The Menorah, the Ancient Seven-Armed Candelabrum: Origin, Form, and Significance

The Menorah, the Ancient Seven-Armed Candelabrum: Origin, Form, and Significance

The Menorah, the Ancient Seven-Armed Candelabrum: Origin, Form, and Significance

The Menorah, the Ancient Seven-Armed Candelabrum: Origin, Form, and Significance

Synopsis

The menorah was the most important and dominant symbol in Jewish art, both in the Land of Israel and the Diaspora. The menorah was an integral part of the Temple ritual and was the most important of the Temple vessels. Its later representation served the purpose of reminding the Jews of their previous glory as well as their pride in the Temple, and expressed the longing and hope for the renewal of the Temple services and worship. Following the destruction of the Temple, the menorah took on the profound significance of the Temple. It also came to symbolize Judaism, when it was necessary to distinguish synagogues, Jewish tombs, and catacombs from Christian or pagan structures in the Land of Israel and the Diaspora. The menorah image has been found depicted in synagogues, public buildings, homes, and the funerary context throughout the Land of Israel and the Diaspora, leaving no doubt as to which are Jewish structures. The prominent position of the menorah in Jewish art emphasizes its significance. The book is presenting the art, archaeological, historical and literary evidence for the development, form, meaning, and significance of the menorah during the Second Temple period and the Late Antiquity.

Excerpt

The research for this book goes back several decades. Breaking from the tradition of focusing on a general broad subject, I chose to concentrate on a specific theme with an exhaustive corpus of data; it includes almost all finds and items of the menorah and its representation.

Although a few previous publications deal with this subject it has been a particularly neglected aspect of the field, and one on which my own studies have centered.

The geographical scope of this study covers the Land of Israel and known Jewish sites in the Diaspora. the chronological time span is the Second Temple period and the Late Antiquity, the first century bce until the eighth century ce.

I have felt for some time that a comprehensive study could be accomplished by the compilation of the material of the past few decades, especially the latest results, together with previous materials and studies. Many excavations have brought to light a large body of new material, which now allows comprehensive treatment and an indepth examination of the theme of the menorah, the seven-armed candelabrum, its development, form, meaning, and significance in antiquity. Various conceivable distinctions in meaning for the menorah, symbolic and ceremonial, have been proposed. An attempt is made to establish the continuity and intricacy of this symbol, and to assess and illustrate its history and significance. Although the form of the menorah has remained essentially unchanged, this research encountered four basic shapes in a variety of designs.

The discussion takes the form of a general comparison, and explores the theme from a variety of viewpoints. Specific topics and issues are surveyed, reexamined, and redefined. They include the finds in the Land of Israel and the Diaspora, the form and development of the menorah, and its meaning, interpretation, significance, and symbolism. This extensive research establishes what I hope is a conclusive case for the existence of a distinctive Jewish symbol, the menorah, surviving to this day in the form of the emblem of the State of Israel.

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