Chazal teach us that the menorah was the only vessel which was “mikshah,” hammered out. Its various parts were “drawn out” from an original mass of gold by means of the beating of a hammer. The commentators, each in his own inimitable style, suggest rationales for the distinct technical deviation in the shaping of the menorah. We suggest the following reason. In his commentary on Avos 4:17, the Maharal explains the Mishnah which states: There are three crowns, the crown of Torah, the crown of Kehunah, and the crown of royalty, but the crown of a shem tov, good name, rises above them. He cites the Midrash that infers that the “four” crowns mentioned in the Mishnah represent the four primary vessels in the Mishkan. Keser Torah, the crown of Torah, is represented by the Aron Ha’kodesh, the receptacle which contained the Torah. Keser Kehunah was symbolized by the mizbei’ach because of the avodah, service, performed on it by the kohen. Keser Malchus, the crown of royalty, is indicated in the shulchan, the sacred table. Finally, the menorah alludes to the keser shem tov, the crown of a good name.
Let us first explain the Mishnah. The astute reader of the Mishnah will at once find a difficulty in the text which states that there are three crowns. Indeed, there are three crowns, but the Tanna goes on to mention a fourth! Rashi explains this apparent textual inconsistency. He suggests that a good name is not a fourth crown akin to the other three, but rather it is a higher one that is achieved through the vehicle of the other three. Indeed, Chazal have some sharp words for the ben Torah who does not earn the distinction of a good name.
There is another explanation given by Horav Moshe Swift z.l., which we find appropriate for the menorah. The first three crowns of distinction are given to us by others. The crown of Torah is conferred upon us by our rebbe who teaches us and inspires us to study Torah. The crown of Kehunah is inherited from one’s father. One must be born into a priestly family in order attain the status of kohen. The crown of malchus is bestowed upon the king by the people. In contrast, the crown of a good name is neither conferred nor inherited; it is acquired through one’s own efforts. It is an achievement which is attained through determination and resolve. It is won by commitment and sacrifice. One does not simply acquire a “good name;” he literally must transform himself into another human being worthy of bearing the mantle of shem tov.
The menorah represents keser shem tov. It is transformed from a mass of gold, a potential menorah, into a beautiful sublime creation. Just as the shem tov must be earned through one’s own efforts, to become one’s personal diadem, so, too, the menorah is created from itself.
Horav Mordechai Ilan z.l., makes a noteworthy observation. All the vessels, the aron, shulchan and mizbei’ach, each had a golden border/crown around its surface. The menorah, however, did not have the zer zahav, golden crown. Why? Horav Ilan explains that a border implies limits. The menorah connotes the concept of a good name. There are no restraints on a good name. The effects of a good name/reputation are limitless and everlasting.