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4 “When I Went to Rome . . . There I Saw the Menorah”: The Jerusalem Temple Implements in Rabbinic Memory, History, and Myth

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Chapter Summary

The legends of the menorah at the Vatican have had considerable currency among American Jews, and now among Israelis as well. This chapter presents the authors updated contextualization of the classical rabbinic sources, with some reference to later Byzantine and medieval materials. The ancient rabbis were vitally interested in the whereabouts of the Tabernacle/Temple vessels. Among the most fascinating evidence for this rabbinic concern is a group of sources that suggest that the sages actually visited Rome and there "saw" the menorah and other vessels of the Second Temple. The descriptions of vessels taken to Rome fit well with the "inventory" provided by the rabbinic traditions. The description of the golden table of the showbread and the menorah parallels the prominent place afforded these objects on the Arch of Titus completed a decade after the triumph in 81 CE.

Keywords: Arch of Titus; Byzantine; Jews; menorah; rabbinic traditions; Rome; Second Temple; Temple vessels



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