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The Menorah and the Tree of Life

The Tree of Life on the MenorahThe Tree of Life on the Menorah

One of the most ancient symbols of Judaism is the seven-branched candlestick known as the menorah. While it is an important symbol of the exoteric Jewish faith, the menorah also has esoteric associations linking it to Otz Chiim, the Tree of Life. The form of the menorah was reputedly given to Moses by God, as related in Exodus 25:31-37:

Make a lampstand of pure gold and hammer it out, base and shaft; its flower-like cups, buds and blossoms shall be of one piece with it. Six branches are to extend from the sides of the lampstand - three on one side and three on the other. Three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms are to be on one branch, three on the next branch, and the same for all six branches extending from the lampstand. And on the lampstand there are to be four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. One bud shall be under the first pair of branches extending from the lampstand, a second bud under the second pair, and a third bud under the third pair - six branches in all. The buds and branches shall be of one piece with the lampstand, hammered out of pure gold. Then make its seven lamps and set them upon it so that they light the space in front of it.

The stress that this passage places on the menorah being constructed from a single piece of pure gold brings home the essential perfection and undividedness underlying creation: the menorah arises from and is an embodiment of pure unity, just as the Tree of Life is both a consequence and an expression of the en sof or. The seven candle holders and three joints where the branches meet the central column represent the ten sefirot of the Tree of Life. The central column corresponds to the central Pillar of Equilibrium (sefirot 1, 6, 9 and 10), the holders on its left to the Pillar of Severity (sefirot 3, 5 and 8) and those on its right to the Pillar of Mercy (sefirot 2, 4 and 7).