Pekudei, the final portion in the book of Shemot (Exodus), recounts in great detail how the Israelites finally finished the construction of the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle is the major subject of the second half of Shemot, with the Torah devoting about five hundred verses to it. Indeed, the Tabernacle is no small detail in the story of existence and of the Jewish people: it was the first time G‑d chose to have a place on earth in which He would be in entirety. It was in this small space G‑d would be revealed and felt by human beings.

The haftarah is an obvious sequel to the Parshah. After four and a half centuries of G‑d dwelling in a tent-like tabernacle, the united Jewish kingdom under the rulership of King Solomon finally completed the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem. This was truly one of the greatest moments in Jewish history.


The chapters preceding our reading are a detailed description of the Temple plan, layout, and the artifacts therein. Now that everything was finished and put into place, the king invited the Jewish leaders from the entire country to join him in celebration. The Temple would be inaugurated by bringing in the holiest artifact in Jewish life—the Ark of the Covenant.

The dedication ceremony was called for the holiday of Sukkot. A huge crowd, “every man in Israel,” gathered for the momentous occasion. The priests carried the ark into the temple. Other priests and Levites accompanied them, carrying the various other vessels that were in the original Tabernacle of Moses, as well as the fabrics that made up the Tabernacle itself. Some of the original artifacts, such as the menorah and the table (shulchan), were used in the new Temple, while the rest were stored in the attic above the Holy of Holies.

The elation of the king and his people knew no bounds. As the procession continued, countless sacrifices were offered by the people in celebration and thanksgiving. Finally the ark was emplaced in the Holy of Holies, under the large wings of the cherubim, which spanned the room from end to end.1 Right then the cloud of G‑d descended upon the sanctuary, just as it had centuries earlier in the Tabernacle of Moses.

The ensuing verses (continuing past the end of the haftarah reading) record the moving words of prayer and blessing uttered by the king at this occasion. Solomon’s opening remarks began with words of recognition and history:

Since the Exodus, G‑d had not chosen a permanent place for His presence before this moment. The first stage of this G‑dly decision occurred with the appointment of David as king of Israel. David had deeply desired to build the house for G‑d, but the time had not yet come. G‑d promised David that his son and successor could build this house, for this would be a time when the Jewish people would finally be at peace from their enemies.

This, concluded Solomon, is exactly what happened.

Where Is the Ark After All?

The central part of the dedication, as of the entire narrative describing it, is the Ark of the Covenant. The verse relates that when the ark was set in its place, “They extended the staves (of the ark) so that the tips of the staves were noticeable from the partition before the Sanctuary, but they were not showing on the outside;2 and they are there unto this day.”

The simple meaning of these final words is that the ark and its staves remained in this position and were not moved from their place.3 One opinion in the Talmud, however, understands the last words to have a far broader meaning: the ark remained in this place for all time to come. This is the opinion of R. Yehudah ben Lakish, who says that, unlike many other of the sacred vessels seized by the Babylonians at the destruction of the First Temple, the ark was hidden in the Temple Mount right beneath its original place in the Holy of Holies.4

In its discussion of this topic, the Talmud brings several supportive anecdotes from the Second Temple era which point to the fact the the ark was indeed hidden away in the Temple Mount. Mimonedies, in his Laws of the Temple, takes this opinion as definitive:

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... When it was entombed, Aaron’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.5

What let Maimonides to side unequivocally with this opinion in the Talmud?

The answer lies in the nature and function of the ark itself. It was not merely a vessel that existed in the Temple; it was rather what made the Temple a place for G‑d at all. At the construction of the Tabernacle, G‑d told Moses that he would “set His meetings” with him at the ark. In other words, without the ark, the entire Tabernacle would not only be imperfect, but it would be missing the part which would make it the place for G‑d it was intended to be.

This being the case, when it came to building the Second Temple, the ark’s whereabouts was of critical importance. How could a Temple be built without the ark? Moreover, even if it was assumed that the ark was entombed under the First Temple, how would this suffice for the building of the Second Temple, when after all it was not present in the Holy of Holies but entombed under it?

Maimonides resolves this problem by siding with the opinion that the ark was not only hidden in the Temple Mount, but that this underground chamber was part of the Temple plan as built by Solomon.

As Maimonides understands it, Solomon built his Temple with two places for the ark: one aboveground, which would be its place in times of peace, and another below ground, which would be its place in times of danger. By creating this underground chamber as an alternate place for the ark, King Solomon ensured the continuity of the ark’s presence in the Temple structure—albeit hidden from sight. Centuries later, it was this act that allowed for the building of the Second Temple.

The understanding of the above leads us to an incredible realization: the Temple was never completely destroyed. Even though the rest of the First and Second Temples went up in smoke, the place of the ark—the essence and nucleus of the Temple—remained intact. No enemy had the ability to destroy this. The building of the Third Temple will be the affirmation that, in truth, the Temple never disappeared; it was only waiting to be rebuilt.6