Synagogue of Hammath by Tiberias
Byzantine period, 5th century CE
H: 46 cm
Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Accession number: 17.29.66
The menorah, the seven-branched candelabrum that stood in the Temple of Jerusalem, became a national and religious symbol after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. The image began to be widely used in the fourth century and has continued in popularity ever since. The menorah motif was believed to have the power of warding off evil andserved as a symbol of national and personal redemption.
Menorahs were drawn, incised, or fashioned in mosaics; they also appear in relief carved on marble or made in molds. Uniquely, the menorah from Hammath by Tiberias, excavated in 1921, has special hollows on top for holding oil lamps, probably small glass beakers. Although there is no mention in literary sources regarding the use of three-dimensional menorahs in synagogues, several examples were discovered in excavations. The unfinished rear and sides of the stone may indicate that it was placed against the wall. This rare, well-designed menorah was made according to a recognized pattern. Its branches, carved with alternating pomegranates and flowers, were probably inspired by the biblical description of branches of the menorah in the Tabernacle, "each with calyx and petals" (Exodus 25:33).
The Israel Museum, Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2005
Digital presentation of this object was made possible by: The Ridgefield Foundation, New York, in memory of Henry J. and Erna D. Leir