The Construction

In the fourth year of his reign, Solomon undertook the construction of the Temple. A period of four hundred and eighty years had passed since the Jews had left Egypt and had set up the Tabernacle in the wilderness. David had been the warrior king. His whole life had been occupied in wars of liberation, until the boundaries of Eretz Israel were completely freed, stretching from the Euphrates in the north-east to the African border in the south. Although David had planned the erection of a house for G‑d in Jerusalem, it remained for his son to carry out the plan. Solomon found himself at peace with his neighbors. A close friendship existed between him and Hiram, king of Tyre. Solomon felt free to start the holy work of building the Temple. The site was chosen on the top of Mount Moriah, where Abraham had once proved his readiness to offer up his dearly beloved son in obedience to G‑d's command, and where more recently the angel of G‑d had stayed the pestilence and appeared to David on the threshing-floor of Araunah.

Tens of thousands of men were needed to perform the many tasks required for an undertaking of such gigantic proportions. Men were sent to Lebanon to cut down cedar trees. Stones were hewn near the quarries. In the valley of the Jordan the bronze was cast. Craftsmen were brought in from Tyre to help perfect the work. Ships set sail eastward and westward to bring the choicest materials for the adornment of the House of G‑d.

For seven years the work was unwearyingly pursued. The Temple rose as if by magic. The sound of no hammer nor of any iron tool was heard on the spot, for iron is a reminder of the sword, the symbol of strife and bloodshed. The stones were cut to the required shape in their quarries and then brought up to Moriah, there to be fitted together.

Description of the Temple

The Temple proper was rectangular in form, the longer sides stretching from east to west with the entrance on the east. The House was divided into two parts. The outer and larger section contained the Table of Show-bread, the Altar of Incense, and the Menorah. In addition, Solomon placed there ten golden tables and ten golden Menoroth. This section was called Hechal and only the priests were permitted to enter it. The inner and smaller section was the Devir, or the Holy of Holies, where only the High priest could enter on one day of the year, the Day of Atonement. The Holy of Holies was a perfect square, housing the Ark surmounted by the two Cherubim. It was further adorned by additional Cherubim made by King Solomon.

In front of the Temple was a porch, the Ulam. On the north, west, and south sides of the House there were three floors of rooms which served as depositories for Temple articles. Surrounding the Temple was the outer Court where the people were permitted to enter. Here the sacrifices were offered on the Altar. In addition there stood the brazen "Sea of Solomon," and lavers, which Solomon had set up as washing facilities for the priests. The windows of the Temple were made narrow inside and wide outside, a symbol that Light emanates from the Temple to the whole world. The entire surface of the interior was overlaid with gold so that no wood was seen anywhere.

The Dedication

It took seven years to complete the Temple. In the twelfth year of his reign, in the month of Tishrei, Solomon dedicated the Temple and all its contents. All the Jews flocked to Jerusalem to witness the spectacular festivities. The priests carried the Holy Ark from the City of David to the Temple. When the priests approached the Holy of Holies, the doors locked so that no one could enter. Solomon prayed to G‑d; but it was only when he invoked G‑d in the name of the great virtues of his father David, that the doors opened and the Ark could be brought into the inner Sanctuary. As soon as the priests left the holy place, a cloud covered the Temple as it had done in the days when the Jews were in the wilderness. This proved to Solomon that his work was accepted by G‑d.

Then Solomon stood before the altar of G‑d and spread forth his hands toward heaven in solemn prayer:--

"L-rd G‑d of Israel, there is no G‑d like Thee, in heaven above or on earth beneath;

"Who keepest the covenant and Thy servants that walk before Thee with all their heart...

"But will G‑d indeed dwell on earth?

"Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee;

"How much less this house that I have built?

"Yet turn Thou unto the prayer of Thy servant, and to his supplication,

"O L-rd, my G‑d...

"That Thine eyes be open toward this house night and day...

"And hearken Thou to the supplication of Thy servant, and of Thy people Israel,

"When they shall pray toward this place;

"And hear them in heaven Thy dwelling place;

"And when Thou hearest, forgive...

"When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against Thee;

"If they pray toward this place, and confess Thy name,

"And turn from their sin, when Thou didst afflict them:

"Then hear Thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of Thy servants, and of Thy people Israel,

"That Thou teach them the good way wherein they shall walk;

"And give rain upon Thy land which Thou hast given to Thy people as an inheritance...

"And also to the stranger that is not of Thy people Israel, but cometh

"Out of a far country for Thy Name's sake...

"Hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to Thee;

"That all people of the earth may know Thy Name,

"To fear Thee, as do Thy people Israel..."

Concluding this prayer, Solomon rose to his feet, for he had been kneeling, and blessed all the congregation of Israel, saying:--

"Blessed be the L-rd that hath given rest unto His people Israel,

"According to all that He promised;

"There hath not failed one word of all His good promise, which He

"Promised by the hand of Moses His servant.

"The L-rd our G‑d be with us, as He was with our fathers;

"Let Him not leave us, nor forsake us:

"That He may incline our hearts unto Him, to walk in all His ways,

"And to keep His commandments, and His statutes, and His judgments,

"Which He commanded our fathers.

"And let these my words, wherewith I have made supplication before the L-rd,

"Be nigh unto the L-rd our G‑d day and night,

"That He maintain the cause of His servant,

"And the cause of His people Israel at all times,

"That all the people of the earth may know that the L-rd is G‑d,

"And that there is none else.

"Let your heart therefore be perfect with the L-rd our G‑d,

"To walk in His statutes, and to keep His commandments, as at this day."

Fourteen days the Dedication ceremonies lasted, after which the people returned to their homes in high spirits and in deep gratitude to G‑d for all that He had done for them.