Is the Temple Menorah Hidden in the Vatican? – Questions & Answers – Chabad.org

Posted By on December 19, 2020

There is much controversy and misinformationsurrounding this question, so lets begin by clarifying the facts of the story.

After laying siege to Jerusalem, the Romans, led byTitus, finally breached the walls of Jerusalem, and on the 9th of the Jewishmonth of Av, in the year 69 CE, destroyed theHoly Temple and plundered it.

In the year 81 CE, shortly after the death of his olderbrother Titus, the emperor Domitian had an archbuilt depicting the triumphal procession after Tituss victory over Jerusalem. The Arch of Titus, which stands in Rometo this very day, depicts the procession carrying a number of items plunderedfrom the Jewish Temple, including the silver trumpets, the Table of theShowbread, and most prominently the golden Menorah.

Thetreasures plundered from Jerusalem were housed and displayed in the so-calledPeace Gardens of Rome, which were built using the booty acquired through thesacking of Jerusalem.

Thestory is told in the Talmud of how Rabbi Eliezer, son of Rabbi Yossi, together with Rabbi Shimonbar Yochai and other sages, went to Rome to try to rescind some of the harshdecrees against the Jews. While in Rome, they were miraculously given theopportunity to heal the caesar's daughter, who had fallen ill. Aftersuccessfully healing her, they were given the opportunity to see some of Rome'streasures. These sageslater testified to seeing various items looted from the Holy Temple, including the goldentzitz (golden band worn by the high priest), Parochet (Curtain)and the Menorah.

Basedon these stories, one can understand why many claim that the Menorah, as wellas other items plundered from the Temple, was taken to Rome and may be foundthere to this very day.

However,as we examine this theory, things get a bit murkier.

Theso-called Peace Gardens of Rome were damaged or destroyed a number of times,including in a fire in the year 191 CE. While the garden was subsequentlyrestored, it is not clear if the vessels remained there or perhaps were takento some other place in Rome.

Additionally,Rome itself was sacked and plundered many times, including in 410 CE, by the Visigoths under Alaric I, andmore significantly in 455 CE by the Vandals and Moors under King Genseric, whospent 14 days looting Rome of its treasures.

Sowhat happened to the Menorah?

Someclaim that the Menorah may have been hidden or lost in the Tiber River in Romeduring one of the sackings. Some claim that the Menorah may have eventuallybeen melted down for the gold. Others say that, according to legend, when King Alaric of the Visigoths died shortlyafter the sacking of Rome in 410 CE, the Visigoths buried him togetherwith the Menorah they looted.

Yet others opine that the Menorah was taken from Rome by the Vandals inthe more significant sacking of 455 CE and taken to Carthage (modern-dayTunisia). When Carthage itself was sacked, it ended up in the hands of theByzantine Empire. However, Emperor Justinian, due to the superstition that theMenorah was cursed, sent it off to Jerusalem, where it disappeared (destroyedor stolen) when the Persians captured Jerusalem in the 7th century CE.

And then, of course, there is the claim, mentioned at the beginning ofthis article, that the Menorah has remained in Rome and is currently hiddenaway somewhere deep in the Vatican. Indeed, over the years, various people haveclaimed to have seen various Temple vessels in the Vatican.

Allof the above theories, however, are based on the claim that the Temple Menorahwas brought to Rome in the first place.

Althoughwe have cited the depiction of the Menorah in the Arch of Titus as well asRabbi Shimon Bar Yochais testimony as evidence of the Menorah having beentaken to Rome, these proofs in and of themselves are questionable.

Onthe Arch of Titus, although the upper half of the Menorah can arguably be adepiction of the actual Temple Menorah,the bottom half is not. It depicts the Menorahs base as being similar to a two-tiered cake, while the TempleMenorah had a tripod base. Andthe Menorah on the Arch is decorated with images of eagles, a sea lion andmythological creatures, including a dragon, while the Temple Menorah didnthave any of these images (some argue that the base itself may have been damagedand replaced).

Based on this, some explain that either the Menorah brought to Rome was,in fact, one of the other lamps in the Temple, or the depiction was based off aMenorah that was made to resemble the Temple Menorah.

Similarly, the sages disagree with Rabbi Eliezers description of thedesign of the tzitz, implying that hedid not see the actual tzitz, or atleast it was a tzitz that wasnt madein the usual manner. Thus,the testimony of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai regarding the Menorah may bequestionable as well.

Although there is much ado about the Menorah possibly having beenbrought to Rome, it is important to keep things in perspective.

The Midrash lists the Temple Menorahwhich was originally made by Mosesfor the Mishkanas oneof a handful of vessels of the Holy Temple that were hidden by the Jews beforethe destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians.

Later, during the Second Temple, the Menorah went through a number ofdifferent iterations. In the words of the Talmud:

[In the time of the Hasmoneans, theMenorah was fashioned from] spits [shappudim]of iron, and they covered them with tin. Later, when they grew richer, theyfashioned a Menorah out of silver. And when they again grew richer, theyfashioned the Menorah from gold.

Thus, even if the Menorah was indeed taken to Rome, ultimately thatMenorah isnt the one we need for the Third Holy Temple. As the Midrashregarding the hiding of the Menorah concludes, ultimately, when Gd will turnHis mercy to build His Temple, He will also restore the vessels that werehidden (including the Menorah) to their place and cause Jerusalem to rejoice.May it be speedily in our days!

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Is the Temple Menorah Hidden in the Vatican? - Questions & Answers - Chabad.org

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