Avraham ben Yaakov
EZEKIEL CHAPTER 41
The Hebrew text of Ezekiel's account of the Future Temple - which will be the earthly representation of the Heavenly Temple - is necessarily opaque because is simultaneously a detailed description of a highly complex physical structure and a garb clothing the deepest secrets of God's names and attributes and His government of the world. The classical Biblical commentators on our text (Rashi, Metzudas David and RaDaK) discuss at length the literal meaning of the words and phrases making up Ezekiel's description of the physical structure of the Future Temple but hardly enter into Midrash and do not touch at all (at least openly) upon its deeper meaning.
The only comprehensive discussion of the latter with which this author is familiar is that of the kabbalistic genius Ramchal (Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzzatto 1707-47), who side by side with his MISHKNEY ELYON on the kabbalistic meaning of the Temple also provided "Five Chapters" in the style of the Mishneh clarifying its dimensions and physical form on the basis of Ezekiel's text. My dear friend Rabbi Abraham Rokeach, who is a Talmid Chacham, an authority on the forms of the First, Second and Future Temples and also a building engineer by profession, has told me that from the engineering point of view, it is Ramchal's explanation of the physical structure of the Future Temple that makes the most sense.
Within the scope of the present Study Notes it is impossible to do more than briefly categorize the main areas of the Temple precincts as described by Ezekiel in these chapters and to offer a tiny sample of comments by Ramchal about the significance of the areas in question. Those interested in studying Ezekiel's text in conjunction with Ramchal's commentary in SECRETS OF THE FUTURE TEMPLE should note that Ramchal in his work takes a different route around the Temple from that taken by Ezekiel. For Ezekiel started at the outer wall of the Temple Mount , entering by the eastern gate into the Outer Courtyard and then going INWARDS first to the Inner Courtyard and then to the actual Temple building itself. Ramchal on the other hand chose to discuss first the Holy of Holies and the Sanctuary, and then move OUTWARDS from the Temple to the Inner Courtyard and from there to the Outer Courtyard and then to the Temple Mount.
"And he brought me to the Sanctuary." (v 1). The "Sanctuary" is the HEICHAL, the main Temple building - the House itself (containing the Menorah, Showbread Table and Incense Altar) as opposed to its surrounding courtyards. Verses 1-2 provide the dimensions of the Sanctuary and its entrance. "This is the place from which the souls of Israel receive their sustenance, and this is where the inner Incense Altar is located. This is the Altar where the sacrifice of the souls is offered when they bring their gift before the King" (Ramchal).
Verses 3-4 provide the dimensions of the Holy of Holies - the innermost chamber of the House. "The first place that emanated from the Foundation Stone is a place of intense light and abundant blessing. For as she [i.e. Malchut] goes forth from before the King, there she stands at first in all her beauty and glory. Who can describe her power and brilliance? This power is given only to Israel . A great screen separates the Sanctuary from the Holy of Holies. This hall is thus for the King alone and none other. Only once each year [on Yom Kippur] when the High Priest in the lower world enters the Holy of Holies with the incense, is permission to enter granted to the one who is permitted to enter. This is because of God's great love for His people, who are more precious to Him than the ministering angels" (Ramchal).
Verses 5-11 describe the walls of the House and the dimensions of the "side chambers" that were built in banks around them - three on the west side and fifteen each on the north and south sides.
"Surrounding the Sanctuary and the Holy of Holies are structures in the form of rooms or cells built one on top of the other. Everything that comes forth from the Holy of Holies divides into three columns. Thus there are three rows of five cells along the south wall, three rows of five along the north wall, and three cells on top of one another along the west wall. Thus the Sanctuary is surrounded by cells on three sides. Let me explain the purpose of these cells. Besides the sustenance that the armies of angels receive from the gates of the Inner Courtyard and beyond, they also receive a share from behind the walls of the Sanctuary itself. This is extra sustenance. Even though it comes to them from outside [the Sanctuary], it is on the highest level, as opposed to the sustenance they receive from the gates, which is already on a lower level even though it comes from inside" (Ramchal).
Verses 12-15 explain the dimensions of the outer walls of the House on the west, north, east and south sides. Verses 16-21 describe the windows and paneling of the House and the ornamental cherubs and palm trees on the walls.
"Inside the Sanctuary, the most beautiful lights appear on all the walls. They all receive from one another as they spread out from amidst the radiance caused by the perfect union all around. These lights shine in the form of cherubs and palm trees. Understand the greatness and importance of these lights. There are male and female palms. Of this it is said: "The Tzaddik will flourish like the palm" (Psalms 92:13), referring to Tzaddik (Yesod) and his mate (Malchut). The cherubs have two faces: that of a man on one side and that of a lion on the other. Know that the building of this Temple is accomplished through the power of the right side (Chesed, the face of the lion) in mercy (Tiferet, the face of man). It is from the light of these two that the holy union symbolized by the palm tree derives. For this reason the faces of the cherubs are turned towards the palm tree, for the lion is on one side, the face of the man on the other, and the palm tree stands between the two" (Ramchal).
THIS IS THE TABLE THAT IS BEFORE HASHEM
Verse 22 apparently speaks about "the altar of wood" but our sages explained that this cannot refer to the altar on which the animal sacrifices are offered (since this is located in the Inner Courtyard in front of the House). It could possibly refer to the Incense Altar in the Sanctuary which is made of wood plated with gold (RaDaK ad loc.) but Targum (ad loc.) explains that the "altar" mentioned here is in fact a TABLE adjacent to the Incense Altar, in accordance with the words of the angel to Ezekiel at the end of the verse: "This is the table that is before HaShem". Thus our sages commented: "The verse opens with the 'altar' and ends up with the 'table'. This comes to teach that as long as the Temple is standing, the altar atones for Israel, but now it is a person's table (the way he eats in purity and holiness) that atones for him" (Berachos 54b, Chagigah 27a). Some customarily recite the verse "This is the table that is before HaShem" as they begin their meal, and take care to say words of Torah at the table in order to elevate their eating.
Verses 23-26 describe the Sanctuary gates, their number and form and the windows of the Vestibule that stood in front of the Sanctuary.
"The root of all things is found in the Supreme Wisdom that stands at the peak of all levels and gives power to all the hosts of heaven and the heavens of the heavens. This Wisdom possesses mighty 'gates' from which its radiance and glory shine to all the creatures in the lower worlds that crave to delight in its great pleasantness. This wall has gates, for without gates how would blessing and sustenance go forth to the lower realms?" (Ramchal).
"And he took me out to the Outer Courtyard. and he brought me to into the chamber that was over against the main wing." (verse 1). Verses 1-12 of the present chapter describe the dimensions of three-storey buildings or "chambers" that stood parallel to the main Temple building on its north and south sides. Verses 13-14 then explain the function of these chambers, which was to serve as a place where the Cohanim can eat their portions of the holy of holy sacrificial offerings.
"Understand that these chambers are where the angels actually receive the sustenance given to them from around the outside of the Sanctuary building. The sustenance flows out from the recess into the cells adjoining the Sanctuary walls. As it leaves the cells it merges into a single flow in the Winding Staircase. Then at a distance of twenty cubits it reaches these chambers, where the angels receive it. These chambers are designated for eating the holy sacrificial portions, for this is the sustenance that comes down to the branches after they rejoin their root and after the beautiful unification that is brought about through the sacrifice. But note how far away the angels are when they receive their share of the holy offering as compared to the souls of Israel , who receive their share from inside the Sanctuary, since their sustenance comes from the incense, which is burned inside. This is why the sages said: " Israel 's appointed place is further within than that of the ministering angels" ( Yerushalmi Shabbat 2; Ramchal) .
Verses 15-20 measure the outer perimeter of the Temple Mount on the east, north, south and west sides. Since each side was 500 rods, and the angel's measuring rod was six cubits long (Ezekiel 40:5), the future Temple Mount will be 3000 x 3000 cubits. Thus the future Temple Mount will be THIRTY-SIX TIMES bigger than the Temple Mount in the time of the Second Temple , which was 500 x 500 cubits!!!
"The Temple Mount is the place from which the officers of the World of Asiyah receive, and thus its walls, which set bounds for all the light contained within it, total five hundred rods by five hundred rods. The rationale of these dimensions is bound up with the fact that all the lights that govern the running of the world work together in complete accord and perfect unison. They all join and become interconnected with each other instead of going each in its own direction. Therefore nothing is ever executed through Kingly Power [ Malchut ] that was not commanded by the King [ Zeir Anpin ], Who is the Tree of Life. This is a journey of five hundred years. That is why the measure of the Temple Mount is the greatest of all: five hundred. But it did not spread out any further, for as she [ Malchut ] receives, so she gives. This future Temple will be superior to the earlier Temples . In the First Temple , each of the four sides of the Temple Mount was five hundred cubits in length, while in the Third Temple each side will be five hundred rods . The use of the rod as the unit of measurement in the Third Temple is bound up with fact that it will be built through the revelation of the hidden "Beginning", Keter, the Crown.
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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