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Judaica in Art – the Design of the Menorah

metal chanukah menorah

The design of the Chanukah menorah remains unchanged over the course of Jewish history. Eight places to put candles, oil, or even electric bulbs, all lined up in a row, is the basic design of the menorah. The remainder of the menorah’s appearance takes on many different colors, sizes, and shapes. But why does the menorah have eight lights, and why do these lights sit in a row at the same height?

Why Does the Chanukah Menorah Have 8 Lights?

Rambam Menorah – watercolor - 14x11
Rambam Menorah, watercolor, © Rhonda Roth, All Rights Reserved. Available on Saatchi and Fine Art America
A seven branch menorah. Image by wal_172619 from Pixabay, Artist’s conception.

The design of the menorah in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem consisted of a central branch with three branches emerging from each side. This ancient menorah had seven lights, lit by the priests each day with olive oil. The Chanukah story tells us that when the Greeks contaminated the oil in the Holy Temple, there was no pure oil for lighting the menorah except for one, untouched cruise of oil. A miracle occurred and this small amount of oil lasted for eight days, enough time to manufacture a new batch of pure oil. To commemorate this event, the Chanukah menorah we use today has eight lights.

Why Are the Lights of the Chanukah Menorah in a Row?

chanukah menorah lit

There are several opinions why the lights of the Chanukah menorah are in a row and at the same height. One view is that so each candle appears distinct from each other. From a distance, an onlooker clearly discerns how many candles are lit. Another opinion is so that the candles don’t look like they’re all burning together as one, like a bonfire.

What is the Chanukah Menorah Made Of?

Aside from the design discussed above, the Chanukah menorah can be made from almost any material and take on any shape. The most common materials for menorahs are metal, plastic, glass, and acrylic.

Image by Ri Butov from Pixabay
Photo by David Trinks on Unsplash
Photo by Grav on Unsplash

For More Judaica in Art:

The Shape of Tefillin and Its Meaning

sukkot paintings

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