Question: In view of the Biblical prohibition against replicating 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?
Discsussion: The Talmud forbids fashioning [or owning ] a
seven-branched menorah, in keeping with the Biblical prohibition of
“imitating” any of the vessels (keilim) that were used in the Mishkan. There
are three views in the early authorities as to the extent of the prohibition:
1. Only an exact replica is prohibited—any deviation from the original
in the Mishkan is permitted.
2. Any Menorah which would have been considered kosher b'diavad in the
Mishkan is prohibited.
3. Any seven-branched menorah, made out of any metal, regardless of its
shape or form, is prohibited.
Shulchan Aruch (as explained by the Shach) rules in accordance with the
middle view, i.e., that a candelabrum that is not made exactly like the one
in the Mishkan but would be kosher b'diavad is prohibited. He rules,
therefore, that even if the candelabrum 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 candelabrum is
shorter than the eighteen tefachim (approx. six feet) that the original
Menorah measured—it is still prohibited. But a seven-branched candelabrum
made out of wood or porcelain, for instance, is permitted since even
b’diavad such a Menorah is invalid for use in the Mishkan. Similarly, a
menorah which is made to hold candles and not oil would be permitted since
such a Menorah could not be used in the Mishkan either. Several
latter-day poskim rule in accordance with this view.
There is, however, a minority view that recommends following the third—more
stringent—approach, and forbids making or owning a menorah which would not
have been considered kosher even b'diavad. In their opinion, it is forbidden
to make any candelabrum, 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. A menorah which is round or square would also be prohibited.
Although the basic halachah follows the more lenient opinion, some poskim
suggest that since this prohibition is of Biblical origin, we should be
stringent. L’chatchilah, therefore, one should not make [or own] any
seven-branched candelabrum, either oil- or candle-based, made in any
shape or out of any metal. Some poskim forbid even a seven-branched
electric candelabrum, while others permit it. While it is best to
refrain from making one, if one happens to have such a menorah, it is
permitted to retain it.
The poskim agree that one who owns a seven-branched candelabrum could “fix”
it by either adding or removing a branch, or by merely capping one of
the branches. But it is questionable if one may retain an
eight-branched candelabrum from which one branch accidentally broke off.
1. Rosh ha-Shanah 24a.
2. Beiur ha-Gra, Y.D. 141:21; Birkei Yosef, Y.D. 141:8. See Darchei Teshuvah 141:52 for a more lenient opinion.
3. Tosafos, Avodah Zarah 43b.
4. Yisro 20:20.
5. Teshuvos Chacham Tzvi 60. See also Meiri (Rosh ha-Shanah 24a) who opines that any deviation from the Menorah of the Mishkan is permitted.
6. Teshuvos Maharik 75, in explanation of the view of Tosafos.
7. Bechor Shor (Rosh ha-Shanah, 24a.)
8. Y.D. 141:8.
9. Mishnas Chachamim, quoted by Pischei Teshuvah, Y.D. 141:14.
10. Darchei Teshuvah 141:56, quoting several poskim; Igros Moshe, Y.D. 3:33; Yabia Omer 1:12 and Yechaveh Da'as 3:61. [Rav Yosef (ibid.) questions whther or not it permitted according to this view to make an oil menorah which cannot hold the required minimum of half a lug.]
11. Pischei Teshuvah, Y.D. 141:14-15; Sho'el u'Meishiv Kama 3:71, quoted in Darchei Teshuvah 141:56; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 168:5. Note that Bechor Shor writes that even according to the view of the Shulchan Aruch (the middle view), a round menorah would be prohibited, since a round Menorah may be kosher b’diavad for use in the Mishkan.
12. Halichos Shelomo, vol. 2, 15 note 13.
13. But any candelabrum with six, eight, or nine branches may be made and kept in one’s possession.
14. See Toras Chayim, pg. 120, that Rav Y.C. Sonenfeld recommends that l’chatchilah, even a wood or porcelain menorah should be avoided.