Ancient Byzantine “Jewish” highly decorated oil lamp, depicting a nine branched menorah on the side, palm branches and other geometric design all around the shoulders.
Dated from, 6th Century AD
Measurements: Length: 10.5 cm – Width: 6 cm
Condition: Not repaired and not restored with some age weathering as shown, untouched as found
Found in Samaria “Biblical name shomron” north of Jerusalem Israel
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The Menorah is also a symbol closely associated with the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Temple after the successful Jewish revolt against the Seleucid monarchy. According to the Talmud, after the Seleucid desecration of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, there was only enough sealed (and therefore not desecrated) consecrated olive oil left to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days which was enough time to make new pure oil.
The Talmud (Menahot 28b) states that it is prohibited to use a seven-branched menorah outside of the Temple. The Hanukkah menorah therefore has eight main branches, plus a ninth branch set apart as the shamash (servant) light which is used to kindle the other lights. This type of menorah is called a hanukiah in Modern Hebrew.
The lamps of the menorah were lit daily from fresh, consecrated olive oil and burned from evening until morning, according to Exodus 27:21.
The Roman-Jewish historian Flavius Josephus states that three of the seven lamps were allowed to burn during the day also; however, according to the Talmud (Rashi, Tractate Shabbat 22b), only the center lamp was left burning all day, into which as much oil was put as into the others. Although all the other lights were extinguished, that light burned oil, in spite of the fact that it had been kindled first. This miracle according to the Talmud (Tractate Menahot 86b) was taken as a sign that the Shechinah rested over Israel. It was called the ner hama'aravi (Western lamp) because of its position. This lamp was also referred to as the ner Elohim (lamp of God), mentioned in I Samuel 3:3. The miracle of the ner hama'aravi ended about 40 years before the destruction of the Temple (circa 30 C.E.) according the Talmud Tractate (Yoma 39a), "Our Rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple(that is to say around 30 A.D) the lot [‘For the Lord’] did not come up in the right ...hand; nor did the crimson-coloured strap become white; nor did the westernmost light shine"
The menorah is a sacred candelabrum used in Jewish ritual practice, and one of the oldest symbols of the Jewish people. In ancient times, the menorah once played a central role in the ritual activities of the Jewish Tabernacle, and subsequent Temple of Jerusalem, as a golden lamp used to illuminate the Ark of the Covenant. The original seven branched menorah symbolized the burning bush as seen by Moses on Mount Sinai, and thus represented the light of God. Later, a special type of Menorah, known as a Chanukkiyah or Hanukiah with nine branches, became associated with the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. This nine-branched menorah symbolized the miracle of the eight days of light that illuminated the Temple of Jerusalem following the revolt of the Maccabees in 166-65 B.C.E. (The ninth branch was used to light all the other candles).
The Hanukkah Menorah therefore has not seven, but nine candle holders. The four holders on either side are to represent the eight-day celebration of the miracle of oil, while the one in the middle, called the Shamash, is used to light the others. While this type of menorah is technically called a Hanukiah, the "menorah of Hanukkah" is sometimes simply called a menorah.
The common reason for the number of the candles is that they symbolize the eight days of the miracle. Each night an additional light is kindled—one on the first night, two on the second night; and so on—until on the eighth night of Hanukkah all eight lights, plus the shamash, are lit. Another possible reason for the eight branches of the Chanukkiyah, as opposed to the seven in the traditional menorah in the temple, may be because according to halakha, it is forbidden to make a menorah similar to the one in the temple because of its sanctity.