A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the
week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.
"Towards the face of the menorah shall the seven lamps cast light"
IS IT PERMITTED TO OWN A SEVEN-BRANCH CANDLEABRUM
QUESTION: In view of the Biblical prohibition against duplicating vessels
that were used in the Mishkan, would one be allowed to make a seven-branched
candelabrum? If one owns such a candelabrum, is he allowed to keep it?
DISCUSSION: The Talmud(1) forbids manufacturing a seven-branched
candelabrum, in keeping with the Biblical(2)( prohibition(3) of "imitating"
any of the vessels (keilim) that were used in the Mishkan.
There are three views in the early commentaries in regard to the extent of
the prohibition. Some(4) hold that only an exact replica is prohibited. Any
slight change from the original in the Mishkan is permitted. Others(5) hold
that any menorah which would have been considered kosher b'dieved, is
prohibited. Other poskim(6) are even more stringent. They hold that any
seven-branched menorah, made out of any metal, regardless of its shape or
form, is prohibited.
The Shulchan Aruch(7) rules [in the opinion of the Shach] in accordance
with the second view, i.e., that even a menorah that is not made exactly
like the one in the Mishkan but would be kosher b'dieved is prohibited. He
rules, therefore, that if the menorah is not made from gold but from other
types of metals; if the replica is made without the decorative cups, knobs,
or flowers that were part of the original menorah; if the menorah is shorter
than the 18 tefachim (4.5-6 feet) that the original menorah measured, it is
still prohibited to replicate.
There are, however, some poskim who follow the third approach, that a
menorah which would not have been considered kosher even b'dieved is still
prohibited. In their opinion, it is forbidden to make any menorah, no matter
what its shape or form, if it has seven branches. Even a menorah which is
made to hold candles and not oil would be prohibited according to this
strict interpretation of the halachah(8). A menorah which is round or square
would also be prohibited(9). There is a debate among latter-day poskim as to
whether the halachah should follow the [Shach's interpretation of the]
Shulchan Aruch's lenient ruling or the stricter ruling of other poskim(10).
The poskim are also undecided about whether the prohibition applies only to
the manufacture of such a menorah, or also to keeping it in one's
possession. The poskim are also in doubt concerning the status of an
eight-branched menorah of which one branch broke off(11).
Since this prohibition is of Biblical origin, we must, wherever possible,
be stringent when in doubt. Therefore:
1. Any menorah with six, eight, or nine branches may be made and kept in
2. It is prohibited to make a seven-branched menorah out of any metal
3. A seven-branched menorah made out of wood or porcelain is permitted(12).
4. A round, triangular or square menorah with seven branches is also
included in this prohibition.
Many poskim permit a seven-branched electric menorah(13), while others
forbid it(14). Ideally, it is best to refrain from making one. If one
happens to have such a menorah, many poskim allow one to retain it(15).
1 Rosh ha-Shanah 24a.
2 Tosfos, Avodah Zarah 43b.
3 Yisro 20:20.
4 The view of the Chacham Tzvi 60. See also Meiri (Rosh ha-Shanah 24a) who
says that any deviation from the menorah in the Mishkan is permitted.
5 Ma'harik (75), in explanation of the view of Tosfos.
6 Bechor Shor (Rosh ha-Shanah, ibid.)
7 Y.D. 141:8.
8 Pischei Teshuvah Y.D. 141:14-15, rejecting the view of Mishnas Chachamim
who permitted a seven-branched candle menorah.
9 Bechor Shor says that even according to the view of the Shulchan Aruch, a
round menorah would be prohibited, since we do not find that the order in
which the candles are placed invalidates a kosher menorah.
10 Pischei Teshuvah, Birkei Yosef and Sho'el u'Meishiv 3:71 rule strictly.
Many other poskim, quoted in Darkei Teshuvah 141:56, Yabia Omer 1:12 and
Yechaveh Da'as 3:61 rule leniently. Igros Moshe Y.D. 3:31, without quoting
the various views, rules that only a kosher menorah is prohibited to
replicate. He is undecided about an oil menorah which cannot hold the
required minimum of half a lug.
11 See Darkei Teshuvah 141:52-53, who remains in doubt concerning these
questions and quotes several views. See Birkei Yosef, however, who relates
an episode where a seven-branched candelabrum was made and the Rabbis of
Yerushalayim ruled that it must be removed.