Beis Habechirah - Chapter 4
The Ark was placed on a stone in the western portion of the Holy of Holies. The vial of manna and Aharon's staff were placed before it.
When Solomon built the Temple, he was aware that it would ultimately be destroyed. [Therefore,] he constructed a chamber, in which the ark could be entombed below [the Temple building] in deep, maze-like vaults.
King Josiah commanded that [the Ark] be entombed in the chamber built by Solomon, as it is said (II Chronicles 35:3): "And he said to the Levites who would teach wisdom to all of Israel: 'Place the Holy Ark in the chamber built by Solomon, the son of David, King of Israel. You will no [longer] carry it on your shoulders. Now, serve the Lord, your God.'
When it was entombed, Aharon's staff, the vial of manna, and the oil used for anointing were entombed with it. All these [sacred articles] did not return in the Second Temple.
Similarly, the Urim V'Tumim that existed in the Second Temple did not answer with Ruach HaKodesh (Divine inspiration) and questions were not asked of them, as stated [in Ezra 2:63]: "until a priest will arise with the Urim V'Tumim." [In the Second Temple,] they only made them to fulfill the requirement of eight garments for the High Priest. Thus, the High Priest would not lack one of the required garments.
The First Temple had a one-cubit thick wall which separated the Sanctuary and the Holy of Holies. When the Second Temple was constructed, they were unsure whether the width of that wall was included in the measure of the Sanctuary or the Holy of Holies. Therefore, the Holy of Holies was made a full twenty cubits long, and the Sanctuary a full forty cubits long, and one additional cubit was left between the Sanctuary and the Holy of Holies.
They did not build a wall in the Second Temple. Rather, they hung two curtains, one from the side of the Sanctuary and one from the side of the Holy of Holies, with a cubit between them in place of the width of the wall of the First [Temple]. However, in the First Temple, there was only one curtain, as [Exodus 26:33] states: "The curtain will divide for you [between the Sanctuary and the Holy of Holies.]"
The Temple building constructed by the exiles [returning from Babylon] was one hundred cubits long, one hundred cubits wide, and one hundred cubits high. The measurement of its height can be described as follows:
They built a solid base six cubits high resembling a foundation for it;
the Sanctuary, 40 cubits high;
an ornate ceiling, one cubit high;
above that, two cubits were left empty to allow dripping [water] to collect [and to be drained off]; this was called the Beit Dilpa;
the roof above the Beit Dilpa was a cubit thick;
the plaster, a cubit high;
an upper storey was built on it; its walls were 40 cubits high;
its roof included an ornate ceiling one cubit high;
a Beit Dilpa, two cubits high;
a roof, one cubit high;
plaster, one cubit high;
a guard rail, three cubits high;
a sheet of iron resembling a blade, a cubit high, was placed all around the guard rail so that birds will not rest upon it. It was called the Kaleh Orev.
The total of the above is 100 cubits.
From the west to the east, there were 100 cubits as follows:
There were four walls, one within the other, with three vacant spaces between them:
Between the western wall and the wall inside of it, five cubits,
Between the second and third walls, six cubits,
Between the third and fourth walls, six cubits.
These measurements include the width of the wall and the space between it and the following wall.
The length of the Holy of Holies was 20 cubits.
Between the two curtains separating the Holy of Holies and the Sanctuary, one cubit.
The length of the Sanctuary was 40 cubits.
The width of the eastern wall in which the entrance was positioned was six cubits.
The Entrance Hall was eleven cubits [long].
The wall of the Entrance Hall was five cubits thick.
Thus, the total is 100 cubits.
From north to south, there were 100 cubits:
The width of the wall of the Entrance Hall was five cubits.
There were ten cubits from the wall of the Entrance Hall until the wall of the Sanctuary.
The Sanctuary had six walls, one within the other, with five vacant places between them:
Between the outer wall and the second [wall], there were five cubits;
Between the second and the third, three cubits;
Between the third and the fourth, five;
Between the fourth and the fifth, six; and
Between the fifth and the sixth, six.
Thus, these [walls and chambers encompassed] a total of forty cubits on both sides [of the Temple building.] The width of the Temple inside was 20 cubits.
The total was 100 cubits.
A wicket is a small gateway. The Sanctuary had two wickets on the sides of the great gate in the middle, one on the north and one on the south.
No one ever entered through the southern [wicket]. Explicit [reference] to this [is made] by [in the Book of] Ezekiel [44:2]: "This gate will be closed. It will not be opened."
[Every morning, the priests] would enter [through the wicket] on the north and proceed between the two walls until reaching an opening to the Sanctuary on the left. [From there], they would enter the Temple, proceed to the great gate, and open it.
The great gate was ten cubits wide and twenty cubits high. It had four doors: two to the inner [chamber,] and two to the outside. The outer gates opened into the doorway, covering the breadth of the walls. The inner [gates] opened into the Sanctuary, covering the [wall space] behind the doors.
The opening to the Entrance Hall was forty cubits high and twenty [cubits] wide. It did not have gates.
Five oak beams were [positioned] above this entrance. The bottom [beam] extended beyond the entrance, one cubit on either side. Each of the five [beams] extended one cubit on either side of the [beam] below it. Thus, the uppermost beam was thirty cubits [long]. There was a tier of stones between each beam.
The structure of the Temple was wide in its front and narrow in its rear, like a lion.
Balconies [extended] from the wall of the winding stairwell and surrounded the Temple on all sides. The lowest balcony was five [cubits long.] The pavement above it was six cubits long. The middle projection was six cubits, and the pavement above it seven cubits. The upper balcony was seven cubits, as it is said (I Kings 6:6): "The lowest balcony...." Thus, three balconies surrounded the Temple from three sides.
Similarly, [there were projections] from bottom to top, around the wall of the Entrance Hall. The [pattern] was as follows:
one vacant cubit,
a projection of three cubits,
one vacant cubit, and then,
a projection of three cubits.
This pattern was followed until the top [of the wall.] Thus, the projections surrounded the walls. Each projection was three cubits wide until the top [of the wall], and between each projection was a [vacant] cubit. The uppermost projection was four cubits wide.
All the vacant spaces between the walls are called cells. Thus, five cells surrounded the Sanctuary on the north, five on the south, and three on the west.
There were three levels [of cells,] one level above the other. Thus, there were fifteen cells on the south; five above five, with five above them. Similarly, in the north, there were fifteen cells.
There were eight cells in the west; three above three, with two above them on one level. Thus, there were a total of 38 cells.
Each cell had three entrances: one to the cell on the right, another to the cell on the left, and one to the cell above it.
The cell in the northeast corner of the second storey had five entrances: one to the cell on its right, one to the cell above it, one to the winding stairwell, one towards the cell with the wicket, and one to the Temple.
The winding stairwell with which one would ascend to the roofs of the cells began its rise from the northeast corner towards the northwest corner [of the Temple]. One ascended on the winding stairwell facing the west and traversed the entire length of [the Temple's] northern side until reaching the west.
When he reached the west, he would turn towards the south. He walked across the entire length of the western side until he reached the south. When he reached the south, he turned to the east. He walked eastward until reaching the entrance to the Temple's upper storey, since the entrance to the upper storey was on the south.
At the entrance to the Temple's upper storey, there were two cedar beams upon which one could climb to the roof of the upper storey. Marking posts in the upper storey differentiated between the roof of the Sanctuary and the roof of the Holy of Holies.
Apertures in the upper storey [led to] the Holy of Holies, through which craftsmen would be lowered in boxes, so that they would not satiate their eyes [gazing at] the chamber of the Holy of Holies.
Once a year, from Passover to Passover, they coated the Temple building with cement.
Published and copyright by Moznaim Publications, all rights reserved.
To purchase this book or the entire series, please click here
The text on this page contains sacred literature. Please do not deface or discard.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy