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Is MY Menorah The Same As THE Menorah?

Is MY Menorah The Same As THE Menorah?

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Question:

Is the menorah that we light on Chanukah the same as the one that was lit in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem? Please clarify.

Response:

Good question!

The Hebrew word menorah means “lamp” or “candelabra.” The menorah in the Tabernacle, and later in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, was a seven-branched gold candelabra. Every day the cups of the menorah would be filled with pure olive oil, and in the afternoon, the priests would kindle the menorah.

During the period of oppression that preceded the miracle of Chanukah, the Syrian-Greeks captured the Holy Temple and disrupted the services, including the lighting of the menorah. When the Maccabees defeated the Greeks and rededicated the Holy Temple, they wanted to resume lighting of the menorah. However, the Greeks had defiled all of the oil; only one small jug of pure oil (bearing the seal of the High Priest) was found. Miraculously, the one-day supply of pure oil lasted for the eight days that it took to prepare new oil.

The menorah that we light on Chanukah (also known as a chanukiah in Modern Hebrew) commemorates this miracle. The design of this menorah may (but need not) be similar to the original menorah, with some important differences:

  • The menorah in the Holy Temple had seven branches, while the Chanukah menorah has eight (plus one additional “helper” candle, the shamash.)
  • The menorah in the Holy Temple was lit indoors, while the Chanukah menorah is lit outside, at the front door facing the street. (In many communities it has become customarily to light it indoors near a door or window.)
  • The menorah in the Holy Temple was lit during the daytime, while we light the Chanukah menorah after sundown, to burn into the night.1

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory, explains that there is significance to these differences. The number seven represents the natural order, as reflected in the Seven Days of Creation and the seven days of the week. Eight is a step beyond nature: the supernatural, the transcendent. The Temple was a place of holiness and revealed G‑dliness, and the seven lights of the menorah were enough to light it up. Nowadays, there is more spiritual darkness in the world, and G‑dliness is concealed. We need to reach beyond the limitations of nature and tap into a higher level of holiness in order to illuminate the darkness outside. The eight lights of our Chanukah menorahs, burning in the night, transform the world into a G‑dly, light-filled place.2

For more on this topic, seeWhat is the Spiritual Significance of the Number Eight? and Sunlight Pales in Comparison.

Happy Chanukah!

Footnotes
1.

Talmud Tractate Shabbos 21b; Code of Jewish Law, Orach Chaim 671.

2.

Likutei Sichos, vol. 3, pp. 810-813.

Mrs. Rochel Chein is a member of the chabad.org Ask the Rabbi team.
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Dennis 88310, NM November 27, 2010

Chanukiah Good explanation of the eight lights, but what about the ninth one, the "helper." Could this be the coming Meshiach (Messiah)? Reply

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