Zev Radovan, courtesy of the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums

By the first century A.D., the menorah that stood in the Jerusalem Temple had become a central sacred emblem of the Jewish people. After the Jews fled from their holy city, Jerusalem, when the Romans destroyed it in 70 A.D., many settled in the regions of Hebron and southern Judea. Here in the south (darom in Hebrew), they created oil lamps showing the menorah, as one expression of their yearning to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. The menorahs on these lamps all had more branches (lamp opposite, below) than the seven-branched Temple menorah because of the talmudic prohibition against depicting the Temple menorah. The flames burning at the ends of the branches slanted outward, to contrast with the Temple menorah, on which all the lamps faced inward. Thus, the potters and the people who used the lamps observed the talmudic injunction, “A man may not make a house after the design of the Temple. … or a candlestick after the design of the candlestick [in the Temple]. He may, however, make one with five, six or eight [branches] but with seven he may not make one. … ” (Babylonian Talmud Menahot 28b)