SITE NO LONGER SUPPORTED

THIS SITE IS NO LONGER SUPPORTED            בית מדרש הוירטואלי עבר דירה
PLEASE FIND US AT OUR NEW TORAT HAR ETZION WEBSITE                                  
     English shiurim @ https://etzion.org.il/en          לשיעורים בעברית @ 
https://etzion.org.il/he

Lecture 98: The Structure of the Mishkan and Its Internal Division

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy

Mikdash

 

 

LECTURE 98: THE STRUCTURE OF THE MISHKAN AND ITS INTERNAL DIVISION

 

Rav Yitzchak Levi

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

            In the previous lecture, we saw that the Mishkan may be divided into two main parts: 1) the closed structure and 2) the open courtyard with the burnt-offering altar. In this lecture, we will propose a different perspective on the Mishkan, according to which it is actually divided into three parts:

 

1) The Holy of Holies, in which the service in later generations was performed exclusively by the High Priest.

 

2) The Holy, in which, according to the verses in the Torah, the service in the wilderness was performed exclusively by Aharon the priest, and in later generations by ordinary priests.

 

3) The courtyard with the burnt-offering altar, in which, according to the verses in the Torah, the service was performed in the wilderness by the sons of Aharon, and into which, in later generations, the rest of the people could also enter under certain conditions for the sake of the service.

 

            The proofs brought in the previous lecture in support of the internal division between the structure and the courtyard are, of course, valid according to this division as well. The novelty of this division lies in viewing the veil separating between the Holy and the Holy of Holies as an indication that there is a separate significance to the two parts covered by the curtains of the Mishkan.

 

            In other words, even though the inner curtains/the Mishkan, the curtains of the Ohel Mo'ed, and the boards that hold up the structure and support the curtains cover a single space, we view this space as if it were divided into two fundamental parts – the Holy of Holies and the Holy.

 

PROOFS FOR THIS THREEFOLD DIVISION

 

1. THE HOLY OF HOLIES IS THE SHEKHINA’S RESTING PLACE AND NOT A PLACE OF SERVICE

 

            Several proofs may be brought in support of the argument that, as opposed to the Holy, the Holy of Holies is the Shekhina's resting place, and not a place of service:

 

  • There is a clear distinction between the vessels found in the Holy of Holies and the vessels found in the Holy. The vessels in the Holy of Holies are not used in any service whatsoever, and however we understand them, they are vessels that clearly serve for the resting of the Shekhina.

 

  • In the time of King Yoshiyahu on, the ark was hidden, and from that period on there were no vessels at all in the Holy of Holies. The High Priest would put the ladle and the pan of incense on the Even ha-Shetiya, as is stated in the mishna in Yoma (5:2). In other words, the place maintains its character as a place designated for the resting of the Shekhina – the seat of the king, as it were – and not a place of service.

 

  • According to this, the keruvim may be viewed as a royal throne. In this context, the expression found several times in the words of the prophets, "Lord, God of the hosts, who sits on the keruvim," expresses the fact that we are dealing here with a royal throne that symbolizes, as it were, the seat of the king.[1]

 

  • The ark contains the tablets of the law, the broken tablets, and also a Torah scroll. The Torah symbolizes the book of the covenant that connects God to the people of Israel, and the emphasis here is that the seat of the king rests on His covenant with His people. The Oral Law is revealed from between the two keruvim and transmitted from God to Moshe as a Torah that lives and renews itself on top of the Written Law.[2]

 

  • The Holy of Holies may only be entered by the High Priest on Yom Kippur in the course of service (for four specific services: bringing in the incense, sprinkling the blood of the bullock, sprinkling the blood of the goat, and removal of the ladle and incense pan). On Yom Kippur, and only on that day, God opens His house, as it were, and invites the High Priest, in his white garments, to enter in order to achieve atonement (provided, of course, that the High Priest, as the representative of the people of Israel, is fit to enter and has pure intentions regarding the future).

 

2. THE OBJECTS RESTING IN THE HOLY OF HOLIES EXPRESS THE RESTING OF THE SHEKHINA, DIVINE PROVIDENCE, AND ITS MANIFESTATION IN THIS WORLD.

 

            Over the course of time, several objects were brought into the Holy of Holies, and they express the resting of the Shekhina and Divine providence in this world:

 

·         The jar of manna:

 

And Moshe said to Aharon, Take a jar, and put an omer full of manna in it, and lay it up before the Lord, to be kept for your generations. As the Lord commanded Moshe, so Aharon laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept. (Shemot 16:33-34)

           

The jar of manna that was brought in to the Holy of Holies serves as a reminder of God's miraculous and constant providence in the wilderness, feeding His people Israel with bread that fell from heaven.

 

·         The tablets of the covenant, the broken tablets, and the Torah scroll that rest in the ark express the Divine revelation of the word of God in this world – God's presence in the world that reveals itself in the Torah.

 

·         In the test of staffs in the wake of Korach's rebellion, Aharon's staff flowered:

 

And the Lord said to Moshe, “Put Aharon's rod back before the Testimony, to be kept for a token against rebels: that there may be an end of their murmurings against Me, that they die not.” And Moshe did so: as the Lord commanded him, so he did. (Bamidbar 17:25-26)

 

            This staff symbolizes the Divine selection of the tribe of Levi, God's providence in this world, and therefore it was placed in the Holy of Holies for all generations.

 

  • The box that the Philistines sent containing the golden mice and the golden swellings was also placed in the Holy of Holies. It expresses the Divine victory over the Philistines.

 

It turns out, then, that all of these objects express God's presence in the world, the resting of His Shekhina, His providence over His people, and His victory over His enemies.

 

3. THE HOLY – SERVICE FROM BELOW THAT IS DIRECTED TOWARD THE HOLY OF HOLIES

 

            As opposed to the Holy of Holies, which, as stated above, houses no vessels that are used for service, the Holy contains three vessels with which the priest serves God on a daily basis. In certain senses, it may be said that these vessels correspond to vessels and objects found in the Holy of Holies:

 

  • The table and the showbread resting on it in the Holy correspond to the jar of manna in the Holy of Holies – bread from below as opposed to bread from above.

 

  • The menora, which symbolizes human wisdom, corresponds to the Torah scroll resting in the ark, which symbolizes the word of God that was given from above.

 

  • The incense altar in the Holy corresponds to Aharon's staff in the Holy of Holies. The incense service is a service that is unique to the priesthood: "They shall put incense before You and whole burnt sacrifice upon Your altar" (Devarim 33:10), and therefore it corresponds to Aharon's staff, which represents the Divine selection of the priesthood.

 

Therefore, the veil that separates the Holy of Holies from the Holy distinguishes between the place that represents the seat of God's kingdom (wherein the vessels are not used for service, but rather represent His presence, providence, and closeness to His creatures) and the place where the people of Israel come to serve their Creator (through their representatives: Aharon in the wilderness and the sons of Aharon and ordinary priests in later generations).

 

4. THE COVERING OF THE VESSELS DURING THE JOURNEYS IN THE WILDERNESS

 

            Another proof for this threefold division may be brought from the covers of the vessels of the Mishkan that were used during Israel's journey in the wilderness, as they are described in the fourth chapter of the book of Bamidbar.

 

            In the division of the Mishkan between the structure and the courtyard discussed in the previous shiur, we argued that the covers of the inner vessels were all blue, whereas the cover of the burnt-offering altar was purple. There is, however, another distinction between the inner vessels themselves:

 

  • The ark, the kaporet, and the keruvim: the blue cover is the upper cover that rests upon a cover of tachash hide.

 

  • The vessels in the Heikhal: the menora, the incense altar, and the table – a blue cover on top of which there was a cover of tachash hide, the table having an additional cover of scarlet.

 

  • The burnt-offering altar: as stated, a cover of purple.

 

5. WHO IS PERMITTED IN WHICH PART OF THE MISHKAN

 

            Another expression of the threefold division of the Mishkan relates to the issue of who may enter which part, as was transmitted by tradition through the Oral Law:[3]

 

  • The Holy of Holies was entered by the High Priest on Yom Kippur for the sake of the special services performed on that day (incense, sprinkling of the blood of the bullock and of the goat, and removal of the incense).[4]

 

  • The Holy was entered by the priests for the daily services of lighting the lamps and burning the incense, and for the weekly service of setting the showbread on the table.

 

  • All of Israel could enter the courtyard for service-related needs (for example, in order to rest their hands on a sacrifice, to slaughter a sacrifice, and in later generations, to watch the service).

 

It is clear that the further in one enters in the Mikdash, the more sanctified the place, and entry is permitted only to those fit for entry, and only after they properly purify themselves (as is explained in Tractate Keilim 1:8 and on).

 

6. ARK AND TABLE, KAPORET AND CANDLESTICK

 

            An examination of the inner vessels – ark, kaporet, and keruvim in the Holy of Holies, table and menora in the Holy – shows that there is a clear correspondence between the ark and the table, and between the candlestick and the kaporet and keruvim. This correspondence relates both to materials and to form and purpose:

 

The ark and the table:

 

  • Are both made from shittim wood covered with gold.

 

  • Are both rectangular in shape and a cubit and a half tall.

 

  • Both serve a particular function – the ark holds the tablets and the broken tablets, and on the table rest the loaves of showbread.

 

  • Both have a rim of gold round about, and four rings of gold and poles of shittim wood covered with gold.

 

The keruvim and the menora:

 

  • Are both made of beaten gold.

 

  • Are both round and face a central point - the keruvim face one another, and in the candlestick, "the seven lamps shall give light towards the body of the candlestick" (Bemidbar 8:2).

 

This correspondence is instructive regarding the similarity between the vessels, but it sharpens the difference between the ark and the kaporet and keruvim, which appear as a single vessel with two parts in the Holy of Holies, and the candlestick and the table which are separate vessels in the Holy.

 

The transition from unity to duality, from one to two, alludes to the transition from the seat of the King of the universe to the place where man serves God in His house and, through his service, reveals His presence in His house.[5] This understanding accords with the division proposed in this lecture.

 

MAN’S ROLE IN THE HOLY

 

            To summarize, it may be said that man's primary task in the Holy is to enable the Shekhina's revelation in the menora and in the table.

 

  • The incense altar serves an independent purpose.

 

  • The inner chamber symbolizes the presence of God Himself – His seat that is hidden from man.

 

  • The outer chamber – Filling of needs / continuous / that encompass all the senses: incense - smell, lamps – sight, bread – taste, bells – hearing, efod and choshen – memory, tzitz – will.

 

It is possible to add another dimension to the relationship between the Holy and the Holy of Holies.[6]

 

In the division that was proposed in the previous lecture, the main criterion in the division between the structure and the courtyard is the resting of the Shekhina. In the division proposed here, the division is between the place that clearly represents the resting of the Shekhina – the seat of God's kingdom and providence over the world – and the place where people come to serve God in His house.

 

Regarding the resting of the Shekhina in the Heikhal, it is possible to distinguish between the vessels in the Heikhal made of gold, which represent that part of God's house that is designated for service, and the service itself that is performed by the priests when they light the lamps of the menora with oil, burn the incense, and place the showbread on the table, which expresses the service of the people of Israel.

 

According to this understanding, the Heikhal/the Holy is the meeting point between the Shekhina and the people of Israel. The side of the Shekhina is represented by the golden vessels, which constitute the furnishings of the King in the chamber in which His servants may enter, and the side of the people of Israel is represented by those serving in the Mishkan, the priests who bring the materials and perform the service required in that place.

 

Another point that should be noted in this context is the nature of the inner service as service that represents some of the senses: in the candlestick – sight; in the incense altar – smell; in the table – taste.

 

In a certain sense, this service is the most delicate service, the least corporeal and materialistic, and it thus expresses the meeting place between God and the people of Israel.

 

It is clear that the more physical service, the sacrificial service, is that which is performed in the courtyard on the burnt-offering altar, and that is the place where the people of Israel themselves stand before God.

 

THE SPIRITUAL MEANING OF THE THREEROLD DIVISION OF THE MISHKAN

 

            In order to understand the spiritual meaning of the aforementioned division, let us examine the words of the Maharal, who relates to the midrash regarding the division of the tablets of the law between God and Moshe:

                                  

And in the Yerushalmi Shekalim (6:5): "R. Shemuel bar Nachmani said: The tablets were six handbreadths long and six handbreadths wide, and Moshe held on to two handbreadths, and the Holy One, blessed be He, to two handbreadths, and two handbreadths space in the middle. When Israel did that act, the Holy One, blessed be He, wanted to seize them, but Moshe's hands grew strong, and he seized them. This is what the Holy One, blessed be He, praised him: May there be peace to the hand that overpowered [My] right hand."

…And therefore it says that the tablets were two handbreadths in the hand of the Holy One, blessed be He, and two handbreadths in the hands of Moshe, and two handbreadths space in the middle. This is the absolute connection and cleaving that Israel has with the Holy One, blessed be He, for through the Torah Israel cleaves to the Holy One, blessed be He. For before the tablets were given there was no connection, for the tablets had not yet been given and Israel had not yet a connection. And after the tablets were given, there was no cleaving to God, may He be blessed, for the essence of the cleaving is when he gives it to them, then He is connected to them. But when two handbreadths were in the hand of the Holy One, blessed be He, and two handbreadths were in the hand of Moshe who received the Torah on behalf of Israel, and two handbreadths were empty – this was the absolute connection, for the two handbreadths that were empty were common to the Giver and to the receiver. For we maintain (Bava Metzia 2a) that if two people are holding on to a garment, this one takes up to the point that his hand reaches and the other one takes up to the point that his hand reaches, and the rest they divide between them, as if they were partners. And this is absolute connection and partnership. And there can be no level higher than this, for through the Torah that God, blessed be He, gives to Israel, and that Israel receives, the Torah is the means to create absolute connection and cleaving. And were a part in the hand of the Holy One, blessed be He, and a part in the hand of Moshe, it would be as if there were a division, that there is a part of the Torah that belongs to God, blessed be He, and a part that belongs to the receiver, but when there are two handbreadths empty between them, this is connected to God and to Israel, and this is absolute connection, and this is the highest level. And it was then that Satan tried to cancel this level. (Netzach Yisrael, chap. 2)

 

            The Maharal argues that this threefold division of the tablets – a third in the hands of God, a third in the hands of Moshe, and a space in the middle, is the perfect and ideal connection. We wish to argue that this idea may also explain the threefold division of the Mishkan.

 

·         The innermost section, the Holy of Holies, is the part of God alone, and therefore it is not the site of service. Its vessels are not designated for service, and apart from Yom Kippur no one ever enters there.

 

·         The outermost section – the courtyard with the burnt-offering altar, is the part where man serves God with the most materialistic and physical service – the sacrificial service: slaughter, sprinkling of blood, burning of the organs, etc. In this section, the people have a certain part in the service (slaughter is fit even if performed by a non-priest, anyone may observe the service there).

 

·         The middle section is designated exclusively for the priests, regarding whom the gemara discusses whether they serve as agents of God or as agents of the people of Israel. This middle section belongs both to God and to the priests, and it serves as a connecting section by way of the continuous inner service at the table, the menora, and the incense altar.

 

The Maharal in Gevurot Hashem writes:

 

"In a flame (or: in the heart) of fire out of the midst of a bush" – above two thirds of the bush. What this means is that the upper third has greater sanctity, just as the heart of man which is in the upper third [of his body]. And similarly the Ohel Mo'ed was thirty cubits from east to west, and the last ten cubits constituted the Holy of Holies. Therefore, the mitzva of mezuza is two thirds up. And the reason is known, for a third is the holiest and most select, for everything that has been selected, the lesser part has been selected from the greater part, and therefore a third was selected for holiness, for it is the lesser part, and therefore the angel appeared in the upper third. (chap. 27)

 

            The Maharal presents an argument similar to the one we presented above. According to him, there is a rule that the upper third is always more sanctified than the rest. So it was regarding the burning bush, so it is regarding the location of a mezuza, and so it was also regarding the internal division of the Ohel Mo'ed.[7]

 

Interestingly, this assertion has other ramifications regarding the relationship between the keruvim and the height of the Mishkan, both in the Mishkan and in the Mikdash:

 

The gemara in Sukka 5b learns that the thickness of the kaporet was a handbreadth,[8] and the height of the ark together with the kaporet was ten handbreadths. From here, the gemara explains the law of the mishna that the walls of a sukka must be at least ten handbreadths high.

 

The gemara then brings another source for the law of the Mishna that a sukka must be at least ten handbreadths high:

 

The fact is that the deduction is made from the Temple, of which it is written: "And the house which King Shlomo built for the Lord, the length thereof was sixty cubits, and the breadth thereof twenty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits," and it is written: "The height of the one keruv was ten cubits and so was it of the other keruv," and it was taught: "Just as we find in the Temple that the keruvim reached to a third of the height thereof, so also in the Mishkan they reached to a third of its height." Now what was the height of the Mishkan? Ten cubits, as it is written: "Ten cubits shall be the length of a board." How much is this? Sixty handbreadths. How much is a third? Twenty handbreadths. Deduct the ten of the ark and the kaporet, and ten handbreadths remain. (Sukka, ibid.)

 

The gemara learned from the Temple that Shlomo's keruvim were a third of the height of the Temple (they were ten cubits high, while the Holy of Holies was thirty cubits high). Based on this, the gemara argues that this proportion existed also in the Mishkan, namely, that the keruvim were a third of the height of the Mishkan.

 

            In order for the keruvim to be a third of the height of the Mishkan, the gemara calculates the matter precisely: The height of the Mishkan was ten cubits = sixty handbreadths, and if the keruvim reached a third of the height, they must have reached twenty handbreadths from the ground of the Mishkan. On the other hand, the height of the ark and the kaporet was ten handbreadths, and thus there are ten handbreadths left for the keruvim.[9]

 

            R. Margaliyot, in an article concerning the Mikdash and the Mishkan (Aleh Yona pp. 365-367), relates to the height of the keruvim in relation to the height of the structure, both in the Mishkan and in the Mikdash. He writes as follows:

 

The gemara worked hard to find sources from which we may learn the law that up to ten handbreadths, as long as it is not less than that, the space is called a sukka and the roof is called sekhakh. And in the course of the passage (Sukka 5b) they want to learn this from the Temple, from the keruvim of Shlomo that were ten cubits high in the space of the Holy of Holies, which was thirty cubits high. And they learn by analogy: Just as we find in the Temple that the keruvim reached a height of a third of the structure in which they stood, so too in the Mishkan the keruvim reached a third of the height of the structure in which they stood. And since the height of the Mishkan was ten cubits, which are sixty handbreadths, Moshe's keruvim reached a height of twenty handbreadths. And since the height of the ark and the kaporet was ten handbreadths, the keruvim covered a space of ten [handbreadths].

The gemara's conclusion, however, is that the law that the measure regarding a sukka is ten handbreadths is based on a law given to Moshe at Sinai. For there is no proof from the keruvim according to all opinions, for there are Tannaim who maintain that the ark and the kaporet did not reach a height of ten handbreadths. But according to those who say that this was the height of the ark, the proof stands… From where does the Talmud make an analogy between the keruvim of Shlomo and the keruvim of Moshe – are they at all similar? Many objections can be raised against this analogy: The keruvim of Shlomo stood on the ground, whereas Moshe's keruvim emerged from the kaporet. Shlomo's keruvim were from a prophetic enactment, whereas Moshe's were a Torah mitzva. Do we learn Torah matters from Rabbinic matters?

It seems that here our Sages revealed to us the secret of Shlomo's keruvim. They understood that the reason for Shlomo's keruvim was precisely the ratio of their height to the height of the Temple. And that it was only because the height of the Holy of Holies changed in the Temple that King Shlomo had to make new keruvim, to the point that we who have forgotten the height of Moshe's keruvim may infer from them, working back from the height of Shlomo's keruvim to that of Moshe's keruvim.

Let us explain the matter. Moshe's keruvim were marked by two features. They went up from the kaporet until a certain height – as will be clarified, until a third of the structure. King Shlomo built the Temple to a magnificent height, and saw that now Moshe's keruvim almost disappeared in this grand structure. What is more important, there was nothing in the building of the Mishkan that did not allude to lofty and hidden things (and we shall immediately see that a great idea lies in this measure of a third). Shlomo knew that nothing was to be added to Moshe's ark… and he would have brought golden gods into the Temple had he added two on the kaporet of the ark itself. He [therefore] set up two additional keruvim in the Holy of Holies. The first two went up from the ark, but did not reach to a third of the height of the structure. And the second two reached that height, but did not go up from the ark. And were it not for the four together, the Temple would not have been similar to the Mishkan. Only when the four were together did he build a Temple similar to the Mishkan. And now the building was complete: Moshe's keruvim went up as in the Mishkan until they reached a third of the height of ten cubits, where the giant keruvim spread their wings like a roof, and these giant keruvim that were a third of the height of the entire structure stood like the keruvim of Moshe (and since this is clear, the gemara could learn about these from these)….

But something must be added. Anyone who knows anything about the deep reasons of the measures of the Torah and the measures of Chazal understands the essence of the measure of a third wherever it is found. A third is a minority, but the largest minority that there is that is still countered by a majority. A seventh, a sixth, a fifth, a quarter are all minorities, but there are minorities that are bigger than them. A half is already not a minority, nor is it countered by a majority. The essence of the measure of a third is what I said: A third is a minority of that of which it is a third, but it reaches the upper limit of a minority that is countered by a majority twice as large as it is.

Therefore, for example, the measure of adornment of a mitzva is up to a third (Bava Kama 9b). The Sages did not obligate a person doing a mitzva to beautify it more than a third, to the point that the subordinate part – the adornment – becomes the main part, and the main mitzva becomes the minority. But they did obligate him up to a third, that a person should add an adornment to the main mitzva that is the largest possible minority. Tzitzit are most becoming when the fringe is wound around for a third of its length and the remaining two thirds hang loose as locks (Menachot 39a). The wound around part should remain a minority, but the largest possible minority. And many other examples like this.

And therefore it may be argued: As for attaining heavenly sanctity, neither a human nor chayyot or keruvim can ever attain but a minority of all the sanctity in the highest heavens. Therefore, in the Holy of Holies, the main seat of the Shekhina in this world, whose true sanctity is in heaven, the bearers of the Shekhina remain a minority, for who would dare to attain more than a minority of the sanctity. But in accordance with the effort of one who aspires to sanctity, to elevate himself and attain it, he will elevate himself and attain it. The keruvim serve as a model for humans, for they are at the height of the minor part of the Holy of Holies, but the largest possible minority, namely, a third. If the keruvim do not elevate themselves to that height, they cannot serve as a residence for the Shekhina in this world, and the Shekhina does not descend.

Shlomo saw that Moshe's keruvim reached a third of the Tent; and he too did what he did – according to the command of a prophet. And he had good reason to do so.

 

            R. Margaliyot's first point relates to the gemara in Sukka 5a. He argues that Shlomo made the new keruvim that stood on the ground based on a desire to preserve the ratio between their height and the height of the structure in which they are found.  Since the Temple was much higher than the Mishkan, had they used Moshe's keruvim, they would have become lost in such a high structure. Therefore, the height of Moshe's keruvim was a third of ten cubits, the height of the Mishkan, while Shlomo's keruvim reached a height of ten cubits, a third of the height of the Temple.

 

            Another very interesting point in his words relates to the significance of a third in general. A third is a minority, but the largest possible minority that is still countered by a majority. Therefore, the adornment of a mitzva is up to a third, and tzitzit are most becoming when the wrap around part is a third and the hanging loose part is two thirds. Similarly, in the world of sanctity, both man and the keruvim can only attain a third of heavenly sanctity, and therefore in the Holy of Holies, the primary site of the Shekhina in this world, those who bear the Shekhina must remain a minority. On the other hand, if the keruvim do not rise up to a third, they cannot prepare a residence for the Shekhina, and the Shekhina does not descend.

 

            The novelty in this division stems from the fact that there is human service in the Heikhal as well. In light of this, we must sharpen the differences between the inner service in the Holy and the outer service on the whole-burnt-offering altar.

 

  • First, there is a difference between service that is performed inside a closed structure and service that is performed in an open courtyard, seen by ordinary Israelites who are not priests.

 

  • Even though both the inner service and the service at the whole-burnt-offering altar is continual service, day after day, in the morning and in the afternoon, the communal service, which is not part of the fixed day-to-day service, varies as to the number and the character of the sacrifices, and this difference is evident precisely at the outer altar.

 

  • There are special occasions on which an ordinary Israelite may approach the altar – for example, to wave his basket of first-fruit and, according to the Yerushalmi, to circle the altar with the four species on Sukkot, in which all of Israel would participate.[10]

 

SUMMARY

 

            In summary of our discussion of the division of the structure of the Mishkan and its meaning:

 

            One simple possibility is to divide the structure into two parts - the structure of the Mishkan itself and the courtyard:

 

  • In the structure, the service is performed by the High Priest, while in the courtyard it is performed by ordinary priests.

 

  • The structure is closed; the courtyard is open.

 

  • The structure represents the perpetuation of the revelation at Mount Sinai and the resting of the Shekhina upon it, whereas the courtyard represents the people of Israel and the priests who did not ascend the mountain.

 

Another possibility it to divide the structure itself into two parts, thus separating between the Holy of Holies, on the one hand, and the rest of the structure and the courtyard, on the other:

 

  • The Holy of Holies is the site of the king's throne, where no service is performed, and where the vessels express the resting of the Shekhina, its presence and its providence over the world, whereas the rest of the Mishkan – the Heikhal and the courtyard – are places of service.

 

A third possibility is to divide the Mishkan into three parts: the Holy of Holies, the Holy, and the courtyard:

 

According to this division, the Holy/ Heikhal bridges between the Holy of Holies, the site of the king's throne, and the outer altar, the site of human service. According to this approach, we find in the Holy the resting of the Shekhina, on the one hand, and on the other hand, that man through the inner service enables the revelation of the Shekhina in that place.

 

As for the precise internal division between the Holy and the Holy of Holies, the verses imply that it is the parokhet that divides between them.

 

We have seen that it may be suggested that there is an expanse of two cubits – the gap between the curtains of the Mishkan and the curtains of the Ohel – where Moshe entered, a place that is both the site of the resting of the Shekhina and the place where God met with man.

 

We saw that it is possible to suggest that there is a certain area between the Holy and the Holy of Holies that is created by the protrusion of the poles against the parokhet, and that this area has an intermediate sanctity between that of the Holy and that of the Holy of Holies.

 

In addition, in the lecture dealing with the relationship between the Holy and the Holy of Holies (lecture no. 95), we saw that R. Fisher, following R. Chayim of Brisk, suggested that we divide the Holy itself into two parts:

 

1)        The part containing the inner vessels (up to the menora and the table) belongs to the Holy of Holies, to the dimension of the resting of the Shekhina

.

2)        The eastern part of the Holy is an independent area of service.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)

 



[1] In contrast to pagan temples and sites of idol worship, where above the seat of the king there was a graven image symbolizing the god, here the seat is empty. We dealt at length with the idea of the Mikdash as God's palace and with the various expressions of this idea in Lecture no. 8, "The Seat of God's Kingdom and the Site of God's Love for Israel."

[2] We discussed this issue at length in the lecture referred to in the previous note.

[3] This internal division is explained in detail in the Mishna, Keilim 1:8 and on. There are further divisions that we shall not discuss in this forum. In earlier lectures, we argued that based on the plain meaning of the biblical texts, entry into the entire Mishkan in the wilderness was permitted only to the High Priest, and not to ordinary priests, the sons of Aharon. In later generations, ordinary priests entered into the Holy, and it is this practice to which we refer here.

[4] It is interesting to see here the meeting between the sanctity of time, place, and person: the most sanctified time – Yom Kippur, the most sanctified place – the Holy of Holies, and the most sanctified person – the High Priest.

[5] There is room, however, to discuss the fact that in the Holy of Holies itself there are two keruvim. This requires further examination, but not in this forum.

[6] This point was discussed by my friend and colleague, R. Yoni Grossman, in Alon Shevut 145 (Tamuz, 5755), "Porshei Kenafayyim Lema'ala Ish el Achiv."

[7] This ratio fits the structure of the Mishkan. In the First Temple, however, where the Ulam was added, we cannot make use of the Maharal's division between a more sanctified third and the rest of the structure.

[8] The gemara learns this, according to one view, from the rim of the table, and according to another view from the keruvim.

[9] This ratio is very interesting when we examine the relationship between the ark and the kaporet, on the one hand, and the keruvim, on the other; the height of the two are exactly equal.

[10] The animal world is represented in the Temple primarily on the outer altar. In the case of communal sin-offerings, blood is also brought into the Holy. The principle is that the more severe the sin, the greater the impairment of the Mikdash, and thus deeper entry into the Mikdash is required in order to repair the damage. On Yom Kippur, the entry is deepest, because atonement must be achieved for all the sins of Israel which impair the resting of the Shekhina in the deepest manner.