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Wednesday, 24 Av 5770 / August 4, 2010

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Beit Habechirah - Chapter 1

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Beit Habechirah - Chapter 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


מצות עשה לעשות בית ליי' מוכן להיות מקריבים בו הקרבנות וחוגגין אליו שלש פעמים בשנה שנאמר ועשו לי מקדש וכבר נתפרש בתורה משכן שעשה משה רבינו והיה לפי שעה שנאמר כי לא באתם עד עתה וגו':


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.


כיון שנכנסו לארץ העמידו המשכן בגלגל ארבע עשרה שנה שכבשו ושחלקו ומשם באו לשילה ובנו שם בית של אבנים ופרשו יריעות המשכן עליו ולא היתה שם תקרה ושס"ט שנה עמד משכן שילה וכשמת עלי חרב ובאו לנוב ובנו שם מקדש וכשמת שמואל חרב ובאו לגבעון ובנו שם מקדש ומגבעון באו לבית העולמים וימי נוב וגבעון שבע וחמשים שנה:


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


כיון שנבנה המקדש בירושלים נאסרו כל המקומות כולן לבנות בהן בית ליי' ולהקריב בהן קרבן ואין שם בית לדורי הדורות אלא בירושלים בלבד ובהר המוריה שבה נאמר ויאמר דויד זה הוא בית יי' האלהים וזה מזבח לעולה לישראל ואומר זאת מנוחתי עדי עד:


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


בנין שבנה שלמה כבר מפורש במלכים וכן בנין העתיד להבנות אע"פ שהוא כתוב ביחזקאל אינו מפורש ומבואר ואנשי בית שני כשבנו בימי עזרא בנוהו כבנין שלמה ומעין דברים המפורשים ביחזקאל:


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.


ואלו הן הדברים שהן עיקר בבנין הבית עושין בו קדש וקדש הקדשים ויהיה לפני הקדש מקום אחד והוא הנקרא אולם ושלשתן נקראין היכל ועושין מחיצה אחרת סביב להיכל רחוקה ממנו כעין קלעי החצר שהיו במדבר וכל המוקף במחיצה זו שהוא כעין חצר אהל מועד הוא הנקרא עזרה והכל נקרא מקדש:


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


ועושין במקדש כלים מזבח לעולה ולשאר הקרבנות וכבש שעולים בו למזבח ומקומו לפני האולם משוך לדרום וכיור וכנו לקדש ממנו הכהנים ידיהם ורגליהם לעבודה ומקומו בין האולם ולמזבח משוך לדרום שהוא שמאל הנכנס למקדש ומזבח לקטורת ומנורה ושולחן ושלשתן בתוך הקדש לפני קדש הקדשים:


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


המנורה בדרום משמאל הנכנס ושולחן מימין שעליו לחם הפנים ושניהם בצד קדש הקדשים מבחוץ ומזבח הקטורת משוך מבין שניהם לחוץ ועושין בתוך העזרה גבולין עד כאן לישראל עד כאן לכהנים ובונים בה בתים לשאר צרכי המקדש כל בית מהם נקרא לשכה:


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."


כשבונין ההיכל והעזרה בונין באבנים גדולות ואם לא מצאו אבנים בונין בלבנים ואין מפצלין את אבני הבנין בהר הבית אלא מפצלין אותן ומסתתין אותן מבחוץ ואחר כך מכניסין אותן לבנין שנאמר אבנים גדולות אבנים יקרות ליסד הבית אבני גזית ואומר ומקבות והגרזן כל כלי ברזל לא נשמע בבית בהבנותו:


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


ואין בונין בו עץ בולט כלל אלא או באבנים או בלבנים וסיד ואין עושין אכסדרות של עץ בכל העזרה אלא של אבנים או לבנים:


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


ומרצפין את כל העזרה באבנים יקרות ואם נעקרה אבן אף על פי שהיא עומדת במקומה הואיל ונתקלקלה פסולה ואסור לכהן העובד לעמוד עליה בשעת העבודה עד שתקבע בארץ:


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


ומצוה מן המובחר לחזק את הבנין ולהגביהו כפי כח הציבור שנאמר ולרומם את בית אלהינו ומפארין אותו ומייפין כפי כחן אם יכולין לטוח אותו בזהב ולהגדיל במעשיו ה"ז מצוה:


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


אין בונין את המקדש בלילה שנאמר וביום הקים את המשכן ביום מקימין לא בלילה ועוסקין בבנין מעלות השחר עד צאת הכוכבים והכל חייבין לבנות ולסעד בעצמן ובממונם אנשים ונשים כמקדש המדבר ואין מבטלין תינוקות של בית רבן לבנין ואין בנין ב"ה דוחה יום טוב:


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


המזבח אין עושין אותו אלא בנין אבנים (גזית) וזה שנאמר בתורה מזבח אדמה תעשה לי שיהיה מחובר באדמה שלא יבנוהו לא על גבי כיפין ולא על גבי מחילות וזה שנאמר ואם מזבח אבנים מפי השמועה למדו שאינו רשות אלא חובה:


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


כל אבן שנפגמה כדי שתחגור בה הציפורן כסכין של שחיטה הרי זו פסולה לכבש ולמזבח שנאמר אבנים שלמות תבנה את מזבח יי' ומהיכן היו מביאין אבני מזבח מן בתולת הקרקע חופרין עד שמגיעין למקום הניכר שאינו מקום עבודה ובנין ומוציאין ממנו האבנים או מן הים הגדול ובונין מהן וכן אבני ההיכל והעזרות שלמות היו:


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


אבני היכל ועזרות שנפגמו או שנגממו פסולין ואין להן פדיון אלא נגנזים כל אבן שנגע בה הברזל אע"פ שלא נפגמה פסולה לבנין המזבח ובנין הכבש שנאמר כי חרבך הנפת עליה ותחללה והבונה אבן שנגע בה ברזל במזבח או בכבש לוקה שנאמר לא תבנה אתהן גזית והבונה אבן פגום עובר בעשה:


[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.]


אבן שנפגמה או שנגע בה ברזל אחר שנבנית במזבח או בכבש אותה האבן פסולה והשאר כשירו' ומלבנין את המזבח פעמים בשנה בפסח ובחג וכשמלבנין אותן מלבנין במפה אבל לא בכפיס של ברזל שמא יגע באבן ויפסול:


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


אין עושין מדרגות למזבח שנאמר לא תעלה במעלות על מזבחי אלא בונין כמו תל בדרומו של מזבח מתמעט ויורד מראש המזבח עד הארץ והוא הנקרא כבש והעולה במעלות על המזבח לוקה וכן נותץ אבן אחת מן המזבח או מכל ההיכל או מבין האולם ולמזבח דרך השחתה לוקה שנאמר ונתצתם את מזבחותם וגו' לא תעשון כן ליי' אלהיכם:


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


המנורה וכליה והשולחן וכליו ומזבח הקטורת וכל כלי שרת אין עושין אותן אלא מן המתכת בלבד ואם עשאום של עץ או עצם או אבן או של זכוכית פסולין:


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


היו הקהל עניים עושין אותן אפילו של בדיל ואם העשירו עושין אותן זהב אפילו המזרקות והשפודין והמגרפות של מזבח העולה והמדות אם יש כח בציבור עושין אותן של זהב אפילו שערי העזרה מחפין אותן זהב אם מצאה ידם:


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


אין עושין כל הכלים מתחילתן אלא לשם הקודש ואם נעשו מתחילתן להדיוט אין עושין אותן לגבוה וכלי גבוה עד שלא נשתמש בהן גבוה רשאי להשתמש בהן הדיוט ומשנשתמש בהן גבוה אסורין להדיוט אבנים וקורות שחצבן מתחלה לבית הכנסת אין בונין אותן להר הבית:


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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