A Menorah Psalm

April 24, 2023

Rabbi Haim Yosef David Azulai ben Yitzhak Zerachia (Jerusalem 18th Century), commonly known as the Hida, taught that the eight verses of Psalm 67 were inscribed on the golden Menorah (candelabra) that stood outside the Holy of Holies in the Temple. The first verse was written across the top of the Menorah, and the other seven verses were written on each of the seven branches. In memory of this, this psalm is often written in the shape of a Menorah, especially in Sephardi synagogues and prayer books. Sephardi Jews will meditate on this image, envisioning the Temples, past and future, in all their glory.

Shiviti Plaque: Amulet written by y Ya'aqov Meir bar Abba Shalom Khashiyof (Alexandria, Egypt, 1914-1915)
Shiviti Plaque Amulet by Ya’aqov Meir bar Abba Shalom Khashiyof (Alexandria, Egypt, 1914-1915) (The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, UC Berkeley, Flickr.com)

According to tradition, God revealed this chapter of Psalms to David in this form, and a copy of this diagram was engraved on a golden plate on the shield that King David took with him into battle.

In his eponymous book, Rabbi David Abudarham (Seville 1340) taught that a person who recites this psalm daily with concentration is credited as if he had lit the Menorah in the Temple. As he wrote:

“The one who recites it daily is considered like one who lights the pure menorah in the Temple and it is like welcoming the face of the Shechinah, since you find it in seven verses matching the seven branches of the Menorah.”

What is the significance of this psalm and how is it relevant to the Temple Menorah?

Rabbi Abudarham adds another level of symbolism to Psalm 67. He notes that the body of this psalm has precisely 49 words, not counting the first verse which is the title of the psalm, corresponding to the 49 days of the Omer period between Passover and Shavuot (Feast of Weeks). The second verse has seven words, corresponding to the seven weeks of that period. As such, there is a tradition to say this 49-word chapter of Psalms each day of the Omer period.

The 49 words also represent the 49 gates of wisdom and the 49 levels of purity. When the nation of Israel left Egypt, they had sunk to the 49th level, the deepest level of impurity. To offset this, during the 49-day journey through the desert to arrive at Mount Sinai and receive the Torah, the Hebrews had to rise one level each day. This took place during the period between Passover and Shavout, the period of the Omer.

But the sum of 49 words also relates to the Menorah. Rabbi Abudarham explained:

“The knobs and flowers and the flames which are in the seven branches of the menorah add up to forty-nine. How? Twenty-two goblets. Nine flowers. Eleven knobs. Seven flames. The total equals forty-nine.”

So what is the connection between the Menorah and the psalm?

In Psalm 67, David asks God to bless us and shine the light of His face upon us. He asks God to make His ways known and understood among all people on earth and, in turn, all nations will acknowledge and praise Him.

The relationship between this psalm and the Temple Menorah is perhaps found in the idea of God shining the light of His face upon us. Just as Israel is a light for the nations, so is the Menorah a symbolic source for the flow of God’s blessings to Israel and the world. And both the light of Israel, and the light of God’s blessings, will eventually inspire the nations of the world to recognize and praise God, as described in the psalm.

While every person has their unique pathway towards God, visualization is a useful tool that helps many people. Psalm 67 offers an opportunity to visualize, whether it is envisioning the Menorah, King David going into battle with the words emblazoned on his shield, or perhaps the light of Torah spreading out from Zion.

Psalm 67 holds multiple layers of symbolism and meaning, connecting us to the Temple Menorah, the Omer period, and the idea of God’s blessings shining upon us. By reciting this psalm and visualizing the Menorah or other related images, we can deepen our spiritual connection and draw inspiration for our journey toward God. As we meditate on the words of King David, we can aspire to be a light for the nations and bring about the recognition and praise of God in the world. And our efforts to do so will cause God to shower His blessings down upon us.

Eliyahu Berkowitz

Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz is a senior reporter for Israel365News. He made Aliyah in 1991 and served in the IDF as a combat medic. Berkowitz studied Jewish law and received rabbinical ordination in Israel. He has worked as a freelance writer and his books, The Hope Merchant and Dolphins on the Moon, are available on Amazon.

Eliyahu Berkowitz

Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz is a senior reporter for Israel365News. He made Aliyah in 1991 and served in the IDF as a combat medic. Berkowitz studied Jewish law and received rabbinical ordination in Israel. He has worked as a freelance writer and his books, The Hope Merchant and Dolphins on the Moon, are available on Amazon.

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