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

  • 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 (II)


Rav Yitzchak Levi





The description of the building of the Mishkan in the book of Shemot heavily emphasizes the spirit of voluntarism on the part of the entire people. This finds expression in the repeated use of terms, such as: offering, heart stirring, willing spirit. For example:


And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him up, and everyone whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the Lord's offering for the work of the Tent of Meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. And they came, both men and women, as many as were willing of heart, and brought bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and bracelets, all jewels of gold: and every man that had offered an offering of gold to the Lord. (Shemot 35:21-22)


            Scripture continues with a detailed description of what each sector of the people contributed, and then concludes:


The children of Israel brought a willing offering to the Lord, every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all manner of work, which the Lord had commanded by the hand of Moshe, to be made. (Ibid. v. 29)


            The willing offering was so great that the people brought more than what was necessary, and Moshe was forced to restrain them from bringing more (Ibid. 36:4-7).


            In the case of Shelomo's construction project, on the other hand, the people did not contribute freely. Rather, there was "a levy out of all of Israel" (I Melakhim 5:27). Shelomo's Temple was a royal project that involved compulsion. It is true that it is stated in the book of Divrei Ha-yamim: "Then the chief of captains of thousands and of hundreds, with the rulers of the king's work, offered willingly… Then the people rejoiced, for having offered willingly, because with a perfect heart they offered willingly to the Lord: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 29:6-9). This, however, is not mentioned in the Melakhim,[1] and in any event, the verses in Divrei Ha-yamim deal primarily with the participation of the leadership (paralleling the nesi'im in the period of the Mishkan), and this too at the initiative of King David (as a repair of his failure to include the people until that time; see shiur #7) and merely as a complement to his own efforts.


            In general, the part of the people in the construction of the Mishkan is far more striking. The people are full partners in the building of the Mishkan, and they are mentioned both in the initial command concerning the Mishkan ("That they may bring Me an offering: of every man whose heart prompts him to give you shall take My offering" Shemot 25:2), and at the end of the description of its construction ("Thus was all the work of the tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting finished. And the children of Israel did according to all that the Lord commanded Moshe, so they did" Ibid. 39:32). The popular nature of the Mishkan suited life in the wilderness, where the people camped around the Mishkan and lived in close proximity to it. What is more, for the people of Israel, who witnessed with their own eyes the Exodus from Egypt, the splitting of the sea, the journey in the wilderness (the cloud, the manna, the quail, and the well), and of course the awesome Divine revelation at Mount Sinai, the construction of the Mishkan constituted a tangible revelation of God – that very same revelation that they had sought to achieve in perverted ways through the Golden Calf – and therefore they harnessed themselves to the mission with all their might, perhaps also as a repair of that sin.


            In the case of the Mikdash, in contrast, it is the royal and State dimension that stands out most prominently. The people of Israel had already settled themselves in their country, and the kingdom had been established. The building of the Temple proceeded as part of the obligations falling upon the State (following the appointment of a king and the wiping out of Amalek). The connections made with the neighboring countries regarding the Temple also testify to the stately/royal nature of its construction (see I Melakhim 5:16-32). The people themselves do not feel closely connected to the idea of the Mikdash: during the period of Shilo idolatry was practiced in the land, and even when the great bama was in Nov and Giv'on and the Ark was in Kiryat-Ye'arim and in the City of David, we do not find the people showing special interest in these places. The king initiates, organizes and executes the construction of the Temple, and the people participate primarily through the levy that he imposes upon them. In the future as well, "the messianic king will arise and restore the kingdom of David to its former state and original sovereignty. He will rebuild the Temple and gather the dispersed of Israel" (Rambam, Hilkhot Melakhim 11:1).






Some of the changes express the transition from the primacy and temporariness that the Mishkan reflected in the wilderness - the aspect of betrothal - to the permanence of the Mikdash in the midst of a people living securely in its own land. This transition expresses itself in the building's enlargement, the addition of balconies to the main building, the addition of the keruvim, the change in materials, the addition of holy vessels, and other changes in the entire structure. As the Rambam states (Hilkhot Beit Ha-bechira 1:11):


The most desirable way of complying with the commandment (to build the Temple) was to make the building as strong and as imposing as the community was able. For it is said: "To raise up the house of our God" (Ezra 9:9). The Temple was to be embellished and beautified as much as possible. If the community could afford to overlay it with gold and to enhance its appointments, it was a meritorious act to do so.


2)         the absence of silver


In the Mishkan, silver was an important part of the contributions and the construction; it was out of silver that the sockets and the pillars were formed. In the Mikdash, on the other hand, there is gold inside and copper on the outside, but no silver. The simple explanation for this might be that "silver was considered nothing in the days of Shelomo" (I Melakhim 10:21), but it might also be that the separation between the gold and the copper was meant to emphasize the separation between holy and profane, which assumed greater importance in the permanent Mikdash.[3]


3)         THE ULAM


The Ulam was an enormous structure (according to Divrei Ha-yamim, it was a hundred and twenty cubits in height – four times as high as the Mikdash itself!) that was not in the Mishkan, and that was added in the Mikdash between the courtyard and the sanctuary – the Heikhal and the Holy of Holies. According to our approach, this addition was part of the same tendency of emphasizing the separation from the holy: this imposing structure was meant to indicate that from there on in is the sanctified zone.[4]




These terms have been explained in many ways. We will limit ourselves here to the interpretations given by Chazal in the Midrash:


This bears on the text: "The Lord was pleased, for His righteousness' sake, to make the Torah great and glorious" (Yishayahu 62:21). The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moshe: It is not because I require lamps that I have reminded you about them, but only in order that Israel may acquire merit. For it says: "The light dwells with Him" (Daniyel 2:22), and it is written: "Even the darkness is not too dark for You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness is even as the light" (Tehillim 139:12). All this serves to teach you that He does not need the lamps of mortals. There is proof that it is so. When a man builds a house he makes in it windows that are narrow on the outside and broad within, that the light may enter the outside and illumine the interior. Shelomo, however, who built the Temple, did not do it in this manner, but made windows that were narrow on the inside and broad on the outside, so that the light might go forth from the Temple and shine outside. As it says: "And for the house he made windows broad within and narrow without" (I Melakhim 6:4). This serves to inform you that He is all light and does not need Israel's light. Why then did He command you to kindle lamps? In order to enable you to acquire merit. This is the reason why it says: "When you light the lamps." Thus we have explained the text: "The Lord was pleased for His righteousness' sake." Moreover, if you will be careful to light the lamps before Me I shall cause a great light to shine upon you in the messianic era. Accordingly it says: "Arise, shine for Your light is come… And nations shall walk at Your light, and kings at the brightness of Your rising" (Yishayahu 40:1-3). (Bamidbar Rabba 15, 2)


            According to this Midrash, these windows express the general idea of the Mikdash and all of Jerusalem serving as a place whose light radiates to the entire world.


5)         ADDED VESSELS


We suggested earlier that this change is rooted in the permanency of the place. The author of the Meshekh Chokhma, however, writes as follows (beginning of Parashat Tetzaveh):


It was already stated about his father David that he left gold "for the candlesticks of gold, and for their lamps of gold, by weight for every candlestick, and for its lamps" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 28:15). For he understood that since in the Mishkan which was ten by thirty cubits there was one candlestick, and the entire area was ten times thirty, or three hundred cubits, and it was ten cubits high – then according to this calculation, in the Heikhal built by Shelomo which was sixty by twenty [cubits], and twenty times sixty is a thousand two hundred, and its height was thirty, so that it is three times that amount, i.e., three thousand and six hundred [cubits] – it was necessary for there to be eleven candlesticks. Besides that of Moshe there were ten candlesticks, five to the right of Moshe's and five to the left. If so, according to the calculations, there should have been one more – but it was impossible for there to be more on one side than on the other. And especially according to Rashi's understanding that the Devir was twenty [cubits] high, so that it was only a hundred cubits more. For this reason he also made ten tables, because the table must be opposite the candlestick, and like this so the other. And this was only in Shelomo's Temple, where there was a revelation of the Shekhina. But in the Second Temple, which was only a statute, one sufficed.


            In other words, the number of vessels increased in proportion to the larger size of the structure.


            Midrash Tadsheh offers a different understanding:


"He also made ten lavers" (II Divrei Ha-yamim 4:6) – in order to increase the rain, for in the lavers there was water. Ten lavers corresponding to the Ten Commandments. And why was only one laver made in the wilderness? Because Israel did not need rain in the wilderness, because the manna came down for them from heaven and the well was with them. But Shelomo made ten lavers in order to increase the rain, because he was in a civilized country and they needed much rain, as it is stated: "It is a land of hills and valleys, [and drinks water of the rain of heaven]" (Devarim 11:11)….

"And he made ten tables" (II Divrei Ha-yamim 4:8) – in order to increase grain. And why did Moshe make only one [table]. Because they did not need a lot of grain in the wilderness. But when Shelomo came, he made ten in order to increase grain… And therefore he put five to the right which is south corresponding to the right of the world from where dew of blessing goes out into the world. Shelomo said: By virtue of these tables set on the right, may rains of blessing and dew of blessing go out into the world from the south. And therefore he put five to the left, corresponding to the north which is to the left of the world, from where evil goes out into the world. Said Shelomo: By virtue of these tables set on the left, may evil be barred from Israel….

"And he made ten candlesticks of gold" corresponding to the Ten Commandments. And every candlestick has seven lamps, totaling seventy, corresponding to the seventy nations. For as long as the candles burn the nations are subdued, but from the day that the candles were extinguished, they became strong. (Otzar Midrashim [Eisenstein], p. 474)


            According to the Midrash, the increase in the number of holy vessels fits in with the general tendency of expanding the Shekhina's presence in the world in a permanent Temple, the objective of which is bringing about an increase of rain and grain. In Eretz Yisrael, the people are in greater need of the blessing of rain, and the Temple service must be made to match the needs of the people in their own land.


6)         THE KERUVIM


To the keruvim on the kaporet that was on the Ark, Shelomo added two additional keruvim:


And within the sanctuary he made two keruvim of olive wood, each ten cubits high. And five cubits was the one wing of the keruv, and five cubits the other wing of the keruv: from the uttermost part of the one wing to the uttermost part of the other were ten cubits. And the other keruv was ten cubits: both the keruvim were of one measure and one form. The height of the one keruv was ten cubits, and so was that of the other keruv. And he set the keruvim within the inner house: and the wings of the keruvim were spread out, so that the wing of the one touched the one wall, and the wing of the other keruv touched the other wall, and the wings which they stretched towards the midst of the house touched one another. And he overlaid the keruvim with gold. (I Melakhim 6:23-28)


And in the most holy place he made two keruvim of figured work, and overlaid them with gold. And the wings of the keruvim were twenty cubits long: the wing of the one was five cubits, reaching to the wall of the house: and the other wing was likewise five cubits, reaching to the wing of the other keruv. And the wing of the other keruv was five cubits, reaching to the wall of the house: and the other wing was five cubits also, joining to the wing of the other keruv. The wings of these keruvim spread themselves out to twenty cubits: and they stood on their feet, and their faces were inward. (II Divrei Ha-yamim 3:10-13)


            It seems that the primary difference between these keruvim and the keruvim of the kaporet is that the keruvim fashioned by Moshe were part of a movable vessel, whereas the keruvim added by Shelomo were much bigger: their height (ten cubits) was half the height of the Devir (the Holy of Holies), and their overall breadth (twenty cubits) was equal to its breadth (and therefore they touched each other and the walls of the Devir. This means that the keruvim were added to the structure of the Devir, and that they were not part of a vessel, but rather part of the building. This fits in with the rest of the changes made by Shelomo in the structure of the Mikdash.


            At this point, we would like to dwell on the description, "And their faces were inward," which is different than the direction of the keruvim on the kaporet, "And their faces shall look one to another" (Shemot 25:20; 37:9). The Gemara discusses this difference:


How did they stand? — Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Elazar [disagree]. One says: They faced each other; and the other says: Their faces were inward. - But according to he who says that they faced each other, [it may be asked]: Is it not written: "And their faces were inward"?  — [This is] no difficulty: The former  [was] at a time when Israel obeyed the will of God; the latter  [was] at a time when Israel did not obey the will of God. [Rashbam: They turn their faces toward each other like a man and woman who love each other, as a sign that God loves Israel… and when they fail to do the will of God, they turn their faces inwards by way of a miracle.] - And according to him who says that their faces were inward [it may be asked]: Is it not written: "With their faces one to another"? They were slightly turned sideways.  For [so] it was taught: Onkelos the proselyte said: "The Cherubim had the form of babes and their faces were turned sideways as a student who takes leave of his master." (Bava Batra 99a)


            The Gemara's answer appears to be difficult. Surely, according to the plain meaning of the text, we are dealing with two different sets of keruvim! Rav Chayyim Volozhiner and the Netziv dealt with this issue. Rav Chayyim Volozhiner writes as follows:


The generation of the wilderness who merited to eat from Heaven's table, daily bread from heaven, and whose clothing did not grow old upon them, and who did not need any worldly support whatsoever – all agree that they would not be called "obeying the will of God," unless they looked heavenward with absolute uprightness, and subjugated their hearts exclusively to Torah and service, and to the fear of God, blessed be His name, day and night not departing from their mouths, literally, without turning aside whatsoever, for even a short moment to occupy themselves with their support. And as the Sages said: "The Torah was only given to those who eat the manna" (Mekhilta, Beshalach 17, and elsewhere). Therefore, the keruvim were made to stand then in accordance with the way that they were obeying the will of God, the one actually facing the other, to show that "the upright shall behold His face," blessed be He, face to face with His holy people.

In the days of Shelomo, however, when the masses of Israel were forced to turn a little to earning a living, at least to the extent of maintaining themselves, this being the fundamental truth of His will, blessed be He, according to Rabbi Yishmael, who maintains that for the masses it is better to act in this manner. As they said in Avot: "Torah study together with an occupation is an excellent thing… any study of Torah without some kind of work…" (Avot 2:2). And all the words of Avot are words of piety. Only that even when they engage in an occupation, their hearts should be turned to wisdom in contemplation of the words of the Torah. Therefore the keruvim were made to stand from the outset, in accordance with the way they were obeying the will of God, their faces turned a little to the side, but nevertheless… with an affectionate face, to show His love for us, this being His will, blessed be He, as stated above. (He agrees with Rabbi Yishmael, and the one who says that even the keruvim of Shelomo were set from the outset, in accordance with the way they were obeying the will of God, the one actually facing the other, agrees with Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai.)

The question remains why was it necessary to stand the two keruvim turned to the side. Surely the one keruv which alludes to Him, blessed be He, should have been made to face forward. Rather, it is as we wrote, that His connection, as it were, to all the worlds and all the powers … is in accordance with the movement and stirring reaching them from our actions below, and in that measure His smiling and gracious face devolves also down to us. Therefore, even the keruv that alludes to Him, blessed be His name, had to be set turned to the side to the same degree as was the keruv that alludes to us. (Nefesh ha-Chayyim, part 1, chap. 9)


            According to Rav Chayyim Volozhiner, the position of the keruvim in the Mishkan – the one facing the other – reflected the situation of the people of Israel in the wilderness, when they subjugated their hearts exclusively to Torah and Divine service. In contrast, in the days of Shelomo, in Eretz Yisrael, they had to work for a living, and therefore the faces of the keruvim were turned a little to the side, a position that alludes to the mutuality in the relationship between God and the Jewish people: to the extent that we do not turn to Him, He does not turn to us.[5]


            The Netziv writes in similar manner (Ha'amek Davar on Shemot 25:2, in Harchev Davar):


For Israel in the wilderness was likened to a bride during her wedding period, and after they entered into Eretz Yisrael, they were likened to a married woman. A bride has nothing whatsoever to do but to adorn herself so that her groom will gaze upon her and enjoy her appearance… Therefore the keruvim were positioned the one facing the other. In Eretz Yisrael, however, they were like a married woman whose maintenance is provided in exchange for her handiwork, and so [the keruvim] faced inwards… So too in future generations when [the people of] Israel obey the will of God and occupy themselves in Torah, about them it is written: "And their faces shall look one to another." And when they maintain themselves through work it is written: "And their faces were inward."


            The addition of the keruvim teaches then about the unique essence of the Mikdash, which is different from the Mishkan, as explained by the Vilna Gaon in his commentary to Shir Ha-shirim (1:17):


For a wife is intended for two things: the one, marital relations, and the other, taking care of the house. That which is stated in the Gemara, "I never called my wife 'my wife,' but rather 'my house'" (Shabbat 118b, Gittin 52a) – this is because she is for two things. I never called her "my wife," because that is vulgar, but rather "my house," which signifies the second benefit that she takes care of the needs of her house. This is the difference between the Mishkan and the Mikdash, for in the Mishkan, there was a manifestation of the marital relationship, they cleaving at all times to the Holy One, blessed be He, and therefore it was called "our couch" (Shir Ha-shirim 1:16), the place of coupling. But the two Temples were at the level of a woman who takes care of her house, there being no manifestation of cleaving… And this is the meaning of "You shall no longer call me 'Ba'ali'" (Hoshea 2:19), in the sense of ba'al ha-bayit, owner of the house, but rather Ishi (Ibid.). The marital relationship will be evident to all, when they will cleave at all times to the Holy One, blessed be He. As it is written: "When I should find you outside, I would kiss you; and none would scorn me" (Shir Ha-shirim 8:1), on account of the cleaving.




            We dealt in this shiur with the significance of the establishment of a permanent Temple on Mount Moriah. We saw that the transition from a temporary Mishkan to a permanent Mikdash involved many changes in the structure, dimensions, materials and vessels, all of which express the transition from the primal and elevated connection between the people of Israel and God to the fixed and permanent connection of the people in its land.


            In the next shiur, we will, God willing, discuss Shelomo's efforts on behalf of the building of the Temple: the treaty with the King of Tzor, Shelomo's part in the construction as opposed to the part of David, and the significance of the fact that the Temple was built by two kings.


(Translated by David Strauss) 






[1] It is possible that the noting of the matter in Divrei Ha-yamim is a literary expression of the general tendency on the part of Ezra, author of the book, to describe the construction of the Second Temple as similar to the constuction of the Mishkan with respect to the intensive involvement of the people (but this is not the forum to discuss this possibility at length).

[2] Rav Yona Merzbach related to some of these changes in his book, Alei Yona, Asufat Ma'amarim u-Khetavim, Jerusalem-Bnei Brak, 1989, in the chapter, "Bet ha-Mikdash ve-ha-Mishkan," p. 300ff.

[3] We have brought here the gist of the words of Rav Yigal Ariel, Mikdash Melekh – Iyyunim be-Sefer Melakhim, Chispin, 1994, pp. 70-71.

[4] According to Melakhim – if we assume that it disagrees with Divrei Ha-yamim and thinks that the Ulam was of the same height as the sanctuary – it may be suggested that the Ulam constitutes a transitional area between the courtyard and the sanctuary. This too is part of that same tendency: a transitional structure is necessary in order to prepare the person about to enter for his entry into the sanctuary.

[5] The words of Scripture, "As in water face answers face, so the heart of man to man" (Mishlei 27:19), are true, as it were, even about God. The Mikdash faithfully reflects the true relationship between the Jewish people and God. To the extent that the people of Israel seek God's closeness through their deeds and traits, so God gives expression to His closeness to them.