For a Jewish religious group to intentionally misrepresent or mistranslate a biblical text is an awful thing. Artscroll has done this, most infamously with its translation of the text of Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs). But Chabad has done something arguably worse – it misrepresents centuries of rabbinic opinions, known history and the mistranslates the Torah itself, all in a quest to promote its late rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson (d. 1994) as the messiah.
Above: The late rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson
Does Chabad Mistranslate The Torah And Misrepresent Rabbinic Opinions In Order To Promote Its Last Rebbe As the Messiah?
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
For a Jewish religious group to intentionally misrepresent or mistranslate a biblical text is an awful thing. Artscroll has done this, most infamously with its translation of the text of Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs). But in that case, Artscroll tells readers it is using a nonliteral translation.
Chabad's has also changed the meaning of a biblical text, this time to conform to the twisted claims of its last rebbe, menachem Mendel Schneerson, who died in 1994.
Schneerson claimed that the Temple menorah had straight branches and that all other depictions of it were wrong – meaning almost every major rabbinic figure in Jewish history was wrong, and only Schneerson was right.
To make this claim, Schneerson, likely intentionally, misrepresented Maimonides' schematic drawing of the menorah (essentially a blueprint) as an actual literal depiction of the menorah, which it certainly was not. (Please see here and follow the links posted there for more information.)
So when Chabad's Gutnick Chumash (Five Books of Moses) was published, Chabad had to do something to account for the biblical text, which in no way mandates straight arms.
So what it did is insert the word "straight" in parenthesis in that biblical sentence without noting it represents a lone rabbinic opinion, not the concensus of rabbinic opinion, and not the factual history.
The Gutnick Chumash Shemot page 187. Please click to enlarge:
On page 189 you have the following commentary from Schneerson (itself abridged and censored at bit) posted under the headline "The Last Word" and an image of Schneerson's 'correct' menorah. Note Schneerson claims that Rashi definatively wrote that the menorah's arms were straight. But there was and is much rabbinic argument over what Rashi was actually saying, and Schneerson makes no mention of that to make it appear as if he has no credible opposition. Again, please click to enlarge:
As you can see in the photos posted below, all contemporaneous depictions of the Temple menorah, from the most crudely rendered to the most professionally produced – including those used by kohanim (priests) who served in the Temple – show the menorah with curved arms similar to the menorah on the Arch of Titus in Rome.
A 2,000-year-old menorah carving from Jerusalem:
The menorah on a Hasmonean (Maccabee) coin. Many of these coins have been found over the years and they – and their menorah's shape – have been well-known for decades:
The menorah and other vessels from the apparent bimah of the synagogue in Magadala, Israel c. 30 CE – 40 years before the Temple was destroyed:
The menorah on the Arch of Titus:
So what was Schneerson doing? Arguably, creating a unique symbol for his messianic cult. That's the claim made by an academic scholar, Morris Faierstein from the University of Maryland, in the following paper, The Maimonidean Menorah and Contemporary Habad Messianism: A Reconsideration, Modern Judaism, 32, 3 (2012): 323-334.
Faierstein also noted that there are absolutely no depictions of a straight-armed menorah used anywhere in Jewish history:
“The two basic books on the history of the menorah are, Yael Israeli, ed., In the Light of the Menorah: Story of a Symbol (Philadelphia, 1999); and Leon Yarden, The Tree of Light: A Study of the Seven-branched Lampstand (Ithaca, 1971). Both books contain a significant number of illustrations of the menorah from a variety of sources and all periods of Jewish history where iconographic evidence exists. However, neither book has any evidence for a straight-armed menorah aside from the illustration in the Mishne Torah.”
[Hat Tips: ZIY, Garnel Ironheart.]