The site of the Temple is in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, the Temple Mount. From far away, visitors' eyes would immediately be drawn to the main Temple building, "The House", a most imposing stone structure positioned on the highest point of the mountain, somewhat nearer to the west and north than to the other sides of the mountain.
A visitor to the Temple would first enter the walled Mount through one of its five entrances and then pass through the Soreg, a lattice partition encircling the mount inside the wall, followed by the Cheil, which according to many opinions is a wall. The visitor would then proceed towards one of the three gates of the Outer Courtyard, an enormous walled square encompassing both the main Temple building and the Inner Courtyard. The latter stands in the very center of the Outer Courtyard in front of the Temple building and gives access to it.
Thus far we have briefly traced the route of a visitor coming from outside the Temple Mount into the Temple. This is the route followed by Ramchal in his Five Chapters (pp. 131-141), in which he explains the physical form of the Third Temple. But from now on in the present Guide, the discussion of the Temple building and courtyards will proceed from the center outwards. This is the route taken by Ramchal in the main part of Mishkney Elyon, where he discusses the meaning of the Temple buildings and services. Full details and measurements of all the buildings and courtyards mentioned here are given in the Five Chapters.
The main Temple building rises to a height of 100 cubits, which is approximately 50 meters or 164 feet. (A cubit is the distance from an average man's elbow to the end of his middle finger, estimated at between 48-57.6 cm / 19-22.6 inches.) The Great Gate of the Sanctuary faces due east and the front of the building is 100 cubits wide. The building is somewhat narrower at the back, giving it a form reminiscent of a crouching lion.
The building consists of three main parts. To the west is the innermost and holiest of all: the Holy of Holies (Kodesh Kodoshim or Dvir), which is 20 cubits (10 m/33 ft) square. In it is the Foundation Stone (Even Shetiyah) upon which stands the Ark of the Covenant. No-one may enter the Holy of Holies except the High Priest once each year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). The second main part of the building is the Sanctuary (Heichal) which stands to the east of the Holy of Holies and has the same width but is twice as long from west to east. The Sanctuary contains the Candelabrum, lit morning and evening, the Golden Altar, on which incense is burned morning and evening, and the Show Bread Table, on which twelve loaves stand from Shabbat to Shabbat. The main entrance to the Sanctuary is through its Great Gate, which stands in the east wall flanked by smaller gates on either side. Outside the Great Gate is the third main part of the Temple building: the Vestibule (Ulam), a great portico flanked by two mighty Pillars.
The Vestibule, its Pillars and twelve imposing steps leading up to the building would give it a most striking front facade. The windows in the walls of the Temple and its chambers and courtyards are all narrow on the inside, widening on the outside, because the Temple does not require light from outside since it radiates light from within.
A system of cells built around the north, south and west walls of the Sanctuary and Holy of Holies adds significantly to the length and breadth of the building, as do two areas in front on either side of the Vestibule: these are known as "The Place of the Knives".
Access to the main Temple building is from the Inner Courtyard (Azarah), which stands in front of the Sanctuary to its east. As already stated, access to the Inner Courtyard is from the Outer Courtyard (see below), which encompasses both the Inner Courtyard and the Temple building. The Inner Courtyard is exactly in the center of the Outer Courtyard, with the Temple to its west.
Thus the Inner Courtyard is bounded by the Temple on its west side and by walls on its north, east and south sides. Each of the latter three walls has a gate in the center. The Inner Courtyard is one hundred cubits square and open to the sky. It is here that many of the main Temple services actually take place.
Visitors to the Inner Courtyard would be struck not only by the Temple building soaring upwards at the western end of the Inner Courtyard but also by the massive white-painted stone sacrificial Altar standing before the Temple in the very center of the Courtyard. The Altar is thus the center point of both the Inner and Outer Courtyards. At its base the Altar is thirty-two cubits (16 m/52 ft) square and rises to a height of ten cubits (5 m/16 ft). Access to the Altar is from the south up a thirty-two cubit long ramp with two side-ramps.
The Inner Courtyard contains designated areas of varying degrees of holiness. These include the Court of the Israelites and that of the Priests, which is one cubit higher, forming a raised level where the choir of Levites sings during the sacrificial services. Also in the Court of the Priests is the platform (Duchan) on which the priests stand to bless the people. Other areas and chambers in the Inner Courtyard are used for slaughtering and preparing the sacrifices and for storing the priestly clothes and musical instruments.
Access to the Inner Courtyard is through three identical massive gates fifty cubits (25 m/82 ft) in height and ten cubits (5 m/16 ft) wide standing in its east, north and south walls. Seen from the Outer Courtyard, these gates would be of particular note because of their striking Vestibules and Pillars, which stand outside the gates flanked by rows of three chambers on either side.
The Outer Courtyard corresponds to the Women's Courtyard (Ezrat Nashim) in the First and Second Temples. However it differs in that it encompasses both the Temple building and the Inner Courtyard, whereas in the earlier Temples the entire Women's Courtyard was situated to the east of the Inner Courtyard (Azarah). The Outer Courtyard of the Third Temple has gates on its east, north and south sides but not on the west.
In the Outer Courtyard stand four rectangular three-storied buildings or "chambers" each of which is as long as the Temple building and half as wide. Two stand in the western section of the Outer Courtyard on either side of the Temple building, while the other two extend from the south and north-east corners of the Inner Courtyard into the eastern section of the Outer Courtyard. The upper floors of these buildings are supported on massive pillars. These buildings, which are designated for the eating of sacrificial portions, would be a most imposing sight, as would be the elevated paved gallery running along the north, east and south walls of the Outer Courtyard on the inside. There are thirty chambers on this gallery.
In the four corners of the Outer Courtyard stand four chambers reminiscent of the chambers of the Nazirites, Wood, Lepers and Oils in the four corners of the Women's Courtyard in the First and Second Temples. The gates of the Outer Courtyard have Vestibules, Pillars and chambers like those of the Inner Courtyard. However the Vestibules of the gates of the Outer Courtyard stand on the inside of the Outer Courtyard, while those of the Inner Courtyard stand outside their respective gates, and are actually positioned in the Outer Courtyard.
Ramchal says little about the rest of the Temple Mount. However he does state in the first paragraph of the Five Chapters that wherever the distance between the Temple and the side of the Mountain is greater (such as on the south side), that area is more in use. The buildings and courtyards of which he speaks in Mishkney Elyon are those involved in the actual Temple services. Without doubt the Temple Mount also provides all the facilities needed to run and maintain the Temple and to cater for the great streams of visitors coming to worship there, especially at the times of the festivals.
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TEMPLE SECRET INDEX PAGE
by Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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