Raiders of The Lost Menorah
G-d told Moshe, "Speak to Aharon and tell him that when he lights up
the Menorah, the seven lamps should give off light towards the face
of the Menorah." (Bamidbar 8:1-2)
On the 17th day of Tammuz, in the year 3830/70 CE, the Roman legions
entered Jerusalem and laid siege to the city. Three weeks later, on
the 9th of Av they destroyed the Second Temple and had already killed
over one million Jews. Another 90,000 were led by Titus back to Rome
to become slaves, leaving behind only a small community of Jews in
Eretz Yisroel under the leadership of Rebi Yochanan ben Zakkai.
Aside from the many atrocities that the Romans committed against the
Jewish people, one was the pillaging of sacred Temple property. The
very symbol of this is not in Israel, but in Rome: the Arch of Titus.
Like most triumphal arches this one celebrates a victory of war, and
in this case, Rome's crushing of the Jewish revolt that resulted in
the destruction of the Temple.
Inside the arch is a bas relief sculpture showing the Roman army
carrying the spoils of war down through the streets of Rome. The most
notable item is a large menorah being carried down the Via Scara, and
it is believed that the actual menorah is stashed in the secret tomb
of Alric the Goth at the bottom of the Busento River.
Little did the Romans know at that time that they had created their
own historical smoking gun. Thus, according to an article that
appeared in the January 27, 1996 Jerusalem Post, Israel's Minister of
Religious Affairs, Shimon Shetreet, some 1,926 years later since
Titus absconded with the Menorah, asked Pope John Paul II to help
him locate the Menorah, and to arrange for its return to the Jewish
people. To date the request has yet to be fulfilled.
However, which menorah are we talking about? Certainly not the
Menorah that Moshe Rabbeinu had Betzalel build in the desert, for the
A man may not make a . . . menorah like the design of the Menorah. He
may, however, make one with five, six or eight [branches], but with
seven he may not make it even though it might be of other metals.
Rebi Yosi bar Yehudah says, "Also of wood he may not make it because
that is how the Chashmonaim made it." They said to him, "Is that a
proof? It consisted of metal staves overlaid with tin. When they
became richer they made one of silver, and when they became even
richer they made one of gold! (Avodah Zarah 43a)
Thus, we see that by the time the Chashmonaim re-took the Temple and
were able to resume lighting the Menorah, it was not the Menorah with
which the Jewish people had first entered Eretz Yisroel. That
Menorah, apparently, had been long gone, and the one that the Romans
stole and carried back to Rome after the destruction of the Temple,
was the Menorah that the Chashmonaim had built later on in history.
Valuable yes, but not the miraculous Menorah that had been built for
the Jewish people by G-d Himself.
What happened to that Menorah?
It's a mystery. However, it does say:
Antiochos brazenly entered the Temple [in 169 BCE] and stole as much
gold and silver as he wanted. He entered the Holy Temple and removed
the holy vessels, the gold Altar, the Menorah, the Table for the
Panim bread, the Paroches [curtain], and the gold ornamentation with
which the front of the Temple was decorated. (History of the Jewish
People, The Second Temple Era; Mesorah Publications Ltd., 1982; p. 63)
However, as shall see, this still does not answer the question
regarding the original Menorah made by Moshe Rabbeinu.
The Menorah was made out of a single piece of beaten gold. Everything
from its base to its flower was made of a single piece of beaten
gold, precisely according to the vision G-d showed Moshe. (Bamidbar
The Talmud, in reference to a statement made in the Mishnah regarding
the Yom Kippur Service in the Temple, asks:
To what does this refer? If you say to the First Temple, did they
have the Paroches? Rather, it must refer to the Second Temple. But,
did they have the Aron? It is taught in a Brisa: When they hid the
Aron they hid with it the jar of manna, the container of Shemen
HaMishchah (Anointing Oil), Aharon's staff that blossomed, and the
container in which the Philistines had placed gifts for the G-d of
Israel, as it says, "And take the Ark of the L-rd and place it into
the wagon; and the articles of gold, which you shall return to Him as
a trespass-offering, and place it in a box beside it . . ." (I Shmuel
6:8). Who hid them? Yoshiahu, king of Yehudah (3285-3316/475-444
BCE). What did he see to do it? He found a posuk, "G-d will drive you
and your king whom you will place over you to a nation you do not
know . . ." (Devarim 28:36), so he hid them . . . (Yoma 52b)
Thus, we see that at least 21 years prior to the Babylonian conquest
of Jerusalem and destruction of the First Temple (423 BCE), Yoshiahu
HaMelech had the foresight to prepare for the possible desecration of
the holy Temple vessels and he placed them out of harm's way.
Mysteriously, though the Talmud accounts for the Ark, the container
of manna, the Anointing Oil, Aharon's miraculous staff, and the
Philistine box, it does not list the Menorah, among other things.
Nevertheless, there is good reason to assume that it was part of the
special inventory list of holy items to be saved for the future and
final Temple. As to which Menorah the Jewish people used until the
actual time of destruction, we already know that Shlomo HaMelech had
other menorahs built for the Temple since the beginning of its
construction. And, if the Aron HaKodesh and the other implements
crucial for the daily Temple procedure could be removed from the
service as a special measure of that time, then certainly the
original Menorah could be replaced by a substitute, just as the
Chashmonaim had done in their time.
And there they wait, hidden from the eyes of all mankind, until the
time that Heaven deems fit to reveal them once again. Thus, the
Rav Nachman said that the Chachamim said that it was hidden in the
compartment where the wood was stored. Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak said
that this is taught in a Mishnah: A kohen was once working and saw
that one of the floor stones was different from the others. He went
to go and tell others, but he had not yet finished speaking when he
died. From that time onward it was known with certainty that the Aron
was hidden there. What was he doing? Rav Chelvo said that he was
working with an axe. It was taught in the school of Yishmael that
once two blemished kohanim were busy removing rotten wood when the
axe of one of them slipped off into that place, and a fire came out
and consumed him. (Yoma 54a)
Apparently, the time had come to confirm the whereabouts of the
hidden Aron, but not to recover it. History was not ready for it, or
any of the other Temple vessels hidden together with the Aron
HaKodesh. And, if the time wasn't right when a temple stood, then how
much more so would the time not be right when a temple does not stand!
All that would happen is that they would end up in some museum on
public display, which was, and is not their purpose in Creation.
Indeed, most of the hidden vessels were only visible to the kohanim
during the service, and the Aron HaKodesh was accessed only once a
year on Yom Kippur. They were never meant to be on display, and will
never be archeological show pieces.
In fact, it is really quite amazing when you think about it. Eretz
Yisroel is a tiny land filled with so much history that makes it an
archeologist's paradise. You would think that, by now, with all the
digging that goes on in this country, we would have found the Aron
HaKodesh by now, if in fact it is still here. Indeed, I was told
there is an archeologist looking for it right now in Egypt, and
legends roam about that it was hidden in one place or another.
It reminds one of the small jar of oil that the Chashmonaim found
with which they were able to re-kindle the Menorah after their
miraculous victory over the Greeks. Though the enemy had looked for
every last jar and broke the seal of all of the ones they found,
defiling them, they somehow overlooked the most important one of all:
the one that traced its history back through time to Ya'akov Avinu
and the Ohr HaGanuz.
Well, that's Hashgochah Pratis for you. No one who is not fitting
finds anything he is not supposed to find, and no one finds something
before its time. Thus, you can be sure that when someone does find
the Aron HaKodesh or the Menorah, or any of the original and holy
Temple vessels, it will be because the time has come, meaning that
redemption is not far away, with the third and final Temple on its
heels. It can be no other way, which is why what follows next is
really quite significant at this time in history.
And I will give to her vineyards from there and make the Valley of
Achor a door of hope. (Hoshea 2:16-17)
While current events in Israel and around the world vie for our
attention, the following is, perhaps, background information as to
The first of the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947, and the
famed Copper Scroll (made of pure copper) was found at Qumram in
1952. The Copper Scroll, written in Hebrew, is the inventory of the
holy treasures of Solomon's First Temple, treasures which were hidden
before the destruction of that Temple by the Babylonians, and
treasures which have not been seen since. The Copper Scroll tells us
that a silver [alabaster?] chest, the vestments of the Kohen Gadol
(High Priest), gold and silver in great quantities, the Tabernacle of
the L-rd, and many treasures were hidden in a desolate valley, under
a hill, on its east side, forty stones deep. The Mishkan was a
portable Temple for the Ark of the Covenant. The writings in the
Copper Scroll were confirmed 40 years later in the 1990s through an
ancient text found in the introduction to Emek HaMelech (Valley of
the King) a book published in 1648 in Amsterdam, Holland, by Rabbi
Naftali Hertz ben Ya'akov Elchanan. The book's introduction included
ancient records which Rabbi Hertz called the Mishnayos. Hertz used
the term Mishnayos, since the text of the Mishnayos is missing from
the Mishnah, which is the first section of the Talmud . . . The
"missing" mishnaic text in the Mishnayos is called the "Massaches
Keilim," written in twelve chapters. Each chapter of the Mishnayos
describes vessels which were hidden under the direction of Yirmiyahu
the Prophet by five holy men (Shimor HaLevi, Chizkiah, Tzidkiyahu,
Chaggai the Prophet, and Zechariah the Prophet), seven years prior to
the destruction of Solomon's First Temple, because the dangers of the
Babylonian conquest were imminent. The Mishnayos describing this
hiding was then written in Babylon during the Babylonian Captivity.
In 1952, two large marble tablets were found in the basement of a
museum in Beirut, stating they were the words of Shimor HaLevi, the
servant of HaShem, and the writing on the tablets is the entire
missing text of Massaches Keilim including reference to the Copper
Scroll. The first chapter of the Mishnayos describes the vessels that
were hidden, including the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle of
the L-rd, i.e., the Mishkan, the Tablets of Moshe, the altar (with
cherubim) for the daily and seasonal sacrifices (the ushebtis), the
Menorah, the Kalal (copper urn) containing the Ashes of the Red
Heifer (ashes from a red cow sacrificed under Moshe, necessary for
ritual purification of the priests), and numerous vessels of the
kohanim. The second chapter of the Mishnayos states that a list of
these treasures was inscribed upon a copper tablet. This is the
Copper Scroll found at Qumran. Work in the 1990s showed that in 1896,
almost one hundred years previous, Solomon Schechter at Cambridge
University in England had acquired 100,000 pages of ancient Hebrew
texts from the genizah of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Cairo, Egypt. A
copy of the Tosefta (supplement to the Mishnah) was found in these
texts, including the text on Keilim (vessels). This Tosefta is the
same text as cited by Rabbi Hertz as his source for the Mishnayos. We
thus have the hiding of the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle of
the L-rd verified by four separate sources: 1) the Marble Tablets of
Beirut; 2) the Copper Scroll; 3) the ancient sacred texts of the Ben
Ezra Synagogue in Cairo, now at Cambridge University, England; and 4)
the Mishnayos of Rabbi Hertz.
Enter archeologist Vendyl Jones, in search of the lost Ark. The
following is excepted from an article that was serialized in the
Jewish Herald Voice Newspaper, Houston, TX in May 2000.
Circa 1960, Jones read about the Copper Scroll with its list of Holy
Treasures including the Mishkan with great interest, and by
reference, the Ark of the Covenant. His mind was immediately struck
with the idea that this was one of the "records" spoken of in
Macabbees II that he had thought about for so many years! Thus began
a personal quest that was to change his life.
On September 18, 1968, one year after starting on the Stechool/Haas
team, Jones located the River of the Dome and the Cave of the Column,
the two key landmarks listed in the Copper Scroll. For 10 years
thereafter, Jones essentially "laid the Scroll on the ground" and
deciphered and located many more of its key reference points. It was
not until 1977 that he began his first excavation at the Cave of the
Column (privately funded by Larry and Louise Henneman.) For the next
10 years, Jones and his volunteer excavation teams ignored the taunts
of academicians, only to come up empty-handed. However, by 1988,
Jones had been able to identify and locate 32 of the reference points
mentioned in the Copper Scroll.
In April of 1988, his patience and fortitude paid off when the VJRI
excavation team found a small juglet of thick oil. Intensive testing
by the Pharmaceutical Department of Hebrew University concluded that
the substance inside the juglet was indeed the HOLY ANOINTING OIL,
now believed to be Shemen Mishchah (the oil that was used as a
fragrance on the oblation for a sweet smelling savor on the
sacrifices and which was also used as the Holy Oil for anointing the
priests and kings of ancient Israel). This find was crucial since it
was the first find of an item mentioned in the Copper Scroll!
The Rabbinic community was jubilant over the discovery, and Rabbi
Menachem Burstin, the foremost Jewish authority on the botany and
chemistry of the Holy Temple species and artifacts implied that it
was an early sign that we were moving towards the restoration of the
Holy Temple. The juglet has been on display at the Israel National
Museum in Jerusalem.
On February 15, 1989, the news of this find was broken to the public
by the New York Times. During the ensuing few weeks, most of the
major news media including ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN carried the story on
national and international TV. In October of 1989, National
Geographic Magazine featured the find, followed by Omni Magazine in
December of the same year. Countless other news sources worldwide
carried the story for their publications.
"Therefore," says the L-rd, "I will restore them to their beginnings.
I will set judges up as at the first, and counselors as in the
On May 18, Arutz Sheva ran the following article (excerpted).
Exclusive: Kabbalist Blesses Jones to Uncover Holy Lost Ark.
An unnamed Kabbalist has granted blessing to famed archeologist Dr.
Vendyl Jones, to uncover the Holy Ark of the Covenant. Jones plans to
excavate the Lost Ark by the Tisha B'Av Fast this summer.
The famed archaeologist, who is the inspiration for the "Indiana
Jones" series, has spent most of his life searching for the Ark of
the Covenant. The ark was the resting place of the Ten Commandments
written by Moshe (Moses) on Mount Sinai, and was hidden just before
the destruction of the First Temple.
The Talmud says the Ark is hidden in a secret passage under the
Temple Mount. Jones says that, in fact, the Ark was brought through a
secret passage beneath the mount - and that same natural tunnel in
fact continues 18 miles into the Judean Desert.
Throughout the many years of his quest, Jones has been in close
contact and under the tutelage of numerous Rabbis and Kabbalists.
Jones, who is extremely knowledgeable in Torah, Talmud and Kabbalah,
has now received permission from both known and hidden Kabbalists to
finally uncover the lost Ark.
Dr. Jones, who divides his time between Texas and Israel, has been
here since March 9th ready to finally reveal the Ark. However, Jones
has been waiting for permission from a mysterious Kabbalist, as well
as for project funding to come through . . . As recently as last
month, the rabbi, who only communicates via messenger, told Jones
that the time was not yet right to discover the Temple vessels.
Last Thursday, Dr. Jones received a communication from the rabbi
reading, "The time is right."
Dr. Jones says the discovery of the lost ark will "flip the whole
"I just gotta drill a bore-hole into the chamber, drop a pin-camera
in and there it is. And everything is gonna change, believe me. The
Jewish people are gonna come back."
Returning to the Houston article, it continues:
During the 1992 excavation, the VJRI team discovered a hidden silo in
the bedrock that contained a reddish snuff-looking material that
appeared to be organic in nature. It was analyzed by Dr. Marvin
Antelman, who was at the time a consultant to the Weitzmann
Institute, and subsequently the pollens in the material were
identified by Dr. Terry Hutter, a paleobotanist.
These tests indicated that the reddish material was a compound of
nine specific spices in a highly refined state. Two additional
inorganic ingredients, Karsina Lye and Sodom Salt, were found close
by in the same cave, obviously ready to be mixed with the spices, to
comprise the ingredients of the Holy Incense, the Ketores, listed in
the Torah and the Talmud. This was the same compound burned on the
Altar of Incense in the Holy Temple.
A total of 900 pounds of the Incense was eventually found. The
Incense was found by excavating the mound highlighted by the
mysterious "Blue Aura," an extraordinary lighting feature inside the
cave mentioned in the Copper Scroll and obviously used as a
descriptive landmark by those who hid the Temple Treasures. On the
first plate of the Copper Scroll, line #9, it tells of the "tel
kohelet" or blue mound.
With the advent of this second dramatic find of items from the Holy
Temple, and its implications that Jones' Copper Scroll research was
on the right track, his long-standing relationship with the Israeli
Antiquities Authority (IAA) suddenly deteriorated. The IAA decided to
pull Jones' excavation license. Their reasons for attempting to shut
down the excavations are still not clear to this day . . .
In 1994, Jones undertook two separate but related operations, both of
which utilized high-tech screening methods to identify hidden
structural features. Both operations were to achieve dramatic results:
The first was a joint operation with the Israeli Petroleum, Geology
and Geophysics Institute to utilize the Institute's Ground
Penetrating Radar (GPR) technology on-site at the Cave of the Column.
GPR involves high frequency radio emissions and computer analysis to
examine the underlying bedrock and geological strata of any given
area. The GPR survey confirmed the existence of a massive chamber
referenced in the Copper Scroll (subsequently re-determined by
Electrical Resistivity work in 1998 to be 25 feet high and 65 feet
The upper portion of this large chamber (underneath the debris from
the Spice Cave) is reputed to hold the Kalal containing the Ashes of
the Red Heifer. Jones' Copper Scroll interpretation is, "under the
spices is the purification," (i.e., under the Incense are the Ashes
of purification). Then the Copper Scroll says (abridged version),
"There is a very large cave on the third level viewing eastward
closed by a bonded wall . . . hidden and concealed. There is the
Tabernacle on the third level . . . complete . . . and hidden . . .
in the last chamber on the West Side.")
Jones believes that the levels referred to are the bedding planes of
the strata of which the cave is composed, which would in fact put the
large chamber on the "third" level. Jones believes that this large
chamber may very well be the exit of the Cave of Zedekiah that begins
just east of the Damascus gate on the north side of Jerusalem. (The
entrance in Jerusalem has been totally closed.) This passage goes
directly under the Temple Mount and is believed to descend to the
Valley of Achor where the Cave of the Column is located (a distance
of 18 miles).
While the Talmud states that "The Ark of the Covenant is hidden in a
passage under the Temple Mount," Jones sees no contradiction because
the passage continues from Jerusalem to the Valley of Achor. This
passage is referred to in II Kings 25:4-5. Jones believes that the
Cave of the Column in the Valley of Achor IS a "door of hope."
While this large chamber was confirmed by Ground Penetrating Radar at
the end of the exploration season in 1994, refusal to grant dig
permits and other means of interference and restrictions imposed on
exploration methods by Israeli agencies slowed the work to a snails
pace for several years. Though VJRI volunteers exhibited amazing
stamina, moving mountains of debris and dirt with hand tools and
buckets, they continually encountered solid bedrock, but could not
obtain permission to use heavy equipment. And yet, as this is being
written, Jones is in Israel making final preparations to drill a two
inch core hole through the debris from the Spice Cave into the Large
Chamber. Jones has fittingly named this project, PROJECT PETAKH
TIQVAH ("Door or Opening of Hope"). If he is able to confirm a large
cavern, even if it is filled with debris, it will add strong evidence
to the geophysical confirmations and set the stage to allow for more
direct inspection of the contents of that chamber. An open cavity
would lend itself to partial observation by dropping a small but
powerful camera into the opening. If the cavern is verified, but
filled with debris, it will call for a large diameter descent hole.
Obviously, it could be a very exciting time in Jones' long-term
There is more, much more, and most of it can be accessed over the
Web. However, what may be in store is much more than an answer to the
question, "Where is the original Menorah?" If we are in fact the
generation to merit to find the holy vessels from the First Temple,
including the Aron HaKodesh, we will finally have an answer to where
Have a great Shabbos,
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.