Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
EZEKIEL CHAPTER 39
The present chapter continues Ezekiel's prophecy of the war of Gog and Magog, depicting the miraculous overthrow of their invading hordes on the hills and mountains of Israel , where they will be prey for the wild birds and beasts of the field.
"And I will make My holy name known in the midst of My people Israel and I will not allow My holy name to be profaned any more" (verse 7). "For if Israel are lowly, this is causes desecration of His name because people say that these are the people of HaShem yet He does not have the power to save them" (Rashi ad loc.).
"And I will give to Gog a place for burial in Israel , the valley of those who travel to the east of the sea." (v 11). Although this verse does not explicitly spell out whether the sea in question is Israel 's "western" sea, i.e. the Mediterranean, or her "eastern" sea, i.e. the Sea (or "Lake") of Tiberius, our commentators agree that it is referring to the latter (Targum, Rashi and RaDaK ad loc.). It would thus appear that the great bulk of the armies of Gog and Magog will fall in a mountain pass to the east of the Kinneret ("Lake Tiberius"), which suggests that they will seek to mount a land invasion of Israel from Jordan and Syria via the Golan Heights , a scenario that in the present age becomes more and more plausible with every passing day.
Our rabbis taught that the unique privilege of the armies of Gog and Gog in being brought to burial (COVERED under the earth) rather than being ignominiously left out in the open to eternity is a reward "measure for measure" for their ancestor Japheth, who with his brother Shem averted his eyes from the nakedness of their father Noah after he became drunk and COVERED it over (Genesis 9:23; Bereishis Rabbah #36).
"And all the people of the land shall bury them and it shall be for them for a name" (v 13) - "All the nations will tell their praises and kindness, saying 'There is no other people who are as compassionate as this - can you find anyone who buries the very enemy that stood up against him to kill him?" (Rashi ad loc.). Those who have not been deceived by the contemporary world media campaign to demonize Israel and its people know that until today this outstanding compassion even for their enemies is one of the distinguishing traits of the chosen people.
God's overthrow of the armies of Gog and Magog and His restoration of Israel to dwell at peace in their land will be the vindication of His glory in the eyes of both Israel and all the nations, who will thereby know that HaShem rules (vv 21-29).
After the completion of Ezekiel's prophecy of the war of Gog and Magog, we now come to the triumphant closing section of his book in chapters 40-48 prophesying the final order that will prevail in the world at the end of days with the restoration of the Holy Temple and the coming of Melech HaMashiach, when the twelve tribes of Israel will dwell securely and at peace in their land. This will be the Final Settlement, when the world will attain a state of complete rectification (TIKKUN).
"In the twenty-fifth year after our exile, at the beginning of the year (ROSH HASHANAH) on the tenth of the month." (v 1). Since Rosh HaShanah is normally celebrated on the FIRST of the month of Tishri, the dating of this prophecy to Rosh HaShanah AND the tenth of the month (Yom Kippur) is a seeming self-contradiction. This is resolved through the teaching of our rabbis that Ezekiel received this prophecy in the Jubilee year, which is inaugurated with the sounding of the shofar throughout the land of Israel on Yom Kippur, which is thus the "Rosh HaShanah" of the Jubilee year (Leviticus 25:9; see Rashi on verse 1 of our present chapter). Since all slaves are freed in the Jubilee year and all lands that have been sold return to their original owners, it was appropriate that this prophecy of complete redemption and restoration should have been received on this auspicious day of liberation.
"In the visions of God He brought me into the land of Israel " (v 2) - "He did not actually take me there but showed it to me as if I was there" (Rashi ad loc.).
".and set me upon a very high mountain" (v 2) - "This is the Temple Mount . God showed it to him as being very high indeed, for it will be on a very high and exalted level, as it is written, 'Established shall be the mountain of the House of HaShem at the head of the mountains and exalted above the hills" (Isaiah 2:2, RaDaK on verse 2 of our present chapter).
".And behold there was a man whose appearance was like the appearance of bronze" (v 3) - "This was the same color as the radiance of the Chayos, who were 'flashing like the color of burnished bronze'" (Ezekiel 1:7; Rashi on verse 3 of our present chapter). The linen cord in the angel's hand was to measure the dimensions of the various Temple courtyards, while his measuring rod was to measure the thickness of the walls and the height and breadth of the gates.
* * Computer-generated views of the Future Temple by Rabbi Avraham Yaakov Rokach may be seen here. * *
"And the man said to me, Son of man, see with your eyes and hear with your ears and pay attention to all that I will show you. tell all that you see to the House of Israel" (v 4). The angel stood ready to take Ezekiel on a complete "virtual tour" of the Future Temple , explaining the detailed measurements of every wall, courtyard, gate and chamber, in order that he should go back to the people and teach them the form of the Temple .
Despite the fact that Ezekiel's prophecy was received well in advance of the building of the Second Temple , it should be emphasized that what Ezekiel saw was not the exact form in which the Second Temple was actually built. In the words of Rambam (Hilchos Beis HaBechirah 1:4): "The building that Solomon built (the First Temple ) had already been clearly explained in the book of Kings. Now the form of the Temple that is destined to be built in the future is written in the book of Ezekiel but it is not clearly explained, and when the men of the Second Temple built it in the time of Ezra, they built it like Solomon's Temple with certain details as explained in Ezekiel." It would appear that the builders of the Second Temple did not believe that the world had yet reached the level of perfection which Ezekiel's Temple expressed. We may infer from Rambam's words that until now the Temple prophesied by Ezekiel has never been built and that this is therefore the form of the Future Temple for which we are praying and waiting every day.
Ezekiel's vision of the Future Temple and its meaning is the subject of the kabbalistic classic MISHKNEY ELYON ("Dwelling places of the Supreme") by Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzzatto ("Ramchal", 1707-47), which the present author had the privilege of translating into English under the title of "Secrets of the Future Temple " with full introduction, maps and diagrams. This work is available for free download at http://www.azamra.org/secrets.shtml.
Ramchal explains that the Temple is the center point where all the different branches of the Tree of Life connect with their roots, channeling a flow of sustenance and blessing to the entire world. The different areas of the Temple radiating outwards from the EVVEN SHESIYAH ("Foundation Stone") in the Holy of Holies to the surrounding courtyards on the Temple Mount correspond to the four kabbalistic "worlds". The detailed dimensions of the various Temple chambers, walls and gates correspond to various divine names and attributes, because the Hebrew letters that make them up all have mathematical values. These names and attributes interact with one another to create a three-dimensional "hologram" expressing through a unique form of sacred geometry the spiritual kingdom through which this world is governed. Through the study of the form of the Future Temple and its meaning, "You will know how the King of the kings of kings watches over His creatures and conducts His universe in an ordered manner. You will be able to understand the way the world is run and how God gives each day's portion of food and sustenance to all His creatures, each in its own time." (Ramchal, Mishkney Elyon).
The route by which the angel took Ezekiel on his "virtual" tour of the Future Temple began at the outer wall of the Temple Mount . From here the angel took him through the Eastern Gate, showing him the "cells" flanking it on both sides on the outside of the wall, and the "vestibule" that stood before it inside the great Outer Courtyard (vv 5-16). Those familiar with the ground plan of the First and Second Temples should note that a fundamental difference in the design of the Future Temple is that the "Outer Courtyard" (corresponding to the Ezras Nashim, Women's Courtyard) will entirely surround the Temple Sanctuary and Inner Courtyard (Azarah) on all sides, whereas in the First and Second Temples the Ezras Nashim adjoined the Inner Courtyard on one side only but did not surround it on all sides.
Vv 17-27 describe the three gates of the outer courtyard situated respectively on the north, south and east sides (the west side has no gate) and an elevated gallery with chambers running around the inside of the courtyard wall. Vv 28-37 describe the plan of the Inner Courtyard (Ezras Yisrael, Azarah) with its three gates facing those of the outer courtyard. Verses 38-43 describe the Washers' Chamber where the sacrificial portions will be washed and prepared for offering on the Altar. Verses 44-7 describe other special chambers in the Inner Courtyard for the instruments of the Levites and the garments of the Priests. Verses 48-9 describe the measurements of the OOLAM or "Vestibule" leading into the main Temple Sanctuary building.
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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