The Arch of Titus on Israel's Emblem: Blessing or Blasphemy?
1א
  • The Shamir brothers, secular Israeli artists, won the 1949 contest for the symbol of the state of Israel.
  • Their original design was based almost entirely on the picture of the Menorah as it appears in the arch of Titus, both of which are shown below.
  • However, they were told that this choice was too secular, and that they needed to include more traditional elements in their design, which they did.
  • Question: In your opinion, what might be considered untraditional about using the Arch of Titus in the emblem of Medinat Yisrael (the State of Israel)?
2 ב
3 ג
4ד
  • Some, including the Lubavitcher Rebbe, opposed using the Arch of Titus as a model for our modern-day Menorah.
  • Question: See below a picture of a Chabad Menorah. Other than the (yummy!) material it is made of, how is it different than the Arch of Titus?
5 ה
6ו
  • Fascinatingly, the commentaries debate the shape of the Menorah's arms.
  • Take a look at the comments of Ibn Ezra and Rashi, followed by a picture drawn by Rambam.
  • Question: Which commentaries are consistent with the Israeli emblem? Which are consistent with the Chabad Menorah?
7ז

אבן עזרא שמות פרק כה פסוק לב

(לב) וששה טעם קנים. עגולים ארוכים, חלולים:

Ibn Ezra Exodus 25:32

(32) And the explanation of six branches: round, long, hollow.

8ח

רש"י שמות פרק כה פסוק לב

(לב) יצאים מצדיה - לכאן ולכאן באלכסון:

Rashi Exodus 25:32

Emerging from its sides - on either side in a diagonal.

9ט

פירוש המשנה לרמב"ם מסכת מנחות פרק ג

ראיתי לצייר כאן צורת המנורה בשלמותה…

Commentary to the Mishnah, Maimonides, Tractate Menachot Chapter 3

I saw fit to draw here the shape of the Menorah in its completeness...

10 י
11יא

Questions:

  • If you were selected to draw the image of the Menorah for the State of Israel, would you use the Arch of Titus as a model? Explain the logic behind your position.
  • How can the debate around the Arch of Titus be a symbol for how we integrate ancient sources and ideas into our own lives as religious Jews?