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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Question 11.9.5:
Symbols: What is a Menorah?


A menorah is a 7-stick candle holder, typically with one holder higher or different than the others. It is one of the oldest symbols of the Jewish faith. It is mentioned in Exodus 25:31-40, which describes how to construct the menorah. the priests (kohanim) lit the menorah in the Sanctuary every evening and cleaned it out every morning, replacing the wicks and putting fresh olive oil into the cups.

According to

The menorah is often considered a symbol of the nation of Israel and its mission to be "a light unto the nations." (Isaiah 42:6). The sages emphasize that light is not a violent force; Israel is to accomplish its mission by setting an example, not by using force. This idea is highlighted in the vision in Zechariah 4:1-6. Zechariah sees a menorah, and G-d explains: "Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit."

In synagogues, there is often a light above the ark, called the ner tamid (usually translated as the eternal flame). This symbolizes the menorah.

In a menorah, one of the holders is typically higher or different than the others. This holder is called the shamash (head), and contains the candle used to light the other candles.

Note: During Chanukkah, a nine-branched menorah is used. Technically, this is called a Chanukiah. It contains eight holders, one for each day of Chanukkah, plus the shamash.

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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