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Dr. Steven Fine on the Cosmic Significance of the Menorah’s Branches

Dr. Steven Fine Dr. Steven Fine

Dr. Steven Fine is Churgin Professor of Jewish History and director of the Center for Israel Studies. He recently published “Menorah, Its ‘Branches’ and Their Cosmic Significance” in

As he explains, “Midrash Tanchuma relates how Moses didn’t understand God's instructions for how to construct the menorah. This highlights the complexity of the Torah’s instructions, which commentators from antiquity until today struggled to visualize. One approach, taken by Philo and Josephus, was to interpret the menorah symbolically.”

He concludes that “the biblical description of the Tabernacle menorah is indeed difficult to conceptualize. Each element of this complex artifact is open to interpretation, and attempts to visualize the original artifact can be perplexing. Philo, Josephus, and then Yannai opted for an astrological interpretation. Ancients had a profound awareness that ‘God is watching us from a distance.’ The menorah represented this connection.”