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The Menorah: From the Bible to Modern Israel
     

The Menorah: From the Bible to Modern Israel

by Steven Fine
 

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The menorah, the seven-branched candelabrum, has traversed millennia as a living symbol of Judaism and the Jewish people. Naturally, it did not pass through the ages unaltered. The Menorah explores the cultural and intellectual history of the Western world’s oldest continuously used religious symbol. This meticulously researched yet deeply personal

Overview

The menorah, the seven-branched candelabrum, has traversed millennia as a living symbol of Judaism and the Jewish people. Naturally, it did not pass through the ages unaltered. The Menorah explores the cultural and intellectual history of the Western world’s oldest continuously used religious symbol. This meticulously researched yet deeply personal history explains how the menorah illuminates the great changes and continuities in Jewish culture, from biblical times to modern Israel.

Though the golden seven-branched menorahs of Moses and of the Jerusalem Temple are artifacts lost to history, the best-known menorah image survives on the Arch of Titus in Rome. Commemorating the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the arch reliefs depict the spoils of the Temple, the menorah chief among them, as they appeared in Titus’s great triumphal parade in 71 CE. Steven Fine recounts how, in 2012, his team discovered the original yellow ochre paint that colored the menorah—an event that inspired his search for the history of this rich symbol from ancient Israel through classical history, the Middle Ages, and on to our own tumultuous times.

Surveying artifacts and literary sources spanning three thousand years—from the Torah and the ruins of Rome to yesterday’s news—Fine presents the menorah as a source of fascination and illumination for Jews, Samaritans, Christians, and even Freemasons. A symbol for the divine, for continuity, emancipation, national liberation, and redemption, the menorah features prominently on Israel’s state seal and continues to inspire and challenge in surprising ways.

Editorial Reviews

David Stern
Steven Fine’s The Menorah is a remarkably comprehensive and accessible study of this most ancient of all Jewish symbols, from its Biblical roots in Ancient Near Eastern culture through its Roman re-casting and Christian appropriation down to its contemporary uses and misuses by Israeli messianic extremists and anti-semitic parties in the former Soviet Union. By drawing upon his extensive training as a scholar of Rabbinics, archaeology, and Jewish art history, Fine has been able to produce not only an unprecedented study of a Jewish icon, but the basis for a meditation upon the nature of visual iconicity itself in Jewish culture.
Jewish Journal - Jonathan Kirsch
Magisterial…Fine displays a savvy approach to his study of the menorah.
Jewish Chronicle - Simon Rocker
[Fine’s] absorbing [book] traces the history and symbolism of an object which has served as an emblem of Judaism far longer than the Magen David… An illuminating read.
Jewish Review of Books - Elizabeth Shanks Alexander
Especially helpful are the numerous illustrations and vivid color photographs, many taken by Fine himself or his research team. Positioned alongside the relevant prose, the images help the reader grasp Fine’s insightful interpretations of the evolving iconography.
Catholic News Service - Eugene J. Fisher
Fine weaves into his story references to the menorah in Jewish and Christian literature and scholarship over the ages, ranging from Josephus to modern times. He notes that menorahs can be found not only in synagogues around the world but in Christian churches as well, especially in Rome but also throughout the world.
Library Journal
11/01/2016
Focusing on the historical and cultural role of the Arch of Titus menorah in Rome, this work by Fine (professor; Yeshiva Univ.) meticulously documents how this well-known, still-extant artifact became a familiar and important symbol for the Jewish people and the State of Israel, despite initially representing the Romans' defeat of the Jews in Jerusalem. Throughout seven chapters, one for each branch of the Lampstand, the author traces the ancient and biblical discussions of the menorah to its prominence in synagogues, arts and architecture, and as a symbol for enlightenment. Fine's extensive discussion of the Arch of Titus menorah's origins in ancient times provides a nice foundation for demonstrating the importance of the reappropriation of this artifact as a unifying symbol for the State of Israel. The inclusion of images throughout is a strength. VERDICT A solid, scholarly treatment of the historical, cultural, and social significance of an important ancient item. A basic understanding of ancient history and Judaism is helpful though not necessarily required.—Amanda Folk, Univ. of Pittsburgh Lib., Greensburg

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674088795
Publisher:
Harvard
Publication date:
11/21/2016
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
180,056
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

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Meet the Author

Steven Fine is the Dean Pinkhos Churgin Professor of Jewish History at Yeshiva University.

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