"וששה קנים יצאים מצדיה שלשה קני מנרה מצדה האחד ושלשה קני מנרה מצדה השני"
“And six branches going out of its sides; three branches of the Menorah out of its one side, and three branches of the Menorah out of its other side.” (Shemot 25:32)

QUESTION: In what position were the branches and cups?

ANSWER: The Rambam wrote a commentary on mishnayot in Arabic which was recently newly translated to Hebrew in the Kapach Edition. This newer, more precise translation includes the Rambam’s own drawing of the Menorah (Menachot 3:7). Evidently, the branches (kanim) of the Menorah were not curved like semi-circles, but instead were straight and extended diagonally upwards. (Rashi too is of this opinion.) The cups (gevi’im) were on the branches for beauty and were inverted with the wide end downward.

* * *

The popular image of the Menorah with curved branches stems from the Menorah which is engraved on the Arch of Titus in Rome. Titus was the Roman general who conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the second Beit Hamikdash. It was customary in those days to build a special gate through which the victorious soldiers would enter upon returning to their homeland.

On the Arch are engraved various scenes to commemorate the victory, and included is the Menorah which he defiled. The craftsmen made the Menorah according to a general idea of how it looked. However, according to the Rambam the Menorah on the Arch is an inaccurate replica of the one in the Beit Hamikdash.

(לקוטי שיחות חכ"א)

* * *

Some sources state that the cups were put with the wide end upwards in order to catch any dripping oil.

(חזקוני)


"יערך אתו אהרן מערב עד בקר לפני ה'"
Aaron shall arrange it, from evening to morning, before Hashem.” (Vayikra 24:3)

QUESTION: The Menorah was on the south side of the Beit Hamikdash, how were the lamps positioned?

ANSWER: The Beit Hamikdash was rectangular, and the entrance to it was in the east. The Kodesh HakadashimHoly of Holies, i.e. innermost Sanctuary, was on the west. The Menorah stood in the section known as “Holy.” Now, there is a dispute in Gemara (Menachot 98b) concerning the placement of the Menorah. According to Rebbe the Menorah was placed in the length of the Beit Hamikdash, i.e. the lamps were from east to west. According to this opinion it was perpendicular to the Parochet — partition — between the Kodesh — Holy — and Kodesh Hakadashim — Holy of Holies. Rabbi Elazer ben Rabbi Shimon opines that it stood in the width of the Beit Hamikdash; i.e. the lamps were from north to south. Thus, it was parallel to the Parochet which was on the west.


"להעלות נר תמיד מחוץ לפרוכת העדות ... יערוך אותו אהרן מערב עד בקר לפני ה' תמיד"
“To kindle a lamp continually. Outside of the Parochet of Testimony ... Aaron shall arrange it, from evening to morning before Hashem continually.” (24:2,3)

QUESTION: There were seven candles on the Menorah, so why does it say neir — candle and oto — it — in singular?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Shabbat 22b) says that this pasuk is referring to the neir ma’aravi — the western lamp — of the Menorah. It served as a testimony for all mankind that the Divine Presence dwells among the Jewish people.

The uniqueness of the western lamp was that the Kohen always put into it half a lug of oil, the same amount of oil as was put into each of the other six lamps (half a lug = 5 ½ oz.). This was sufficient to last for the longest nights of Tevet, and yet it outburned all the candles.

They all burned the entire night and would extinguish in the early morning. In the summer, when the nights are shorter, they would burn into the morning hours. After they went out in the morning, the lamps would be cleaned out and fresh oil and new wicks would be placed in them. This service was known as “hatavat haMenorah” — “making good” — i.e. preparing the Menorah for kindling. The candles would not be lit again until the late afternoon. The western candle, however, continued burning the entire day until it was time to kindle the Menorah again in the evening.

* * *

This miraculous uninterrupted burning of the western lamp went on all the years of the first Beit Hamikdash, and served as a testimony for Hashem’s presence in Israel. The western light continued to remain lit during the forty years that Shimon HaTzaddik was Kohen Gadol during the early years of the second Beit Hamikdash. Afterwards the Jewish people were not worthy of this miracle and sometimes the western candle would go out in the morning the same as did all the other six candles. To rekindle it in the evening, fire was taken from the Altar upon which burnt offerings were made.

(מס' יומא דף ל"ט ע"ב)


"יערך אתו אהרן מערב עד בקר לפני ה'"
“Aaron shall arrange it, from evening to morning, before Hashem.” (24:3)

QUESTION: Which one of the seven Menorah lamps was the western lamp, and how was it “lifnei Hashem” — “before Hashem”?

ANSWER: According to the opinion of Rabbi Elazer ben Rabbi Shimonthat the lamps were from north to south, parallel to the Parochet which was on the west, all the candles were actually on the west side of the Beit Hamikdash. However, the wicks of the southern lamps pointed northward, toward the middle lamp of the Menorah, and the wicks of the three northern lamps pointed southward, toward the middle lamp of the Menorah. The wick of the middle lamp itself pointed westward towards the Parochet and Holy of Holies. Hence, it was considered “lifnei Hashem” — “before Hashem” — and designated as the neir ma’aravi — western lamp.

According to Rebbe, if the lamps were positioned from east to west, then presumably the westernmost lamp should have been the designated the “western lamp.” Nevertheless, the western lamp is the second from the easternmost lamp for the following reason:

When the Kohen enters the Beit Hamikdash, he enters from the east and the first lamp he encounters is the easternmost. Obviously, since it is the most distant from the lifnei Hashem — before Hashem — i.e. the Parochet and Holy of Holies, it cannot be considered the western lamp which must be lit first. On the other hand, the Kohen could not pass up all the candles and start with the seventh lamp, which is westernmost, since we have a rule “Ein mavirin al hamitzvot” — “You may not pass over a mitzvah” (Rambam, Tefillin 4:8). Thus, it couldn’t be that the Torah would want you to pass by all the lamps and not kindle them and go on to the end and then kindle the last one! Therefore, as a compromise, the second from the easternmost was designated as neir ma’aravi — “the western lamp.” Hence, all requirements are met: it is to the west of the easternmost lamp and thus “lifnei Hashem” — “before Hashem” (the west). Moreover, we are not violating the rule of “not passing over” since it is the first one which the Kohen could light when he entered.

(מנחות דף צ"ח ע"ב)


"להעלות נר תמיד מחוץ לפרוכת העדות ... יערוך אותו אהרן מערב עד בקר לפני ה' תמיד"
“To kindle a lamp continually. Outside of the Parochet of Testimony ... Aaron shall arrange it, from evening to morning before Hashem continually.” (24:2,3)

QUESTION: Which candle did the Kohen light first?

ANSWER: The Gemara says of the western lamp that “memeno hayah madlik ubo hayah mesaiyeim” — “the Kohen would light from it and conclude with it.” According Rashi the procedure was as follows:

In the evening the Kohen would remove the burning wick and hold it in his hand or place it in a dish. Then he would clean out the lamp, fill it with oil, and put in a new wick, which he then lit with the old wick.

After cleaning out and kindling the western candle, the Kohen would light the other candles from it. This was accomplished with the wicks of the candles, which were long enough to be pulled out and reach the wick in the adjoining lamp. Thus, the lamps on either side of the western lamp were kindled from the latter’s wick, and these wicks kindled the lamp next in line, and so on.

Hence, according to Rashi, “memeno hayah madlik” means that after it was lit in the late afternoon, the others were then lit from it, and “concluding with it” refers to hatavat haMenorah — preparing the Menorah. The western candle was the last one to be prepared, since all the others were already prepared in the morning.

Tosafot is of the opinion that when the Kohen started the evening Menorah service, “mimeno hayah madlik” — he would first light the other candles from the old wick of the western candle. Then, when he started working on the western candle, it would extinguish, and he would put in fresh oil and a new wick and light it from the other candles. Hence, “ubo hayah mesayeim” means that the hadlakah — lighting — of the western candle was the conclusion of the daily Menorah kindling.

(רש"י ותוס' במס' שבת כ"ב ע"ב)


"בהעלתך את הנרת אל מול פני המנורה יאירו שבעת הנרות"
“When you kindle the lamps, toward the face of the Menorah shall the seven lamps light.” (Bamidbar 8:2)

QUESTION: In what directions were the flames on the wicks pointing?

ANSWER: According to the opinion that the lamps were positioned from north to south (parallel to the Parochet), the three on the southern side of the main shaft — the middle lamp — were bending to north and the three on the northern side of the main shaft — middle lamp — were bending southward. And the light of the wick of the middle lamp tilted toward the Holy of Holies.

And according to the opinion that they were positioned from east to west (perpendicular to the Parochet), the three on the west were facing the middle, the three on the east were facing toward the middle lamp, and the wick of middle lamp pointed upward. Thus, according to both opinions, “to the face of the Menorah,” meant the middle lamp.

A difficulty that begs explanation is that since all six lamps were facing to the middle one, it should have said “toward the face of the Menorah — the middle lamp — shall the six lamps light”?

An explanation given is that since the middle lamp did not turn to either side of the Menorah lamps, it might be said that it is facing to itself, and thus, together with the other six that are facing it, all the seven are facing “towards the face of the Menorah.”

(עי' מנחות צ"ט ע"ב ובפי' הרא"ם ר"פ בהעלותך ובאנציקלופדי' תלמודית ח"ח ע' שי"ח)

There is yet another opinion that hold that all the wicks were tilted toward the Shulchan — Table — which stood in the north, opposite the Menorah. Thus, all seven were lighting el mul penei HaMenorah — to [the Shulchan which was on the] opposite side of the Menorah.

(רשב"ם עה"ת)