Types of Menorahs
Menorahs are probably most commonly associated with Chanukah. Known as the Festival of Lights or the Feast of the Maccabees, Chanukah, or Hanukkah, begins on the 25th day of Kislev. This can be in the month of December, late November or even early in January. The eight day holiday is marked by ritual lights held in a menorah. But Chanukah is not the only time a menorah is used; menorahs are also central to Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath. There are all types of menorahs (or more accurately menorot), from the project a child may make in a woodworking class to elaborate and beautiful works of professional art. Here is some information on the types of menorahs available today.
What Is a Menorah?
A menorah is a candelabrum with certain defining characteristics. The Shabbat menorah has seven branches, while the Chanukah menorah, or Chanukiah, has nine branches. It is important to be aware of this difference when purchasing a Chanukiah. On the Chanukiah, there are nine branches; eight of which will hold candles for each of the eight days of Chanukah and one for the Shamash, which is the servant candle, used to light the other candles. The elevation of the eight Chanukah candles should form a straight line, while the Shamash should be out of alignment with the others, often set either higher, lower, or in a different plane. Some menorah designers, however, take artistic license with the height of the candles. The Shamash is commonly located in the center of the menorah or, alternatively, at the far end.
Types of Menorahs
A menorah may also be more than a candle holder that gives light. There are candelabras available that incorporate other attributes as well. These will not be to everyone’s taste, but, for the record, there are menorahs that:
- incorporate a sports or a clown theme
- include Disney characters, particularly Mickey Mouse
- show scenes from New York City or the Lower East Side
- commemorate Fiddler on the Roof
- are in the shape of Noah’s ark
- are made as a hinged box that can close for easy travel
- come as painting kits with acrylic paints (and possibly glitter)
- are in the shape of an airplane
At the other end of the spectrum are beautiful and elaborate menorahs. Menorahs made by Spode, Lennox, and Waterford—companies known for the fine dishes, tableware, and crystal—can be selected to be compatible with the service being used. Menorahs are available in porcelain, glass, fused glass, crystal, and a variety of metals, including silver, brass, aluminum, pewter, and gold, as well as combinations of different materials.
In a situation in which fire is illegal or unsafe (for example, with small children), an electric menorah may be a good choice. Electric menorahs use small lightbulbs set in the branches. Untwisting the lightbulb so that the contacts aren’t made leaves it in place but not lit, so you don’t have to store the loose lightbulbs somewhere else. Another safety-minded alternative is the virtual menorah (search for it on the Internet), and you can watch a flickering menorah with the appropriate number of candles lit on your computer monitor.
The designs used for menorahs include traditional branching candlesticks, but also, Tree of Life, Twelve Tribes, Star of David, Shofar-shaped, and many designs unique to the individual artists who create them.
A menorah may be lit with birthday candles, tea candles, candles of other sizes, oil, or lightbulbs, from candelabra lightbulbs to standard size.
Though the majority of menorahs are one piece, newer menorahs may be a collection of nine separate candle holders that can be arranged as the owner wishes.
Written by Mary Elizabeth
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