Overview

The holiday of Chanukah, being eight days long, will always contain at least one Shabbat. When the first day of Chanukah falls on Shabbat, the holiday will contain two Shabbatot, the second one being the eighth day of Chanukah. On such an occasion the weekly haftarah is once again replaced with a reading connected with Chanukah.

The reading is taken from a section of the book of Kings which deals extensively with the various ornate pieces of décor that adorned the First Temple, built by King Solomon. The end of the chapter, which constitutes our haftarah, is a kind of summary of the entire description; its connection to Chanukah is that it describes the menorahs that were created by Solomon for the Temple.

Many of the ornaments of the Temple were cast from copper. To this end Solomon hired Chirom of Tyre. On his mother’s side, Chirom was from the tribe of Dan. This was the tribe who centuries earlier had produced Aholiav, who together with Betzalel led the creation of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. Chirom, on his father’s side, was from the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was also a coppersmith. (The Talmud1 comments that we learn from this that a person should optimally keep to the trade of his father and ancestors.)

The first ornamental creation was a pair of great copper pillars that were to stand at the entrance to the Sanctuary. Each pillar was eighteen amot (approximately 28 feet) tall. Later these two pillars would also be named: the one to the right was called Yachin, and the one on the left Boaz.2 The capitals of the pillars were covered in copper checkerwork resembling the branches of a palm tree, on top of which hung a string with hundreds of small copper pomegranates.

The next project was the “Sea of Solomon.” This was a large pool created for the kohanim to use as a mikvah. Its circumference was 30 amot, and it could contain approximately 1700 cubic feet of water. This huge round basin stood on top of twelve copper oxen, whose interiors were hollowed out so that an underground source of water could come up and fill the basin.

Aside from these larger projects, Chirom also created many smaller copper vessels to serve the various needs of the Temple: small basins and shovels for the removal of ashes from the altar, basins to catch the blood of the sacrifices, etc. Solomon instructed that a huge abundance of vessels to be made, so much that no account had to be given for the amount of copper used.

Solomon himself presided over the creation of the sacred gold vessels—those that would be used in and around the Sanctuary. Wherever practicable, every metal object in the Sanctuary was made of gold; even the keys and the hinges to the doors were fashioned out of this prized metal.

“I’ll Have Ten Of Those”

A highly interesting aspect of Solomon’s Temple was the creation of many copies of some of the key vessels. In this haftarah we read that the kiyor (laver) and the menorah were each duplicated ten times. The book of Chronicles3 fills us in on the fact that the shulchan (table of the showbread) was also duplicated ten times. The duplicates of the latter two were situated alongside their originals in the sanctuary: five menorahs on one side of the original menorah and five on its other side, and the same for the tables.

The Talmud4 records a disagreement as to whether all these extra tables had the showbread placed on them, and whether these ten additional menorahs were actually lit. Both sides cite biblical verses that seem to support their claim. The majority opinion, it seems, is that only the original table and menorah were actually used. According to both opinions, but especially the later, the obvious question arises: what was the idea behind the creation of these copies?

Midrash Tadshe,5 a midrashic source attributed to great Mishnaic sage R. Pinchas ben Yair, offers the following idea:

The various aspects of the Temple service corresponded to and elicited the various needs of the Jewish people and the world at large. The sacrifices, for example, contained elements of each of the four major categories of physical existence: the animal or bird represented the animal kingdom; the flour, oil and wine brought with the sacrifice (or was the sacrifice itself) came from the vegetable kingdom; and the salt, brought with every sacrifice, embodied the mineral. Thus, bringing the sacrifices elevated every aspect of creation and brought blessing to it.

In a similar way, each of the various vessels in the temple contained and brought with it an aspect of Divine blessing that was connected specifically with it. The kiyor was the primary vessel that connected with water; in turn, it elicited the blessing of water from above.

In the desert, Moses had made only one kiyor. During the Jews’ wandering there, their water supply emanated from the well of Miriam; they were not really reliant on rainwater. By contrast, in Israel, the Torah itself attests to the fact of how dependent the land is on rain.6 It was for this reason the Solomon made ten additional copies of the kiyor, to elicit and draw down the much-needed blessing of rain.

A similar idea applied to the shulchan. It bore bread, the staple food of the human being, and so the shulchan and the service connected with it elicited blessings for the crops. Moses had made just one shulchan, since in his time the Jews did not have to depend on the yield of the crops; the manna that fell each day sustained and nourished the people. On the other hand, a blessing for the crops was something obviously necessary in Israel, and for this reason, Solomon created ten duplicates of the shulchan.

As for the menorah and its duplicates, there is a somewhat different angle. Ten menorahs have a total of seventy lamps (as each menorah had seven branches). These correspond to the “seventy nations,” the iconic number of the nations of the world.7

Torah is compared to light, as the verse states, “For a lamp is a mitzvah, and Torah is light.”8 As long as the Temple stood and these lights were burning, it meant in effect that the Jews were keeping to the Torah and its mitzvot. This caused the nations of the world to be subservient in their dealings with the Jewish people.

(As to the question discussed above whether the extra menorahs and tables were actually used, the opinion of this midrash is that first the original table was set with bread, and only after this were the other tables also set with bread. Similarly, the original menorah was lit before the others.)