people illuminates the other nations towards finding God, an eternal peace will be established. Thus, the symbolism of the Emblem of Israel.
2. Modern variations of the Menorah
After the destruction of the Second Temple, the Rabbis of old explicitly prohibits the production of exact replicas of the articles used in the Temple and this include the Menorah. Because of this tradition, variations of Menorah started to surface. One of these variations is a Menorah with only six branches. The use of the six-branched Menorah is to satisfy the requirements of the Jewish leaders not to duplicate any object from the Temple. However, if you visit a synagogue right now, you might see a replica of the seven-branch Menorah. Most Rabbis argue that this practice doesn’t violate what is written in the Talmud because the present symbols of Menorah are powered electrically.
Another variation of the seven-branch Menorah is the Hanukiah. The Hanukiah is also a type of candelabra, but instead of having the traditional seven branches, a Hanukiah has nine branches with one branch slightly higher than the other. This variation of the Menorah is used in the celebration of Hannukah, which is an eight-day commemoration of the Jewish people to honor the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem. It is also called the Festival of Lights. Considered as one of the most important celebrations of the Jewish people, the Hannukah’s highlight is the lighting of the Hannukiah each night.
During Hannukah, every Jewish family ceremoniously lights one candle each night starting with the candle that is out of place which is called the Shamash. All the other candles will be light every night starting from right to left so that at the end of the celebration, all the candles are lit. Though the function of Hanukiah is different from the original use of the seven-branch Menorah in the Tabernacle, it still serves as a representation of God’s guiding light to His people.
3. Modern Jewish icons
Though the original function of the Menorah has been lost for many centuries now, it still remained as one of most lasting symbolisms of the Jewish faith. In fact, a lot of religious buildings and even the Ben Gurion airport in Israel uses a symbol of the Menorah.
Another representation of the Menorah is the Ner Tamid, which are Hebrew words meaning “Eternal Flame." The Ner Tamid can be commonly seen in a lot of contemporary synagogues. It is usually hangs above the ark and also associated with the continuously burning incense that is used in front of the ark in the time of ancient Israel. The fire in the Ner Tamid must never be extinguished or put off.
The Enduring Flame of Menorah
All these modern symbolisms of the Menorah speak of one truth – that the light of God is set to endure through all generations. The fire from the Menorah represents the great glory of God and His righteousness, and His glory is and instrument that He uses to draw people closer to Him. And the best part here is that He wants His people to participate in His grandiose plan.
The Emblem of Israel is a symbol of God’s promise to His people and the enlightenment that they will bring to other nations. Let the enduring flame of the Menorah illuminates our hearts as we display our good deeds in the sight of all people. And as we obey God in humility and complete submission, our deeds will also be like the light of the Menorah that will endure forever.