1. Every Shabbos Mevarchim carries the general theme of Shabbos Mevarchim, common to all the months of the year, as well as the unique theme of Shabbos Mevarchim of this particular month. Similarly, Shabbos Mevarchim Menachem Av has two aspects, the common facet to the Shabbos Mevarchim Menachem Av in previous years and the unique aspect of Shabbos Mevarchim Av this year, this date and the specific Torah reading on this day.

It would be appropriate to dwell upon the more specific factors of this day: the theme of Shabbos Mevarchim Menachem Av and its more unique aspects this year, as well as the factors which emerge from the farbrengen which take place in this particular House of Prayer and Study.

This concept of general — mutual and specific — individual factors is perceptible in all areas of Torah and mitzvos.

The Mishnah teaches:

Be as careful in [the performance of a seemingly] minor mitzvah as of a major one, for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvos. (Avos 2:1)

We may discern two points: (1) There is a common aspect to all mitzvos therefore equal care must be given to the performance of all mitzvos. (2) Every mitzvah also has an individuality which would classify one as minor and another as major.

This distinction between “minor” and “major” manifests itself only in the context of the act of the mitzvah. As far as the Holy One, Blessed be He, is concerned, who commanded us to perform the mitzvos, there would be absolutely no difference between minor and major, for they all represent the Divine will.

It is for this reason that in practice the person must coordinate two facets. On the one hand, he must be aware and sensitive to the details of every mitzvah and act accordingly, for each mitzvah has a specific role in introducing purification into the world.

On the other hand, one must remember that all mitzvos are G‑d’s will and we must be as careful in fulfilling all of them. Moreover, the general theme of mitzvos as the expression of G‑d’s will illuminates the individual mitzvos and introduces the theme of commonalty so that the label “minor” or “major” is not pertinent, and both must be equally observed.

This will also throw light on the latter part of this dictum, “for you do not know the reward given for the mitzvos.” Just as you should give equal care to the “minor” and “major” mitzvos you should also keep in mind that a “minor” mitzvah may receive a greater reward than a major mitzvah, thus realigning what is major and minor. So, you must give both equal attention. At the same time if you actually consider the physical reward you must treat all mitzvos equally because the “minor” mitzvah may actually bring a greater reward.

This concept may also be transposed into a time framework: Every Shabbos Mevarchim, Shabbos Mevarchim Av, and Shabbos Mevarchim this year, all share a common factor, and then again they each possess an aspect that makes each unique at a particular time.

From G‑d’s point of view, He commanded us to perform the mitzvos in a manner that every day they are like something new for us.

G‑d is of course not limited by time and so this Shabbos Mevarchim Av should really be something fresh and new despite the fact that for thousands of years there have been previous Shabbosim Mevarchim Av. Consequently, our observance must be with enthusiasm and freshness.

And yet, there must be differences, for our observance must be in accordance with the natural movement of time and human nature which is more excited by something really new. So we must search for those aspects of true innovation in our observance in order to really see this as something new. The same concept will also apply to place.

We therefore come to discuss the special qualities of this Shabbos Mevarchim Av. The theme of this Shabbos Mevarchim is to transmit a very lofty blessing which will have the power to transform the negative aspects of Av [from Rosh Chodesh to Tishah BeAv] into a time of joy and festivity.

This concept is encapsulated in the format and terminology of the announcement of the new month on Shabbos Mevarchim. The announcement is made that Rosh Chodesh Mevarchim Av will occur on the particular day. We refer to the month of Av with the prefix “Menachem” — the “consoler.”

In the “Blessing for the New Month” we recite “for deliverance and for consolation” this “deliverance” refers to the true and complete redemption, while the “consolation” refers to the consolation of Tziyon and Yerushalayim with the conclusion “and let us say, Amen,” which gives the blessing true existence.

When we compare Shabbos Mevarchim Av to the other months of the year we realize its formidable strength. While every Shabbos Mevarchim projects its blessing to the other Shabbosim of the month — Shabbos Mevarchim Menachem Av radiates the awesome power of converting destruction to redemption.

Tishah BeAv itself presents an extreme antagonistical power; its negative forces have been with us for nearly 2000 years and in fact each year they reassert themselves, as the Talmudic dictum dictates: “If the Temple is not rebuilt in a generation...then it is as if it had been destroyed in that generation...for they did not repent....” (Yerushalmi, Yoma 1:5)

Similarly, the intensity of the Tishah BeAv tragedy representing five major tragic events in our early history (as well as many more till modern times) certainly underscores the negative power inherent on Tishah BeAv. Despite all this — Shabbos Mevarchim generates the power to convert the evil to good, to joy and festivity.

How important, therefore to utilize this potential and to nullify the basis of the diaspora by “doing teshuvah” and improving our actions and Divine service in all areas of Torah and mitzvos. Give special attention to the timely subjects of justice and charity for:

Tziyon shall be redeemed with judgment (justice — Torah), and her returnees with righteousness (charity). (Yeshayahu 1:27)

Increase Torah study — the laws of Torah are its judgments and charity is its righteousness. This tzedakah may take the form of money, or spiritual charity such as spreading Torah and mitzvos. There must likewise be an increase in Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity, for they will neutralize the causes of the exile, and when the month of Av comes it will already be given the label — Menachem Av — the name of consolation. Then, when Tishah BeAv comes it will be in a state of transformation “...the fast of the fifth,...shall become a time of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts to the house of Yehudah, therefore love the truth and peace.” (Zechariah 8:15)

This year, being the Shemitah year, it is a “Sabbatical year to G‑d,” similar to the Shabbos day. (cf. Rashi Vayikra 25:2) When G‑d created the world His creative acts were certainly of sublime character, yet they were of corporeal nature, and so on the seventh day He stopped all His mundane actions and rose, as it were, back to His essence — “He ceased from work and He rested.” (Shmos 31:17) A Tzaddik follows G‑d’s example and may be involved in all areas of good deeds during the week — but when Shabbos comes he rises to his own source and devotes all his time to matters of holiness, especially Torah study.

This aspect is paralleled in the Shemitah year when:

The entire year shall be designated for His Divine service...even agricultural workers will rest during the year and will be motivated to seek G‑d.... (Sforno on Vayikra 25:2-4)

Of course there must be set times for Torah study during regular years — but in the Sabbatical year the time of study must be increased qualitatively and quantitatively; there is more free time and there are less problems.

So, on Shabbos Mevarchim Menachem Av in a Shemitah year the justice and charity is emphasized much more emphatically. More Torah study, more charity:

..but during the seventh year...the needy among you will then be able to eat.” (Shmos 23:11)

Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity will also be enhanced in the Shemitah year.

There is also a connection to the portion of Maasei which speaks of the six cities of refuge,

..so that anyone who accidentally kills a person shall be able to escape there. (Bamidbar 35:14)

Chassidus explains that the inadvertent murderer here referred to, alludes to the general scope of sinfulness. The power of kelipah (the evil man — Yetzer Hora) strikes the man of holiness (Yetzer Tov) — albeit inadvertently. Atonement is effected through expiation and exile to the city of refuge — “go into exile to a place of Torah.” (Avos 4:14) And “in the words of Torah you will find refuge.” (Makkos 10a) When this is done there will be no “bloodshed” and the person will be saved from the Yetzer Hora and the avenger.

One should also keep in mind the explanation given by the Sefer HaChinuch that the six cities of refuge symbolize the mitzvos which a person must fulfill every moment of the day, all through his life: Faith in G‑d, the unity of G‑d, love of G‑d, fear of G‑d, etc. Man’s nature leans away from these attributes as every one can ascertain from careful introspection, so that these six mitzvos must always be practiced in order to be protected from the Yetzer Hora and the avenger.

The number “six” also alludes to the six days of the week and the six years of planting. When you are involved in worldly matters you must be on guard for unwanted aspects, by relying on “the cities of refuge.” On Shabbos, however, even the worldly matters, eating, drinking, and sleeping, all become part of the mitzvah of Shabbos delight and there is no need for the cities of refuge.

The Shemitah year thus is dedicated to holiness. It is during the period of the “three weeks” that this aspect of refuge is so important for through the six universal mitzvos (love, fear etc.) the cause of the galus is nullified and we approach redemption.

There is a connection between the cities of refuge and the education of children. During the summer months many Jewish schools close their doors and, consequently, the children must be protected from a bad environment by enrolling them in “cities of refuge,” proper Torah camps. You must also influence the children to make their own rooms — places of holiness — “Tzivos Hashem rooms.” Everything in their rooms will be dedicated to Hashem and the Shechinah will find a place to rest there. There should also be a sign in the room which proclaims it a “Tzivos Hashem Room,” so when the child sees the sign he will be able to ward off the Yetzer Hora who taunts him and asks why he is working so hard to study Torah. When he sees the sign he will know that he must do his duty with military loyalty and ignore the arguments of the Yetzer Hora.

On Shabbos Mevarchim Av we must take the special qualities of this day and utilize them in all the areas mentioned and may we merit that “Tziyon will be redeemed with justice.”

May it be an immediate redemption, even before Tishah BeAv and before Rosh Chodesh Av, then these days will automatically be converted to holidays and days of joy — with the true and complete redemption, speedily and truly in our days.

2. There is a special lesson to be gleaned from the association of Shabbos Mevarchim Menachem Av and the Torah portion of Mattos-Maasei. The term “Mattos” emphasizes the attribute of power and rigidity. The two words “mateh” and “shevet” both mean a “staff” (and are both used for “tribe”). Yet there is a subtle difference between a pliable branch (shevet) and a strong staff (mateh). Thus, “Mattos” symbolizes that a Jew must be firm and strong — not bending even a hairsbreadth when it comes to principles of Yiddishkeit, Torah and mitzvos.

This is congruous with the Mishnaic dictum to be as careful in fulfilling a minor mitzvah as a major mitzvah — for when a Jew is truly connected to G‑d and wants to fulfill the will of the King there will be no difference between minor and major, since G‑d has commanded the mitzvos and desires that all of them be carried out.

“Maasei” tells us of the travels and tribulations of the Jewish people from the time they left Egypt until the end of time — the true redemption. More specifically it outlines the personal Divine service of man through his existence, and then there are also “42 travels every day.”

Basically man’s Divine service must always be in a state of movement, never being complacent with the present condition, always striving to go higher, “from strength to strength.” This is after all a characteristic of all living beings: constant growth.

So there must be the initial exodus from the limitations and restrictions of the concealing world. From there, on to Matan Torah and then further Maasei to live life according to the laws of the Torah not according to the laws of society. Having attained that lifestyle and momentum one must keep on growing. When we think about the travels of the Jewish people in the desert we can understand the need for movement from Egypt to Matan Torah, but why all the travel after Matan Torah? The answer is that we heard the Ten Commandments and accepted the Torah. This must be followed by further personal progress in Torah; to reach that goal one must be on the move.

In our daily life, when we recite Modeh Ani in the morning we experience an exodus, for we thank G‑d for restoring our soul and we testify that our awakening is not just a natural occurrence. Reciting the morning Torah blessings is our daily Matan Torah, and the verses from scripture and Mishnah included in the morning prayers constitute the initial steps of our daily study. This continues when we proceed to the house of study after completing our prayers in the synagogue; all this symbolizes the “travels.” During the rest of the day when we apply the principles of Torah to our everyday life we retrace the travels of the Jewish people after Matan Torah, when the application of Torah was greatly enhanced.

When “Mattos” and “Maasei” are combined the strength of “Mattos” takes on the progressive movement of “Maasei” so that steadfastness and strength grows stronger and stronger.

At the same time the steady growth in matters of holiness attains an aspect of strength and even those aspects of Jewish life which represent only custom or greater piety are also invigorated and empowered. So that all aspects of Shabbos Mevarchim Menachem Av are enhanced and invigorated.

May the final “move” come speedily, and bring us to the Holy Land with the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach. Then we will no longer be obligated to request favors of patronizing gentile nations for we will live freely in our land under the rule of the Jewish monarchy.

To speed this we must increase our activities in Torah and mitzvos, including our fervent plea for salvation: “Speedily cause the scion of Dovid Your servant to flourish...,” and, as we say in the prayer also on Shabbos and Yom Tov: “May our eyes behold Your return to Tziyon in mercy.”

With joy and gladness, including the joy of a Chassidic farbrengen, the saying of LeChaim, LeChaim V’levracha” to each other. This joy will burst the restriction of the galus and we will attain the perfect joy with the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach, speedily and truly now.

3. Earlier we discussed the special quality of different times as related to man’s Divine service. e.g. extra Torah on Shabbos and during Shemitah.

Similarly, in speaking of place there can be a distinct difference in man’s Divine service from place to place and it may be expressed in the Divine service of “Maasei,” in the realm of Torah study, Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity.

The Divine service of “Maasei” tells us to move on and advance even when we are happily involved in learning Torah from Moshe our teacher. “But,” you ask, “what could be better than that?” Just as there were travels after Matan Torah so, too, must one advance even in the loftiest levels of Torah study.

When one is at home in the normal setting of daily events it is often hard to break out of habit and move up. Not so when one travels to another place. Then, just as there are changes in his physical movements so, too, can he make greater spiritual studies in an ever-increasing way.

In the areas of Torah study our sages teach: “Exile yourself to a place of Torah.” (Avos 4:14)

At first glance it would seem that if you are already in a place of Torah why would it be necessary to further exile yourself from your place. The answer is that even if you are in a place of Torah since you are at home there are certain normal, societal fealties that could draw you away from your studies, such as family visits, etc. All this is eliminated when you “exile yourself” to study Torah and you can devote yourself exclusively to Torah study without any distractions.

Throughout the centuries it has been accepted practice to send away sons to study in Yeshivos in far away places. When he is in his home town, the student may spend much time visiting home, relations, old-time friends, etc. This affects his diligence. When he is away his success is much greater.

In the case of the cities of refuge, the Sefer HaChinuch explains the severity of exile and its ability to expiate for the sins of accidental manslaughter:

The suffering and pain of exile is equivalent nearly to the pain of death, for the person is separated from his loved ones and the land of his birth. (Chinuch, Mitzvah 410)

Similarly, when one goes into exile for any good reason, by being separated from his loved ones and his hometown he will see much greater success in his studies. Moreover, his desire to leave his family in order to study will give him the motivation to study diligently and with self-sacrifice.

In the case of Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity when one is at home his distinct individuality is clearly evident. In religious matters he has his habits and personal traits. He stands in a certain place during prayer, etc. Similarly, in worldly matters his business and activities may cause him to deal with different people and he is cool to Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity. When a group of Jews travel to a new place and pray together and study together and join together for meals and even go touring together, their intra-personal relationships are enhanced. There is, as well, a feeling of Ahavas Yisrael with their hosts — and also to their friends at home, whom they grow to miss — all this increases Ahavas Yisrael all around.

May this extra power of changing ones place influence the coming days to increase all areas of Divine service qualitatively and quantitatively.

And may we soon join that last trip from diaspora to redemption, “with our youth and elders...sons and daughters,” to our Holy Land, where the “eyes of the L‑rd your G‑d are upon it from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.” (Devarim 11:12) “A good and abundant land” — to all its boundaries.

And may these days be converted to days of joy and festivals because we “seek truth and peace.” Then “the straits” of the galus will bring the true abundance, speedily and truly now. May we have the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach, speedily and truly in our time.

* * *

4. There are several important practices which should be encouraged during the “three week” period so as to neutralize the situation we are in: “Because of our sins we were exiled from our land.” This includes an increase in all areas of Torah and mitzvos as well as “Tziyon will be redeemed with justice and her returnees with charity”:

A — Torah study includes “justice,” meaning the laws of Torah, and especially the laws relating to the Beis HaMikdash. At the same time siyums should be organized (conclusion of a Tractate of Talmud) during the nine days and also on the eve of Tishah BeAv (before noon) and the Day of Tishah BeAv in the permitted manner. Clearly, this also includes an increase in matters of happiness.

B — Increase monetary charity, as well as spiritual charity — and see that it is permeated by the inner essence of charity — “Love your neighbor as yourself,” Ahavas Yisrael and Jewish unity.

Combine the two and donate to charity before you begin your studies or in the midst of your studies and involve others in the study.

C — Also in the area of prayer your actions should be intensified, especially the supplications for redemption. We then have more of the three pillars on which the world stands.

* * *

5. In the portion of Maasei we find the verse, “If the yovel (Jubilee year) will come,” (Bamidbar 36:4) on which Rashi explains:

Rabbi Yehudah said the yovel will in the future be suspended. (Loc. cit.)

Because the term “if” indicates a lack of certainty, we must say that there will be a time when yovel will be suspended. This will be when the Jews are in exile, for the yovel can be proclaimed only when “all the Jews live in the land.” (Arachin 32b)

Why does Rashi cite the name of the author of this commentary? Generally speaking, Rashi does not mention the author’s name unless it contributes some special explanation in the plain meaning of the verse. By not mentioning the individual Rabbi, Rashi shows the five-year-old Chumash students that this is the proper way to explain this particular verse. Here, however, because the Torah uses the term “Im — if” indicating uncertainty, all will agree with R. Yehudah that the yovel will be suspended when the Jews are not all on their land. So why does Rashi quote R. Yehudah, he should simply say “from here it was taught...?”

Now that Rashi does mention the author, R. Yehudah, we begin to wonder that perhaps the plain meaning of this verse does not clearly speak of the future-suspended yovel, and only R. Yehudah holds that view.

Based on this general rule in Rashi we must infer that when Rashi does mention the author of a particular explanation his motive is to answer some additional difficulty which is clarified when the author is known. However this concept leaves us with another question: why not just answer the additional question? Why do it in a round about way which leaves us perplexed as to what the question was that bothered Rashi and how it will be cleared up when we know that the author of the teaching is Rabbi so and so?

The answer of course is that the question in such cases is not obvious and will only arise in the mind of the sharp student. Therefore Rashi assures that such a student will likewise find the answer to his quest by inferences and interpolation when he knows the name of the author. After research in other areas where the same author appears, he will find a specific system used by that teacher which will clear up all difficulties. So, too, in our case of R. Yehudah, as we shall see.

In the beginning of Mattos we learn of the nullification of vows:

However if her father obstructs her on the day he hears (it), then any such vow or self-imposed obligation of hers shall not be fulfilled. Since her father has obstructed her, G‑d will forgive her. (Bamidbar 30:6)

Rashi comments:

G‑d will forgive her — Of what is Scripture here speaking? Of a woman who vowed that she would become a nazarite and whose husband heard it and annulled it for her, but she knew it not, and transgressed her vow and drank wine or made herself tameh by means of a corpse. It is such a woman who requires forgiveness even though it (her vow) has been annulled. And if those whose vows have been annulled require forgiveness (in such a case), how much more is this so for those whose vows have not been annulled and have been transgressed. (Rashi, loc. cit.)

Several points need clarification:

A — This verse speaks of a woman who pronounces a vow in her father’s house and her father annuls the vow. If so, why does Rashi say “whose husband heard it”? The case of a husband’s nullification takes place on the next verse.

B — Why does Rashi add the comment “and if those... vows...annulled...how much more...have not been annulled...?” What does this statement add to the plain meaning of this verse. Especially since the concept of forgiveness applies to all aspects of Torah that have been transgressed, not only to vows, so why the special attention to vows?

On the question why Rashi uses the term “husband,” instead of “father,” many of the Rashi annotators have gone to great length to explain Rashi’s motives, but none approach the problem from the aspect of the plain meaning of Scripture.

One answer which does come close to the plain meaning explains that since heavenly punishment is not meted out until the age of twenty there would be no need for forgiveness for a naara (ages 12 — 12 1/2) whose father still had the power of annulment — therefore Rashi mentions “husband,” in the case where the wife was over 20 and the husband could still nullify the oath. In this case she still needs forgiveness.

This explanation is nevertheless not so clear and in truth the best answer is to follow the version of Rashi which actually does have the word “father” instead of “husband.” This clearly matches the context of the verse. As to why so many chumashim have the version “husband,” it is an error on the part of the original typesetters and since so many scholars followed one of the opinions of those who suggested an explanation for the word “husband” the mistake was never realized!

* * *

On the question of yovel the sharp student will be very troubled. During the era when yovel is practiced we count 49 years and make the 50th yovel, we then start again to count several shemitah cycles, i.e. 49 years, to the next yovel. When yovel is not practiced it appears that we skip the 50th year and start the shemitah cycle once again immediately after the 49th year on the 50th year! If this is so there is a good chance of real mix-ups, for the counting cycles will be inconsistent.

To answer this question Rashi tells us that it is R. Yehudah who holds that the yovel years will not be celebrated when Jews are not all united in our homeland.

Let us see what R. Yehudah holds with regard to counting the Yovel cycles.

A conflict of R. Yehudah and the Rabbis has been taught: “and you shall hallow the fiftieth year” (Vayikra 25:10): You must count it as the fiftieth, but not as the fiftieth and as the first year (of the following shemitah and yovel). Hence they [the sages] said: The Jubilee is not part of the following septennate. R. Yehudah maintained: The Jubilee is counted as part of the septennate. (Nedarim 61a)

Clearly, according to R. Yehudah, in the era when the yovel was practiced they did not add an additional year to the 49 — (the 50th) rather, the yovel was counted as the first of the next 49. So, later on in the era when yovel was not observed there will be no change in the regularity of the shemitah cycles. Rashi felt that by attributing the teaching to R. Yehudah the sharp student would automatically answer this question.

[It should be noted that in another place Rashi follows the opinion of the Rabbis who argue with R. Yehudah — in the case of the calculations concerning the number of Shemitah years that were desecrated by the Jewish people (see Rashi, Bamidbar 26:35).

This presents no problems for Rashi who often uses one opinion when it presents the best explanation — plain meaning of a certain verse — and an opposing view when it provides proper understanding in another place in Torah. This same principle is followed in Torah in many cases.]

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6. In chapter two of Pirkei Avos we learn today:

Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai received [the oral translation] from Hillel and Shammai. He used to say: “If you have learned much Torah, do not claim special credit for yourself, since for that very purpose you were created.” (Avos 2:8)

A — R. Yochanan ben Zakkai’s reasoning indicates that we speak of one who has studied more than normal and more than was expected of him. Despite this R. Yochanan ben Zakkai says, “Do not claim special credit.” However if this reasoning is followed how can he then say “Since for that very purpose you were created”? This would indicate the minimum requirement, not more than normal. And if we say that it is normal and required — then why would he claim “special credit”?

B — Why does the Mishnah simply say, “much Torah,” why not be more specific e.g. studied “all day,” the “whole Torah,” etc.?

C — Why does it say, “do not claim special credit for yourself “which seems to infer that the main problem is that you are taking the credit for yourself.

D — Why does the Mishnah use the term Notzarata — (lit. formed) rather than Nivreisa — created — as would normally be the term? This is especially problematic since Nivra would indicate the completed creation, while Notzar would only refer to the formation stage.

E — What connection can we discern between this dictum and its author, R. Yochanan ben Zakkai?

In Gemara Sanhedrin we are told of the lofty levels of Torah knowledge that R. Yochanan ben Zakkai attained, reaching the ultimate state of Torah learning — the Semichah — to teach and decide halachic rules.

Yet, R. Yochanan ben Zakkai continued to study and to advance in his Torah knowledge. When R. Yochanan ben Zakkai tells us about one who learns more than average he is clearly alluding to one who, like himself, continues to study even after reaching a level of ruling in Halachah. In such a case R. Yochanan ben Zakkai says to us — “you were created for this.” The difference between creation and formation is that creation makes the “matter” of existence while formation continues to add “form” and “stature” to the “matter.”

In Torah study the Beriah (or Nivrah) level would be the essential intellect perfected when one achieves Semichah, while Yetzirah would refer to the continued growth and development of “form” which may go on infinitely.

Therefore, when you study more Torah you may surpass the original purpose of being created, but you have still a long way to go to attain perfect “form.” Consequently, do not seek special credit. And while you may seek the credit to increase the Torah, prayer and good deeds of the world — you may not seek this credit for yourself, because you were created (formed) with this in mind to study more and more.

* * *

7. In the Laws of the Temple, the Rambam writes:

The Sanctuary as a whole was not on a level ground, but on the slope (rising steps) of the mount. (Chapter 6:1)

Let us understand:

A — Why does the Rambam start by saying that the Sanctuary was not on a level ground? It would suffice to simply say that it was built on a slope of a mountain.

B — Why does he say on the “slope of the mount”? Either “slope” or “mount” should be enough to explain where the Temple was built.

At the start of the Laws of the Temple the Rambam explained that the Temple was included in G‑d’s command to Moshe to build the Tabernacle. If so, one may assume that some aspects of the Tabernacle should be copied in the Temples.

Now, the Tabernacle was built on level ground as we find no reference to any steps. If so, perhaps the Temple should likewise be built on level ground. Therefore the Rambam begins by stating that the Temple did not copy the Tabernacle in that aspect and its rising levels were part of G‑d’s command to Shlomo HaMelech. (see Divrei HaYamim I 28:19)

Now, why say “on the slope”? We might think that the Temple had to be at the summit of the mount, but there on the peak, it should be built on level ground — therefore the Rambam says the Temple compound itself was built in rising levels on the slopes of the summit, hence the words “slopes.” Furthermore, one might think that if the Temple is built on the slope then the floor of the compound should also slope upwards with the slope of the mountain, therefore Rambam specified “maalah,” no slopes, but only steps. He then goes on to explain that between each higher level on the slope there was a set of stairs. The floors were level and as the mountain sloped there were steps to rise to the next level.

However, the term “steps” (slopes) alone would be misleading for then it could mean that the complex was on level ground but had steps. So he says “slope of the mount” — it was built on the slopes of the mountain top and had steps going up.