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Saturday, December 5, 2015

What is a Menorah?

The menorahs we see displayed at Chanukah are made for the holiday.  They are different than THE Menorah which you will find described in the Torah or Old Testament in the book of Exodus.

God gave Moses much more than just the 10 Commandments.  God gave very specific instructions for the creation of the Ark, the Menorah, and the Tabernacle..

Most people know about the Ark because of the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark.  The Ark was to be made of acacia wood and covered with gold.  Inside the Ark was placed the Testimonial Tablets of the Law, the stone on which God wrote the Ten Commandments. It had a special cover to protect the Testimonial Tablets. The Ark would be placed in the Tabernacle.

The Menorah was to be hammered from single piece of pure gold.  God showed Moses how to make it.  It was an oil lamp with a shaft and three branches on each side. Each cup for the oil was to be engraved like almonds with a branch, knob and flower. Seven cups including the central shaft would be filled with sacred oil made from spices according to the recipe provided by God.  This lamp would by placed upon a table inside the Tabernacle across from the Ark so that its light would shine upon the Ark. The priests would make the sacred oil and add it to the Menorah so that the light would not go out.

As with the Ark and the Menorah, the instructions for the Tabernacle, were expressly detailed by God and you will finds these details in the book of Exodus.

This Tabernacle with the Ark and the Menorah would be called the Holy of Holies within the Tent of Worship in the desert and later in the Temple built in Jerusalem. The most holy of places.

What is a Chanukah menorah? The menorah you see during the celebration of Chanukah has EIGHT lamps to symbolize the eights days it took to make the sacred oil needed to relight THE Menorah that was in the Holy of Holies.

During the Greek Empire, Jerusalem was governed by Hellenized Syrians who worshiped the Greek Gods.  The Temple containing THE Menorah was sacked. Rebel Jews lead by Maccabee The Hammer, son of a priest, fought back and won the Temple.

When they went to relight the Menorah, they found that all of the vials of sacred oil had been smashed or defiled except one. It would take eight says to complete the process of making sacred oil.  The one vial they had would only last for one day.  They decided to light the Menorah anyway. Miraculously the light of the Menorah lasted for the entire eight day period it took to make new sacred oil.  It is this miracle that is celebrated at Chanukah.

The celebration lasts for eight days and each night one more candle is light.  You will notice an extra candle called a shamash or helper which is light first and then used to light the Chanukah candles.