Following is part of an essay written by Theodore Herzl in 1897 about how the menorah effected him and the role he believes it provides to the Jewish people. I came across it years ago, and each year promise myself I will take the time to type the article into the computer. It is actually several pages long, but so far, I was only able to find this short excerpt online to post here...
The Menorah - By Theodore Herzl
There was a man who felt deep down in his soul that he needed to be a Jew. His outward circumstances were not unsatisfactory. He had a sufficient income, and a pleasant profession in which he could create whatever his heart desired. He was an artist. His Jewish origin, and the faith of his fathers, he had long ignored. Then the old hate arose again, disguised with a fashionable title.
... Out of mystifying ideas he came to a clear thought which he uttered aloud. The thought was that there was only one way out of Jewish misery and that was the return to Jewry....
Briefly he traced the intellectual consequences of this decision, the desire to separate the assimilative habits current in his home life from the primal Jewish ideas. His children could be made to see a new viewpoint. These at least should be educated as Jews. The thought of the Maccabaean festival presented an opportunity. He purchased a Menorah, but when he held this nine-branched candelabra he became depressed. In his father's house, in his distant childhood, these little lights too, had flamed and there was something sad and sorrowful about them. It was tradition bound. He examined the Menorah. Its shape suggested that its design had followed the lines of a tree with extended branches.
Our man was an artist, and he thought to himself, is it possible to revive this dried Menorah, to nurture its roots like a tree?... Then he considered the form and decided to design a Menorah that shall be a cluster of burgeoning buds. So passed the week.
Came the eighth day when the whole row of lights were flaming, also the loyal ninth, the servant that serves merely to light the other eight. A great brilliance spread from the Menorah. The children's eyes glistened. To our man the illumination appeared as the flaming up of the nation.
First one lit candle. It is still dark, and that one light looks sad. Then a fellow traveller joins it, one more and more. The darkness must yield.
First the young and poor are enkindled, then gradually others, who love right, truth, freedom, progress, humanity and beauty. When all the candles burn one is astonished and happy over the completed task. And no task affords more happiness than to be the servant of light.