The portion of Terumah is devoted to the construction of the Tabernacle. This very first sanctuary built for G‑d was to be constructed with contributions from all of Israel. Centuries later, a permanent house for G‑d was built in Jerusalem. Just as with the Tabernacle, the Temple was built with funding and labor contributed by the entire people.

The time was that of King Solomon, a time that can be truly defined as the golden age of Jewish history. Solomon had achieved everything there was to aspire for. Not only was his kingdom safe and prosperous, but his reign saw the superiority of Israel over all other lands, and the people enjoyed tremendous affluence and happiness. G‑d had granted Solomon unprecedented wisdom and understanding, and people flocked from all over to learn from him.

One of Israel’s neighboring kings, Hiram of Tyre, had been a faithful friend to King David, Solomon’s father. This was exceptional, as most of Israel’s neighbors were at war with David at one point or another. Now that Hiram had heard that Solomon had ascended the throne, he sent a delegation carrying greetings to the new king.

After accepting the delegation, King Solomon the following message back with them to Hiram: “As you know, my father David was unable to build a house for the L‑rd his G‑d, because of all the wars he had to wage… But now the L‑rd my G‑d has granted me peace… and so I plan to build this house… as G‑d told my father… Please allow me to send my workers, who will assist yours in cutting wood for the Temple. Whatever the expenses are for this, I will pay them… since you know as I do that no one can cut cedars quite the way the Tyrians can.”1

Hiram, very impressed by Solomon, was more than glad to help. Our haftarah begins with the launch of the huge project. A tax of thirty thousand workmen was levied from the people, to go up to Tyre and bring the cypress and cedar wood needed for construction. This was all aside from 150,000 of Solomon’s own workers, who were charged with hewing and transporting the stone for the building. 3,300 foremen were appointed to oversee the work.

The building began in the month of Iyar, four years into Solomon’s reign. The haftarah gives an outline of the building’s dimensions and architecture. While construction was still underway, the word of G‑d came to Solomon. G‑d reminded him that it was faithfulness to the Torah that would guarantee that His presence would rest within the temple. Adherence to the Torah would also allow G‑d to keep his promise to David that Solomon’s reign would have continuity for generations to come.

Stay-at-home dad

The thirty thousand men selected to go to Lebanon and chop the lumber for the construction had an interesting work schedule: The workers were not sent to Lebanon all at once, but rather divided into three groups of ten thousand. Each group was to spend one month in Lebanon. After working for a month, they were to return home for two months while the other groups worked.

Some commentaries explain that this system was put in place due to the difficulty of the work they had to do.2 The Jerusalem Talmud, however, states: “Rabbi Avin said: ‘Being fruitful and multiplying’ is more dear to the Holy One, blessed be He, than the Beit Hamikdash.”3 This idea is deduced from the fact that the workers were to spend only a limited time in Lebanon and more time at home in Israel. Although this meant that the Temple’s construction might take longer, it was worth it in light of the fact that by these men staying home, there would be more Jewish children.

The mitzvah of getting married and having children is classified in the halachic literature as a mitzvah rabbah, a “great” mitzvah.4 The term serves to explain why this mitzvah is prioritized even over other mitzvot. One of the obvious reasons behind this is that the fulfillment of all other mitzvot depends on having a Jewish people to fulfill them: “The Torah was given to man, not to the ministering angels.”5 What emerges from this passage in the Talmud (as well as from other passages) is that the height of importance assigned to having children extends in the broader sense to every additional child a couple can bring to this world. As Maimonides puts it, “Anyone who adds a soul to the Jewish people is considered as if he built an entire world.”6

Windows, but not for light

“He made for the house windows, broad on the outside and narrow on the inside.”

The Talmud notes that this style of window construction was the opposite of the usual. If the light of day was to be maximized, the windows should have been made narrower on the outside and wider on the inside, thus diffusing the sunlight into all sides of the building. Here, however, the windows were made the other way around.

The Talmud describes this as one of the examples where something was done in the Temple to emphasize that G‑d was not in actual need of the Temple or the various items therein. The function of the Temple was to be viewed as a mitzvah and means of connecting the world below to G‑d. In this sense, it was not that the Creator desired a beautiful and brightly lit edifice. He does not need light; He is the source of it. The windows in the Temple were thus made in such a way in order to bring this point across.

(Another example of this was the layout of the sanctuary. The menorah and the table (shulchan) that held the showbread were situated on opposite sides of the sanctuary. If G‑d in some way desired the “food” and the “light,” then they should have been situated together, as the usual custom calls for the lamp to be situated near the table. The fact that they were placed far apart was to stress that this was not a structure built for the benefit of the One who was to dwell in it.7)

In midrashic sources, a different reason is given for the form of the Temple windows: that they were to convey a message regarding the overall function of the Temple vis-à-vis the outside world. “Rabbi Chanina said: the Temple possessed windows, and from them its light would go out to the world… they were narrow on the inside and wide on the outside, in order to bring light out into the world.”8

The Temple was a place that exemplified the fulfillment of our endeavors in this world. Unlike the synagogue or yeshivah of today, where the activities are strictly in the spiritual realm, the Temple was a place where the height of G‑dly experience came through physical actions. The sacrifices and other services all involved an entire gamut of material objects. The Temple, in short, was the place where physicality was elevated to G‑dliness. In this way, the Temple was a reflection of the overall purpose of creation: the calling of mankind to elevate every aspect of the world he lives in by making it part of his service of the Creator. This was the message in the windows as well: the function of the Temple was to illuminate the world—the physical world—around it.9