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Wednesday, 26 Tishrei 5770 / October 14, 2009

Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Shemita - Chapter 12, Shemita - Chapter 13, Beit Habechirah - Chapter 1

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Shemita - Chapter 12

Halacha 1

A person who sells a house in a city surrounded by a wall1 may redeem it throughout a twelve month period from the day2 he sold it whenever he desires, even on the day he sold it. When he redeems it, he returns all the money he received and does not deduct anything from the purchaser.3

Halacha 2

Relatives may not redeem it,4 only the seller himself if he obtains the means. He may sell his property and redeem it,5 but he may not borrow to redeem it, nor may he redeem it partially.6

Halacha 3

If the purchaser dies, [the original owner] may redeem it from his son. Similarly, if the seller dies, his son may redeem it for the duration of the twelve months.7

Halacha 4

If [the seller] sold it to one person and he sold it to another, the reckoning is made from [the date of] the first [sale]. When the first year is concluded, the house is established8 as the property of the [second] purchaser. For the [second] seller9 sold to the second [purchaser] all the rights that will accrue to him [with regard to this property].10 If twelve months pass and it is not redeemed, it is established as the property of the [second] purchaser.

Similarly, if [a person] gave a house as a present and did not redeem it within these twelve months, it is established11 as the property of the recipient of the present.12

Halacha 5

During a leap year, the permanent disposition of the property is not brought about until the end of the year,13 as [Leviticus 25:30] states: "Until a complete year is completed for it." [This wording indicates that] the extra month [of the leap year] is included.

Halacha 6

[The following rules apply when a person] sold two houses, one in the middle of Adar 1 and the other on Rosh Chodesh Adar II. When the month of Adar arrives in the following year,14 the year for the house sold on Rosh Chodesh II is completed.15 The year for the house sold in the middle of Adar I is not completed until the middle of Adar in the following year, for the purchaser took possession in the middle of the extra month [of the leap year].

Halacha 7

If the final day of the twelfth month arrives and [the seller] cannot find the purchaser to redeem his [his home] from him,16 he may deposit his money in the court, break down the door, and enter his home.17 Whenever the purchaser comes, he may take his money.

Halacha 8

When a person consecrates a house in a walled city and another person redeems it from the Temple treasury, when a year passes from the time that it was redeemed from the Temple treasury without it being redeemed by its [original] owner, it becomes established as the property of the one who redeemed it [from the Temple treasury].18 For the Temple treasury does not become the permanent owner, the purchaser does, as [implied by Leviticus 25:30]: "the one who purchases it for his generations."19

Halacha 9

When a person sells a house in a walled city and the Jubilee arrives within the first year after the sale, the house does not revert to its owner in the Jubilee.20 Instead, it remains in the possession of the purchaser until the seller decides to redeem it throughout the year after its sale or it becomes established as the property [of the purchaser] after that year is completed.

Halacha 10

When a person sells a home in a settlement or in a city that is not surrounded by a wall in the appropriate manner,21 he may redeem it according to the advantages that apply with regard to both the redemption of an [ancestral] field and the redemption of a home in a walled city.

What is implied? If he desires to redeem [the home] immediately, he may,22 as is the law with regard to a home [in a walled city]. If the twelve months pass and he does not redeem it, he may redeem it until the Jubilee, as is the law regarding a field.23 When he redeems it, he makes a reckoning with the purchaser and subtracts the value of the benefit he received.24 If the Jubilee arrives without having redeemed it, the house returns [to the owner] without payment, as is the law with regard to fields.

Halacha 11

Any [residential property] within a city's wall, e.g., gardens, bathhouses, and dovecotes, is considered as a house,25 for [ibid.] states: "that are in the city." Fields that are located in the city may be redeemed according to the rules applying to fields outside the city, as [implied the phrase (ibid.)]: "And the house that will be within the city will be established." [This includes] houses and anything resembling houses, not fields.

Halacha 12

When a house is not four cubits by four cubits, it does not become the permanent property of the purchaser like the houses in a walled city.26 A house does not become the permanent property of a purchaser in Jerusalem.27 A house that is built in the wall is not considered as a home in a walled city.28

Halacha 13

When the roofs of a city serve as its walls29 or the sea serves as it wall,30it is not considered as a city surrounded by a wall.31

Halacha 14

A city is not referred to as a walled city unless it has three or more courtyards and in each of the courtyards, it has two or more houses.32 [Moreover,] it must have been surrounded by a wall first and then the courtyards were built in its midst. If, however, a place was settled and afterwards, surrounded [by a wall] or it did not have [at least] three courtyards with [at least] two houses [each], it is not considered as a walled city. Instead, its houses are like the houses of a settlement.33

Halacha 15

We rely only on a wall that surrounded [a city] at the time of the conquest of the land.

What is implied? When a city was not surrounded by a wall at the time when Joshua conquered the land even though it is surrounded now, [the houses in it] are considered as the houses of a settlement. [Conversely,] if a city was surrounded by a wall at the time of Joshua,34 even though it is not surrounded at present, it is considered as walled.35

When the Jews were exiled after the first destruction [of the Temple], the sanctity of the walled cities from Joshua's time were nullified.36 When Ezra ascended at the time of the second entry into the land, all of the walled cities of that time became consecrated. For the entry [into the land] at the time of Ezra, i.e., the second entry, was comparable to the entry at the time of Joshua. Just as [after] their entry at the time of Joshua, they counted Sabbatical years and Jubilees, sanctified the homes in walled cities and were obligated in the tithes, so too, [after] their entry in the time of Ezra, they counted Sabbatical years and Jubilees, sanctified the homes in walled cities and were obligated in the tithes.37

Halacha 16

Similarly, in the Ultimate Future, upon the third entry to the land,38 we will begin to count the Sabbatical and Jubilee years and sanctify the homes in walled cities, and every place that will be conquered will be obligated in [the separation of] tithes, as [Deuteronomy 30:5]: "And God your Lord will bring you to the land that your ancestors possessed as a heritage and you shall possess." [The verse] equates [the Jews' ultimate] possession with that of their ancestors. Just as when your ancestors took possession of the land as a heritage, they practiced the renewal of all these observances, when you take possession of the land, you should practice the renewal of all these observances.39


As stated in Halachah 15, it is not significant whether the city is surrounded by a wall at the present time. Instead, we are speaking about cities that were walled when Joshua conquered Eretz Yisrael.


I.e., the year mentioned in the Leviticus 25:29 is not a calendar year, beginning on Rosh HaShanah, but a twelve month period beginning from the day of sale.


In contrast to the laws of a field that is an ancestral heritage, as mentioned in Chapter 11, Halachah 4. The return of the purchaser's money in full resembles a loan at interest - for the benefit he had in using the property is comparable to interest paid for the principal - nevertheless, because a sale is involved, there is no prohibition (Arichin 9:3).


In contrast to the law regarding an ancestral heritage (Chapter 11, Halachah 18).


In contrast to the law regarding an ancestral heritage (ibid.:17).


In this, the laws parallel those governing an ancestral field (ibid.:17-18).


Arachin 32b derives these concepts from the exegesis of relevant verses.


Permanently, for it does not return to the owner in the Jubilee. See the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Arichin 9:4).


Who was also the first purchaser.


The Rambam is referring to a difference of opinion in Arichin, loc. cit., whether after twelve months, the house remains in the possession of the second purchaser or reverts to the first. Although one might argue that the Torah specifies that if the house is not redeemed it becomes the property of the first seller, that rationale is not accepted for the reason the Rambam states.


Permanently, for it does not return to the owner in the Jubilee. See the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Arichin 9:4).


For as indicated by Chapter 11, Halachah 19, a present is equivalent to a sale.


I.e., until the end of a 13 month period.


I.e., an ordinary year with only one Adar.


For it is a full twelve months after that sale and that sale was made after the extra month of the leap year had been completed.


And if that day passes, he will not be able to redeem it.


This is an ordinance established by Hillel the Elder to protect the rights of the seller (Arachin 9:4). The rationale is that since the purchaser has no choice whether to accept the money or not, it is sufficient for the money to be deposited in the court for him (Arachin 32a).


We are not concerned with the date on which it was consecrated. Instead, it is the date from which it was redeemed from the Temple treasury which concerns us, for that is when it was sold and it is its sale that brings about a change in ownership.


I.e., for the sake of his descendants and the Temple treasury does not have descendants (Arachin 32b).


The statement (Leviticus 25:30): "It shall not return in the Jubilee" applies both before the house becomes the permanent property of the purchaser and afterwards.


Again, what is significant is not the present state of the city, but its state at the time of Joshua's conquest, as stated in Halachah 15.


Since the sale involves a house, the seller has this advantage over the seller of a field.


For Leviticus 25:31 states that they will be considered as a field.


Arachin 33a [quoted by the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Arachin 9:7)] explains that since the above verse specifies that these homes can be redeemed and that they are returned in the Jubilee, we derive the concept that their redemption involves a reduction of the cost of the field.


I.e., it can be redeemed only within a year and does not return in the Jubilee.


For a house is not considered a house unless it is at least four cubits by four cubits (Sukkah 3b). This concept applies in several different contacts, for example, the requirement to place a mezuzah (Hilchot Mezuzah 6:1) or to construct a guardrail (Hilchot Rotzeach 11:1).


As the Rambam states in Hilchot Beit HaBechirah 7:14, Jerusalem was never divided among the tribes. For that reason, a person can never permanently acquire property there. Instead, houses there are bound by the laws that apply to houses in settlements (see Rashi. Arachin 32b; Bava Kama 82b).


Arachin 9:5 records a difference of opinion on this issue between Rabbi Yehudah and Rabbi Shimon. Both of them base their opinion on the exegesis of the Biblical story of Rachab's home in Joshua, ch. 2.


Megillah 5b explains that this refers to a situation where the city is not surrounded by a wall, but instead, its houses are built next to each other, so that it appears that it is surrounded by a wall (Rav Yosef Corcus).


For example, as in the instance of Tiberias which was surrounded by a wall on one side and the sea on the other.


Instead, they are governed by the laws applying to homes in a settlement.


Otherwise, it is not large enough to be called a city.


Interestingly, the Talmud also mentions these laws with regard to reading a Megilah in a walled city (Megilah 3b), but the Rambam does not quote them there, only here.


Arachin 9:6 gives as examples: Ancient Yodefat, Gamla, Chadid, Gedod, and Ono.


The Ra'avad differs with the Rambam and maintains that once a city's walls are destroyed, the city loses its unique status. The Radbaz and the Kessef Mishneh explain that the Rambam is referring to the situation in the First Temple era. If a city had a wall at the time of Joshua's conquest, but that wall was torn down, the status of the city did not change throughout that era. See also the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Arichin 9:6).


And the sanctity of the land was nullified, as the Rambam states in Hilchot Beit HaBechirah 6:15, Hilchot Terumah 1:26..


As stated in those sources, in contrast to the sanctification in the time of Joshua, the sanctification of the land by Ezra was only Rabbinic in origin. In his Commentary to the Mishnah (loc. cit.), the Rambam states that the cities that were walled at the time of Ezra were given the status of walled cities. From the Radbaz and the Kessef Mishneh, it appears that the cities that were given the status of walled cities by the people who returned with Ezra were cities that were considered walled cities in the era of the First Temple.


I.e., when the Jews return to Eretz Yisrael led by Mashiach.


The Ra'avad and others question the Rambam's statements, because he accepts the principal (see Hilchot Beit HaBechirah, loc. cit.) that through Ezra's consecration, the land was consecrated until and including the ultimate future. Kina'at Eliyahu suggests a resolution based on the fact that the sanctification of the land by Ezra was only Rabbinic in origin, while the sanctification by Mashiach will have the power of Scriptural Law. Hence, a new sanctification will be necessary.

Shemita - Chapter 13

Halacha 1

Although the tribe of Levi does not have an ancestral portion within Eretz [Yisrael],1 the Jewish people were commanded to give them cities2 to dwell in3 and [additional] residential property.4 The cities include the six cities of refuge and 42 additional cities.5 When cities of refuge will be added in the era of Mashiach,6 all will be given to the Levites.

Halacha 2

[The obligation to give] the non-developed land around the cities is explicitly mentioned in the Torah as being [a radius of] three thousand cubits in every direction from the wall of the city outward, for [Numbers 35:4-5] states: "From the wall of the city onward, 1000 cubits on all sides" and continues: "You shall measure from the outside of the city 2000 cubits on the eastern side." The first thousand are left as [additional] residential property and the 2000 that are measured outside this residential property are for fields and vineyards.

Halacha 3

Every city is given a cemetery outside these boundaries, for they do not bury their dead within their cities, as [implied by ibid.:3]: "The residential area will be for their animals, their property, and all their vital needs." [This land] was given "for their vital needs" and not for burial.7

Halacha 4

In the cities of the Levites, the city itself should not be transformed into an outlying residential area and the outlying residential area should not made part of the city. This outlying residential area should not be converted to fields, nor should the fields be converted into such a residential area, as [Leviticus 25:34] states: "The fields of the residential area of their cities should not be sold."

Halacha 5

According to the Oral Tradition,8 it was taught that the phrase "should not be sold" should be interpreted as "should not be changed."9 Instead, all of the three, field, a residential area, and a city should remain in its original circumstances forever.

Similarly, in the other cities of [Eretz] Yisrael, the outlying residential area should not be converted to fields, nor should the fields be converted into such a residential area. The city itself should not be transformed into an outlying residential area and the outlying residential area should not be made part of the city.

Halacha 6

A person should not destroy his home to make it into a garden, nor should he plant a garden in his ruin, lest one destroy Eretz Yisrael.10

Halacha 7

The priests and the Levites who sold fields from the fields of their cities or homes from the homes in their walled cities do not redeem their property according to the procedures [explained above].11 Instead, they may sell their fields even directly before the Jubilee and redeem them immediately.12 If they consecrated a field, they may redeem it from the possession of the Temple treasury after the Jubilee.13 They may redeem houses in a walled city whenever they desire, even after several years,14 as [Leviticus 25:32] states: "The Levites will have eternal rights of redemption."

Halacha 8

When an Israelite inherits property from his maternal grandfather who was a Levi,15 although he is not a Levite, he may redeem [the property] as if he was a Levite. Since these cities or fields belong to the Levities, they may be redeemed forever. For this law is dependent on [the characteristics of] these places, not of the owners.16

Halacha 9

When a Levite inherits the property of his maternal grandfather who is an Israelite,17 he does not have the redemption rights of a Levite, only those of an Israelite, for the verse "The Levites will have eternal rights of redemption" applies only in the cities of the Levites.

Halacha 10

The entire tribe of Levi are commanded against receiving an inheritance in the land of Canaan,18 and they were commanded against receiving a share in the spoil when the cities are conquered,19 as [Deuteronomy 10:9] states: "The priest and the Levites - the entire tribe of Levi - should not have a portion and an inheritance among Israel." "A portion" [refers to a portion] of the spoil; "an inheritance" refers to [a portion of] the land. And [Numbers 18:20]: "You20 shall not receive a heritage in their land, nor will you have a portion among them," i.e., in the spoil. If a Levite or a priest takes a portion of the spoil, he is punished by lashes.21 If he takes an inheritance in Eretz [Yisrael], it should be taken from his possession.22

Halacha 11

It appears to me23 that the above applies only with regard to the land for which a covenant was established with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, their descendants inherited it and it was divided among them. If, however, other lands will be conquered by a king of Israel, the priests and the Levites have the same rights as the entire Jewish people.24

Halacha 12

Why did the Levites not receive a portion in the inheritance of Eretz Yisrael and in the spoils of war like their brethren? Because they were set aside to serve God and minister unto Him and to instruct people at large in His just paths and righteous judgments, as [Deuteronomy 33:10] states:25 "They will teach Your judgments to Jacob and Your Torah to Israel." Therefore they were set apart from the ways of the world. They do not wage war like the remainder of the Jewish people, nor do they receive an inheritance, nor do they acquire for themselves through their physical power. Instead, they are God's legion, as [ibid.:11]: states: "God has blessed His legion" and He provides for them, as [Numbers 18:20] states: "I am your portion and your inheritance."26

Halacha 13

Not only the tribe of Levi, but any one of the inhabitants of the world27whose spirit generously motivates him and he understands with his wisdom to set himself aside and stand before God to serve Him and minister to Him and to know God, proceeding justly as God made him, removing from his neck the yoke of the many reckonings which people seek, he is sanctified as holy of holies.28 God will be His portion and heritage forever and will provide what is sufficient for him in this world like He provides for the priests and the Levites.29 And thus David declared [Psalms 16:5]: "God is the lot of my portion; You are my cup, You support my lot."

Blessed be the Merciful One who provides assistance.


I.e, all the other tribes were given portions of the land as an ancestral heritage. Levi was not given such a portion. Indeed, as stated in Halachah 10, a Scriptural prohibition is involved in them receiving such a portion.


Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 183) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 408) include the commandment to provide cities for the Levites among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.


One might infer from this wording (borrowed from Numbers 35:2) that the cities do not belong to the Levites per se. They are merely given the right "to dwell" in them. Nevertheless, from the Rambam's rulings: a) (Hilchot Ma'aser Sheni 11:17) that the Levites must recite the declaration after separating the second tithes for they possess these cities; and

b) his ruling (Hilchot Rotzeach 8:10) that an accidental killer who flees to the cities of the Levites must pay rent, we can conclude that they are the owners of these cities in a way similar to the other tribes' ownership of their ancestral heritages (Likkutei Sichot, Vol. XXV, p. 93).


Our translation follows the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Arachin 9:8) which defines the term migrash as "the settlements close to the city which we refer to as outlying districts where shepherds and workers dwell."


Numbers 35:2, 6 states: "Command the children of Israel that they shall give to the Levites... cities for dwelling and residential property.... The cities that you shall give the Levites are the six cities of refuge... and in addition, you shall give 42 cities." The names of these 42 cities are mentioned in Joshua, ch. 21.

Based on Hilchot Rotzeach, loc. cit., Likkutei Sichot, differentiates between the Levites ownership of the 42 cities and their ownership of the cities of refuge. For in Hilchot Rotzeach, the Rambam states that an accidental killer who flees to the cities of refuge need not pay rent. With regard to these cities, the Levites are mere caretakers.


In Deuteronomy, ch. 19, the Torah commands the Jewish people to set aside three cities of refuge in the portion of Eretz Yisrael west of the Jordan and three in TransJordan. It then continues (Deuteronomy 19:8-9) states: 'When God will expand your borders... you must add three more cities.' In Hilchot Melachim 11:2, the Rambam refers to this command as a proof of Mashiach's ultimate coming, for "This command was never fulfilled. [Surely,] God did not give this command in vain." Ultimately, there will come an era, the era of Mashiach, when this command will be fulfilled and these cities will be separated. See also Hilchot Rotzeach 8:2-4, 9-10.


And additional land must be given for that purpose. Nevertheless, a person who accidentally killed a colleague and who fled to one of these cities should be buried within these cities, as stated in Hilchot Rotzeach 7:3 (Radbaz).


See Arachin 33b.


Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandment 228) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 342) include this commandment with the above interpretation among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.


I.e., the intent should be to make the land a residential center.


See Chapter 11 which describes the redemption of a field that is an ancestral heritage. See Chapter 12 which describes the redemption of a home in a walled city.


In contrast to the fields of an ancestral heritage that must be sold for at least two years, as stated in Chapter 11, Halachah 9.

In the listing of the mitzvot at the beginning of these halachot, the Rambam mentions giving the Levites the potential to redeem the land as part of the prohibition against selling the lands of the Levite. This enables that mitzvah to be understood in two contexts:

a) the halachic understanding expressed in halachot 4-5, that the status of the properties should not change,

b) the simple understanding of the verse, that the Levites' property should never be permanently sold, but rather there should always be the opportunity to redeem it.


When, by contrast, an ordinary person who does not redeem his field after consecrating it, it becomes the property of the Temple treasury in the Jubilee (Hilchot Arachin 4:20-21).


While an ordinary person can redeem such houses only during the first year (Chapter 12, Halachah 7).


I.e., his maternal grandfather had no sons and his property was therefore inherited by his daughter. The daughter was married to an Israelite and so her children are Israelites. Whether she dies in her father's lifetime or afterwards, his property is inherited by her son, an Israelite.


And when the Israelite inherited his grandfather's property, he inherited all the rights his grandfather possessed.


I.e., a Levite married an Israelite women who gave birth to a son. That son is an Levite. If his maternal grandfather (an Israelite) dies without sons, his mother inherits his property and when she dies, the son who is a Levite inherits it from her.


Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandment 169) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 504) include this commandment with the above interpretation among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.


Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandment 170) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 505) include this commandment with the above interpretation among the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. Sefer HaMitzvot, loc. cit., elaborates in explanation why the two charges are counted as separate commandments.


The verse is addressed to Aaron as the leader of the entire tribe of Levi.


The Radbaz states that it would appear that this applies only when one has destroyed the portion that he took. If, however, it can be returned, it should be returned and he is not subjected to lashes. (This is also the view of Sefer HaChinuch, loc. cit.) Nevertheless, the Radbaz concludes that it is possible to say that one may not compensate for this prohibition by making financial restitution and hence, lashes are required in all circumstances.


For land can never be misappropriated from its rightful owners. Hence, his taking it is of no consequence and therefore, he is not punished (Radbaz).


This phrase introduces a ruling that the Rambam arrived at through deduction, without any explicit, prior Rabbinic source.


The Ra'avad objects to the Rambam's statement, stating that if so, the priests and the Levites would not have the rights to terumah and the tithes in these lands, for (see the following halachah and Hilchot Bikkurim 105), these presents were given to the priests instead of an ancestral portion. The Kessef Mishneh strengthens the Ra'avad's argument, noting that were it not for a special Divine commandment, the priests and the Levites would not have been given a portion of the spoil gained in the war against Midian. Nevertheless, the Kessef Mishneh as well as the Radbaz explain that the spoils from the war against Midian can be used as a source to teach that similar concepts apply with regard to other wars.


In Moses' blessing to the tribe of Levi.


The Rambam cites the first portion of this verse in Halachah 10 as proof that the Levites are not entitled to a portion of the spoil nor an ancestral heritage in Eretz Yisrael. In this halachah, he explains the rationale for that exclusion. The Levites are set aside from material involvement so that they can devote themselves to the spiritual. God, however, promises that this exchange will not cause them any loss, for He will provide for their material needs.


This wording could also imply gentiles.


This expression is used by I Chronicles 23:12 to refer to the holiness of Aaron, the High Priest. The Rambam is implying that every individual can reach a similar level of holiness.


I.e., the Rambam is explaining that the motif that applies with regard to the priests and the Levites can be extended and in truth applies with regard to any person who is willing to devote his life to God's service.

Beit Habechirah - Chapter 1

Halacha 1

1 It is a positive commandment2 to construct a House for God,3 prepared for sacrifices to be offered within.4 We [must] celebrate there three times a year,5 as [Exodus 25:8] states: "And you shall make Me a sanctuary.6"

The sanctuary constructed by Moses is already described in the Torah.7 It was only temporary,8 as [Deuteronomy 12:9] states: "For at present, you have not come unto [the resting place and the inheritance]."9

Halacha 2

After [the Jews] entered The Land [of Israel],10 they erected the Sanctuary in Gilgal during the fourteen years in which they conquered and divided [the land].11From there, they came to Shiloh,12 built a house of stone, and spread the curtains of the Sanctuary over it. It did not have a roof. The sanctuary of Shiloh stood for 369 years. When Eli died, it was destroyed.13

[Afterwards,] they came to Nov14 and built a sanctuary.15 When Samuel died, it was destroyed.16 And they came to Givon17 and built a sanctuary. From Givon, they came to the eternal structure [in Jerusalem].18 The days [the sanctuary stood] in Nov and Givon were 57 years.

Halacha 3

Once the Temple was built in Jerusalem, it became forbidden to build a sanctuary for God or to offer sacrifices in any other place.19

There is no Sanctuary for all generations20 except in Jerusalem and [specifically,] on Mt. Moriah,21 as [I Chronicles 22:1] states: "And David declared: 'This is the House of the Lord, God, and this is the altar for the burnt offerings of Israel.'22 and [Psalms 132:14] states: "This is My resting place forever."23

Halacha 4

The [design of the] structure built by [King] Solomon is described explicitly in [the Book of] Kings.24 [In contrast, the design of] the Messianic Temple, though mentioned in [the Book of] Ezekiel, is not explicit or explained. Thus, the people [in the time] of Ezra built the Second Temple according to the structure of Solomon, [including] certain aspects which are explicitly stated in Ezekiel.25

Halacha 5

The followings elements are essential when constructing this House:26

a) the Sanctuary,27

b) the Holy of Holies,28

c) preceding the Sanctuary, there should be a place called the Entrance Hall.29

The three [together] are called the Temple.30

[In addition,] we must make another partition around the Temple, set off from it [slightly], resembling the curtains surrounding the courtyard of the [sanctuary in the] desert.31 Everything encompassed by this partition is similar to the courtyard of the Tent of Meeting and is called the Courtyard.32

The entire area is referred to as the Mikdash.

Halacha 6

The following utensils are required for the Sanctuary:33

a) an altar for the burnt offering and other sacrifices;34

b) a ramp to ascend to the altar. It was positioned before the Entrance Hall to the south.35

c) a wash basin36 with a pedestal where the priests would sanctify their hands and feet for the (Temple) service.37 It was positioned between the Entrance Hall and the altar, to the left when entering the Sanctuary.38

d) the altar for the incense offering,

e) the Menorah, and

f) the table [for the showbread].39

The [latter] three were placed within the Sanctuary, before the Holy of Holies.40

Halacha 7

The Menorah was in the south, to the left as one entered. The Table was to the right.41 The Showbread was placed upon it. Both of them were close to the Holy of Holies on the outside. The incense altar was positioned between these two, towards the outside.

Divisions are to be made within the Temple Courtyard to [indicate] the point to which the Israelites may proceed;42 the point to which the priests, [who were not able to participate in the Temple service,] may proceed.43

[Also,] within it, we must build structures for the various necessities of the Sanctuary. These structures were called chambers.44

Halacha 8

When we build the Temple and the courtyard, we must use large stones. If stones cannot be found, we may build with bricks.45

We may not split the stones used for the building on the Temple Mount.46 Rather, we must split and chisel them outside, and [afterwards,] bring them in,47 as it is said (I Kings 5:31): "And they brought great stones, costly stones, to lay the foundation of the House with hewn stone." Furthermore, it is said (ibid. 6:7): "Neither hammer, nor axe, nor any tool of iron was heard in the House while it was being built."

Halacha 9

We must not build with any wood protruding at all,48 only stone, bricks, or cement.

[Similarly,] we must not make wooden chambers in the courtyard. Rather, [they were made] of stone or of brick. 49

Halacha 10

Costly stones were laid on the floor of the entire courtyard.50

Stones which were uprooted [from their fixture] are invalidated, even though they remained in place, since they were impaired. [Thus,] a priest is forbidden to stand upon them during the [Temple] service until they become fixed in the ground [again.]51

Halacha 11

The most preferable way to fulfill the mitzvah is by strengthening the building and raising it [to the utmost degree] within the potential of the community, as [implied by Ezra 9:9]: "to exalt the House of our Lord."52

They must make it beautiful and attractive according to their potential.53 If possible, it is a mitzvah to plate it with gold and to magnify all of its aspects.54

Halacha 12

We must not build the Temple at night, as [Numbers 9:15] states: "on the day in which the Sanctuary was raised up." [Our Sages55 interpret this phrase as implying:] We may raise it up by day and not by night.

We must be involved with its building from sunrise until the appearance of the stars.56

Everyone is obligated to build and to assist both personally and financially;57[both] men and women,58 as in the [construction of the] Sanctuary in the desert.59 [Nevertheless,] children are not to be interrupted from their [Torah] studies.60

The construction of the Temple does not supersede the [observance of the] festivals.61

Halacha 13

The Altar should only be made as a structure of stone.62 Though the Torah states, [Exodus 20:24]: "You shall make Me an altar of earth," [that verse is interpreted63 to mean that] the altar must be in contact with the earth and not built on an arch or on a cave.64

Though [ibid.:22] states: "If you shall make an Altar of stone...," the Oral Tradition explains that the matter is not left to [our] decision, but is an obligation [incumbent upon us].65

Halacha 14

Any stone which is damaged66 to the extent that a nail will become caught in it [when passing over it], as is the case regarding a slaughtering knife,67is disqualified for [use in the] Altar or the ramp, as [Deuteronomy 27:6] states: "You shall build the Altar of the Lord with whole stones."68

From where would they bring the stones of the Altar? From virgin earth. They would dig until they reach a point which was obviously never used for tilling or for building, and they would take the stones from there.69 Alternatively, [they would take them] from the Mediterranean Sea70 and build with them.

Similarly, the stones the Temple and the Courtyard were whole.71

Halacha 15

Damaged or split stones from the Temple and the Courtyard are invalid.72 They can not be redeemed [and used for mundane purposes].73Rather, they must be entombed.74

Every stone which was touched by iron,75 even though it was not damaged, is disqualified [for use] in building the Altar or the ramp, as it is said (Exodus 20:25): "By lifting your sword against it, you will have profaned it."76

Anyone who builds the altar or the ramp with a stone that has been touched by iron [violates a negative command and] is [given] lashes,77 as it is said (ibid.): "Do not build them with hewn stone."

One who builds with a damaged stone violates a positive command.78

Halacha 16

[If] a stone was damaged or touched by iron once it had been built into the Altar or the ramp, that stone [alone] is invalidated, but the others are still fit for use.

They coated the altar [with cement] twice a year, [before] Pesach and [before] Sukkot.79 When they coated it, they used a cloth, rather than an iron lathe,80 lest it touch a stone and invalidate [it.]

Halacha 17

We must not make steps for the Altar, as [Exodus 22:26] states: "Do not ascend on My Altar with steps."81 Rather, we must build an incline on the southern side of the Altar,82 diminishing [in height] as it declines from the top of the Altar until the earth.83 It was called the ramp.

Anyone who ascends the Altar with steps [violates a negative command and] is [given] lashes.

Similarly, anyone who demolishes84 a single stone from the Altar, any part of the Temple building, or [the floor of the Temple Courtyard] between the Entrance Hall and the Altar85 with a destructive intent is worthy of lashes, as [Deuteronomy 12:3-4] states: "And you shall destroy their altars.... Do not do so to God, your Lord."86

Halacha 18

The Menorah and its utensils,87 the Table and its utensils,88 the Incense Altar, and all the sacred utensils may be made only from metal. If they are made from wood, bone, stone, or glass, they are unacceptable.89

Halacha 19

If the nation is poor, it is permissible to make them of tin.90 If they [later] become wealthy, they should be made of gold.

If the nation possesses the means, they should even make the basins, the spits, and the rakes of the altar of the burnt offering and, [similarly,] the [Temple's] measuring vessels, out of gold.91 They should even coat the gates of the Courtyard with gold, if it is within their potential.92

Halacha 20

All the [Temple's] utensils must initially be made for sacred purposes.93If they were initially made for mundane uses,94 they may not be used for [the Temple's] sake.95

A vessel [intended to be used for the Temple], but which was never used for [the Temple] may be used for mundane purposes. Once it has been used for [the Temple], it may not be used for mundane purposes.96

Stones or boards which were originally hewn for use in a synagogue should not be used in the Temple Mount construction.97


The Rambam introduces each book of the Mishneh Torah by quoting a verse from the Bible. In this case, the verse chosen does more than introduce the text to follow. It also emphasizes that we are commanded to "seek out the welfare of Jerusalem" and study the laws of the Temple's construction.


Sefer HaMitzvot (positive commandment 20) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 95) include this as one of 613 mitzvot. The mitzvah is incumbent on the Jewish community as a whole and must be undertaken by the nation as a collective entity. See Hilchot Melachim 1:1 which speaks of "Israel being commanded to fulfill three mitzvot upon entering [the Promised] Land."


There are two ways to understand this mitzvah:

a) to build the Temple,

b) to ensure that the Temple be built; the mitzvah is not fulfilled until that objective is accomplished.

The question is whether the command is to perform an activity or to see that an objective is completed. In his commentary on the Torah (Exodus 35:10), the Rogachover Gaon favors the latter explanation and explains a number of possible practical differences between these abstract concepts. Among them:

a) Must a blessing be recited before taking part in the construction of the Temple? If the mitzvah is the actual building, a blessing would be required. However, if the mitzvah is to ensure that the Temple be completed, no blessing is necessary.

b) Can a gentile participate in the building of the Temple? If the actual construction is the mitzvah, it would be improper for a gentile to participate. However, if the mitzvah is dependent on the completion of the objective, the construction of the Temple, there is no difference if a gentile's efforts also aided in the fulfillment of this goal.

c) If the Temple descends from heaven - as some maintain the Third Temple will - will it be considered as if the mitzvah has been fulfilled (Likkutei Sichot, Vol. 18, p. 418).

From the Rambam' wording (Halachah 12 and elsewhere), it appears that he views the mitzvah as the activity of building.


This phrase is the subject of much commentary. In Sefer HaMitzvot(loc. cit.) the Rambam describes the mitzvah to build a Sanctuary as : "the command... to make a house for service where sacrifices will be offered."

In contrast, the Ramban (Nachmanides) views the construction of the Temple as a command with a self-contained objective. Thus, he writes in his commentary to the Torah (Exodus 25:2): "[God's] essential desire in the Sanctuary was the [construction of] a resting place for the Shechinah."

Some commentaries explain the disagreement between these giants simply: According to the Rambam, the Temple was built to allow for sacrifices to be offered, while the Ramban views the revelation of the Shechinah as the Temple's purpose.

However, this interpretation can not be accepted because:

a) the Torah itself specifically refers to the Temple as (Deuteronomy 12:5): "The place which God has chosen to cause His Name to dwell there," emphasizing the revelation of Godliness.

b) when describing the mitzvah to build a Sanctuary, the Rambam himself writes that we are commanded "to construct a house for God," stressing that the main element of the Temple was the revelation of Godliness. It is after that statement, that he declares that the House must be "prepared for sacrifices to be offered within."

Therefore, it must be assumed that both sages recognized the two differing elements, and the debate between them involves the question of determining which aspect is more important. The Ramban considered the fundamental goal the revelation of Godliness and viewed man's service as a means toward that end. On the other hand, the Rambam saw man's service as the ultimate objective. However, that service could only be complete when carried out in a place where Godliness is revealed (Likkutei Sichot, Vol. 4, p. 1346, Vol. 11, p. 116, Vol. 24, p. 84).


The pilgrimage festivals; Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. On these festivals, each Jew was obligated to come to the Temple and present himself before God. In particular, the term "celebrate" refers to bringing the festive peace-offerings (see Hilchot Chagigah 1:1).


Even though this verse specifically refers to the construction of the sanctuary in the desert, the construction of the later sanctuaries and the building of the Temple were also implicit in that command (Kessef Mishneh).

In Hilchot Melachim (1:1), the Rambam writes "Israel was commanded to fulfill three mitzvot upon its entry into Eretz [Yisrael]: to appoint a king..., to annihilate the seed of Amalek.., and to build [God's] Chosen House as it is said: "You shall seek out His dwelling and come there." The commentaries offer different explanations why the Rambam quotes a different verse in either place.


In the Book of Exodus, Chapters 25-40.


And was replaced by other structures, as described in the following Halachah.


Commenting on this verse, Zevachim 119a declares: "'the resting place' - this is Shiloh, [for Shiloh was also merely a temporary resting place for the Divine Presence]; 'the inheritance' - this is Jerusalem." (Just as an inheritance reflects an everlasting chain, so too, the Divine Presence will always remain in Jerusalem.)


In the year 2488 after creation.


The conquest of the Land took seven years, and the division took another seven years (Zevachim 118b).


In the year 2502, built a house of stone and spread the curtains of the Sanctuary over it. It did not have a roof. The Talmud (ibid.) explains:

I Samuel 1:24 declares: "And she brought him to the House of God, Shiloh" implying that the Ark was enclosed with a permanent structure. Another verse (Psalms 78:60) states: "He has forsaken the tabernacle of Shiloh" from which it can be inferred that it was a tent-like structure resembling the Sanctuary in the desert. How can the two verses be reconciled?

There was no roof. Though there was a structure of stone, the curtains [of the Sanctuary] were spread over it.


In the year 2871, when the Philistines captured the Holy Ark and slew Eli's two sons.

The Sanctuary of Shiloh had a greater degree of holiness than the structure which preceded it and those that followed immediately thereafter. The Sifri states that the verse (Deuteronomy 12:5): "The place which God has chosen to cause His name to dwell there" refers to "Shiloh and the Temple."

The uniqueness of Shiloh is further emphasized by the fact that while it stood, the Jews were forbidden to offer sacrifices in any other place. While the Ark was in Gilgal, and similarly, in Nov and Givon, the Jews were allowed to bring their individual sacrifices wherever they desired. However, during all the years the Sanctuary was in Shiloh, no sacrifices could be offered in any other location.


When the Philistines returned the ark after the seven months of its captivity, they brought it to Kiryat Yearim (I Samuel, Chapters 6-7). During this time, a Sanctuary was constructed in Nov and afterwards, in Givon, to provide the Jews with a place for centralized worship. However, the ark was not kept there out of fear that it might again be captured by the Philistines (Meiri, Megillah, 9b).


Of stone. Though the Rambam in his commentary on the Mishnah (Zevachim, ibid.) states that the Jews erected the Sanctuary that had stood in the desert in Nov, here he appears to follow the view mentioned by Rashi (Pesachim 38 a,b) which states that a stone structure was erected there. Similarly, Sotah 9a states that the sanctuary's structure was entombed when the Jews entered Eretz Yisrael. The Sanctuary of Nov stood for 44 years (Seder HaDorot).


By King Saul.


On the outskirts of Jerusalem (see II Samuel, ch. 6). The Sanctuary stood there for approximately 13 years.


In the year 2928, as described in the beginning of I Kings.


See Hilchot Ma'aseh HaKorbonot 18:3 which describes this prohibition. Zevachim 112b states: "When they came to Jerusalem [and erected the Temple], it became forbidden [to sacrifice in] the High Places and permission [to sacrifice] there was never granted [again]."

That prohibition was derived from the following verses (Deuteronomy 12:5-6):

Only at the place where the Lord, your God, shall choose to cause His Name to dwell, may you seek Him at his dwelling...There, you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices.

The preceding verses described how the pagans had sacrificed "upon the high mountains, upon the hills, under every lofty tree." In contrast, the service of God had to be centralized in one place alone, "the place which the Lord, your God shall choose to cause His Name to dwell." Nevertheless, until an abode for the Shechinah was constructed, there was no prohibition against sacrificing anywhere in Eretz Yisrael.

As mentioned above, this prohibition was in effect during the time of the Sanctuary of Shiloh. After Shiloh was destroyed, there were no restrictions until the Temple was built. However, once the Shechinah was revealed on Mount Moriah, the Jews were never allowed to offer their sacrifices at any other place.

Although Shiloh and the Temple were both considered "the place God chose...," there is a difference between the two. God's choice of Shiloh was for the benefit of the Jewish people. He wanted to offer them a centralized place of worship. However, the physical place of the Sanctuary did not itself become holy for all time.

In contrast, God chose Jerusalem as an eternal resting place for the Shechinah. The Divine Presence united with the place itself. After Shiloh was destroyed, no vestige of its former holiness remained. However, Mount Moriah remains "the gate to heaven" even after the Temple has been destroyed. Hence, permission was never granted to sacrifice in other places. See Likkutei Sichot, Vol. 24, p. 80-85.


The above prohibition extends beyond the offering of sacrifices and includes the actual construction of a sanctuary. Megillah 10a records the construction of such a sanctuary in Alexandria by Ono, the son of Shimon HaTzaddik.


The root of the name Moriah is the word hora'ah, meaning instruction. The Temple was the seat of the Sanhedrin, Israel's highest court and the source of instruction for the entire Jewish nation. Others associate it with the word yirah, meaning "fear," for from this mountain, the fear of God radiated forth.


As the Rambam explains in Chapter 2, in addition to God's choice of the site for the Temple at large, He also specifically chose the site of the Altar.

To emphasize this concept, the verse quoted by the Rambam contains two clauses. The first clause describes the choice of the Temple's site and the second, the choice of the site of the Altar.


The Rambam views these verses as more than a statement of Jerusalem's uniqueness. They also exclude the possibility of constructing other sanctuaries.


I Kings, chapter 6.


The commentaries on the tractate of Middot contrast Ezekiel's vision and the structure of the Second Temple in mishnayot 2:5, 3:1, 4:2.


i.e. if they are lacking, we have not fulfilled the mitzvah of constructing a Sanctuary.


The holy chamber containing the Golden Altar, the Menorah, and the table for the Showbread.


The inner chamber containing the Holy Ark.


This refers to a structure positioned before the Sanctuary.

The commentaries note that, in general, an equivalent to each of the structures of the Temple existed in the Sanctuary of the desert. Based on this principle, they question which structure in the Sanctuary corresponded to the Entrance Hall.


Though the three represent various levels of holiness, they are on one rung of sanctity when compared to other areas (Zevachim 2a).

The commentaries note that Jeremiah (7:4) states: "Trust not in lying words which say: 'The Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord... ' The threefold repetition alludes to the fact that the three chambers mentioned above share an equal measure of holiness.


As described in Exodus, chapter 27.


The commentaries explain that the root of the Hebrew term azarah is the word ezra meaning "help." In the Temple Courtyard, the Jewish people call to God and He responds, granting them assistance.


As mentioned in the explanation to Halachah 1, the Rambam considers the purpose of the construction of the Temple the erection of "a house offer sacrifices within." In this context, he views the fashioning of the Temple's utensils as an integral part of the mitzvah of building a sanctuary - for without them the sacrifices could not be offered. Thus, when enumerating the mitzvot, he considers the fashioning of the Sanctuary's utensils as part of the mitzvah to construct the Sanctuary and not as separate mitzvot in their own right.

As mentioned above, the Ramban, Nachmanides, disputes the Rambam's view and considers the revelation of Godliness as the primary intent of the Sanctuary's construction. He also disagrees with the Rambam in regard to the fashioning of the utensils and considers them as separate independent commands. See Hasagot Sefer HaMitzvot, Positive command 33.

There is a practicable application of the above concept. The Sanctuary could only be constructed during the daytime, (see Halachah 17). If the fashioning of the Sanctuary's utensils is to be considered as part of the mitzvah of constructing the Temple, that ruling may apply to them as well (Likkutei Sichot, Vol. 21, p. 255).


The Torah also refers to the outer altar as "the altar of the burnt offering" (Exodus 30:28, 35:16) for that was the most frequent sacrifice, offered twice daily.


See Halachah 17.


A large basin, with 12 taps. (Yoma 37a)


Before taking part in any aspect of the Temple service, the priests had to wash their hands and feet. See Hilchot Biat HaMikdash 5:1.


The entrance to the Sanctuary was from the east, facing the Holy of Holies which was in the west.


These sacred objects are discussed in detail in Chapter Two.


See Exodus 26:35.

The commentaries have asked why the Rambam does not consider the ark as one of the essential vessels of the Sanctuary. The commentary to Chapter 4, Halachah 1, addresses that issue.


The Menorah was the source of spiritual inspiration, the Table of material wealth. Because of the position of these objects, our Sages declared (Bava Batra 25b): He who desires to become wise should face south (while praying). He who desires to become wealthy should face north.


See Middot 2:6. There were steps dividing between the area set aside for Israelites and the area set aside for priests. An Israelite was not permitted to proceed beyond these steps, except:

a) to perform semichah, the placing of hands on an animal brought as a sacrifice. See Hilchot Ma'aseh HaKorbanot, ch. 3.

b) to recite confessional prayers, Vidui.

c) to slaughter an animal brought as a sacrifice,

d) to perform Tenufah, the waving of the peace offerings (Kellim 1:8. See also Chapter 7, Halachah 19, Tifferet Yisrael, Middot 2:6.)


See Chapter 7, Halachah 20.


Chapter 5, Halachah 17.


On the verse (Exodus 20:22): "If you shall build an altar of stone...," the Mechilta comments: "If you desire [to build it from] stone, you may. If you desire from bricks, you may."


Regarding the altar, the Torah declares (ibid.): "Do not build it out of hewn stone. By lifting your sword against it, you will have profaned it." The Sages (Middot 3:4) explained that iron shortens man's life, and the altar prolongs it. Therefore, iron should not be used to build the Temple. As above, the Rambam draws a parallel between the altar and the entire sanctuary.

Sotah"b quotes the two abovementioned verses and records a debate among the Sages how to resolve the apparent contradiction between them. The Rambam quotes the opinion of Rabbi Nechemiah who resolves the discrepancy by explaining that the stones were hewn outside the Temple premises and then, brought in.

In contrast, Rabbi Yehudah explained that King Solomon employed a unique wormlike creature, the Shamir, which had the power to eat through stone. The Temple's builders drew lines on the stone and then placed the Shamir upon them. The tiny creature ate through the rock, leaving the stones finely hewn without using iron.

According to most opinions, when the First Temple was destroyed, this unique species was lost, and it was impossible to build the Second Temple in this miraculous manner. Nevertheless, the stones were not hewn on the Temple Mount itself.


Thus, at least, "in the House," on the Temple premises, no iron tool was used.


Tamid 28b relates that this prohibition was enacted as a safeguard for the Scriptural commandment (Deuteronomy 16:21): "Do not plant an Asherah or any other tree near the altar that you shall make for the Lord." Though that prohibition only refers to a tree that grows in the ground and not to wood used for building purposes, the Sages instituted this measure as a "fence around the Torah."

Wood could be used for the substructure of the building. Indeed, I Kings 6:10 relates how Solomon used cedar trees for that purpose. However, they could not be used for the exterior surface of the building.


The Ra'avad objects to this Halachah, noting that there were wooden structures on the Temple Mount. The High Priest's chamber was lined with wood. In addition, wooden balconies were built in the Women Courtyard on Sukkot to allow the women to observe the Simchat Beit Hashoevah celebrations. Thus, he concludes that the prohibition against building with any protruding wood applies only within within the Temple courtyard, from the area set off for the priests and beyond, and not elsewhere on the Temple Mount. Only that region could be described as "near the altar [of God]." Rav Yosef Corcus explains that the wooden balconies were not permanent structures. Hence, they were permitted.


See the verse from I Kings quoted in Halachah 8.

The Torah (Leviticus 26:1), commands, "Do not make a stone pavement in your land to bow down upon it." The commentaries explain that this prohibition was ordained so that the Jews would refrain from making a copy of the Temple services outside of Jerusalem.

Nevertheless, according to strict Torah law, it was not necessary to lay a stone floor for the Temple courtyard. Zevachim 24a relates that in preparation for the construction of the Temple, King David sanctified the very ground of the Temple Courtyard.


The Sages explained that it was not respectful to take part in the Temple services while standing on such a stone. Nevertheless, if a priest disobeyed this prohibition and did stand on such a stone, his service was not invalidated.

The logic of that decision can be explained as follows: There is a principle in Jewish law that a particular substance is not considered as interposing between one object and another if it and the object beneath it are of the same type. Thus, since the stone and the earth below it are considered to be of the same substance, the stone is not considered an interruption. Since, as mentioned above, the ground itself was sanctified by King David, the priest's service is not invalidated.


Shabbat 11a interprets this verse in a very literal sense, explaining that a synagogue must be the tallest building in a city.


Herod slaughtered many Sages. Bava Batra 4a explains that the Sages advised him to expiate a certain measure of his sin by rebuilding the Temple and making it attractive. The Talmud declares: "Whoever has not seen Herod's building has not seen an attractive building in his life."


Thus, Pesachim 57a relates that the Temple was covered with gold plates the thickness of a golden coin.


Sh'vuot 15b.


Generally, employees are not obligated to begin their work until the sun appears. However, in this case, due to the importance of their task, the workers were obligated to begin earlier. See Nechemiah 4:15; Berachot 2b.


Thus there are two obligations: a) the actual building of the Temple, b) assisting in the work and supporting it financially.


In particular, there is a difference in the obligations incumbent on men and women. Women are not obligated to fulfill most mitzvot which have a specific time limitation. The construction of the Temple also possesses a specific time restriction. As mentioned above, it may only by built by day and not by night. Therefore, women are not obligated to carry out the actual construction. However, in regard to the second aspect mentioned above, rendering personal and financial assistance, women are obligated as well as men.


Note Exodus 35:22 and 25, which relate the role played by women in constructing the Sanctuary. Commenting on the first of those verses, Rashi states that the women displayed greater generosity than the men.


Commenting on this law, Shabbat 119b declares: "The world is only maintained [through the merit] of the voice of school children [studying Torah]."


Yevamot 6a states: "The construction of the Sanctuary does not supersede the observance of the Sabbath, as it is written (Leviticus 19:30): 53Observe My Sabbaths and revere My Sanctuaries, 54 i.e., the Sabbath is of primary importance, even in regard to the Sanctuary. The festivals are also called Sabbaths by the Torah, cf. Leviticus 23:24 and 39. Hence, the same ruling applies to them.

Though the construction of the Temple is forbidden on the Sabbaths and festivals, sacrifices may be offered on these days even though prohibited labors are involved in this service.

This apparent discrepancy can be explained as follows: Once the Temple is constructed and complete, the holiness of its service supersedes the Sabbath prohibitions. Nevertheless, while the Temple is being constructed, those prohibitions must be observed in order to establish the sacred nature of the place.


Our text is based on authoritative manuscripts and early printings of the Mishneh Torah. The standard printed text states "hewn stone." That is obviously an error. Note Halachah 8 which describes the manner of cutting the stones used for the Temple. Even such measures were insufficient for the stones used for the Altar, as explained in the following halachot.


By the Mechilta, commenting on that verse.


In his commentary on this Halachah, the Mishneh LiMelech notes that it appears that this directive was violated in the construction of the Temple.

In Hilchot Parah Adumah 2:7 (see also Chapter 5, Halachah 1), the Rambam explains that the entire area beneath the Temple and its courtyard had been hollowed out to protect against the possibility of ritual impurity being contracted because of a grave which was buried there without anyone's knowledge.

To resolve this difficulty, the Mishneh LiMelech explains that the ground had indeed been hollowed out. However, there was a certain measure of earth that was left for support. The Altar was, therefore, considered to be in contact with the earth.


Commenting on this verse, the Mechilta states that on three occasions the Torah expresses a command using terminology which appears conditional: our verse, the verse (Exodus 22:24), "If you will lend money...," and the verse (Leviticus 2:14), "If you shall offer a meal offering of the first fruits."


I.e., cracked, split, or broken in any way. Even if the breach in the stone was not made by iron, the stone is disqualified. See Middot 3:4 and Halachah 16.


See Hilchot Shechitah 1:23.


Even though this verse describes the altar to be built by the Jews when they cross the Jordan, it teaches us fundamental principles regarding the Temple's altar.


These lines are also taken from Middot, loc. cit. The Rambam quotes the mishnah here, rather than in the following halachah, to emphasize that even a breach which was not caused by contact with iron could disqualify a stone for use. To find stones of this nature, it was necessary to dig in the manner described.


Zevachim 54a notes that whole stones could be found on the seashore. See also Tosefot, Sukkah 49a.


As I Kings 6:7 states, "And the House...was built with whole stones as they were brought in." However, as explained in Halachah 8, the laws governing the stones of the Temple and the Courtyard were more lenient. They could be smoothed with iron tools outside the Temple Mount.


The Rambam stated a measure: "to the extent that a nail passing over it will become caught in it" for disqualifying stones to be used in the Altar. However, in the present Halachah, he does not mention a measure for the cracks or splits which may disqualify a stone after it has been used for the Temple. Thus, a question arises: Does the previous measure apply in this case as well, or was no measure mentioned, because even the slightest crack would disqualify the stone?

This question can be resolved as follows: In Halachah 17, the Rambam states that a person "who destroys a single stone from the Altar, any part of the Temple building, or [the floor of the Temple Courtyard]," violates a negative command, "as it is said (Deuteronomy 12:3-4): 'And you shall destroy their altars...Do not do so to the Lord, your God. '

By mentioning the prohibition against the destruction or damage to the Altar's stones in the context of "their altars," the prohibition against idol worship, the Torah creates an association between the two. Even the slightest measure of property consecrated unto a false god is prohibited. So, too, even the smallest crack may disqualify one of the Temple's stones.


Since they were used for the building of the Temple, it is not fitting for them to be used for mundane matters afterwards (Mishneh Limelech).

The Tosefta (Megillah, Chapter 2) discusses whether this principle applies to other sacred structures, such as a synagogue.


Middot 1:6 describes that a special chamber just outside the Temple courtyard was set aside for entombing the stones of the Courtyard which were defiled by the Greeks before the Hasmoneans reconquered the Temple.


As mentioned above, iron is often used for death and destruction. This stands in direct contradiction to the purpose of the Altar. Therefore, the Torah insisted that stones which had been prepared for building the Altar were forbidden to have any contact with that metal.


The source for the Rambam's statements is Middot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4.

However, the terminology used by the Mishnah and quoted by the Rambam is subject to debate. The Rosh interprets the Mishnah strictly and maintains that contact with iron disqualifies a stone even though no blemish was made in the stone.


Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandment 79) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 40) include this as one of 613 mitzvot of the Torah.


As it is written (Deuteronomy 27:6): "You shall build the Altar of the Lord with whole stones." It is interesting to note that though the Rambam uses this expression, he does not consider this command as one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.


To clean it from the blood of the sacrifices.


To apply and smooth the cement. The Ra'avad suggests that a wooden tool was employed for this purpose.


The verse continues, explaining the reason for the command: "so that your nakedness not be revealed upon it."

The commentaries explain that spreading one's legs as when walking up steps does not show fitting deference to God's altar.

This command raises an obvious question: If walking up steps is not considered respectful, why were any steps allowed on the Temple Mount? It was necessary to ascend steps to enter the Temple building itself!

Among the answers given to this question is: The ramp possessed a degree of holiness comparable to that of the Altar itself (as obvious from Halachot 15 and 16). Thus, one's manner of ascent could be considered a sign of respect or disrespect to the Altar. In contrast, the steps leading to the Temple building have a lower level of sanctity (as obvious from Halachah 5). Thus, the way in which one approached is not as significant. (See Likkutei Sichot, Vol. 21, p. 119).


To the left when facing the Temple.

Zevachim 62b expounds this concept as follows: Leviticus 1:11 declares that "He shall slaughter it at the foot of the Altar, on its north side." If the north side was to be the Altar's foot, its head, i.e. the side from which we approach, would be at the south.


The ramp began at a height of 8.83 cubits and was inclined over 32 cubits.


One is only liable if his intent was to destroy. If he had intended to improve upon the building, there is no prohibition. Therefore, when King Herod desired to beautify the Temple, as mentioned in (Halachah 11), he was allowed to tear down the previous structure. See also Bava Batra 3b.


The Rambam also mentions this prohibition in Hilchot Yesodai HaTorah (6:7). There, he does not restrict the scope of the prohibition, and states that it applies throughout the Temple Courtyard including the area outside the region specified here. Most commentaries view that opinion as more precise.


Even though the command is stated in the positive, it is considered one of the 365 negative commands of the Torah. See Sefer HaMitzvot (negative commandment 65) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 437).


I.e., the tongs and scoops used to clean out its wicks and ashes. See Exodus 25:38.


I.e., the bread molds, incense bowls, frames, and dividers (ibid.:29).


Menachot 28b derives this Halachah as follows: One of the thirteen principles of Biblical analysis expounded by Rabbi Yishmael (in the introduction to the Sifra, and included in our morning prayers) is as follows: "When a generalization is followed by a specific example and then, by a second generalization, the law is applicable to other cases similar to the specific example mentioned."

The command to fashion the Menorah was expressed as follows (Exodus 25:31): "You shall make a Menorah out of pure gold. You shall fashion it by hammering it out." The Sages commented, "You shall make a Menorah" is a generalization, "out of pure gold" is a specific example, and "You shall fashion it," a second generalization. Thus, the Menorah may be made from other substances similar to gold, i.e., any metal. The same principle is then expanded to include other utensils.


Menachot 28b relates that when the Greeks controlled the Temple, they defiled all its utensils. When the Hasmoneans reconquered Jerusalem, they were very poor and constructed the Menorah of iron staves coated with tin. Afterwards, they acquired more means and made a Menorah of silver. Ultimately, they were able to make one of gold.


Bereishit Rabbah declares: "Gold was created only for the sake of the Temple."

This metal is really too precious for our world, and was only given to us to be used for these sacred purposes. Therefore, fashioning even the Temple's most insignificant utensils from this metal is not an unnecessary extravagance, but rather the fulfillment of God's intent when He created gold.


Middot 2:3 relates that the Second Temple's gates were originally built of other metals. Generations later, the people prospered, and plated them with gold.


Before fashioning the utensil, the craftsman must have the intention that they be used for the Temple.


Even if they were never used for those reasons


The term translated as "the Temple," gavohah, literally means "the Most High." Because of the departure from the literal meaning, it is set off with brackets.


The sanctity of the Temple's utensils has two dimensions:

a) that conveyed by one's intention when fashioning the utensil,

b) that brought about by its use in the Temple services.

Without the proper intention, an object may never be used in Temple services. However, the intention alone is not sufficient to distinguish that object as holy and prevent its use for mundane purposes.


Since the sanctity of a synagogue is not as great as that of the Temple, the building materials are not considered as prepared for that holy purpose.

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Daily Quote
From one burning candle many candles are lit, yet its own light is not diminished. So, too, Moses lost nothing that was his when he "emanated of his spirit" (Numbers 11:17) to the 70 elders
  –Midrash Rabbah
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