by Hillel Fendel, IsraelNN.com
A scholarly, attractive Hebrew work just published by the Temple Institute in Jerusalem explains, among other things, why the Chabad-Lubavitch menorahs atop cars and in public squares are straight, while others are rounded.
Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, head of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, has made it his life’s work to bring the Holy Temple closer to the hearts of the Jewish People. To this end, he has supervised the fashioning of sacred vessels and utensils, to the letter of Jewish Law, to be used in the Holy Temple.
One of the most impressive achievements of the Institute is the half-ton, seven-branched Menorah (candelabra), made of pure gold. It is now stationed in the Old City of Jerusalem, on the steps leading down to the Western Wall, where it can be seen by all. Putting the icing on the cake is Rabbi Ariel’s new book explaining the intricacies of the Menorah’s detailed structure, laws, history, and significance in Jewish thought.
The Straight-Round Controversy
The Chabad-Lubavitch movement has made famous a menorah structure with straight arms, branching out diagonally from the stem. This is based on a ruling by the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, who in turn based his stance on a drawing by the renowned 12th-century Jewish scholar Maimonides (Rambam).
However, the Temple Institute’s golden Menorah, as well as those depicted in the Arch of Titus in Rome, the symbol of the State of Israel, and countless relics and drawings throughout Jewish history, have rounded branches – and Rabbi Ariel says this is the correct version.
“Throughout the generations,” Rabbi Ariel told Arutz-7 upon the book’s publication, “including in the Rambam’s generation, it was known that the branches were circular. The dispute arose only of late after the discovery of a manuscript of the Rambam’s commentary on the Mishna, with a drawing of the golden menorah. He indicated there how the various Biblically-mandated ornaments – cups, bulbs and flowers – were placed. Just like he drew those ornaments simply, so as not to cause confusion, he drew the branches simply and straight for the same purpose.”
“However,” Rabbi Ariel continued, “the Rambam never entertained the possibility that the branches were not rounded. We even have testimonies that the synagogue in which he prayed had a round-branched Menorah.”
Among many other pieces of evidence supporting this position and presented in the new book, a drawing was found in the Herodian Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, beneath the present-day site of Yeshivat HaKotel, showing a round-branched Menorah. “And this was a neighborhood of Priests,” Rabbi Ariel emphasizes, “and the drawing was used to teach them how to light the Menorah.”
True-to-Life Photos and Art
In addition to many photographs and lavish drawings of the Menorah, Temple service, and historical evidence, the book also contains scholarly chapters on various aspects of the Menorah. One chapter deals with the current obligation to build a Menorah, another one details the Redemptive aspects of the Menorah, and yet another discusses whether the requirement to fashion it in one solid gold piece was fulfilled manually or miraculously.
Other, more technical chapters discuss the precise shapes of the cups, bulbs, and flowers, as well as the detachable lamps, the nature of the gold that was used, the base, the Maccabees’ Menorah, Josephus and the Menorah, the western lamp, and more.
The Temple Institute has also recently released a new Siddur (prayerbook), with special emphasis on the relationship between the prayer service and the Holy Temple. It notes, for instances, which passages were originally recited in anticipation of the restoration of the Temple, the aspects of the Temple upon which one must concentrate when reciting certain passages, and how certain prayers were recited in the Temple itself.