The Iron Menorah of the Hasmoneans (The Temple Institute)
This fascinating painting and article are a snipet from a more complete explanation about the History of The Golden Menorah, courtesy of The Temple Institute in Jerusalem…
The Iron Menorah of the Hasmoneans
Upon liberating the Holy Temple from the Greeks, the Hasmonean kohanim entered the Temple Sanctuary to remove the idolatrous objects brought in by the Greeks and to purify the Sanctuary and its vessels. They discovered that the golden Menorah and the golden Incense Altar had both been stolen by the Greeks. They immediately located seven iron bars and with them fashioned a very simple but functional seven branched Menorah. It was this Menorah that they lit using the only cruse of pure olive oil that remained in the Holy Temple.
But haven’t we learned that the Menorah needs to be made from a single piece of pure gold? And aren’t the flowers, knobs and bowls all necessary details of its design?
Halachah (Jewish law) tells us that if gold can’t be found, then another metal can be used to make the Menorah. Furthermore, the flowers, knobs and bowls are only essential if the Menorah is made out of gold. These details don’t need to be included in a Menorah made out of iron!
The Hasmoneans rightfully felt the need to renew the Temple service without delay, and therefore made do with the materials at hand. Some of our sages even suggest that they used their swords to form the seven branches! An ancient Midrash even states that the eight days of Chanukah commemorate the eight iron bars that the Hasmoneans discovered in the Holy Temple, (seven branches and one base)!
In any case, the lesson to be learned from the Hasmoneans is that the renewal of the Divine service is urgent and all proper measure should be taken in order to expedite its speedy renewal.
As time passed and conditions improved, the Hasmoneans were able to replace the iron Menorah with a silver one. Eventually the silver Menorah was itself replace by a Menorah of pure gold, in precise accordance with the description in Torah.
The painting depicts the kohanim assembling the iron Menorah.
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