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In the temple, softly, clearly burning,
Bathing all in floods of light divine,
Arch and post to gilded portal turning,
Doth the light of the Menorah shine.
Seven branches, quaint and queer, it beareth,
Tipped with flame and curving gracefully,
And the buds and leaves and flow’rs it weareth
Are like those upon the almond tree.
Trees like this, with golden branches seven,
Gold each tiny bud and leaflet frail,
Children picture in their dreams of heaven,
Or the wonders of some fairy tale.
Oil as pure and clear as crystal seeming
Feeds the flame so beautiful and bright.
Thus do thoughts of true and noble meaning
Blossom out in words of glowing light.
Holy Lamp! Symbolic of our nation’s
Earliest activity and strife,
Of its struggles, of its aspirations
To a purer and a better life.
Thou dost speak of God—His revelation;
For the light of knowledge, so divine,
So immortal, is His emanation,—
Leads to Him and from His truth doth shine.
And as all thy branches in their twining
Towards the seventh, central light, do burn.
And as this itself, in splendor shining,
To the Holy Shrine doth ever turn,
As each day that swiftly passes o’er us
Leads unto the day that God hath blessed,
As the toil and care we see before us
End, with its approach, in peace and rest,
So should every art—each new endeavor—
The result of every passing hour,
Echo back, forever and forever,
Praise to God—His goodness and His power!
Burn thou brightly, light of the Menorah!
Let thy gleams through every shadow shine!
Cast thy loving glances on the Torah,—
Gild, illuminate its truth divine!
Light is knowledge, and to spread its glory
Far as pen can reach or tongue can tell—
Rays of truth from science, art, or story—
Is the blessed law of Israel!
“The Menorah” by Miriam del Banco was first published in 1886 in The Menorah (the official magazine of Bnei Brith) volume 1, p. 36-37. Del Banco probably authored this poem especially for this inaugural edition.
As the featured image for this poem, I have associated an illustration of an orrery, a mechanical model of the solar system. Although del Banco does not mention an orrery outright, I sense its resonance in the seventh stanza “And as all thy branches in their twining / Towards the seventh, central light, do burn. / And as this itself, in splendor shining, / To the Holy Shrine doth ever turn,” and in the line in the last stanza, “Arch and post to gilded portal turning.” This last stanza, asserting that “Light is knowledge” and that Truth in art, science, and the humanities is synonymous with Torah, is a powerful revisionist framing of an enlightened Judaism. –Aharon Varady
“The Menorah, a poem by Miriam del Banco (1886)” is shared through the Open Siddur Project with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International copyleft license.
Works of related interest:
Gebet am Lichtfeste | Prayer at the Festival of Light (Ḥanukkah), a teḥinah by Max Emanuel Stern (1841)