What Is a Menorah?
The word “menorah” is Hebrew for “lamp,” and generally refers to either the seven-branched golden candelabra that was lit every day in the Tabernacle, and then the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
The Temple Menorah
God tells Moses what the menorah should look like. (Exodus 25: 31-40)Hammered out of a single chunk of pure gold, it comprises a single stem from which six branches extend on an upward slant. On the tip of each of the branches, as well as on the central stem, are cups into which olive oil and wicks are to be placed. The menorah is a highly elaborate affair, with nine decorative flowers, eleven bulbs, and twenty-two inverted goblets.
The menorah was placed in the Holy (Kodesh), the same chamber in the Tabernacle that housed the show-bread table (shulchan) and the golden incense altar (mizbe’ach hazahav). Every day, Aaron the High Priest (or his successors) would light the menorah.
Built in the desert along with the rest of the Tabernacle, the menorah was brought into the Promised Land, where it was faithfully lit in Shilo, Nob, and the other places where the Tabernacle was stationed. When Solomon built the first Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the menorah was lit there until that Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
When the second Holy Temple was built by Ezra, a new menorah was fashioned and lit every day. This leads us directly to the second kind of menorah.