Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
EZEKIEL CHAPTER 45
"And when you divide the land by lot for inheritance." (v 1). As Ezekiel's vision of the "Final Settlement" moves towards its conclusion in these final chapters of his book, he now begins to set forth the way in which the Land of Israel will be apportioned between the Temple, the Priests, the Levites, the Nasi and the Twelve Tribes of Israelites at the end of days.
The opening section in our present chapter (verses 1-7) deals with the Temple compound, the territories of the Priests and Levites and those of the Nasi. Following this section, the prophecy digresses to subjects mostly relating to the Temple services before returning to the subject of the boundaries of the Land and its apportionment among the Twelve Tribes from ch 47 v 13 to the end of the book.
In order to understand the situation of the territories of the Temple, Priests, Levites and Nasi as described in our present chapter in relation to those of the other tribes, it is necessary to grasp that the future boundaries of the Land of Israel will stretch "from the river to the river", i.e. from the Nile to the Euphrates, as promised to Abraham (Gen. 15:18). This is clear from the section on the future boundaries of the Land in Ezekiel 47:13-20. Thus the northern boundary of the Land is on the Mediterranean coast way north of the State of Israel's present-day northern border up in Turkey at HOR HAHAR by the city of Antakya (=ancient Antioch) approximately 38 degrees N of the Equator. The southern boundary of the Land will be at the western arm of the Nile near Port Said .
In Ezekiel Chapter 48 we will learn that this entire stretch of land is destined to be divided into a series of thirteen equal strips running from east to west, one under the other from north to south. Each strip will be 25,000 poles (= approximately 80 kilometers) "wide" (i.e. from north to south), while its length (west-east) will be all the way from the western boundary of the Land, i.e. the Mediterranean Sea , to the eastern boundary of the Land. Out of these thirteen strips, the center strip just over midway from north to south - which is the subject of verses 1-7 of our present chapter - will be for the Temple , the Priests and Levites, the City of Jerusalem and the Nasi. Seven of the Twelve Tribes will take their territories in the seven strips to the north of this central strip, while the other five Tribes will take theirs in the five strips to the south, as will be set forth in Chapter 48 (see Rashi on verse 1 of our present chapter).
"And when you divide the Land. you shall designate a portion (TERUMAH) to HaShem, a holy area of the land: the length (i.e. east-west) shall be twenty-five thousand poles and the breadth (north-south) shall be ten thousand" (verse 1). This TERUMAH of approximately 80 x 30 kilometers is the choicest (holiest) part of the central strip and will house the Temple itself in an area of 500 x 500 poles (=3000 x 3000 cubits), as set forth in verses 2-3, while the remainder will provide areas for housing for the priests who will minister in the Temple (v 4). South of this TERUMAH strip will be another strip of 25,000 x 10,000 poles providing areas for housing for the Levites (verse 5), and south of the Levites' strip will be a third, narrower strip of 25,000 x 5,000 poles for the City of Jerusalem, where Israelites will be able to have houses (verse 6, see Rashi). Thus the TERUMAH strip of the Temple and priests together with the strips of the Levites and the City of Jerusalem will make up a square of territory 25,000 x 25,000 poles in the center of Israel (Rashi on v 6).
The remaining territories of the central strip from the western border of this square to the Mediterranean and from its eastern border to the eastern border of the Land of Israel will be given to the Nasi, the king or leader of the entire people (verse 7). His position will evidently be hereditary (see Rambam, Laws of Kings 1:7) and his lands will be inherited by his descendants (see Metzudas David on Ezekiel ch 46 v 16). By having his own lands in perpetuity, there will be no need for the Nasi to exploit others or expropriate their lands, and this will enable the corruption that characterized the kings of Israel and many of the later kings of Judah (not to speak of Israel's present-day "leaders") to be eradicated forever (verse 9).
Verses 10-12 lay down the future units of measurement of solids (the EIPHAH v 10) and liquids (the BATH v 11) and of currency (v 12). For the eradication of corruption and injustice also depends upon fair business dealings, whereas "double standards" bring on Amalek. This is why the Torah commandment about fair weights and measures (Deut. 25:13-16) is followed immediately by the commandment to erase the memory of Amalek forever (ibid. vv 17-19).
Verses 13-15 describe the tithes of wheat, barley, oil and lambs which the people will offer in the Temple or for the consumption of the priests. The Nasi will have the responsibility of providing the Temple animal, meal, oil and wine offerings on the festivals, Sabbaths and new moons (v 17). Rashi comments on verse 17: "I say that NASI here refers to the Cohen Gadol (High Priest) and that the same applies wherever the word NASI appears in this subject, but I have heard in the name of Rabbi Menachem that it refers to the king."
"Thus says HaShem: In the first month on the first day of the month you shall take a young bullock." (v 18). Rashi (ad loc.) states that this refers to the ox mentioned earlier (Ez. 43:19) as the inaugural sin-offering in the Temple , and that we thus learn that the inauguration of the Future Temple will take place on the first of the month of Nissan. This supports the opinion of Rabbi Yehoshua that the future redemption will take place in Nissan (see RaDaK on verse 18 of our present chapter).
Verses 21-25 deal with the festival sacrifices in the Temple . The resolution of certain apparent discrepancies between our present text and the festival sacrifices as laid down in Leviticus and Deuteronomy is discussed by Rashi on v 22-4.
"The gate of the Inner Courtyard that looks eastwards shall be shut for the six working days but on the Sabbath it shall be opened." (v 1). This is the gate of the center courtyard of the Temple . It will be closed during the week because neither the people nor the Nasi will normally come to the Temple on weekdays but only on the Sabbaths and New Moons (cf. Isaiah 66:23). For this reason the east gate will then be opened to enable them to prostrate towards the opening of the Temple and the Holy of Holies (see Metzudas David on v 1).
In the words of Ramchal: "The East Gate is a place of the most intense light and power, and cannot be opened for the creatures of the lower worlds except on the Sabbath and the New Moon. This is because it is in direct alignment with the Great Gate, the center column, and must therefore be kept closed. It can only be opened for the Prince, namely the Messianic King. Because of his great strength and paramount importance, this gate will be open for him, but no-one else will be able to enter except on those two days. On these days the Shechinah receives a very great light indeed from Tiferet . For this reason this gate will be opened on these two days and the people will come to prostrate themselves and share its great light" (Ramchal, Mishkney Elyon).
Verses 4-8 describe the offerings that the Nasi will bring on behalf of the people on the Sabbaths, New Moons and festivals (see Rashi on vv 4 and 6).
Verses 9-10 describe how the people will enter and pass through the Temple precincts when fulfilling the commandment to appear there on the festivals (Ex. 23:17). Normally it is not permitted to take a "short cut" directly through the Temple or through a synagogue, entering on one side and going out on the other (Berachos 62b). But here the text explicitly instructs the people and the Nasi to enter from the north and exit from the south, or vice versa, on the festivals.
In the words of Ramchal: "The obligation to appear in the Temple on festivals. has the purpose of reconnecting the branches with their roots three times a year. The roots are divided into two, one to the right and one to the left. The pilgrims [branches] must enter by one gate, proceed across the Temple and leave by the opposite gate in order for all the roots to be joined to one another and thus become interconnected and unified. When this happens, it is said, 'And who is like your People Israel, one nation in the earth!' (II Samuel 7:23; Ramchal Mishkney Elyon).
Verses 11-12 describe the festival and free-will offerings of the Nasi, while verses 13-15 give the details of the daily continual offering in the Temple .
Verses 16-18 revert to the subject of the rights of the Nasi over his designated territories, which were described in the previous chapter (Ez. 45:7). The perpetual ownership of these territories by the Nasi and his heirs will obviate the need for them to expropriate the lands of the people and oppress them.
Verses 19ff seemingly somewhat abruptly revert to the subject of the form of the Future Temple in a further continuation of Ezekiel's "virtual tour" around its precincts, except that here, the focus is not so much on the structure of the buildings in question as on their function in the Temple rituals. In verse 19 the prophet is again shown the three storey chambers running parallel with the Temple building on its north (and south) sides which he described in ch 14 vv 1-14. Here he is informed that the purpose of these chambers is to provide a place for the priests to prepare (and eat) their holy of holies (KODSHEI KODSHIM) sacrificial portions (v 20).
In the final stage of his "virtual tour" of the Temple before its astounding climax in the next chapter, Ezekiel is shown four chambers in the four corners of the Outer Courtyard corresponding to the four unroofed "chambers" in the four corners of the Ezras Nashim in the First and Second Temples. The purpose of those in the Future Temple is somewhat different: they will provide places for the priests and the people to consume their portions of "light holy" sacrifices (KODSHIM KALIM), which have a lesser stringency than the KODSHEI KODSHIM of the priests (see RaDaK on v 24).
* * * The passage in Ezekiel 45:16-46:18 is read as the Haftara on Shabbos Parshas HaChodesh prior to or on Rosh Chodesh Nissan, when in addition to the weekly parshah the section in Exodus 12:1-19 is also read * * *
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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