The Three Weeks is a time when we have a heightened focus on the Beit HaMikdash. Of late there is a growing interest in the details of the structure of and the procedures followed in the Beit HaMikdash. Evidence to this is the plethora of new books replete with intricate diagrams and vivid artistic impressions of the Mishkan and of the Batei Mikdash, past and future.

Numerous halochot that are applicable today can be traced to the Beit HaMikdash. For example: One should not pause unnecessarily between washing netilat yadayim and the blessing ofHamotzi. The pause here is defined as the amount of time it would take to walk 22 amah. This represents the distance in the Beit HaMikdash from the main gate of the courtyard until the large mizbeiach (altar).

(A practical note: Mishnah Berurah1 clarifies that the “pause” starts once you've dried your hands. Shulchan Aruch HaRav2 allows even the time of walking from the washing station to your seat before beginning to count the “pause.” On numerous occasions I have noticed that the caterer had placed a tray of small pieces of bread near the washing station. This may be necessary according to the Mishnah Berurah, but not according to the Shulchan Aruch HaRav).

A more directly-connected halachah to the Beit HaMikdash is the prohibition to build a home replicating the dimensions of the heichal (sanctuary of the Holy Temple), a table following the dimensions of the shulchan (golden table); a candelabra in the form of the Temple menorah.3

Replicating the menorah is forbidden even when it is manufactured from other metals, and without all the decorative cups, petals and knobs that featured in the original menorah. The original menorah stood 18 tefachim high (shoulder height), yet menorahs of other heights may not be made with seven branches.4

Now, the menorah's branches were in a straight line. What about a candelabra whose branches stand in a circle? Kitzur Shulchan Aruch5 mentions that while some allow this, others forbid it, and he too advises against this, since it is a “safek min haTorah” (a doubt regarding, not a rabbinic decree, but a Biblical law). Indeed, the prevalent custom is not to have a seven-branched candelabra.

Question: Someone gave us a flat, flower-shaped, tea-light holder that accommodates seven tea-lights. Are we permitted to keep it as is, or do we have to somehow decommission one space, rendering this holder into one for six tea-lights?

Answer: A menorah by definition is a lamp made up of branches. Conversely, a squat simple lamp is known as “pamot”, not menorah.6 Accordingly, it would appear that the objection to a “seven-branched menorah” doesn't apply to this type of tea-light holder, and thus no “decommissioning” is necessary.

Question: Does this halachah apply to a chandelier with seven electric lights?

Answer: True, in some halachot we would discount an electric light, e.g. for the Chanukah lights. But I believe that the reason for this halachah is the respect to the Beit HaMikdash, and therefore it is inappropriate to copy its holy function in less-holy situations. Therefore, it seems that the approach to an electrical chandelier should be the same as to a conventional oil-and-wick candelabra.

But once we get into detail, this is quite a challenging question, because a lamp by definition is a container wherein are placed fuel and wick which, when lit, will emit light. Now let's look at an electrical bulb fitted in a chandelier: Is the bulb defined as “lamp” or as “wick”?

What difference does it make?

Well, let's say we have a chandelier that has fittings to accommodate ten bulbs, but currently has only seven bulbs fitted. If the bulbs are “wicks”, then we're OK. But if the bulbs are “lamps,” then we have a candelabra that has seven lamps!

Similarly, there are ten bulbs fitted in this chandelier, but three bulbs are no longer functioning. If the bulbs are “wicks,” we're OK. But if the bulbs are “lamps,” one could argue that broken lamps don't count, and we're left with a chandelier that has seven lamps.

Conversely, what if the chandelier has seven bulb holders, but you only fitted it with six bulbs: If the bulbs are “wicks”, we're in trouble, because the ”lamp” has seven branches. If, however, the bulbs are 'lamps', then this chandelier has only six lamps.

While not willing to entrench myself one way or the other, I will share a story, which can be taken as either halachic guidance or as a stringency worth adopting:

On 6 Tishrei, 5725 (1964), Rebbetzin Chana, the mother of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory, passed away. To honor her memory, the Chassidim in Kfar Chabad decided to purchase a beautiful chandelier for their synagogue. An officer of the synagogue, Reb Aizik Karasik, wrote to the Rebbe to request his consent for the idea. The Rebbe responded that he's concerned that should some bulbs burn out, there may remain just seven bulbs burning, which presents a halachic concern. Reb Aizik happened to be quite talented mechanically, so he wrote back that he is willing to rewire the chandelier so the bulbs will work in pairs, each pair in a circuit, and if one bulb burns out, then the electric current will not continue to its pair. The Rebbe was satisfied with this solution, and the chandelier was duly purchased and installed.