How Many Branches Were On The Original Menorah Candles Used In Hanukkah?
The original menorah had seven branches signifying human knowledge and the light of God. The menorah used in Hanukkah, however, has nine branches.
On the occasion of Jewish History Month celebrated every year in May, let us dive into the meaning of some Jewish traditions.
Hanukkah is one of the most celebrated holidays around the world. It is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the Jews retaking control of the Jewish Temple from a Syrian king named Antiochus.
As per Jewish texts, Antiochus took over Jerusalem and destroyed the original Jewish Temple. He also ordered the Jewish people to worship the statue of Antiochus.
Subsequently, a group called the Maccabee Jews revolted against the Syrian King. This led to a three-year war which was eventually won by the Jews.
However, by the time they recaptured Jerusalem, the Temple. So, the Jewish people removed all the items dedicated to the Greek gods and rebuilt the temple. They eventually lit the lamp, also called Menorah.
Generations of Jews have followed the tradition to signify the day they won Jerusalem. Hanukkah is celebrated according to the Hebrew calendar; it lasts eight nights beginning on Kislev's 25th day. According to the Julian Calendar, the festival lies between November and December every year.
In 2023, the Jewish festival will begin on Tuesday, December 7, evening and will end on December 15 after sundown.
Hanukkah is the only Jewish holiday that is not discussed in the Old Testament. It is not due to any prejudice against the festival but because it started after the completion of the Hebrew Bible. Talking about prejudice against the Jews, you may also like our previous article about the best Holocaust documentaries on Netflix.
How Many Branches Were On The Original Menorah?
There were seven branches on the original menorah, according to the Book of Exodus. The candelabrum was constructed on the orders of Moses.
It was after the God commanded him to do so. According to Jewish texts, God revealed the design of the menorah to Moses at the top of Mount Sinai. It was to be made using a single gold piece.
The lamp required six branches, three on each side. A central branch was used to symbolize the Sabbath. The seven candles were placed in a straight line with the six on the sides curving inwards.
The original menorah was forged by a talented artisan named Bezalel. It was placed on display at the Tabernacle, a mobile sanctuary made by Moses. The candle holders were shaped like flower blossoms to signify the Tree of Life.
The first menorah was lost after King Antiochus IV Epiphanes seized it in 169 BCE. Later, Judas Maccabeus oversaw the contraction of a new candelabrum with seven branches; it was displayed in the Temple.
Unfortunately, the second menorah was also lost in 70 CE. After the second candelabrum disappeared, Talmud forbade the construction of a new one.
Although a menorah was placed at the Arch of Titus, it is not considered a part of the Temple.
7 Candle Menorah Symbolized Enlightenment
7 Candle Menorah meaning is to represent the seven ideals of enlightenment. The menorah also resembled the seven days it took for the creation of our universe.
The six candles placed on either side of the center are used to symbolize human knowledge and enlightenment. Similarly, the centerpiece represents the light of God. The middle candle also signifies the Sabbath.
In some cases, the seven candles are also used to represent the Holy Spirit's seven gifts. As of now, a seven-branched-menorah is not lit by Jews; it is only used as a piece of decoration.
The seven-branched candelabra, also called the Temple Menorah, was housed at the Tabernacle and later at the Temple of Jerusalem.
As per the Hebrew version of the Bible, the original menorah was constructed with pure gold. There were initially ten menorahs at Solomon's Temple but they were stolen after the Babylonians attacked.
Hanukkah Menoria Has Nine Candles
9 candle menorah meaning refers to a candelabra lit on eight days of Hanukkah. The menorah is lit to celebrate the Hanukkah miracle of a single cruse of oil burning for eight days.
Such a nine-candled menorah is also called a Chanukiah. It might be based on the another name of the festival "Hanukkiah"
After the Jewish forces retook Jerusalem from the Greek army around 198 BCE, they removed the altar dedicated to Zeus and redesigned the Temple.
However, only one cruse of oil was not defiled by the Greek forces. It was supposed to last only one night but went on to last for eight days.
The eight candles of the Hanukkah menorah represented the eight days the oil lasted. The middle piece is called the shamash and is used to refer to a helper or servant candle. It is lit on fire first and is used to light the other eight candles.
On the first night of Hanukkah, only a single candle is lit. As the festival progresses, one more candle is lit every night. In conclusion, one more candle is lit with every passing day of Hanukkah.
Lighting the candles is an obligatory responsibility of every Jewish person. Even if the person doesn't have money to buy the candelabra or the oil for the lamp, they must borrow money/goods from their friends or family members. If they are unable to do so, the community must step in to provide the required supplies.
The oil used in the candles can be extracted from anything other than a forbidden substance. It is recommended to use olive oil while celebrating Hanukkah. Also, the use of electric lamps or menorahs is not allowed.
The menorah should be kept stationary once it is lit up; it can't be moved until it burns out the oil.
Menorah Meaning For Each Candle
The Hanukkah menorah represents the eight days of the festival along with a centerpiece called shamash. The shamash is used to light the eight candles.
- Starting from the left, the first candle represents Passover, the day on which the Jewish departed from Egypt under the leadership of Moses.
- Similarly, the second candle symbolizes unleavened bread.
- The third branch refers to the Feast of First Fruits, whereas the fourth one is a symbol of Shaveout-Pentecost.
- The middle candle, which is elevated from the others, is called the Feast of Trumpets.
- Likewise, the 6th candle represents the Day of Atonement.
- The 7th candle symbolizes the Sukkot.
- Moreover, the 8th branch resembles Purim.
- Whereas the 9th branch displays Hanukkah.
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