Shelomo's Monarchy in Jerusalem (II): God's Temple (I)

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Jerusalem in the Bible
Yeshivat Har Etzion

Shiur #11: Shelomo's Monarchy In Jerusalem (II)

God's Temple (I)


Rav Yitzchak Levi



            In this lesson we shall try to understand the significance of the innovation of building a permanent house for God.


            There is only one Torah source for building a Temple – the command to construct the Mishkan in Parashat Teruma: "And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all its vessels, even so shall you make it" (Shemot 25:8-9). Chazal expounded the last clause: "'Even so shall you make it' – for future generations" (Sanhedrin 15b). We see then that there is no separate commandment to build a permanent Temple. In this sense, the differences between the Mishkan and the Mikdash are small, primarily technical, regarding the materials, the structure, and the location. Essentially, however, the Mikdash and the Mishkan are similar structures serving a similar function.


            All this notwithstanding, the differences between the Mikdash and the Mishkan – regarding the location, the materials, the structure, the size, and the very existence of a permanent site for the resting of the Shekhina – are significant differences. The central theme of today's shiur is the meaning of these differences.




The Ramban notes in several places that the Mishkan served as a continuation of the Sinai experience. Thus, for example, he writes in his commentary to Shemot 25:2:


The secret of the Mishkan is that the glory which abode upon Mount Sinai [openly] should abide upon it in a concealed manner.[1] For just as it is said here: "And the glory of the Lord abode upon Mount Sinai" (Shemot 24:16)… so it is written of the Mishkan: "And the glory of the Lord filled the Mishkan" (Ibid. 40:34)… Thus Israel always had with them in the Mishkan the glory which appeared to them on Mount Sinai.[2]


            The Mikdash on Mount Moriah served as a continuation of the revelation at Akeidat Yitzchak, and according to Chazal, a continuation of the tradition of offering sacrifices in that place, that began immediately following the creation of the world,[3] as is described by the Rambam (Hilkhot Beit Ha-bechira 2:2, following Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, chap. 31):


Now there was a tradition known to all that the place where David and Shelomo built the altar in the threshing floor of Arvana was the same place where Avraham built the altar upon which he bound Yitzchak. This, too, was the place where Noach built an altar when he came out of the ark. It was also the place of the altar upon which Kayin and Hevel offered sacrifices. There it was that Adam offered a sacrifice after he was created. Indeed Adam was created from that very ground. As the Sages have taught: Adam was created from the place where he made atonement.


            This is all in addition to the fact that the site of the Temple is the site of the creation of the world, as is related in the Tosefta (Yoma 2:12):


There was a stone [= in the Holy of Holies] from the days of the first prophets, called Shetiya, three fingers high off the ground. At first, the Ark had been set upon it. After the Ark was removed, they would burn on it the incense that is brought inside. Rabbi Yose says: The world was founded from it. As it is stated: "Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God has shone forth" (Tehillim 50:2).


            And the Gemara says on the same issue:


And it was called Shetiya. A Tanna taught: From it the world was founded. The Mishna teaches in accordance with the one who says: The world was created from Zion.


            And Rashi explains there:


[The world] was created from Zion – Zion was created first, and clods of earth adhered around it from all sides to the end of the world.


            In other words, it was on Mount Moriah that the world began, the act of creation began, and the service of God began.[4]




The Mishkan passed through various stations - Mount Sinai, the wilderness of Sinai, Gilgal, Shilo, Nov and Giv'on – without the selection of a particular place, and therefore without eternal sanctity remaining in any of these stations after the Mishkan's destruction. On Mount Moriah, in contrast, there was a choosing of the place, as Avraham called the name of the place in the story of the Akeida "God will see" (Bereishit 22:14) – that is, God will choose, and as is clarified by the expression, "The place that the Lord will choose," which repeats itself all through the book of Devarim.[5]


God gave explicit expression to this selection in His oath to David: "For the Lord has chosen Zion: He has desired it for His habitation. This is My resting place forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it" (Tehillim 132:13-14), and as is stated in the psalm: "But He chose the Tribe of Yehuda, Mount Zion which He loved" (Ibid. 78:68).


Thus we see that Mount Moriah is a known place where one is to seek the place that God has chosen, this choosing being eternal and everlasting.[6] The Mishkan in its various stations was the first step along the road to the everlasting resting of the Shekhina in one place.




We cannot discuss in this framework all the many details connected to the structure of the Mikdash, but we will briefly present here the main points.




*          The length and the width of the Heikhal and the Devir (the Holy of Holies) in the Mikdash are twice those in the Mishkan (10x30 cubits in the Mishkan, 20x60 cubits in the Mikdash), and when we add the width of the Ulam (10 cubits), the total length reaches 70 cubits.


*          The Devir has the shape of a cube: In the Mishkan – 10x10x10 cubits; in the Mikdash – the measurements are doubled: 20x20x20 cubits.


*          The Heikhal in the Mikdash is three times as tall as in the Mishkan: the Mishkan is 10 cubits tall, whereas the Mikdash is 30 cubits.


To summarize, as a rule (except for the height) the measurements of the Mikdash are twice those of the Mishkan, with an addition of 10 cubits to the length of the building because of the Ulam. The relative proportions of the Holy of Holies and the Holy do not change.




a)         There is the addition of the Ulam, 10x20 cubits that was not found in the Mishkan.[8]


b)         The height of the Ulam is not mentioned in Melakhim, but according to Divrei Ha-yamim, it was 120 cubits tall (II Divrei Ha-yamim 3:4).


c)         The height of the entire building, the Heikhal and the Devir, was 30 cubits. The height of the Devir was 20 cubits. It is not clear whether the floor of the Devir was raised, and there were stairs (not mentioned in Scripture) between the Devir and the Heikhal, or whether the ceiling of the Devir was lower, but its floor was a continuation of the floor of the Heikhal.


d)         Side structures surrounded the building on its northern, western, and southern exposures. Their overall height was 15 cubits (3x5) – half the height of the building. Their width: the lower balcony - 5 cubits, the middle balcony - 6 cubits, and the upper balcony – 7 cubits.


e)         Two copper columns were added, Yakhin and Boaz, 18 cubits tall, each having a 5-cubit capital.


f)          On the walls of the Mikdash there were carved figures of keruvim, palm trees and open flowers, similar to the decorations on the curtain of the Mishkan.


g)         To the keruvim of the kaporet in the Mishkan there were added in the Mikdash two additional keruvim,[9] each one 10 cubits high and wide (in other words, their wings filled the entire width of the Devir).


h)         In the Mikdash windows not found in the Mishkan were added, wide without and narrow within.


i)          Whereas in the Mishkan the openings were filled with curtains, in the Mikdash, they were filled with gates and partitions.




The walls of the Mishkan were constructed out of boards of shittim wood overlaid with gold that were placed in silver sockets. Its ceiling was made of curtains that were connected by silver or copper clasps. The hooks of the pillars of the courtyard were also made of silver.


The Mikdash (its floor, walls, and ceiling) was made entirely of stone, but inside it was faced with wood (cedar on the walls, cypress on the floor)[10] that was plated with gold. No use was made of silver.




a)         To the menorah that was fashioned by Moshe were added 10 menoras (I Melakhim 6:49) that were set from right to left (Yerushalmi, Shekalim 6:3).


b)         10 tables were added to the table that was in the Mishkan (II Divrei Ha-yamim 4:8).


c)         The incense altar was covered with cedar wood (I Melakhim 6:20).[11]


d)         The measurements of the burnt-offering altar in the Mikdash: 20x20x10 cubits. Regarding the altar in the Mishkan, it is stated: "Five cubits long, and five cubits broad… and the height of it shall be three cubits" (Shemot 27:1). The Sages disagree about what this means (Zevachim 59b): According to Rabbi Yehuda, the altar was ten cubits long, ten cubits wide (half the length and width of the altar in the Mikdash) and three cubits high. According to Rabbi Yose, the measurements were five cubits long, five cubits wide, and ten cubits high (the same height as in the Mikdash).


e)         In the Mikdash was added a copper sea, which had not been in the Mishkan – with a volume of 2000 bat (about 60,000 liters), and it stood on 12 oxen.


f)          In the Mishkan, there was a single laver and its stand. In the Mikdash there were 10 copper lavers, the volume of each one being 40 bat, which rested on 10 decorated bases, each of which having cast and movable wheels.


In the second part of this shiur, we shall deal, God willing, with the significance of these changes, but first we must deal with the question how they were at all possible.




Summarizing the plans for the building of the Temple, David says to Shelomo:


All this, said he, is put in writing by the hand of the Lord who instructed me, all the works of this pattern. (I Divrei Ha-yamim 28:19)


            The commentators explain there that everything had been received by the prophet Shemuel by way of prophecy (Radak) or by way of interpretation of the Torah with the holy spirit (Rashi).


            It is reasonable to assume that Shelomo changed nothing of what David had received from Shemuel by way of prophecy. Nevertheless, the difficulty remains: How is it possible to make changes from what the Torah commands? Surely Chazal expounded: "'Even so shall you make it' – for future generations" (Sanhedrin 15b)! The Chatam Sofer deals with this question at length in his commentary to the Torah, Torat Moshe (Shemot 25:9):


"According to all that I show you, the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all its vessels, even so shall you make it" (Shemot 25:8-9) - for future generations. Thus explained Rashi. And the Ramban asked: Surely King Shelomo, may he rest in peace, changed the altar, and did not fashion it according to its pattern. But I think that just the opposite needs examination. Why is "even so shall you make it" – for future generations, needed? Would you think to change anything from the pattern that the Holy One, blessed be he, carefully showed to Moshe Rabbeinu, may he rest in peace? And further examination is needed regarding the building at Shilo and the everlasting building [in Jerusalem] – who granted permission for this? The Holy One, blessed be He, showed Moshe Rabbeinu a Mishkan of boards and curtains. And even though it was built based on the word of the prophet, as it is written: "All this, said he, is put in writing by the hand of the Lord who instructed me" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 28:19), and regarding the second Temple, it was Chaggai, Zekharya and Malakhi, and the future building was shown to Yechezkel, nevertheless, who gave us permission to believe these prophets to innovate something. See the end of chapter Ha-Nechenakim (Sanhedrin 89b).

God, however, has illumined my eyes. For "'Even so shall you make it' – for future generations" – even though we learn a stringency from it in the second chapter of Shevuot (15a), that we need for future generations a king, a prophet, a High Priest, and the urim ve-tumim, it seems to me that the verse comes primarily for a leniency, that each time we can change the building and the vessels, based on the vision that God, blessed be He, will show to the prophets of the generation. Even though with respect to the other mitzvot in the Torah, we do not listen to the prophet to change anything, nevertheless, this mitzva of building the Temple and its vessels was given from the very outset with the stipulation that it would change in accordance with a [prophetic] vision. This is what it says: "According to all that I show you… even so shall you make it" – for [future] generations, according to what I show the prophets of the generations. And from here there is permission to make changes in what God instructed in writing, including the changes in the altar made by King Shelomo, may he rest in peace. But that regarding which He did not show a change and which was made for generations, we must fashion them according to the pattern of the first vision shown to Moshe Rabbeinu, may he rest in peace, on the mountain. And the words of Rashi are correct, and the objection raised by the Ramban has been answered.


            According to the Chatam Sofer, "According to all that I show you, the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all its vessels, even so shall you make it" - for [future] generations," means that the building should be made in accordance with what God will show the prophets of every generation.


            The Or Ha-Chayyim suggests another answer: "In my opinion, 'Even so shall you make it' refers only to the shape of the building, but not to its dimensions."[12]




The Gemara in Yoma (54a) records the words of Rav Katina:


Whenever Israel came up to the festival, the curtain would be removed for them and the keruvim were shown to them, whose bodies were intertwisted with one another, and they would be thus addressed: You are beloved before God as the love between man and woman.


In other words, they would show those who arrived in Jerusalem the keruvim, which symbolize the intimate connection between God and the people of Israel. On this Rav Chisda asks: Surely even the Levites, who carried the vessels of the Mishkan on their shoulders, were forbidden to see the vessels, and only handled them after Aharon and his sons had covered them! How then is it possible that the people of Israel were permitted to see the keruvim? Rav Nachman answers:


They may be compared to a bride: As long as she is in her father's house, she is reserved in regard to her husband, but when she comes to her father-in-law's house, she is no more so reserved in regard to him.


            According to Rav Nachman, the connection between Israel and God in the Mishkan was similar to the connection between a groom and his bride while she is still living in her father's house, that is, during the period of betrothal. In such a situation, she conducts herself with great modesty, and thus Israel was warned not to gaze upon the holy vessels. In contrast, the Mikdash, God's permanent house, enjoyed the quality of marriage – like a bride in her father-in-law's house – when the connection is permanent and more intimate, and it is possible to gaze upon the holy.




In several places, Rabbi Ovadya Seforno describes the superiority of the Mishkan over the First and Second Temples:


[The Torah] tells us the virtues of this Mishkan, by which reason it was worthy to be everlasting and not to fall into the hands of the enemy. First, because it was the "Tabernacle of Testimony," where the tablets of testimony were [deposited]; second, "As they were rendered according to the commandment of Moshe"; third, because it was through "the service of the Levites by the hand of Itamar," for indeed the charge of all the parts of the Mishkan were in the hands of Itamar; fourth, "And Betzalel the son of Uri, the son of Chur, of the Tribe of Yehuda made" - the leaders of the craftsmen of the Mishkan's work and its vessels were noblemen and the righteous ones of the generation, and therefore the Shekhina rested on the work of their hands, and it did not fall into the hands of their enemies. But the Temple of Shelomo [was built by] workers of the nations of the world, and although the Shekhina did rest there its sections deteriorated and it was necessary to repair the breaches of the house, and eventually it all fell into the hands of the enemy. (Seforno, Commentary to Shemot 38:1-2)


"All the gold" – [The Torah] attests to and defines the [quantity] of gold, silver, and copper included in the work of the Mishkan, which was a very small amount compared to the riches of the first Temple, as explained in Melakhim, and even more so were the riches of Herod's temple. Nevertheless, the appearance of God's glory was more constantly [found] in the Mishkan of Moshe than in the First Temple, and was not present at all in the Second Temple. This teaches us that it is not the amount of riches and the size of the structure which causes the Shekhina to dwell in Israel, but God desires those who fear Him, and their deeds, in order to dwell in their midst. (Ibid. v. 24.)


"And whenever the cloud went up" – The Shekhina was so [firmly] established in the Mishkan that it did not depart at all from there until Israel had to journey. [Now] this was not so in Shilo, nor in the First Temple nor in the Second Temple. But even more than this will be [manifested] in the Third Temple (may it be built and established speedily in our days), as it says: "For I, says the Lord, will be to her a wall of fire roundabout, and will be the glory in the midst of her" (Zekharya 2:9). (Ibid. 40:36)


            Seforno describes here several unique qualities of the Mishkan: The Mishkan was built exclusively by members of the Jewish people, and in particular, by the righteous members of the generation. The nations of the world did not participate in its construction, and therefore it did not fall into the hands of the enemies, as did the First and Second Temples. The paucity of the Mishkan in comparison to the two Temples demonstrates that the resting of God's Shekhina depends on actions, and not on external splendor. The resting of the Shekhina was more constant in the Mishkan than in the two Temples.


And indeed Scripture implies that in contrast to the Mikdash, the Shekhina rested on the Mishkan even when the people of Israel sinned. When God wanted to destroy the Jewish people in the aftermath of the sin of the spies, Moshe offered the following prayer:


Then Egypt shall hear it, (for You did bring up this people in Your might from among them;) and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land; who have heard that You Lord are among this people, that You Lord are seen face to face, and that Your cloud stands over them, and that You go before them, by day time in a pillar of cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night. Now if You shall kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of You will speak, saying, Because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land which He swore to them, therefore He has slain them in the wilderness. (Bamidbar 14:13-16) 


And Rashi explains there (s.v. "And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land"): "…Because they have heard that You, O Lord, dwell in their midst and that You appear to them face to face and all this is in an affectionate manner, and they have not perceived of You that Your love has been detached from them hitherto." And indeed, we do not find that God made any changes in the resting of His Shekhina in the Mishkan in the wake of the sin of the spies or in the wake of any other sin.[13] This stands in contrast to God's revelation to Moshe, which was interrupted during Israel's thirty-eight years of wandering in the wilderness, on account of the sins of the people (see Ibn Ezra on Bamidbar 20:1, s.v. be-chodesh ha-rishon). It turns out then that from the time of the dedication of the Mishkan in the second year after the Exodus from Egypt, and until the Mishkan was erected in Gilgal, there were no changes in the manner of the Shekhina's resting in the Mishkan in the fire and in the cloud. The resting of the Shekhina in the Mikdash, on the other hand, depended on the actions of Israel, as was explicitly told to Shelomo following its dedication (I Melakhim 6:11-13; 9:2-9).


It is precisely because the Mishkan was meant for the wilderness and for a limited and defined period of time, until Israel's entry into the Land and the building of the Mikdash, that the Shekhina rested unconditionally in it. This stands in contrast to the resting of the Shekhina in the Mikdash, which was meant to be permanent, and therefore was conditioned on observance of the Torah and mitzvot.


In this shiur, we have tried to understand the novelty of the building of a permanent house for the Shekhina. In the next shiur, we hope, God willing, to examine additional aspects of the building of the Mikdash, and discuss the significance of the differences between it and the Mishkan.


(Translated by David Strauss)







[1] See below, section IV.

[2] The Ramban records here many parallel texts, and repeats what he had said in Shemot 23:34-35.

[3] In previous shiurim, we dealt at length with the significance of these connections.

[4] The Midrash finds an interesting connection between Mount Moriah and Mount Sinai: "From where did Sinai come? Rabbi Yose said: It was torn off from Mount Moriah, as challa is torn off from the dough, from the place where Yitzchak Avinu was bound. The Holy One, blessed be He, said: Since their forefather Yitzchak was bound there, it is fitting that his sons should receive the Torah there. And from where do we know that it will eventually return to its place? For it is stated: 'The mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains' (Yishayahu 2:2) – these are Tavor, Carmel, Sinai, and Zion. He-harim – five mountains, that is to say, as the number of the five books of the Torah" (Midrash Tehillim, ed. Buber, 68:9). According to the Midrash, Mount Moriah is likened to dough, and Mount Sinai to challa. The Mishna in Ta'anit 4:8 also identifies "the day of his wedding" (Shir Ha-shirim 3:11) with the giving of the Torah, and "the day of the gladness of his heart" (Ibid.) with the construction of the Mikdash.

[5] We dealt with this at length last year in our shiurim on the Akeida (Lessons 9-10) and on "The Place that God shall Choose" (Lesson 12). This difference is evident in the two times that the Rambam relates to the mitzva of building the Temple in his Mishneh Torah. In Hilkhot Beit Ha-bechira 1:1, he writes: "It is a positive commandment to make a house unto the Lord, designed for the offering of sacrifices and for making thereto a pilgrimage three times each year. For it is said: 'And let them make Me a sanctuary' (Shemot 25:8). The Mishkan which Moshe our master made is clearly described in Scripture, but it was for temporary use only. As it is said: 'For you are not as yet come to the rest, etc.' (Devarim 12:9)." But in Hilkhot Melakhim 1:1, he writes: "Three commandments – to be carried out on entering the Land – were enjoined upon Israel: to appoint a king, as it is said, 'You shall surely set him king over you' (Devarim 17:15); to destroy the seed of Amalek, as it is said, 'You shall blot out the remembrance of Amalek' (Devarim  25:19); and to build the sanctuary, as it is said, 'Even unto His habitation shall you seek and thither shall you come' (Devarim 12:5)." In Hilkhot Beit Ha-bechira, the mitzva relates to the construction of the building, whereas in Hilkhot Melakhim, the mitzva is to seek the place that God will choose, that is, the selection of the site.

[6] We shall mention here two halakhot that stem from the everlastingness of the choosing of Jerusalem. 1) The Rambam (Hilkhot Beit Ha-bechira 6:16) explains that in contrast to the sanctity of the Land of Israel, the first sanctification of Jerusalem and the Mikdash was not only for that time, but for all time to come, "Because the sanctity of the Mikdash and of Jerusalem derives from the Shekhina, and the Shekhina is never banished." In other words, the sanctuary is not dependent upon the building, but upon the place, and therefore it is eternal. 2) The Mishna in Zevachim (14:4-8) asserts that with the selection of Jerusalem, the bamot were prohibited for all time: "Before the Mishkan was set up, the bamot were permitted and the service was performed by the firstborn. When the Mishkan was set up, the bamot were prohibited, and the service was performed by the priests… After they arrived at Gilgal, the bamot were permitted… When they came to Shilo, the bamot were prohibited. There was no roof to it, but below [were walls] like a house of stone and curtains above, and this was the 'resting place.'… After they came to Nov and to Giv'on, the bamot were [again] permitted… When they came to Jerusalem, the bamot were prohibited, and were never again permitted, and this was 'the inheritance.'"    

Let us briefly consider one additional aspect. In the wilderness, every member of Israel had a much closer relationship with the Mishkan, for the entire camp with the various tribes was arranged around the Mishkan. According to Rabbi Yishmael, as long as Israel was in the wilderness, around the Mishkan, the people were not permitted to eat unconsecrated meat, but only the meat of peace offerings from God's table (Chullin 16b-17a). Unconsecrated meat was, however, permitted upon Israel's entry into the Land, owing to the geographical distance from the Mikdash (see Devarim 12:20-28). The increased distance became even sharper with the building of a permanent Temple.

[7] The building of the Mikdash is described in I Melakhim 6-7 and in II Divrei Ha-yamim 3-4. The building of the Mishkan is described in Shemot 35-38.

[8] It is interesting that according to the Rambam (Hilkhot Beit Ha-bechira 1:5), the Ulam is described as one of the things that are essential in the construction of the Temple.

[9] We will explain below why we have included the keruvim in the section dealing with the structure of the Mikdash, and not in the section devoted to its vessels.

[10] The Vilna Gaon (on I Melakhim 6:15) explains that cedars were used to cover the walls because of their length and strength, whereas the cypresses were used on the floor because of their width. This is the meaning of the verse which states: "The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters are of cypress" (Shir Ha-shirim 1:17).

[11] According to the Vilna Gaon (on I Melakhim 6:20), Shelomo added the covering, so that the dimensions of the altar would be twice those of the altar built by Moshe.

[12] It is interesting that the Rambam in his introduction to the order of Zeraim learns from the verse, "All this is put in writing by the hand of the Lord who instructed me," that Shelomo's building constitutes the basic model for the Mikdash, and that it should be followed: "After Tamid, he arranged Middot, which contains only narratives enumerating the measurements of the Temple, its shape, its construction and this whole subject. The benefit to be derived from this matter is that when the Temple will be rebuilt, one should follow and make that shape and form and arrangement, because these come from Divine inspiration. As it is stated: 'All this is put in writing by the hand of the Lord who instructed me.'"

[13] The Seforno notes in several places that in the wake of sins, Israel became obligated in additional sacrifices. That is to say, the resting of God's Shekhina did not change; what changed were the preparations required of Israel in order to be worthy of the Shekhina. This is a broad topic, connected to the Seforno's whole understanding of the Mishkan. Unfortunately, we cannot expand upon the matter in this framework.