22.5. The Menorah (25:31-40)

(31) You shall make a lampstand of pure gold; the lampstand shall be made of hammered work; its base and its shaft, its cups, calyxes, and petals shall be of one piece.

(32) Six branches shall issue from its sides; three branches from one side of the lampstand and three branches from the other side of the lampstand.

(33) On one branch there shall be three cups shaped like almond-blossoms, each with calyx and petals, and on the next branch there shall be three cups shaped like almond-blossoms, each with calyx and petals; so for all six branches issuing from the lampstand.

(34) And on the lampstand itself there shall be four cups shaped like almond-blossoms, each with calyx and petals:

(35) a calyx, of one piece with it, under a pair of branches; and a calyx, of one piece with it, under the second pair of branches, and a calyx, of one piece with it, under the last pair of branches; so for all six branches issuing from the lampstand.

(36) Their calyxes and their stems shall be of one piece with it, the whole of it a single hammered piece of pure gold.

(37) Make its seven lamps — the lamps shall be so mounted as to give the light on its front side —

(38) and its tongs and fire pans of pure gold.

(39) It shall be made, with all these furnishings, out of a talent of pure gold.

(40) Note well, and follow the patterns for them that are being shown you on the mountain.

(31) You shall make a lampstand of pure gold: Unlike the ark, the symbol of Divine revelation, which rests behind the curtain and is obscured from view from the outside, the lampstand, the menorah, is a symbol of wisdom that comes from man and through man. The menorah is therefore displayed openly, fully visible outside the curtain.

The menorah stands opposite the table and its breads of display. The table and the menorah are interrelated: The Jewish people can give light to humanity only when they themselves are living a life of material success.

The lampstand shall be made of hammered work; its base and its shaft, its cups, calyxes, and petals shall be of one piece: It must be fashioned from a single piece of gold, not assembled from several separate parts. Wisdom – cognition of the universe – is a single, unified intuitive process, not a collection of disparate, independent details.

(32) Six branches shall issue from its sides: Taken together with the central trunk of the menorah, these branches symbolize the seven days of creation.

(33–34) On one branch … three cups shaped like almond-blossoms, each with calyx and petals … And on the lampstand itself there shall be four cups shaped like almond-blossoms, each with calyx and petals: Although the menorah is made of gold, it has the appearance of a tree that grows and develops.

(35) A calyx, of one piece with it, under a pair of branches; and a calyx … under the second pair of branches, and a calyx … under the last pair of branches; so for all six branches issuing from the lampstand: Each pair of branches forms a single unit. This emphasizes the need to find a balance between conflicting human character traits.

(36) Their calyxes and their stems shall be of one piece with it, the whole of it a single hammered piece of pure gold: Unlike philosophies that divide the world into unrelated, constituent parts, Divine wisdom sees the world as a single, unified whole.

(37) Make its seven lamps: In the menorah there are six ordinary lamps on the branches, and one special lamp on the central stem. Like the seven days of creation, these symbolize the diversity of spirituality in the world, the unity of all its manifestations.

The lamps shall be so mounted as to give the light on its front side: Opinions differ as to the exact positioning of the menorah and its parts. The consensus is that the lamps (the cups that held the oil) were not symmetrical, but each had a protruding angle to hold the wick, such that each cup could be made to point in a particular direction. At the same time, the menorah, which stood at the southern wall, was positioned from north to south, parallel to the curtain. The lamp on the central stem, called ner maaravi, the “western lamp,” was directed westward, toward the Holy of Holies, while the remaining six lamps (three on either side) were set to point toward that central lamp.

(38) And its tongs and fire pans of pure gold: Not only the menorah itself, but also all its accessories – the “instruments of wisdom” – were made of gold.

(39) It shall be made, with all these furnishings, out of a talent of pure gold: The Greek term “talent” is used to translate the Hebrew word of kikar, the largest monetary and weight measure in ancient times. Different estimates of this unit in the Torah range from 27 to 68 kg (60 to 151 pounds). Rav Arye Kaplan, relying on Rashi, considers the maximum value of kikar to be correct, i.e. 68 kg. He calculates that in this case the diameter of the stems of the Menorah was about 3 cm (slightly more than 1 inch).

(40) Note well, and follow the patterns for them that are being shown you on the mountain: Rather than presenting the images only in words, God also showed Moses actual images of the Temple objects, appliances, and utensils, which thus became a part of him, as it were; Moses now carried in his mind an image of the Temple. This sacred image was then transmitted directly from teacher to student, therefore always remaining to some extent an oral depiction that cannot be fully fixed in text.

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Bible Dynamics, VOL. 2. EXODUS Copyright © by Orot Yerushalaim / P. Polonsky / English translation of the Torah by the Jewish Publication Society, New JPS Translation, 1985. With sincere gratitude for the permission to use. All Rights Reserved.

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