No symbol of the Mishkan is more present in current Israeli consciousness than the proud Menorah, symbol of the state of Israel. It was July 15, 1948. The Israeli army was fighting a battle on three fronts which had just turned, the Security Council was endorsing a proposal to impose an immediate cease fire, and, among other things on their mind, the provisional government was discussing what would be the symbols of the Jewish state, whose chances of survival now seemed not too bad.
Naturally, there were disagreements. Shockingly, though, there was one thing everyone agreed on- the Menorah needed to be there. It was fitting. The Menorah had been the symbol of the Jewish return to sovereignty, adorning Hasmonean coins thousands of years before, and a central symbol of Jewish defeat on the Arch of Titus. It was time for the Menorah to return to its former glory.
But what’s so special about the Menorah?
That goes back even further than the Hasmoneans, to chapters 25 and 37, where the Menorah stands out as unique amongst the vessels of the mishkan. There are three things the Menorah lacks, which all the other major vessels of the Mishkan possess. Wood (the Menorah is pure gold, while the other vessels are gilded), measurements, and a crown.
The crowns are understood by the Talmud as a symbol of accomplishment. The crown of the Shulchan represents royalty, the crown of the altar, priesthood, inherited distinctions, and the greatest crown, the crown of the Aron, the crown of Torah, which is democratic, open to anyone.
But the Menorah has no crown. It has no measurements which define it, and it has no layers. It represents not accomplishment, but pure essence. Thus, it is the element which is most shared by the entire Jewish people. Not everyone is born a king, or a priest, and not everyone takes advantage of the opportunity to don the crown of Torah, but all share the shining light of the Menorah.
The symbol of the Menorah ultimately accepted included the two olive branches found in Zechariah’s vision of our first return to Zion. What does the vision mean, asks Zechariah, and God answers.
“Not by might, and not by power, but by my spirit, said the Lord of Hosts.”
It’s the spirit for which hosts of soldiers and citizens, 23,320 of our best and brightest gave their lives, the spirit which President Rivlin exhorted us to dedicate our lives, the spirit of the light of the Menorah which shines out to the entire world.
This is my own little insight about the 929 chapter of the day, in 300 words or so. But i get extra words for special days… I’d love to hear your comments and start a conversation
What’s 929? A near-impossible challenge of consistency. A song of Jewish unity. A beautiful project worth checking out. Learn more at 929.org.il