Rav Chaim Kanievsky: Menorah Was Not Round


rav-chaim-kanievskyIn light of this week’s parsha, Behaaloscha, which discusses the lighting of the menorah in the Bais Hamikdosh, the discussion of whether the branches of the menorah were round or polygonal was presented to Rav Chaim Kanievsky.

Throughout the generations, it was thought that the branches were circular. A dispute arose after the discovery of a manuscript of the Rambam’s commentary on the Mishnah, with a drawing of the menorah as straight. Experts claimed that despite the drawing, the Rambam never entertained the possibility that the branches were not rounded.

However, in response to a question posed by Rabbi Shmuel Boruch Genuth, Rav Chaim Kanievsky was reported as saying that those who draw the branches of the menorah in a round fashion are mistaken.

Rav Chaim’s response to Reb Shmuel Boruch actually reflects his opinion as recorded in his sefer Baraisa L’meleches HaMishkan (page 28), where he says that “ in all the pictures the branches of the menorah are drawn as round, but thus would seem to be a mistake, as Rashi in Chumash has written that the branches were diagonal.”

{Matzav.com Israel News Bureau}


  1. Lubavitcher rebbe said this many years ago already. Based on which he decided that the Vatican Menorah was not the authentic one

  2. and pray tell how do we reconcile Titus arch depiction (presumably eye witness) of semicircular branches with straight depiction in rambam and rashi

  3. The menorah on the Arch of Titus is not the only menorah representation from that period. Mathew Antigonus, a kohen gadol and the last king of the chashmonaim, minted a prutah with a menorah on it, as a way of staking his claim to legitimacy. As a kohen, he would know what the menorah looked like, and an improperly-shaped menorah on such a coin would be pointless. That menorah showed round branches. Other menorah drawings from the bayis sheini (on a sundial found in the ruins by the beis hamidash, and on a wall in ruins by the Old City also showing the shulchan) show round branches. Finally, Machon Mikdash says a gold menorah with straight branches is physically impossible, because gold is a soft metal and it couldn’t support the weight. Rabbi YY Jacobson has postulated that the original menorah was straight via a nes, but the menora from bayis sheini had to be round since the neis of gold somehow supporting the weight was no longer active.

  4. And to those who claimed that the Ramba”m didn’t mean to draw that detail purposely, the Ramba”m’s son testified that his father specifically held they weren’t round:
    בנו של הרמב”ם, רבי אברהם, העיד בחיבורו כי אביו כן התכוון לתאר את צורת הקנים: “ששה קנים… נמשכים בגופה של מנורה לצד ראשה ביושר, כמו שצייר אותה אבא מרי, לא בעיגול כמו שצייר אותה זולתו”

  5. According to the RAMBAM (as confirmed by his son HaRav Avraham), the branches of the Menorah are straight.

    However — Lefi Anias Dati (in my humble opinion) — RASHI disagrees:
    * RASHI describes the branches as “Alachson” which could be interpreted as either “Alachson Agul” (rounded) or “Alachson Yashar” (straight). As RASHI — who was Medakdek (extremely careful) with his wording — does not specify which one, Yashar or Agul, we can assume he meant the normal/usual for the Menorah: rounded. If the Menorah in the Mishkan and the Batei HaMikdash were different, RASHI would have specified “Alachson Agul.”
    * This Machlokes between RASHI and the RAMBAM reflects — LeShitasam — another Machlokes between them, regarding who will build the Bais HaMikdash HaShlishi TVBB”A:
    According to RASHI, it will descend Min HaShamayim (from Heaven); according to the RAMBAM, Mashiach — assisted by Klal Yisrael will build it.
    * To fulfill the Mitzvah “VeAsu Li Mikdash…” the RAMBAM requires that we build and complete it successfully. RASHI requires that we work on it; i.e., learn the relevant Parshios and Peirushim and make models. The Ribono Shel Olam will reward us by building it Himself; although we did not complete it, we have done the Mitzvah.
    * Likewise with the Menorah: the RAMBAM’s Menorah — with straight branches — is (in engineering terms) “constructable”; according to the RAMBAM, Betzalel built it. However, as it is not stable (in engineering terms), it requires a Nes LaDoros (miracle) to stand up.
    * RASHI’s Menorah — with curved branches — is stable (in engineering terms); however, it is not constructable. That is why RASHI explains “Mikshah TEIASHEH HaMenorah” as “Naasis MEIELEHAH”: Betzalel tried to make it, but could not; a miracle was required to build it.

  6. As rav chaiim shlita said raShi says explicitly in parshaS teruma the branches were diagonal. That is the source. NiZke lhadliko bmhera vyomeinu

  7. On the other hand, coins minted by the Chashmonaim, who lived during the Second Bais HaMikdash, show a rounded Menorah. On this general topic, take a look at Artscroll Menachos 28a, note 12.

  8. On the inside wall of The Arch of Titus Harasha ,YMS’V in Rome there is a sculpture depicting the Shulchan and the Chatzotzoros and the Menorah which they forced the yidden to carry out of Yerushalyim and bring to Rome as
    ‘spoils”of victory over the Jewish people,at the start of this , our Golus.

    This arch was built in Rome 15 years after the Churban Bais Hamikdosh,and they were only copying the Kaylim of the Bais Hamikdosh which they had in their possession in Rome,as they obviously didn’t know any Mishnayos,Gemorrahs,etc

    If you look at that Menorah sculptured into the Arch you will see that it is rounded.

    go to googlemaps.com and type in Arch of Titus,Rome Italy and then zoom in on the right side wall !!

    Aino Domeh Reyah L’Shmia, but we also,know that Ayin Panim L’Torah.

    IYH Moshiach will show us speedily in our days

  9. The Lubavitcher Rebbe ZT”L expounded on this extensively in 1982 and after being edited and referenced by the Rebbe was published in Likutei Sichos vol. 21 p. 168-172 (accessible on Hebrewbooks.com) see there for clarification on all of the above comments. See also Rambam Shabsi Frankel edition Hilchos Beis Habchira Chapter 3

  10. As a structural engineer, I agree with Commenter No. 8.

    The Sefer “Braisa DiMeleches HaMishkan” with commentaries (Taam and Daas) by HaRav Chaim Kanievsky SHLIT”A is definitely the most authoritative on the Mishkan. It is out-of-print; however, it is available for free download from: http://hebrewbooks.org/49837

    However, as an engineer (MS-MIT), I believe that this issue — whether the branches of the Menorah are round or straight — is a Machlokes RASHI and the RAMBAM.

    My work on the Mikdash and the Mishkan can be seen at:

  11. I don’t see the proof from the arch of Titus being conclusive. The arch presumably was created before Titus arrived. They did not see the menora of the Beis Hamikdash when they built it. They probaly assumed it resembled other candelabera’s of the time. In

  12. The problem with the Arch of Titus is that the base of the menorah depicted there has an octagonal base which is not held by anyone, so that may invalidate the entire relief for proof.

  13. Actually, the depiction of the Menorah on Shaar Titus can be accurate – and still not be the Menorah of the Bais Hamikdosh. There were many candelabrahs in the Bais Hamikdish for the purpose of giving off light.
    As we say in Haneiros Halolu, “Hidliku Neiros B’Chatzros Kodshrcha” – and these lights not reffering to the Menorah, but rather to lights of joy and celebration, which is why they were lit in the Chotzer/Azara.
    Also, the bottom of the Menorah was different then the one depicted on the Shaar Titus.
    Additionally, there isn’t even a single recorded Jewish opinion that contends the Menorah was round. The only basis for it was the Shaar Titus.
    The absurdity of adapting a view of our Menorah from a depiction thats sole purpose is to mock and and show dominance over the Jewish people….

  14. There are depictions of dragons on the Titus menorah do those who think it round also think there were dragons on the menorah in the Beis hamikdosh ?!

  15. What’s so wrong with mentioning in the article that the Lubavitcher rebbe already mentioned thisb40 years ago?

  16. 18 says: “there isn’t even a single recorded Jewish opinion that contends the Menorah was round”

    This is quite simply incorrect. Every single Jewish source that offers an opinion on the subject apart from Rambam’s son (who, if you read his language carefully, never actually discussed the matter with his father but only saw his drawing) says they were round.

    17: We know the Arch was actually built quite a few years after the churban- after Titus was dead, in fact. (The other side of the Arch shows him going up to heaven.) The picture is of the actual victory parade in Rome. (Those are Roman soldiers, by the way, not Jews.) The Menorah itself was on display at a Roman temple right down the street at the time, so the artist would have seen it and everyone else could have compared.

  17. By the time of Titus the Second Temple had been remodelled by Herod, a Roman vassal. Herod would naturally introduce Romanized themes into his remodelling, such as the rectangular base with drawings on it.