The Seven Species Menorah by Eliezer Weishoff

Eliezer Weishoff

The Seven Species Menorah, 1998, Bronze and olive wood, ; Gift from the Jewish National Fund in honor of the Knesset's 50th Anniversary, 1998, © Eliezer Weishoff; Photo: Itzhak Harari, Courtesy the Knesset Archives

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The Provision of the Land

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Within the Jewish tradition, the menorah is both religious object and secular symbol. The menorah, a seven branched golden lampstand, was present in Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem and captured by the Romans at its fall in 70 CE, an event depicted on the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum. This depiction initially turned the menorah into a symbol of humiliation for the Jewish people.

As time progressed, symbolic connotations shifted, and images and replicas of the menorah became eschatological symbols of hope for the restoration of the land and the coming of the Messiah. Particularly with the establishment of Israel as a nation-state, the menorah is now a national, secular symbol of actual territory and of national rebirth, seen most explicitly in its inclusion on the seal of Israel.

Eliezer Weishoff’s Seven Species Menorah (1999)—a gift by the Jewish National Fund to celebrate the fiftieth birthday of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) and located within its building—sits within the tradition of menorah as national symbol. The symbolism is furthered by the way that Weishoff depicts his menorah. First, the seven ‘lamps’ are placed so that they appear to grow out of the trunk of an actual olive tree, symbolizing Israel’s deep historical roots in a particular land as well as ‘the renewed growth of the people of Israel in their land’ (Rolef n.d.). The particularity of his adaptation of the menorah symbol is furthered in how Weishoff depicts, instead of lamps, the seven species listed in Deuteronomy 8:8—figs, grapes, dates, pomegranates, wheat, barley, and olives—at the head of the seven branches.

In Deuteronomy 8, the list of the seven species points forward to the abundance of the Promised Land. Rather than God’s provision of daily manna in the wilderness, God enables the land to provide for His people. Thus, by representing these seven species in his work, one could suggest Weishoff’s menorah visually claims the same abundant provision and blessing of God for the nation-state of Israel.

 

References

Fine, Steven. 2016. The Menorah: From the Bible to Modern Israel (Cambridge: Harvard University Press)

Israeli, Yael. 1999. In the Light of the Menorah: Story of a Symbol (Jerusalem: The Israel Museum)

Rolef, Susan Hattis. n.d. Artwork in the Knesset https://knesset.gov.il/birthday/eng/KnessetBuilding2_eng.htm>  [accessed 30 March 2020]


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