One central mystery has haunted the Jews and the rest of the world for 2,000 years.
Are the fabled treasures of the Jewish Second Temple still in existence, and if so, where are they? Could they be in Europe as some say? Or perhaps the treasures are still buried in Israel? What are the treasures? Where did they come from? Why have their wanderings become a legend, and who are the people who have hunted…and still hunt…for the lost treasures of God?
Of all the monuments in Rome, none is more compelling than the arch of Titus, commemorating his victory over the Jews in 70 AD.
“When the Temple was burned, they were able to rescue the menorah, the golden candlestick, and some incense cups, and the table of the shewbread. And these seemed to have been brought to Rome, and are represented in the Arch of Titus, which you can see in the north end of the Roman forum to this very day.”
Inside the arch, the illustrations of the trophies taken from the Jerusalem Temple are still clear. There are the trumpets and the sanctuary table. And most famous of all the treasures – the huge golden seven-branched candlestick or Menorah.
According to tradition, Moses came down from Mount Sinai with instructions to build a giant candelabra.
The Bible says: “And he made a candlestick of pure gold and six branches came out of the sides; the base, the branches, and the flowers all were of pure gold.”
This is Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Here 3,000 years ago, King Solomon built his fabled Temple and placed within it the golden menora.
Talmudic expert Rabbi Mutzafi explains the importance of the candelabrum
“The seven branches stood for the seven days of the creation and the light itself always burning stood for the eternity and endurance of the law, wisdom and faith.”
Solomon’s Temple endured for 300 years before it was destroyed. It was rebuilt by King Herod and was considered the most magnificent building of its age.
Built as a center for the nation’s worship, the Temple also served as the State treasury. Here people brought their tithes and magnificent gifts of silver and gold.
“The number of treasures there could put to shame the Fort Knox treasures.”
In 66 BC, the Romans conquered Judea. When Pompeii entered and desecrated the old Temple, it was clear Israel had become totally subject to Rome. But the rebellion was never far from the surface and in the year 66, discontent broke out into war.
Swiftly Jewish zealot rebels occupied the Temple Mount. The Roman forces besieging the city were now under the command of Titus. At his service were four superb Roman legions.
In late August of the year 70, the Roman legions, in a savage assault, broke through the city’s wall. The Jews prepared for a last stand around the Temple fortress.
In the next day’s brutal attack, the Temple was set aflame and destroyed.
In the fury of the battle, 6,000 were slaughtered on the Temple Mount and the sanctuary desecrated; the treasury was plundered, and Jerusalem sacked and burned. The Temple was gone, but what of the treasures? Where were they? Had they perished in the flames or did they find a new destiny elsewhere?
While Jerusalem had become an abandoned city, Rome was blossoming. Titus had the treasures, and victory had to be celebrated.
“They had a triumphal procession with the captured Jewish leader Simon Bar Yoram led in chains through the city of Rome while Titus and his soldiers carried some of the treasures through the streets.”
The historian Josephus writes:
“At the break of dawn, clad in purple robes, Titus with Emperor Vespasian, ascended a tribunal and acknowledged the cheers of the crowd. Before them, along the sacred way, passed a procession carrying the spoils of war, but most prominent were the treasures of the Temple; the golden table weighing several hundredweight, a scroll of the law, and the seven-branched golden candelabrum.”
Later the Emperor put the gold treasures in a newly erected “Temple of Peace.”
In the last years of the first century, the treasures were clearly still in Rome. By the middle of the fifth century, Rome had twice been overrun by enemies, and the fate of the treasures had become shrouded in mystery.
They were no longer to be seen. Where were they? One rumor was that the treasures had been thrown into the river Tiber by one of the Roman emperors in order to somehow hide it from whoever was pursuing him in the hope they would get them afterward. Either they did or they didn’t. We still don’t know.”
This is the Tiber itself, the mother river of Rome. Across it runs the Ponte Fabricio, often called the “Jewish bridge” because it leads in to the old Jewish ghetto of Rome.
One rumor has it that the treasures are thrown into the Tiber in panic upstream, only to finish up in the mud immediately under this bridge.
A more widely held belief links the treasures to a better-known place in Rome – the Vatican.
“In the cellars of the Vatican, there are still objects which Titus brought back from Jerusalem to Rome after the destruction of the Second Temple.”
Though the public displays impress the thousands of daily visitors, much of the inner workings of the Vatican are shrouded in secrecy. Could the Vatican really know something about the disappearance of the treasures?
“I’ve been to the Vatican several times to the museums and seen the beautiful things they have; the statues from antiquity, the renaissance frescos and paintings, the illuminated manuscripts, but no treasure from the Temple.”
The treasures of the Vatican are enormous, and many are on display to the public. But according to Roman Jews, there are other treasures discreetly hidden away
“The Germans in 1943 requested that the Jewish community deliver 50 kilos of gold, which, of course, was a very heavy tax, and at that time, the Vatican informed the Jewish community that they could help them by loaning part of the gold. And this, they say, was the hold, the objects from the Temple in the cellar of the Vatican.”
“In all my life, I’ve never heard such an idea, as that the Jerusalem Temple treasury of 70 AD was still, or was ever in the Vatican treasure or museums until within the last year. And I feel fairly confident it’s a silly idea. It’s a kind of archaeological titillation or soft-porn, we could call it.”
So far the Vatican has maintained total silence on the subject. If there are revelations to be made, it will only be when someone breaks an oath of secrecy.
“The thing is this: they are secrets kept by thousands of people over two thousand years so that, the likelihood of leaks is very great. The Vatican secrets are not very secret — that’s the tragedy.”
A second intriguing theory locates the treasures about 500 miles away from Rome, in the mountains of southern France. Thousands of people from this area believe mysterious treasures are buried in these surroundings and that part of them may be the treasures of the Temple.
But how could the treasures have got here from Rome? Part of the answer is to be found in Carcassone, a tourist center close to Toulouse.
Its link to the treasures is that between the fifth and the eighth centuries, Carcassonne was the center and headquarters of the mighty Visigoth kingdom. A branch of the Gothic peoples, the Visigoths invaded Italy in 410 and defeated and looted Rome. Could the treasures have been taken at that time?
Our knowledge of the Visigoths is largely dependent on a sixth-century Byzantine historian called Procopius, who wrote the history of the recent Roman wars.
Procopius says, that after their victory, the Visigoths made off with: “The candlesticks and treasures of Solomon, a sight most worthy to be seen, for they were adorned in the most part with emeralds, and in the olden times they had been taken from Jerusalem by the Romans.”
The Visigoths accumulated immense treasures and carried their plunder with them. Could they have brought the Temple treasures to Carcassonne? According to the local inhabitants, definitely.
Gregory of Tours, another medieval writer, says that the treasures came to the city and were hidden there away from the eyes of the Franks. The hiding place was said to be the town well.
A hundred years ago some of the inhabitants of Carcassonne formed a society to empty out the well and find the treasures. Much drink was consumed, but no action was taken.
In the 1940s, occupying German troops also looked for treasures in Carcassone.
“The Nazis who took over the town were very interested in the stories and the research. They emptied the well, looked around, and dug in other places, but they didn’t find anything.”
The tale of the Visigoths bringing the treasures to Carcassonne is convincing, but the historian Procopius also says that the Vandals, a later raider of Rome, took the treasures to North Africa.
These stories seem to contradict each other. But do they?
“Not necessarily, if one approaches the data from the perspective that there were many treasures, some of which were taken by the Visigoths. Fifty years later on, the Vandals, during a thirteen-day rampage, carried out a much more thorough search, and these objects then probably made their way to Carthage in North Africa.”
The Vandal’s triumph and hold on the treasures was extremely brief. Revenge came from across the sea.
Less than 80 years on, Carthage fell in battle before the sword of the Byzantine general Belisarius. At his command, the vandal treasures were taken from North Africa to Emperor Justinian in Constantinople. Today Constantinople is known as Istanbul. It is a city of frenzy and fascination. The traffic is chaotic and the sights are breathtaking.
It is a Moslem city and has some of the most beautiful mosques in the world. But in the 6th century, the city was the center of Christian Byzantium following the fall of Rome. A thousand years have passed. Only a remnant remains of the ancient city walls. But we can imagine the excitement that gripped the city on Belisarius’s return.
The historian Procopius writes vividly of the general’s procession and the crowd’s interest in the spoils of war:” Jewelry made of precious stones, thrones of gold, emeralds, pearls and gold drinking cups.”
Then suddenly he writes: “…and among them were the treasures of the Jews which Titus had brought to Rome after the capture of Jerusalem.”
But was the menorah among the treasures? Many sources mention a huge candelabra being carried around the city on triumphal days up to the tenth century. Others talk of a huge candelabra being seen in the palace of the emperor. But these observations are contradicted by a strange story that the treasures had been returned to the Holy land.
Could the candelabra, see around the city, have been a copy? Could the real treasures have started wandering once more? “There’s this interesting quote in Procopius in which he mentions that a Jew approached the Emperor, and mentioned that of all of the people who had held the treasures, whether it be the Romans, the Visigoths, the Vandals had been befallen by many catastrophes, and perhaps the only way to go and prevent further catastrophes would be to return these objects to the people in Jerusalem.”
Procopius adds that the Emperor decided the most fitting home for the treasures was a church in Jerusalem. One possibility was the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional site of the crucifixion. But Justinian preferred a church he had built himself, the NEA or New Church of Mary. Little remains of it now, but its former glory is shown in this rendering.
One archaeologist doubts Procopius’ story and says the NEA’s treasures came from the deserted Temple site.
“While the workers, the builders of Justinian, dug at the Temple Mount looking for the columns, for the pillars that they wanted to take and use in the NEA, they found some of the treasures of the Temple, and brought them, at that time, into the NEA, and saved them in the treasuries of the church.”
The huge church was destroyed by the Persians in the 7th century. Its remains lie under these gardens. But what of its treasures?
“Maybe the Persian army took most of the treasures and brought them to Persia. Maybe some Jews that were involved in this war took some treasures and hid them again in some places, who knows where.”
And what of this area itself?
“The treasures of the NEA, of the Temple, might be here in this area, in some part of the Church itself. And you have to know that we’ve dug only five percent of the church itself.” If the NEA story is bizarre, it is matched for strangeness in the rumors which connect the Crusaders and the Knights Templar with the treasures, a connection born in secret on the Temple Mount.
In the 11th century, a Christian fever swept Europe. The Holy Land had to be redeemed from the Moslems, and in 1099, the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem.
Baldwin, King of the Crusader Kingdom, allowed a small group of his followers to live on the Temple Mount itself. Their home, is a wing of the El Aksa mosque. The name of this new band of brothers, the Knights Templar.
Originally there were nine of them. A new order of warrior monks called themselves the Soldiers of Christ. Within a hundred years, they numbered their members in thousands, had become bankers to the King of France, and counted their wealth in millions. Were some of that wealth based on the treasures?
This is El Aksa today, vastly changed since the Templars lived in it. But the point where the story of the treasures connects with the Templars is not inside the building but underneath. In the immense vaults below El Aksa, the Templars dug secretly for years. Was this dig their real mission, rather than protecting the Holy Land?
“Well I think what’s interesting is that they dug for seven years; that they dug for seven years, I would say they were searching for something. Some people say that it was the Temple treasures, and others say that it was the Holy Grail. We know that there are a lot of rumors that they took something back with them, when they went back to Europe, back to France.
Possibly the strangest part of the story is that home for many Templars was close to Carcassonne, the old region of the Visigoths. In Carcassonne itself, there is even a museum commemorating their presence, and their secret actions.
“Trying to explain this strength and the enormous wealth of this Templar order, people started talking about the wealth stemming from the lost treasures.”
So, incredibly, part of the treasures may have arrived in the same area of France, at different times and by different routes. If so, what happened to them? Startling events that occurred here just over 100 years ago may provide the answer. This is the village of Rennes Le Chateaux, about half an hour’s drive from Carcassonne. Altogether it has a dozen houses, a small church and a sleepy restaurant. It seems a village that time has passed by. At one time, however, it was one of the centers of the Visigoth kingdom. It is also surrounded by old Templar strongholds.
In 1885, a new priest came to Rennes Le Chateaux: Berenger Sauniere. He was 33 years old. His flock consisted of 200 villagers; his salary was $10 a year.
Sauniere wanted to restore the ancient church and began working on the project in 1891. While removing an altar stone Sauniere came across two Visigoth columns. Inside the columns were parchments, written in a kind of code.
One seemed to be a kind of genealogy going back to 1244. The other text, more mysterious and obscure contained the lines “To Dagobert III, King, and to Sion, belong this treasure.”
Soon after, Sauniere visited Paris, a strange visit for a poor country priest. On his return, he started digging around the church and discovered a hidden crypt. He also started a search around the countryside. Meanwhile, the church redecoration was finished, but in the most bizarre fashion.
“When I stepped into the church, I was a little bit uneasy; it was a little bit, even, frightening, and it was very weird, very weird because when you read about this church, for instance, it’s a different thing when you visit there yourself. I must tell you that when I stepped into the church, a shudder came over me.”
The wall panels seemed to hold hidden messages, while a statue of the devil Asmodeus welcomed visitors. Asmodeus, the guardian of hidden treasures.
Sauniere’s strange behavior continued outside. Suddenly he started spending unexplained sums, amounting to $3 million by the end of his life. He put in modern roads. He built a house and gave immense banquets. And he erected a peculiar tower called “The Magdala.”
Sauniere died in 1917. His will left nothing. He had transferred his wealth to the woman with whom he lived. She died in 1953 incapable of speech. Most questions remained unanswered on Sauniere’s death, especially the source of his wealth. What happened in Paris?
What seems likely is that Sauniere found a strange treasure, and sold it to the Church or a private individual, receiving money in return for his silence. But did he find the Temple treasures? Various French journalists think so, and in 1972 the Israeli Secret Service was said to be in Rennes checking the story.
Meanwhile, the mystery of Rennes deepens, but none of the books on the subject answer the question: where are the treasures? Maybe in some wealthy mansion, or church vault in Paris, or held by some secret group till the time is right to go public.
This idea is supported by a statement of Pierre Plantard, a member of the ancient society Prieure de Sion. In 1979, Plantard was interviewed by the authors of the book “Holy Blood, Holy Grail.” He d that the Society held the lost treasures of the Temple of Jerusalem and that they would be returned to Israel when the time was right.
“I don’t know if this Priere de Sion exists at all. One thing we know is that Pierre Plantard exists and that he tells stories which don’t smack of any connection with reality.” So far all the theories about the lost treasures assume they are in Europe. But what if everyone has been looking in the wrong place? What if from the start the key treasures never left the Holy Land?
Many Jewish rabbinical sources hint at the existence of duplicates of the lamp and the other main treasures in the Temple. There is also a midrashic reference from which we can inter that Solomon had made an additional amount of menorot, or candelabras, perhaps nine, and throughout history, indeed we have many references that inform that there was a stock of additional or duplicate vessels in the event of an impurification or damage of a vessel.”
Josephus writes that he saw two lamps being handed over by a priest to the Romans. Was one the genuine candelabra and one a copy? Or were both copies? If the Romans took a copy, what happened to the true lamp? Could it have been hidden before the Romans came? Some archaeologists believe that the treasures are still around the Temple area.
“We dug near the Temple area, and we have tunnels, and channels, and underground structures, so who knows, maybe in one of the places there in the Temple area, or in the underground structures close to the Temple area, part of the treasures will still be there.”
Jewish traditionalists agree with this. They believe a secret hiding place was built for the treasures. Supported by Talmudic commentaries, they argue that many of the treasures and the menorah are still hidden on the Temple Mount.
Mutzafi Rabbi Emek HaMelech, who was a pupil of Rabbi Ari, discusses this point in one of his books. He lists all the objects of the Temple: 12,000 general ornaments, 10,000 harps, smaller vessels, the robes of the Priests, and argues that they are all hidden under the sanctuary, at three levels below the Temple Mount.
The ability to explore this theory was impossible in the centuries between Crusader and modern Turkish rule. Jerusalem was neglected and forgotten by the world. All this changed in 1867 when a British team of engineers made the first scientific survey of the Temple area. Now, under the direction of Captain Charles Warren, tunnels and rooms were opened that had been blocked for centuries. Today Warren’s work is being continued, as excavations reveal ancient layers from Biblical to Turkish times around the Temple Mount. Archaeologists like Ronnie Reich are bringing a new light to the history of the area. How have the new possibilities of exploration affected the treasure hunters? In 1910, a British explorer, captain Montague Parker, using strange mystic theories, was the first to look for the treasures.
“Montague Parker came to Jerusalem, paid off — bribed, if you like — several of the guards of the mosques, the Dome of the Rock, and the Al Aksa Mosque, and started to dig inside that area, probably the only one who ever has done it. His target was to look for those treasures: the Holy Ark, or other treasures of the ancient Temple, the Solomonic Temple.”
Parker’s quest ended in empty-handed chaos, causing cynics to question the whole hunt. Your chances to win the lottery are greater than finding treasures under the Temple Mount.”
If many mystics and orthodox Jews fervently believe the treasures are still under the Temple Mount, others believe equally strongly that the treasures were smuggled out of the Temple before the Romans destroyed it, via the maze of tunnels and drainage canals under the Temple. Many of these blocked tunnels have been opened up by archaeologists. We can imagine priests stumbling along here with the treasures, then seeking a gap through the Roman lines. But where could they take the treasures? Where could they hide them in safety? Maybe in the Judean desert – only an hour from Jerusalem?
This area is as old as time. It was here the walls of Jericho fell, and here that God rained down fire on Sodom and Gemorrah.
The area is harsh. Barren. Forbidding. Here one could hide anything, and have the desert preserve it forever. If the Temple treasures were hidden here, reason suggests a map would have been left behind. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found at this spot, Qumran, in the Judean desert in 1947. Suddenly, in 1952, two new manuscripts turned up in the same location. Unlike the other scrolls, they were written on rolled copper. And that was to be their name.. the Copper Scrolls. Because of fragility, they were sent to England’s Manchester College of Technology. There, a sensitive electric saw cut through the scrolls, layer by layer. The first scholars to read the scrolls made an astonishing discovery. The scrolls listed 64 hiding places of silver and gold.
“What it is, and this sounds like something out of Walt Disney of Stephen Spielberg Production, but it’s a document that tells you where to find buried treasure. And we’re talking the real stuff here: gold, silver, the stuff that would make us all rich.”
An astonishing story, but were the scrolls genuine or fake? The scrolls were so strange that the archaeologists weren’t sure what they had really found.
“The copper scroll is one of the most enigmatic things I’ve ever encountered in my life. Whatever angle you take to look at it, it is an absolute enigma as far as we can understand it. On the one hand, are they real treasures, are they speaking about real treasures? If you are hiding real treasures, you don’t proclaim it from a very, very large scale notice.”
Some of the early researchers also thought it to be fake. Today scholars are moving in the other direction. They believe the scrolls refer to genuine 2,000-year-old treasures. “My own opinion is that they’re real, or were real, I don’t know if they’re still around. But my colleague Cal Macarter at Johns Hopkins said at one time, and I always thought it was very astute. He says, you know, this is such an infernally dull document, that if it were imaginary, you’d think that they would make it a little more exciting. The fact is, it just is a treasure as presented to you be a certified public accountant.”
The amounts talked about in the scrolls are enormous. One scholar sets the treasures at 65 tons of silver, and 8 tons of gold. But where was it all from?
The huge list clearly points to a communal treasury. Two thousand years ago there was only one place that fitted that description: the Temple. It seems that we have a document talking about Temple treasures, or tithes, probably hidden in anticipation of the Roman siege of Jerusalem. But who would have hidden the treasures and written the scrolls? Probably the Zealots, who defended Jerusalem, and guarded the passes to the Dead Sea, all areas mentioned as treasure locations.
Altogether, we have fiery ingredients for stirring the imagination, especially of treasure hunters. But there are problems. The scrolls are written in code names that are vague. Places are named but their locations are obscure. And the key to unlock the scrolls is evidently held in another scroll.
Even so, the four main locations for the treasures seem clearly to lie between Jerusalem and Qumran. The first of the treasure hunters were John Allegro, one of the key scholars involved in the mystery. The area of his search: Jerusalem. The Copper Scrolls mention two locations near the eastern city walls:
Under the Monument of Absalom, on the western side, buried at 12 cubits, 80 talents of silver, and in the tomb of Zadok, vessels of the tithe.”
The tombs of Absalom and Zadok are well known to any tourist, and that was where Allegro dug to no result. Nearby is the famous Golden Gate, through which the dead are supposed to enter the city when the Messiah comes. Allegro thought this might be the location for item number 26: Voice”…in the cavity of the pillar of the double gate buried at three cubits, a pitcherf, a scroll, 21 talents of silver.”
Because the site was covered by a Moslem graveyard, the area was left untouched. There are over ten references to treasures buried beneath the Temple Mount, but again, because of religious sensibilities, no excavations have been possible. Others searchers have followed Allegro, but they’ve turned their gaze to the Dead Sea area, a region frequently mentioned in the scroll. The most famous of them is Dr. Vendell Jones of Texas, sometimes cited as the model for Indiana Jones of Lost Ark fame.
Jones has led various expeditions to hunt for Copper treasures. In 1968, he claimed to have located the River of the Dome and the Cave of the Column, two points mentioned in the Copper Scrolls. In the next 11 years, Jones was subject to tremendous criticism. Ignoring the jibes of what he calls “the swivel chair academics” he went on searching, but came up empty-handed. Then in 1988, Jones claimed to have discovered the shemen afarsimon: the anointing oil for prophets and Kings, mentioned in the Scrolls. Immediately Jones and his team made world headlines, with stories about the discovery being featured on television and in the newspapers.
The next four years brought additional discoveries. The hidden north entrance to the cave mentioned in the scrolls, and a chamber containing 900 pounds of incense are thought to be of the same type used in the Temple. (voice: ‘…this was the holy Temple incense…’)
If we continue to find things in the order as they are written, then we will expect to find next the ashes of the Red Heifer.”
Jones’ discoveries have been greeted warily by Israeli scholars.
Most of the claims of Vendell Jones have been treated by Israeli archaeologists and by the scientific community with a good dose of skepticism. The reports have never been published in scientific journals the way that they should be, therefore many of these things are very suspect.”
Nevertheless, Vendell Jones presses on undeterred, sure that that greatest discovery is just around the corner. He could be right. Many people believe we have only touched a fraction of the Holy Land’s secrets, and that the desert has still much to reveal.
The treasures of the Temple, if part of them were hidden in the desert, in the Judean desert, in the hills, they could still be found there, because every year we have expeditions to the desert, and we found the Dead Sea Scrolls, we found lots of other treasures from different periods, and still in the desert, in the caves, in places that were destroyed by earthquakes, still, things can be found.”
For some Jews who want to rebuild the Temple, the search for the treasures is not academic. They see the treasures as vital for the revival of ancient Temple practices, like the water libation ceremony. “Our goal is also to try to do as much as possible towards the end of building the Temple. And the main way we are going about that is by actually creating the sacred vessels that can be used in the Temple.”
These new Temple objects, made strictly according to the requirement of biblical laws, are fashioned for the Temple Institute in a small workshop in southern Jerusalem. Later they are displayed in Institute’s Museum in the Jewish Quarter of Old City. After looking around the world for the candelabrum are we any closer to its secret? Many have doubts.
There is no possibility — but absolutely none — that the treasures remain in this country or are hidden under the Temple Mount, or anywhere else in the country.”
Others disagree and think the treasures and the candelabrum could be in any of these places, waiting silently in Rome.
The Vatican holds still part of the objects which were brought to Rome by Titus.” Again maybe it’s hidden in Carcassone or Rennes le Chateaux.
Some people in France — not only in France, in Europe at large — believe that the treasures are hidden somewhere in the south of France still. I don’t know how to define this belief. It sometimes seems like a thing quite similar to the belief in the U.F.O. phenomena.”
Could the treasures be in Istanbul?
We know that the menorah was in Constantinopolis and we know that during the Middle Ages, at the beginning of the 13th century the Crusaders passed there, and they took the treasures of Constantinopolis and moved them, maybe to Rome, maybe to other places in Europe.” Or perhaps, after all, the treasures are still in Israel. Maybe there is no exclusive solution. All the stories could be partially true. There is, of course, one last question: is the search necessary, or wise?
The question is important and I have to be careful. The people looking for the menorah and the treasures think they will bring redemption and salvation, and the Messiah, more quickly. I strongly disagree. The treasures may help in a general supportive way, but no more. The hunt is an illusion.”
“There could be no greater discovery that would affect mankind than the discovery of these things, which would provide a feeling of a direct continuum, and kind of catapult this, which for many people, this whole topic might be on the level of mythology, or wives-tales, or this type of thing. But obviously, it would come alive for many people in an entirely new way, if these things would be found.”
Over the centuries, the menorah has shifted from reality to symbol…embodying the eternity of Israel. Selected as the emblem of the modern Jewish state, it touches upon 3,000 years of Jewish tradition. For most people, that’s enough. Yet there will always be those for whom it represents a dream, a myth, an intangible longing. The menorah symbolizes something different to all of us. For some, it’s a reaffirmation of faith, the need to catch something beyond the banalities of our everyday lives.
This is an equivalent to the messiah — I mean, to find maybe the most important treasure in the history of mankind, in the history of religion, is something very, very messianic.”
And there will always be those other hunters who seek the treasures. Those for whom the menorah represents adventure, mystery, and an enigma that has to be pursued for itself.
So the search will go on because the words “the lost menorah” can still quicken the pulse, and stir the imagination. And there is always the sense “Maybe we are close, and what if tomorrow? So could the words with which writer Stefan Zweig closes his novel “The Lost Candelabrum” be a prediction for our time?”
Hidden in its secret tomb there still watches and waits for the everlasting menora. Often a hasty foot passes over the ground beneath which it lies. Often a weary traveler sleeps close to where the candelabrum slumbers. No one can tell whether it will remain forever hidden or someone will dig it up when its people come into their own. But only then will the seven-branched candelabra diffuse its gentle light in the Temple of Peace.”
by Alan Rosenthal
© Biblical Productions