The turquoise filigree panel depicts the menorah, the seven-branched candelabrum, described in Exodus as made of pure beaten gold. It has a main shaft and six branches, and stands on a crouching lion. The flames accord with the best known exegesis of the Bible from the eleventh century on, that of Rashi, whose interpretation here of Numbers 8:2 is followed. The tripod base of the menorah, barely visible above the crouching lion, is also found in Rashi’s commentary on Exodus 25:31, where it is described as being ‘made in the form of a box, with three legs protruding beneath it’. An additional flower at the bottom, at the junction between the shaft and the base, is an interpretation of the Babylonian Talmud (Menahot, 29a) based on Exodus 25:34 and Numbers 8:4.
The two pairs of stylised tongs hanging from the lower branches of our menorah, ‘made for extracting the wicks from the oil, for putting them into position and drawing them into the mouths’ (Rashi on Exodus 25:38), have undergone similar modifications.
The lion at the foot of the menorah may symbolise the Tribe of Judah, whom Jacob blessed with the words: ‘Judah is a lion’s whelp… he stooped down, he crouched like a lion, and as an old lion, who shall rouse him up? The sceptre shall not depart from Judah etc.’ (Genesis 49:9-10). This was taken to mean that, the messiah being of the house of David, the tribe of Judah would continue to reign in the future. The lion is therefore a symbol of redemption in common with the entire array of sanctuary implements.
Leaf size is approximately 320 x 262mm (12.5 x 10in)