As already noted, Ramchal states the purpose of Mishkney Elyon in his opening words:
"My purpose in this work is to discuss the subject of the Heavenly Temple mentioned by our sages, to explain its form and structure in all their various details, and to show how the earthly Temple is in direct alignment with it in its structure and all its dimensions. Now I will lay these matters before you in a single, all-inclusive introductory work that will enable you 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 proper time."
The primary focus of Mishkney Elyon is upon the form of the Heavenly Temple, but since this is the prototype of the earthly Temple, much of what applies to the Heavenly Temple also applies to the earthly Temple. In many passages in Mishkney Elyon, Ramchal speaks simultaneously on a number of different levels, a feat made possible by the richness of Hebrew.
Ramchal explains step by step how the entire Heavenly Temple in all its details emanates from a single "place" or "point". This point exists on a plane that is beyond space as we know it, one that we could perhaps call metaspace. In the terminology of religion and Kabbalah, this is the spiritual plane "above" as opposed to the material world here "below". Indeed this "point", source of the Heavenly Temple, is ultimately the source of space as we know it.
This heavenly "place" or "point" corresponds to Even Shetiyah, the "Foundation Stone", in the earthly Temple. This is the rock on the Temple Mount that is called "the belly of the earth", the place from which the entire earth emanated like a fetus growing from the belly outwards. It is from the heavenly point corresponding to the earthly Even Shetiyah that all the lights that bring the Heavenly Temple into being shine forth. This point corresponds to the last of the Ten Sefirot, or Divine Attributes, of which the Kabbalah speaks. This is the Sefirah of Malchut, "Kingly Power", through which all the upper Sefirot shine. This Sefirah is also called Shechinah, the "Indwelling Presence of God".
Starting from this "point", Ramchal traces the emanation of the Heavenly Temple, beginning with the Holy of Holies and moving on successively to the main Sanctuary with its Gate and Vestibule, the surrounding Inner Temple Courtyard with its massive stone sacrificial Altar and various chambers, the Outer Courtyard and its chambers and gates, and finally the Temple Mount.
Ramchal explains the principle governing his choice of route:
"I will follow the path of the flow of blessing (Shefa) as it emerges from the source and spreads forth on all sides. I begin therefore with the place from which it emerges, and I will tell you in which directions it travels after leaving there, and which path it takes at the beginning and which path it takes at the end."
There is no simple one-word English equivalent of the Hebrew word שפע: Shefa. In most places in this translation of Mishkney Elyon phrases such as "the flow of blessing and sustenance" have been chosen in an attempt to convey something of the true meaning of the word.
In contemporary Hebrew, Shefa means "plenty" or "abundance", but the root word has the connotation of "influence", especially a positive, beneficial influence that one person or object has on another. The related word HaShPAah signifies the influence that a MaShPiA, a source of influence, has on the recipient of that influence.
In Mishkney Elyon and Kabbalah generally, Shefa refers to the spiritual influences which emanate from the higher levels of creation in order to sustain the lower and help bring them to their destiny.
The word "creation" here refers to all the different "worlds" and levels brought into being by God. These created worlds encompass not only this material World of Asiyah (Action) in which we live, including the Earth and all it contains, and all the planets, stars and galaxies to the outer limits of the physical universe but also the spiritual worlds that exist in the metaspace that is "above" our World of Asiyah. These are the World of Yetzirah (Formation), world of the angelic hosts that sustain and govern the stars, planets and other natural phenomena of Asiyah, and the World of Beriyah (Creation), world of the higher angels, the "officers" that govern the angelic hosts of Yetzirah. The World of Beriyah is also known as the "World of the Throne".
Beyond Beriyah lies a realm of Godly unity that is the source of all these created worlds: this realm of unity is the World of Atzilut (Emanation), from which the light of the Ten Sefirot shines forth to create, sustain and govern all the lower worlds.
Creation is not only a single past act. It is also a continuing process in which all the worlds are governed in such a way as to bring all things to the ultimate goal, the complete revelation of God on all levels of creation. To accomplish this goal, there is a continuous influx of various kinds of "power" or "energy" into creation. These "powers" sustain and govern all the different levels of creation, spiritual and physical, so as to bring all things to the ultimate goal. This flow of power and energy is called Shefa.
The ultimate goal of creation is the end point to which everything is moving. The reason why everything is "going" in that direction is because that is where God is making everything go. To make something go is to drive it, as when one drives an animal or car. The Hebrew word for "driving" is Hanhagah, from the root Nahag, which means to drive or make something go.
The kabbalistic concept of Hanhagah refers to the way the worlds are actually governed in order to bring everything to the ultimate goal of creation. Creation is seen as being "driven" by God, somewhat as a chariot (Merkavah) and the animals pulling it are driven by the charioteer. The "animals" of the divine "Chariot" are the Chayot, the higher angels that are the vital forces of creation. As the Chayot "draw" the Chariot, the Ofanim (literally "wheels") go round and round: these are the lower angels that govern the great wheels or cycles of creation.
The Hanhagah or "driving" is ultimately determined by the One sitting "in the driver's seat", this being the Throne of Kingship. From it the King governs all His "armies" or "legions" - the souls, angels and other orders and levels of created beings. All these "hosts" are God's "armies" sent to accomplish His purpose, and He sustains them and provides all their needs according to their different levels, spiritual and physical.
The "sustenance" sent to sustain and influence all the different levels is Shefa. Central to Mishkney Elyon is the idea that it is from the Temple that the Shefa of blessing and sustenance is drawn down to all the worlds in positive, beneficial ways. The Temple service is what actually elicits the flow of Shefa and causes it to "come down" to all the various levels of creation according to their respective needs. The Temple is the King's "Palace", where all His "officers and captains" assemble, as it were, to receive what they need for themselves and those under them.
The entire "Palace" is laid out accordingly to provide appropriate areas for all the different grades and ranks. There are set times for them to come forward, all within their respective boundaries. Everything is arranged according to an overall Seder, "Order".
The key to understanding this order is to study the "path" by which the Shefa comes to its recipients. Understanding this pathway unlocks the mystery of the Temple layout and service. This is why Ramchal sets himself to "follow the path of the flow of blessing (Shefa) as it emerges from the source and spreads forth on all sides."
The array of the ten Sefirot through which God creates and sustains all the worlds constitutes the "Tree of Life". The first image conjured up by the word "tree" may be of those parts of a tree that are visible to the eye: the trunk and green foliage. But the life of the entire tree is in fact dependent on the flow of nutrients in the sap that rises up from the roots. The roots are normally invisible because they stretch deep underground.
The sap and its nutrients are the Shefa that flows to all parts of the tree. Only through this vitalizing flow of sap can the tree live and its branches produce their fruits.
All the different orders of creation, all the different species and all the individual creatures - from the souls and angels down to the animals, plants and other beings - "hang" somewhere on the "branches" of the Tree of Life, namely the Sefirot of creation. Each species and each individual creature manifests a different aspect of one or other of the Sefirot.
The "branches" of the Tree of Life receive their vitality from its "roots". These are the hidden Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge that are mother to the three main "columns" of the Tree of the Sefirot: Chesed, Kindness, Din, Judgment and Rachamim, balanced Mercy. When we think of a tree, we may think of the roots as being "below" in the ground. But in the case of the Tree of Life, the "roots" of the manifest phenomena of this world actually lie on planes that are "above" this world.
In order for all the branches of creation to live and flourish, they must receive vitality from the very roots of the Tree of Life. Each branch receives its vitality through particular channels or pathways through which the vital sap reaches it. The branches must thus be connected with the roots in order to receive their vitality.
Central to all the teachings in Mishkney Elyon is the idea that the Temple is the place where all the different branches of creation reconnect with their roots through the Temple service. It is through this connection and joining of the branches to their roots that Shefa spreads to all the worlds.
Speaking of the "point" in heavenly "metaspace" that is the source of all the worlds, Ramchal writes:
"There is a special place where all these roots come together. In that place is the root of all things. In that place are the roots of the earth and all it contains, the heavens, the heavens of the heavens and all their hosts without exception. In the place where all these roots come together, in the middle, there is a single stone. This stone is most precious. It possesses every kind of beauty and charm. It is called the Foundation Stone (Even Shetiyah). There is a corresponding stone in this world - the lower world - in the place of the Holy of Holies.
"Stretching out in all directions from around this stone are channels and pathways leading to all things. At their start these channels are great highways governing and regulating all the different orders and species of created beings, all of which have a deep inner knowledge of their root paths. From here they all receive their share of the constant sustenance given to them by the King. Branching off from these highways are countless smaller pathways containing the individual roots of every single being in creation from the biggest to the smallest. Each one has its own unique pathway."
These pathways discussed by Ramchal are the subject of an illuminating teaching by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov:
"The world has a Foundation Stone. Channels emanate from this Stone, reaching every land. The wise King Solomon knew the details of these channels and was therefore able to plant all types of trees. If people knew the exact location of these subterranean channels, they would be able to grow fruit trees even in lands where they do not normally grow. Each channel has the power to stimulate a particular species. Even if a certain channel does not pass through a particular land, all the channels are intertwined and flow into each other. If one knew exactly where this happens, one could plant any type of tree. If one knew the location of all the channels, one could make any type of tree grow" (Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom #60).
An obvious implication of these teachings is that the growth of actual trees and plants all over the world depends on these channels and the energy they receive from their root pathways. Since it is in the Temple that all the pathways join together, the Temple is among other things the key link in the entire global food chain. Indeed, many of the Temple rituals center on produce, such as the daily wheat and oil offerings, the wine libations, the Omer barley offering and that of the First Fruits.
This indicates that material prosperity throughout the world actually depends on the Temple. This explains why the sages of the Torah taught that since the destruction of the Temple the quality of all kinds of produce has declined (Taanit 23a etc.), while the prophets foresaw that with its rebuilding, the world will enter a new era of prosperity and peace.
From where does the Shefa flowing to all levels of creation come? As stated earlier, the flow of sustenance and blessing through the Tree of Life is channeled through the Sefirot.
To gain a better understanding of the Sefirot, we must start with the ultimate source of all Shefa: God. We cannot know why God "wanted" the creation, but it is a fact that the creation exists, and it did not create itself. In the Kabbalah, as in the Torah, the power that God emanates in order to bring about and sustain creation is called Light. But God is infinite, and so too is God's light. In the endless light of the Infinite God, nothing else can have independent existence since all things are there subsumed in the perfect unity of God.
To make it possible for a separate creation to come into being in order to fulfill God's purpose, Kabbalah teaches that the Infinite Light was "contracted" or "dimmed". This enabled different grades, aspects and "colors" inherent in the light to be revealed, leading eventually to the creation of the finite material realm that is the stage where we play out our lives in this world.
Much of the Kabbalah is concerned with explaining what happens as the Infinite Light is successively muted so as to shine in a measured way, thereby creating worlds that can "receive" the divine light without being obliterated. The Etz Chaim of the ARI gives a complete "history" of creation beginning with the first Tzimtzum, the "contraction" of the Infinite Light. This produced Chalal Panui, the "Vacated Space" that made it possible for "separate" finite worlds to exist.
Within the limits of this work it is impossible to do more than list some of the chief stages in the kabbalistic "history of creation". After the "contraction" of the Infinite Light, a single "line" of divine light entered the Vacated Space and spread in the form of Adam Kadmon, Primordial Man. The divine light shone in ten successive radiations, but the "vessels" were as yet unable to receive the intense light of the ten archetypal Sefirot and as a result the vessels "broke".
The "story" of the "breaking" and subsequent "repair" of the "vessels" intended to reveal the light of the Sefirot to God's creatures is central to the kabbalistic answer to the problem of evil. The "breaking of the vessels" brings into being a realm where Godliness becomes so hidden that evil may appear to be as strong and desirable as good. This sets the stage for the unfolding drama of God's choicest creature: Adam, Man, who is given the task of completing the process of Tikun, the "repair" or "rectification" of the sefirotic vessels. This he does by searching for, uncovering and embracing the true good that is itself the reward for his efforts in this world of good and evil.
The world attains a state of repair when the intended receivers of the good that God desires to give are properly aligned to receive it. The light must be suited to the vessels and the vessels to the light. In this way God's light can be perfectly revealed in a graded, balanced way on all levels. When the ten Sefirot shine in their rectified state, it is in a mode of alignment, balance and cooperative interaction between giver and receiver. When the Sefirot manifest in this rectified state, it is in the form of various levels of Partzufim.
A Partzuf is a person's "face" or "appearance" with his or her distinctive features, head, body, arms and legs. The human form reflects that of the Tree of Life, which is one of perfect balance. In the human body, the right and left sides meet and are balanced in the center column. The human form thus expresses the alignment and balance of right and left, giver and receiver. Another expression of this alignment and balance is when Male and Female interact and join together in mutual cooperation, stimulation, giving and receiving. In the terminology of the Kabbalah, this mutual interaction takes the form of Chibur, connecting, and Zivug, pairing and mating.
All these concepts of giver/receiver, right/left, male/female, mutual interaction, cooperation and stimulation are aspects of the array of Partzufim through which the ten Sefirot function in different ways on different levels to bring creation to its ultimate purpose. All the Partzufim have the same essential structure of "head, body, arms and legs", but the nature and function of each individual Partzuf depends on its level. Similarly, all people have the same fundamental bodily structure, but different individuals appear and function in very different ways because they are invested with different features and powers. In the garb of the various Partzufim, the Sefirot can send appropriate Shefa to the different levels of creation.
The main Partzufim of which the Kabbalah speaks are, starting from the top:
The central focus in much of the Kabbalah is on the Partzufim of Zeir Anpin and Nukva, and their interrelationship. This is because it is primarily through these two Partzufim that the world in which we live is governed.
In Mishkney Elyon the Nukva is usually referred to as Shechinah, the Indwelling Presence, or Malchut, Kingly Power, and sometimes simply as "She". Zeir Anpin is referred to as Melech, the King.
It is through cooperative interaction between the Partzufim and especially between Zeir Anpin and Nukva that the Shefa of sustenance and blessing flows into the world.
The various Sefirot and Partzufim are different aspects of the Godly power or "light" that is the source of all creation. It is because of the different ways in which the unified light of God is "contracted" that it shines in these different ways on different levels.
In Mishkney Elyon, the various Sefirot and Partzufim are called Meorot, "luminaries" or "sources of light". (In the present translation this term has in most cases been translated as "lights" rather than by the more antiquated term "luminaries".)
Each different "light" is a particular kind of spiritual influence. Each of the different kinds of influences is called a Middah. The word Middah carries the connotations of both "measure" and "attribute". Each Sefirah, Partzuf or aspect thereof is a unique "measure" or level of the divine light. The particular "measure", level and intensity of any given aspect determine its unique quality and character, just as different wavelengths of light are seen as different colors. A given "measure" is thus at one and the same time an "attribute".
The very idea of measure involves number. Every day we measure distances, sizes, weights, heat, cold, electrical power, sound and much else using numerical scales of various kinds. Much of the success of modern science and technology is based on accurate, sophisticated measurement of different aspects of the physical world. For example, chemistry provides measurements of the electron configurations of the elements and precise formulae governing the ways they join together to form all kinds of compounds.
There would be less agreement between students of the mind and spirit about how to measure character traits and emotions. Yet it is precisely with the "measures" or Middot of Kindness, Strictness, Compassion, Balance and other spiritual qualities that Kabbalah is concerned. For it is with various combinations of these qualities that God governs the creation.
And the units of "measurement" are not numbers as we normally think of them but the twenty-two letters of the Aleph Beit, the "Letters of Creation".
A letter is an Ot, a "sign". When we write for everyday purposes, the letters on the page are "signs" indicating the successive sounds making up the words with which we communicate our meaning. But when a chemist writes the letters of a chemical formula, what is important is not the pronunciation of the letters but rather how they are used to signify different elements and compounds. Everyone knows that the lines and shapes making up the letters and numbers in chemical formulae are not the elements or compounds themselves. They are "signs" that point to certain aspects of physical matter, helping us understand and sometimes manipulate them.
The letters of the Aleph Beit are of course used in simple written communication to signify how to pronounce and read the words of some message. But as written in the Torah, the letters of Aleph Beit are not merely signs as to how to read the scriptures in order to derive practical lessons to apply in our lives. While the Torah is certainly a communication to humanity on our level, it is at the same time a revelation of Godly power that goes far beyond us. The Torah is made up of words that read as a message teaching us wisdom, understanding and a path in life. At the same time these words are divine Names that are the "power formula" of all creation. The ink letters written on the parchment in our Torah scrolls are "signs" expressing and helping us understand, relate to and even manipulate the elemental powers that create and sustain the universe.
These elemental powers of creation are the "Letters of Creation", the twenty-two letters of the Aleph Beit as explained by Abraham in Sefer Yetzirah. Each of the twenty-two Letters of Creation is a precise degree, level or kind of Godly power or "light" capable of combining and interacting with all the other elemental powers so as to produce infinite numbers of different "formulae" giving rise to all the different phenomena of creation on all levels. Since all these powers are different levels, degrees or "measures" of Godly light, it is understandable why each of the letters of the Aleph Beit has its own distinct numerical value or Gematria.
The Letters of Creation are themselves the "vessels" of which the Kabbalah speaks, through which the light and power of the Sefirot are revealed. The Hebrew word for "vessel", Kli, has a connotation of measure. A cup holding a given measure of liquid is one kind of vessel. A given combination of letters is also a "vessel" that "holds" and channels a given measure of power. By themselves, the individual letters are "broken vessels" that can accomplish very little. But when these elemental powers of creation combine and interact in highly specific configurations or "formulae", they have the power to serve as instruments of Godly creation and blessing.
The different configurations of letters making up the words of the Torah are all "Names". The Kabbalah sees the entire Torah as a fabric of mathematically and semantically interconnected "Names" and "Names of names" woven around certain underlying "generic" Names of God. The different Names signify different divine powers and attributes, Sefirot and Partzufim, that actually exert their influence through the Names themselves. It is through these "Names" that the "lights" - the Sefirot and Partzufim - send Shefa into the creation.
The principle divine Names explicitly revealed in the Torah are:
Besides these Names, many others are embedded in the biblical text in hidden ciphers or alluded to in other ways. A highly significant category of Names in Mishkney Elyon and Kabbalah generally is that of Miluim, literally "fillings". Each of the letters of the Aleph Beit not only has its "simple" form, the individual letter as it appears when written in a word; each letter also has its name, made up of itself and one or two other specific letters with which it combines to form the unique power-configuration that is the essence of the letter in question. For example, the letter Yud is represented in the Torah scroll as a simple dot [י], yet the full name of the letter is spelled out with the letters Yud Vav Dalet [יוד]. The "filling" letters (in this case the Vav and the Dalet) are integral parts of the "formula" that gives the letter its power.
When the full name of each of the constituent letters of a Divine Name is written out, this is called a Milui, "filling" or "expansion" of that Name. For example the simple letters of the divine Name EL are Aleph (=1) and Lamed (= 30), having the combined numerical value of 31. Spelling out in full the names of the letters Aleph [אלף] and Lamed [למד] gives us the Milui of EL, אלף למד: Aleph (=1) + Lamed (=30) + Peh (=80) + Lamed (=30) + Mem (=40) + Dalet (=4) = 185. The manifestation of the letters that were previously "hidden" gives the Milui expanded power, as reflected in its total numerical value. This power was present in potential in the "simple" letters of the Name since the "hidden" letters making up the full names of the "simple letters" are integral parts of those letters. When the "simple" letters are "filled" with their constituent letters in the Milui, this potential power is actually manifested.
Because of the great power of Heh and Vav, two of the letters of the Essential Name, they are capable of being "filled" with different letters. Thus the Heh can be spelled in full either as Heh Yud [הי], Heh Aleph [הא] or Heh Heh [הה], while the Vav can be spelled either as Vav Yud Vav [ויו], Vav Aleph Vav [ואו] or Vav Vav [וו].
This means that Names containing the letters Heh and Vav, such as the Essential Name and that of EHYH, can be "expanded" in various ways. Each of the different expansions is bound up with a particular Sefirah or Partzuf or aspect thereof. The four main expansions of the Essential Name of YHVH are:
The ultimate goal of creation is the complete revelation of God on all levels. In this rectified state, Giver and Receiver are perfectly aligned. The movement of creation towards this rectified state is characterized by various kinds of "joining" and "pairing" of the various Partzufim, some of which are more involved in "giving", while others are more associated with "receiving".
The supreme example of creative interaction, giving and receiving, is when Man and Wife align and join together in holy union - Yichud - to parent a child who will unite in one being essential qualities of both. They accomplish this through Chibur, joining together, and Zivug, cooperative interaction.
In a person's inner spiritual life, the Giver is God and the person or soul, the Receiver, is the "Wife", while the "children" are the person's spiritual achievements and good deeds. Yichud, holy union, comes about when the receiver "joins" him or herself to God. One makes oneself the vessel for Godly light by binding all one's limbs and faculties to His service and filling one's mind and soul with the words of prayer coming from one's mouth into one's ears. When a person makes him or herself a vessel for Godly light on the level of thought, word and action, Shechinah, the Indwelling Presence, is aligned to receive from Melech, the King.
When this unification (Yichud) comes about, the receiving Partzuf of Nukva, the female, is aligned to receive from Zeir Anpin, the male. On the level of the Names of the two Partzufim involved, this union is expressed through the "joining" of the two Divine Names YHVH and ADNY to form new power-combinations. One of the better known examples of how these two names may be "joined together" is through Shiluv, "interweaving" the letters of the two names as in YAHDVNHY or AYDHNVYH, as printed in certain prayer-books. Those who know the meaning of these Shiluvim may visualize and contemplate them at appropriate points in their prayers, thereby unifying the Giver, the Holy One blessed-be-He, and the Receiver, the Shechinah.
It is the Yichud or union of different Partzufim through the joining and connection of their associated Names that "makes" the Heavenly Temple. This will be more understandable if we grasp a very simple point that is the key to the mathematics of Mishkney Elyon. These involve little more than simple addition and multiplication.
The mathematical system of Mishkney Elyon is what in Hebrew is known as Gematria, the "Study of Numbers" (or Torah numerology). The term Gematria is derived from the ancient Greek word for what we call geometry. It is common knowledge that Gematria is the study of the numerical values of the letters and words of the Hebrew Torah. What is not generally realized is that Gematria, like geometry, is also the mathematics of space.
This is alluded to in Sefer Yetzirah, which says that "Two stones build two houses, three stones build six houses, four stones build twenty-four houses." (4:16). The "stones" are the letters of the Aleph Beit, the building blocks of creation. The concept of "stones" or "blocks" is intrinsically three-dimensional (see Sefer Yetzirah translated with a commentary by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan in which he discusses the creation of multi-dimensional realities).
Geometry, the mathematics of space, was initially a practical science employed by ancient architects as they sought to build more ambitious projects. Ramchal in Mishkney Elyon brings kabbalistic Gematria to the level of sacred architectural geometry as he explains how interactions between the Divine Names of the Partzufim, all of which are also numbers, "create" the "space" of the Holy Temple.
Consider an example of how numbers create space: A room that is forty feet in length, twenty feet wide and twenty feet high is "created" by walls of appropriate length and height. In the language of Mishkney Elyon, the floor-space of such a room is created through the "joining" (Chibur) of forty and twenty. Chibur is the Hebrew word for the mathematical relationship expressed by x, the multiplication sign. We would say that the room is 40 by 20, and 20 high, or 40 x 20 x 20. The mathematics of Mishkney Elyon are no more complicated than that.
As Ramchal proceeds with his "tour" of the various areas of the Temple, he shows how each individual Hall, Chamber, Wall, Gate and Courtyard "appears" as a result of the "joining together" of some or all of the letters of various Divine Names. These names correspond to the Sefirot and Partzufim, which are the Middot, "qualities" or "measures". Chibur, "joining" and "multiplication" of the "measures", brings into being three-dimensional "spaces" where the axes of "length", "breadth" and "height" are the three "lines" or "columns" of Chesed, Kindness, Din, Judgment and Rachamim, Mercy and Balance (see Sefer Yetzirah 1:13).
The Temple that Ramchal explains to us in Mishkney Elyon is that seen by Ezekiel in his prophetic vision. The Angel appeared to the Prophet with his "measuring rod" and "linen cord", taking him on what today would be called a "virtual" three-dimensional tour of the entire Temple, showing him every detail and giving him exact measurements. These "measurements" are the Middot, the Sefirot and Partzufim, and their interactions and "joining" create "space". The Temple that Ezekiel saw exists in metaspace, or in the language of religion and Kabbalah, space as it is "above", "in Heaven".
Yet the Sefirot and Partzufim hold sway on all levels of creation, spiritual and physical. Numerical relationships between the various names are capable of being expressed in the form of the finite, physical three-dimensional "Halls", "Chambers", "Gates" and "Courtyards" of the Temple in this world. The Heavenly Temple is thus a hologram that exists on a level beyond space as we know it - "in Heaven" - and as such it is the very blueprint of creation. Yet this same hologram is destined to actually manifest in physical space in the form of the Third Temple on Earth. This will be the tangible embodiment of the holographic pattern.
The key principle governing all the relationships expressed in the holographic Temple is balance between the two "sides": the "right side" of Chesed, kindness and expansiveness, and the "left side" of Din, judgment and contraction. Chesed and Din, "right" and "left", are the Giver and Receiver/Male and Female of the Kabbalah equation. Balancing these two "sides" is the center column of Rachamim, mercy and compassion.
For the goal of creation is that God, Master of Compassion, should be perfectly revealed on all levels so as to "give" all creatures their own unique share of pure goodness. This "giving" requires a state of perfect balance between Giver and Receiver on all levels. This balance is expressed in the form of the Halls and Courtyards of the Temple, which is located in the place where all the roots of creation join together. The Temple and its services are ordered in such a way that Giver and Receiver join "face to face". This way all the "branches" - the souls, angels and other orders and levels of created beings - reconnect with their roots and receive their respective shares of sustaining Shefa from the Creator.
The key to this rectified state of creation is Seder, Order. The Temple buildings and courtyards are ordered in space to provide a properly balanced environment for the interaction between Giver and Receiver. Within this space, the various daily, weekly, monthly and festival services constitute an order in time through which this interaction is continually maintained.
Ramchal explains the inner meaning of the Temple services and their role in bringing Shefa to the souls on their level and to the angels on theirs. All the different ranks and orders have their own designated areas and levels on the Temple Mount and are able to "ascend" to higher levels at specific times in order to receive their portion of Shefa "from the table of the King". The angels "ascend" through the sacrificial offerings on the outer Altar while the souls ascend through the incense offering on the inner Altar.
Ramchal concludes his explanation of the Temple buildings and services with a discussion of the various levels of the Temple Mount and the steps that connect them. This links in with the discussion of Shefa, for it is on these "steps" that the various orders of creation "go up" to actually receive their share.
As the angels in the Heavenly Temple "ascend" to receive their Shefa, they chant, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the God of Hosts" (Isaiah 6:3) and "Blessed be the glory of God from His place" (Ezekiel 3:12). These verses are recited daily at high points in the Jewish prayer services. Ramchal's explanation of the "ascent of the angels" provides important keys to deeper understanding of the prayer services and how they channel Shefa to all the worlds. For the set daily prayers correspond to the Temple services (Berachot 26b) and the "order" or Seder that governs them is embedded in the order of prayers or Siddur, the traditional Jewish prayer-book.
BACK TO THE TOP OF THIS PAGE
TEMPLE SECRET INDEX PAGE
by Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
© AZAMRA INSTITUTE 5767 - 2007 All rights reserved