Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
I KINGS CHAPTER 7
The account of the building of the Temple is interrupted briefly at the beginning of our present chapter in order to describe the building of Solomon's royal palace, which took thirteen years. According to most opinions Solomon did not build his own palace until AFTER the completion of the Temple , which took only seven years: Solomon displayed commendably greater alacrity in building for God's glory than he did for his own, yet his palace too was clearly very magnificent. The "House of the Forest of Lebanon " (v 2) was a cool, airy, most elegantly proportioned summer house with rows upon rows of windows. It was the many wooden columns that made it seem like a forest [which was perhaps conducive to Hisbodedus]. In the same complex was the king's throne-room where he sat in judgment (v 7) as well as his own private apartments (v 8). From verse 12 we see that the walls of Solomon's palace were built in the same style as those of the Temple (see Metzudas David on this verse), indicating that great thought was lavished on the harmonious appearance of the Holy City of Jerusalem.
HIRAM THE CRAFTSMAN
Some Bible readers have assumed that the Hiram mentioned in our present chapter (v 13) is identical with Hiram king of Tyre mentioned in ch 5 vv 15ff, but this is highly unlikely. Hiram the craftsman was an Israelite whose father was from the tribe of Naftali while his mother was from the tribe of Dan (see II Chronicles 2:13). He was living in the prosperous city of Tyre , where perhaps the opportunities to apply his expertise had been greater than they were in his native tribal areas before the time of Solomon.
Hiram the craftsman is compared with Bezalel, who constructed the Sanctuary in the Wilderness - prototype of the Temple in Jerusalem . One of the reasons why Hiram's tribal origins are specifically mentioned is to show that Rachel was answered when she prayed, "With great wrestlings (NAFTULEI) have I wrestled with my sister" (Genesis 30:8). Bezalel, builder of the wilderness Sanctuary, was from the tribe of Judah (Leah's son) - yet he could not build it alone and had to have help from Oholiav, who was from the tribe of Dan (son of Bilhah, RACHEL's handmaiden). Likewise Solomon (Judah-Leah) required the help of Hiram, who was from the tribe of Naftali, also Rachel's foster-son through Bilhah. Thus the Partzufim of Rachel and Leah were both involved in the construction of the Sanctuary and the Temple .
Chapter 6 described the construction of the Temple buildings themselves out of stone (Malchus), wood (Tiferes) and gold (Binah). Our present chapter describes the ornaments and vessels of the Temple , which were made out of copper/bronze (Nechoshes), corresponding to Netzach and Hod, the "legs" (cf. Daniel 2:32).
Thus the account of Hiram's work begins with the two great columns named Yachin ("He will establish") and Bo'az ("in Him is strength") that stood on the two sides of the entrance to the OULAM ("Vestibule") of the Temple building. These columns, with their very beautiful ornate "crowns", are the "legs" supporting the Temple , channeling its light downwards.
The copper "Sea" of Solomon was an enormous circular copper pool supported by twelve copper oxen and containing sufficient water to fill 150 Mikvehs ("purificatory ritual pools"). The Cohanim-priests would immerse here before beginning their service in the Temple . As our text states, the pool had a diameter of ten cubits, and "a line of thirty cubits would go around it" (v 23). In various Talmudic discussions involving the ratio of the diameter of a circle to its circumference, this verse is cited, although the commentators do point out that the figure of thirty cubits given here is only approximate, since the actual ratio is "Pi" - 3.14 (Eiruvin 14a Succah 8a etc.).
The MECHONOS and KEERAYIM described in vv. 27ff were respectively the bases and lavers from which the priests drew water to ritually wash their hands and feet prior to Temple service (Ex. 30:17-21).Verse 26 describes how the MECHONOS - the bases on which the lavers stood and could be wheeled around - were engraved with cherubs, lions and palms KE-MA'AR-EESH VE-LOYOS SAVIV. The standard biblical translations do little justice to the mystery of this verse, where MA'AR has the connotation of attachment, as does the word LOYOS. Rashi commenting on the same word LOYOS in v 29 states that they were "a kind of male and female attached one to the other". This clearly relates to the basic mystery of the Temple , which is the attachment of the Holy One blessed be He with His Indwelling Presence - the Shekhinah. This gives special point to the Gemara (Yoma 54a), which tells that "when the alien foreigners entered the Sanctuary and saw the Cherubs embracing one another, they took them out into the market place and said 'Is this what these Israelites, whose blessing is a blessing and whose curse is a curse, keep busy with?' Immediately they despised them, as it is written, 'All those who honored her despised her because they saw her nakedness (ERVASAH, from same root as MA'AR)' (Lam. 1:8)."
As our text narrates, all these copper vessels were cast in the Jordan valley, where the earth was particularly suitable for making the earthenware moulds into which the molten metal was poured (RaDaK on v 46). There was so much copper that it was simply impossible to calculate the exact quantity (v 47).
Verse 49 tells us that Solomon made TEN golden Menorahs (Candelabra). He did not put away the Menorah made by Moses in the Wilderness, but arranged five of his new ones on each side of that of Moses, which stood to the south of the Sanctuary. Although they are not mentioned in our present text, we learn from II Chronicles 4:8 that Solomon also made TEN Showbread Tables, which were likewise arranged on each side of Moses' Showbread Table, which stood to the north of the Sanctuary (see RaDaK on I Kings 8:6).
All Solomon's innovations in the Temple were based on specific instructions which he received from his father David, "everything in writing from the hand of HaShem upon me" (II Chronicles 4:8): everything in the Temple was based upon prophecy.
"And all the labor was complete (VA-TI-SHLAM)" v 51. "VA-TEHI-SHALOM - 'it was all PEACE': Not one of the craftsmen that built the Temple died or became sick during the work and none of their tools ever broke" (Psikta Rabasi 6).
* * * The custom of the Sefardim is to read I Kings 7:13-26 as the Haftara of Parshas Vayakhel Exodus 35:1-38:20 * * *
* * * The custom of the Ashkenazim is to read I Kings 7:40-50 as the Haftara of Parshas Vayakhel, Exodus 35:1-38:20 * * *
* * * In years when the first and last days of Chanukah fall on Shabbos, I Kings 7:40-50 is read as the Haftara on the second Shabbos of Chanukah * * *
With the completion of all the work it was time to inaugurate the new Temple . Solomon brought up the Ark from where David had taken it to rest temporarily on Mount Zion, and he brought up the Sanctuary from where it had been in Giv'on ever since the destruction of Shilo and Nov. Some of the Sanctuary items that would no longer be in use were now honorably hidden away in GENIZA, presumably under the Temple Mount , which Solomon apparently designed with an intricate secret subterranean network.
A new stage had arrived in the revelation of God's glory with the completion of the Temple rooted in HOKHMAH, "wisdom". Now that everything was complete and in place, the Glory of God, His Indwelling Presence, "came down", as it were, into the building.
It was then that Solomon, who was then 23 years old, addressed the entire nation of Israel assembled at the Temple , after which he turned to the Altar, got down on his knees and raised his arms to the heavens to offer his most eloquent prayer for God to bless His House and fulfill its intent. Many phrases from this prayer are incorporated into the prayers and supplications in the Siddur and Selichos etc.
Having erected the building, Solomon now came to teach its true function and purpose - to reveal how God governs the whole of creation with direct providence over every detail (HASHGACHAH PROTIS). It is a revelation of the complete unity of God when people pray in the Temple or even "through" it from a great distance away, because embodied in the actual courtyards and buildings and vessels of the Temple are attributes of God, attached to one another in unity KE-MA'AR-EESH VE-LOYOS SAVIV.
Thus Solomon details the many different needs for which people must pray. Verses 31-2 speak of people's prayers for justice in the face of wrong-doing they have suffered from others (including adultery, which can take a man's wife from him or vice versa and destroys the sanctity of the family, and is specifically alluded to here, see Rashi).
Verse 33 teaches that it is our own sins that cause our enemies to strike us, and that we must repent and pray for salvation. Verse 35 deals with drought; verse 37 with famine, which may be caused by bad winds, crop failure, locusts etc., and with illness. Verse 38 teaches that each person must pray about the afflictions he feels in his own heart and that he must understand that "You give to a man according to all his ways". This implies that if we are unworthy, we cannot expect God to answer our prayers (though in His mercy, He may!)
From vv 41ff we learn that God will also listen to the prayers of the NOCHRI, the non-Israelite, who hears of His great Name and comes to pray at the Temple . Indeed Solomon asks God to "do according to all that the NOCHRI cries out to You in order that all the peoples of the earth should know Your Name to fear You." (v 43). The NOCHRI may not understand that God does not always answer the undeserving - he may not even realize that he is undeserving, and if he receives no answer from God at the Temple he may not blame it on himself but on the Temple . This is why Solomon asks God to answer the NOCHRI for the sake of His great Name (Rashi on v 43).
From verses 46-50 we learn that even when Israel are in exile and captivity far from their Land, their prayers to God are efficacious when they pray to God "by way of their Land that You gave to their fathers, the city that You chose and the House that You have built for Your Name" (v 48). This implies that everyone should direct his or her prayers to God through the Temple in Jerusalem , no matter where in the world they are. (This is why Jews turn in the direction of the Temple to pray the daily AMIDAH prayer.)
According to the Rabbis, the inauguration of the new Temple took place in the month of Tishri from the 8 th to the 14 th of the month and was followed immediately by the celebration of the festival of Succos. This was such an important event that according to most opinions, fasting was suspended that year on Yom Kippur in order for the people to partake of the SHELAMIM (peace offerings) - see RaDaK on v 65.
May we very soon know what it is to celebrate HANUKAS HABAYIS, the inauguration of the new Temple that we are eagerly awaiting.
* * * I Kings 7:51 and 8:1-21 are read as the Haftara of Parshas Pekudey, Exodus 38:21-40:38 * * *
* * * In Diaspora communities, II Kings 8:2-21 is read as the Haftara on the Second Day of Succos, and I Kings 8:54-9:1 is read as the Haftara on the Festival of Shemini Atzeres * * *
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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