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The Menorah, Revisited

This was first posted on December 2005; we have many new bloggie readers since then, I hope you enjoy it and Happy Hanukah!

The Menorah

I've been learning more about Jewish traditions since reading DL; with Chanukah and Christmas falling on the same day this year, I wanted to do posts about both celebrations.

The term menorah is a Hebrew word used to describe a multi-branched candelabrum (candle holder). The history of the menorah begins with its creation by the biblical artisan Bezalel. The menorahs that were placed in the historic First and Second Temples had seven branches. Menorahs seen in today's synagogues tend to have a number of branches greater or less than seven, in order to avoid imitations of the First and Second Temples' menorahs. Menorahs are lit for decoration during the holidays and on Shabbat.
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Bezalel was said to be highly gifted as a workman, showing great skill and originality in engraving precious metals and stones and in wood-carving.

According to the narrative in Exodus, he was definitely called and endowed to direct the construction of the tent of meeting and its sacred furniture, and also to prepare the priests' garments and the oil and incense required for the service.

The candlestick of the sanctuary was of so complicated a nature that Moses could not comprehend it, although G-d twice showed him a heavenly model; but when he described it to Bezalel, the latter understood immediately, and made it at once; whereupon Moses expressed his admiration for the quick wisdom of Bezalel, saying again that he must have been "in the shadow of G-d" (Hebr., "bezel El")

The hanukiah (nine branched menorah), is a specific type used for Chanukah. Chanukah is the festival of lights that falls in December. It is the celebration of the miracle that a quantity of oil lasted for eight days when it should have only lasted for one. Eight of the branches symbolise the lasting of oil for eight nights while the ninth branch is the shamash (the master light). While the branches of a menorah may differ in number and in height, to be considered a hanukiah the eight branches must be of uniform height and spacing.

These hanukiahs are from the Josef Aron Museum, located within one of the oldest synagogues in Canada, the Temple Emanu-El Beth Sholom, in Montreal, Quebec.
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Heron menorah designed by Shraga Landesman.
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This Menorah is reminiscent of landscapes in the artist's childhood: evenings on the Sea of Galilee and herons perching on eucalyptus trees, patiently watching for fish and frogs. Like much of Landesman's work, this piece creates strong feelings of longing for a simple and spiritual life. Shraga Landesman is an Israeli-born artist based in Haifa. His work has been exhibited in Jewish Museums in New York, Paris, Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem. He considers his sources of spiritual inspiration to be the Bible and the ancient cultures of Haifa, as he celebrates and preserves a disappearing world. His aluminum Judaica is often embossed with Hebrew text in an angular, ancient-styled script.

Menorah Children and Jerusalem Wall by Tamara Baskin brings new-age inspiration to traditional Judaica. Fused-glass artwork has existed since Biblical times, yet Baskin's use of negative space to highlight simple geometric patterns and her unique ''copper'' glass make her work instantly recognizable.
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The rainbow-colored blocks of glass in this eye-catching Menorah add a sense of whimsy and joy to the Festival of Lights.
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The Festival of Lights occurred when the Maccabees reclaimed the Temple in Jerusalem. Thousands of years later, the western wall of the Temple still stands, and this beautiful Menorah reminds us that Chanukah celebrates the safety and independence of Judaism's most sacred site.

Here are three examples by Seeka. Israeli-born artists Nachshon Peleg and Stavit Allweis blend high-tech and fine art in their Judaica, made from laser-etched stainless steel adorned with eclectic taste ranging from Swarovski Crystal to organic seeds.
Temple menorah
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"The Temple in which the miracle of Hanukkah occurred continues to exist in our collective memory. Shrouded by clouds of time and circled by doves yet it continues to glow and inspire us to this day. It is this dreamy memory which is celebrated in our temple Menorah. The intricate design is hand painted within the stainless steel frame. A variety of materials are inserted within and layered with artist's resin resulting in a beautifully finished piece. The Menorah parts are cut to perfectly fit and are assembled using no welding or glue."

Maccabee menorah
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This is a full sized voluminous menorah with a theatrical touch. The night of the miracle of Hanukah is depicted in deep blues and purples studded with shimmering stars and topped with a bright window with the Hebrew word for "Light" inscribed on the Jug of sacred oil.

Dove of Peace menorah
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The dove appearing with an olive branch to signal the receding flood waters has long been a symbol of hope and peace. In this menorah the dove is featured perched atop a rainbow. Both are painted in beautiful pastel tones and generously embellished to create a rich centerpiece. Two brass columns on each side support a large flower with a marble core.

Over the years, the menorah has evolved to represent more than a candelabra. It has become a symbol of Judaism, and is even used on some Israeli coins. Still, the history of the menorah is largely unknown.

Artists can sculpt fascinating menorahs after the most unexpected, everyday items, which in Copa's case includes everything from fire trucks to giraffes. Copa's menorahs look like toys at first, but what looks playfully simple from far becomes fascinating and complex when seen up close. The intricate wire designs delight children and parents alike.
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Orange Tulip menorah by Quest
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Orange tulips with green stems are dotted with brilliant red ladybugs. The intricate floral imagery in this artist's work makes them appear to be every bit as delicate and fragile as if they were alive. Quest's artwork is constructed from pewter and painted with high-gloss enamel.

Here are two glass menorahs by Shardz
Circle of Light
menorah13.jpg
This is a beautiful memorah, based on the infinite circle and handcrafted by nationally recognized glass artist, Fay Miller. The lights of Chanukah reflect off the sharp edges, angles and curved surfaces of this glass menorah with beautiful results.
Star of David
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These menorahs are also designed and handmade by Fay Miller using colorful broken wedding glasses and integrating them into a piece of art. The assymmetry of this Menorah is an innovative take on the traditional Star of David. As with other Shardz Menorahs, the glass multiplies and enriches the Channukah lights.

Our Love menorah by Alef Judaica
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A husband and wife light the Hanukah candles together, using a pewter menorah that symbolizes their togetherness and love.

Art Deco Triangle menorah
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Gary Rosenthal is one of the foremost names in contemporary Judaica. His flowing, asymmetrical designs exhibit a sense of movement, and his blends of metals and fused glass are a modern mixture of traditional materials. The design of this Menorah is an art-deco look at traditional Judaica that transcends its functionality. This beautiful Menorah instead becomes a stand-alone work of art with beauty and style that deserve attention year-round.

"S" menorah with cobalt blue by Glass Light
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From the sweltering furnace to an ''icy'' permanence, each casting becomes a unique moment frozen in time.

Tree of Life menorah by Rite Lite
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A family owned business since 1949, Rite Lite and its artists have continually produced an incredible line of Judaica, ranging in styles from contemporary to traditional to antique.


Jerusalem wood menorah
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I think this one is so beautiful, the Tree of Peace Menorah menorah21.jpg
This menorah was made by Yuri Tarlor, a renowned artist with creations in museums and galleries worldwide and who was also Chief Designer of the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C.

A floral pottery menorah designed by Toby Rosenberg
menorah22.jpg

And of course, a garden menorah.
menorah19.jpg

The menorah itself has given rise over the centuries to several Chanukah customs -- and like the menorah, their origins are not commonly known. For instance, families traditionally eat potato pancakes ("latkes") and jelly doughnuts ("sufganiyot") during Hanukah. The fried food is a reminder of the oil that provided the Miracle of Lights. And while Jews exchange gifts on Chanukah, it is a misconception that Chanukah is the "Jewish Christmas." In fact, the custom originated from the Jewish practice of "tzedakah," or charity.

Posted by floranista on Dec 22, 2008 8:37 pm

13 comments, latest by Purushotam at 2:11 pm 1/20

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