Monday, December 19, 2016

The nine-branched Hanukkah menorah

'TIS THE SEASON (HANUKKAH EDITION): Why Does the Hanukkah Menorah Have Nine Branches? The more familiar seven-branched menorah has symbolized Judaism since biblical times (Steven Fine, Wall Street Journal).
The menorah—“lamp stand” in Hebrew—has been the pre-eminent symbol of Jews and Judaism for millennia. It is the oldest continuously used religious symbol in Western civilization. Yet at this time of year, many people—Jews and non-Jews alike—find themselves puzzled about it. Why is there a nine-branched menorah for Hanukkah (which begins this year on the evening of Dec. 24) rather than the more familiar seven-branched one, as in the seal of the State of Israel?

Since biblical times, the seven-branched menorah has symbolized Judaism. It first appears in Exodus, as a lighting fixture within the Tabernacle, a sort of portable temple used by the Israelites during their desert wanderings. The menorah is described in Exodus in minute detail, based on a heavenly prototype.

For the answer to the question in the headline, click on the link and read on. But most readers familiar with the story behind the holiday will probably have already figured it out. For Professor Fine's new book on the menorah, see here and links. Some other past posts involving ancient menorahs are collected here.