What is a menorah?
A menorah is a seven-branched candelabrum that has been a symbol of Judaism for almost 3000 years. It was originally used in the ancient Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
There is also a special type of menorah called a Hanukkah menorah, or "hanukkiah", which has nine branches. This is used during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah to commemorate the miracle of the oil, where a day's worth of oil in the temple miraculously lasted for eight days. Each night of Hanukkah, a new branch is lit. The ninth branch, which is often at a different height or position from the other eight, holds the "shamash" candle, which is used to light the others.
The menorah is one of the oldest symbols of Jewish religion and is a very popular symbol in Jewish art and design.
What is the origin of the menorah?
The origin of the Menorah goes back to the time of Moses and the Exodus from Egypt, as described in the Hebrew Bible, specifically the Book of Exodus.
According to Exodus 25:31-40, God gave Moses the instructions for creating the menorah while the Israelites were camped at Mount Sinai. The menorah was to be made of pure gold and was to have seven branches, each ending with a lamp. It was to be hammered out of a single piece of gold, indicating a very skilled work of craftsmanship. The menorah was to be decorated with almond blossoms, symbolizing life and growth.
This seven-branched menorah was to be placed in the Tabernacle, a portable sanctuary used by the Israelites during their wanderings in the desert. Eventually, when the First Temple was built in Jerusalem by King Solomon, the menorah was placed in it. The menorah was lit every day by the high priest and the oil was replenished as needed.
In 70 CE, the Romans destroyed the Second Temple and carried off the menorah, as depicted on the Arch of Titus in Rome, and its subsequent fate is unknown.
The nine-branched menorah, or Hanukkiah, has a different origin. It's associated with the holiday of Hanukkah, which commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BCE. According to the Talmud, when the Jewish Maccabees reclaimed the Temple from the Greek-Syrians, they found only a small amount of oil for the menorah, enough for one day.
Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days, giving them time to prepare more. This is why the Hanukkiah has eight branches for the eight miraculous days, plus an additional branch for the shamash, or helper, candle.
What is the proper spelling of menorah?
The proper English spelling of the word is "menorah". However, keep in mind that "menorah" is a Hebrew word, and English spellings of Hebrew words can vary because they involve transliteration, which is the process of converting letters or words from one alphabet or script into another.
In Hebrew, the word is spelled מְנוֹרָה. In English, "menorah" is the most common spelling, but you may occasionally see other variations, such as "menora" or "menorah".
Similarly, the Hanukkah menorah is often called a "hanukkiah", but you might also see it spelled as "chanukiah", reflecting the different possible transliterations of the Hebrew word חנוכיה. The same goes for the holiday of Hanukkah itself, which can also be spelled "Chanukah", among other variations.
Is the word menorah capitalized?In English, the word "menorah" is usually not capitalized. It's a common noun, like "candle" or "lamp," so it typically starts with a lowercase letter, unless it begins a sentence or appears in a title.
However, in certain contexts, it might be capitalized. For example, if you're writing about "the Menorah" as a specific historical artifact (like the Menorah from the ancient Temple in Jerusalem), it could be capitalized. As always, the key is to be consistent with your usage throughout your writing.
In Hebrew, which does not have a capital/lowercase distinction like English, the word is written as מנורה.