Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto ("RaMChaL"):

Let me now explain the details of the Outer Courtyard [also known as the "Women's Courtyard"]. This is the place where the Chayot, angels of the World of Yetzirah, receive their sustenance. The distance from the outer wall of the Inner Courtyard to the outer wall of the Outer Courtyard [which surrounds the Inner Courtyard on all sides] is one hundred cubits in all directions, and you already know the secret of "one hundred".

The Outer Courtyard includes the area behind the Holy of Holies

The Outer Courtyard surrounds the entire Temple building including the back [i.e. the Holy of Holies]. From the back [west] wall of the Temple building to the west wall of the Outer Courtyard is a distance of eleven cubits corresponding to the Vav [=6] and Heh [=5; 6 + 5 = 11].

In the first two Temples the Outer Courtyard did not surround the Temple building [but was situated to the east of the Inner Courtyard, the Azarah]. What is the reason for this difference? It is because behind the Temple, way, way down, is the place of impurity and the angels of vengeance. The original Courtyard did not encompass this place so as not to give them any share. But in the future, the world will be purified and the false gods will totally disappear. All that remains will be pure. This is alluded to in the verse, "For then I will turn to the nations a pure language that they may all call upon the name of YHVH to serve Him with one consent" (Zephaniah 3:9). This is why the Courtyard will surround the Temple building on all sides, for nothing will prevent this.

Position of the Vestibules of the gates of the Outer Courtyard

The Outer Courtyard has three gates. They are exactly the same as the gates of the Inner Courtyard except that the vestibules of the gates of the Inner Courtyard are outside their gates [i.e. they stand in the Outer Courtyard] whereas the vestibules of the gates of the Outer Courtyard stand inside their gates, inside the Outer Courtyard.

The reason is that the vestibule [ULaM = 77 plus 1 for the word as a whole] provides the holy bread [LeCheM = 78] that is given to all Israel and passes to the outside through the gates. The Outer Courtyard is strong enough to withstand the intensity of the light emerging there, which is why the vestibules of the gates of the Inner Courtyard are located outside their gates in the Outer Courtyard. However the Temple Mount [i.e. the area surrounding the Outer Courtyard] does not have the strength to bear this intensity, and therefore the vestibules of the gates of the Outer Courtyard stand inside their gates, inside the Outer Courtyard.

[As we have seen, there are three cells on each side of each gate to balance the flow of sustenance emerging from the gate.] The walls of these chambers derive from the vestibule walls, except that the vestibule walls are built with the light of the Vav [=6] while the chamber walls are built with the light of the Heh [=5]. For this reason, in the case of the gates of the Outer Courtyard, the walls of the two chambers immediately adjoining each gate on either side [on the outside] are set back one cubit further from the gate than the corresponding walls of the vestibule [on the inside]. For the vestibule walls are six cubits thick while those of the chambers are only five cubits thick. For this reason the prophet states very precisely: "And a border of one cubit before the chambers" (Ezekiel 40:12), and he relates the chambers not to the gates but to the vestibules.

See and understand: The bread [Lechem = 78], i.e. the Vestibule [Ulam = 78], goes no further than three levels: the Sanctuary and the two Courtyards [for the Sanctuary gates, which are on the level of Atzilut, and those of the Inner and Outer Courtyards, corresponding respectively to Beriyah and Yetzirah, all have their own vestibules]. But on the Temple Mount no vestibule is to be seen. This is because the Temple Mount corresponds to the world of Asiyah, while the bread we have been discussing is "bread from Heaven". This is the food of the angels, and this is what the Israelites also ate when they were in the wilderness. The bread of Asiyah, on the other hand, is literally the bread that comes forth from the earth, and this is on a far lower level since it only comes forth after many changes and transformations. This is why these vestibules reached only the inside of the Outer Courtyard.

The Gallery surrounding the Courtyard

Inside the walls of the Outer Courtyard stands a magnificent paved gallery at the same height as the gates. It surrounds the entire Courtyard [except on the west]. On this gallery stand thirty chambers. As you already know, ground level always corresponds to Malchut. The flow of blessing and sustenance first enters these chambers, and from there it descends to the Courtyard below.

Let me explain the purpose of these chambers on this gallery. They are for the three great and exalted chiefs, Shmu'el, Metatron and Yehuel [שמועא"ל מטטרו"ן יהוא"ל], who are captains over all the armies of angels in the World of Yetzirah. Each has ten chambers. Not that they ascend in these chambers for, as I have already told you, all the recipients receive from the gates. But it is into these chambers that the sustenance and blessing destined for these angels flows first, after which it is then given over to them. It is from these chambers that sustenance flows down to the rest of the Courtyard.

"The Chamber to the side of the Sanctuary"
(Ezekiel 42:1)

Outside the Inner Courtyard at the two ends of its western wall stand two extraordinary chambers one hundred cubits in length. They are situated in the western section of the Outer Courtyard parallel to the main Temple building on its north and south sides. The width of these chambers is fifty cubits. Each has three stories, one on top of the other.

Understand that these chambers are where the angels actually receive the sustenance given to them from around the outside of the Sanctuary building, as discussed earlier. The sustenance flows out from the recess [Munach] into the cells [adjoining the Sanctuary walls]. As it leaves the cells it merges into a single flow in the Winding Staircase [Mesibah]. Then at a distance of twenty cubits it reaches these chambers, where the angels receive it.

These chambers are designated for eating the holy sacrificial portions, for this is the sustenance that comes down to the branches after they rejoin their root and after the beautiful unification [Zivug] that is brought about [through the sacrifice]. But note how far away they [i.e. the angels] are when they receive their share of the holy offering as compared to the souls of Israel, who receive their share from inside the Sanctuary [since their sustenance comes from the incense, which is burned inside]. This is why the sages said: "Israel's appointed place is further within than that of the ministering angels" (Yerushalmi Shabbat 2).

Although these chambers are considered part of the Inner Courtyard [for even the holiest portions, Kodshey Kodshim, may be eaten in these chambers, as in the Azarah], see how far away they are. The distance between the Sanctuary building and these chambers on either side is twenty cubits, because of the great light of the two Yud's [10 x 2 = 20] that built the interior of the Sanctuary. Indeed, the entrances to these chambers actually face the Temple building since it is from there that they receive. These chambers also have other entrances on the side not facing the Temple. These lead out [to the north-west and south-west sections of the Outer Courtyard]. I have already explained to you why the gates are fifty cubits high. These chambers are thus literally facing the cells [around the Sanctuary walls] for it is from there that they receive.

However the chambers on the uppermost stories are shorter than the lower level chambers because they receive from a very exalted place. Extending downwards from underneath the uppermost chambers are three great pillars. They descend from underneath the walls of the upper chambers: the walls are actually supported on these pillars. Thus these three pillars come out from the uppermost walls and reach all the way down to the ground below. The walls of the lower chambers are built behind the pillars, and because of this the lower chambers are wider than the upper chambers.

This is mentioned in the verse: "And the uppermost chambers were narrow, for the pillars consumed part of them, [namely] part of the lower and middle [chambers] in the building" (Ezekiel 42:5). That is, the pillars consume part of the space of the lower chambers, which are built around them, while the pillar itself provides support for the wall of the upper chambers [which are therefore narrower than the lower chambers].

For these pillars are not like the Courtyard pillars [at the ends of the walls of the vestibules of the gates]. The latter are outside and receive from their respective courtyards, which is why they rest upon them. But the function of the pillars of these chambers is to strengthen the building and they enter into its very thickness. That is why these pillars pushed their way down into the lower chambers in order to provide a foundation for the upper chambers. The truth is that they emerged prior to the upper chambers, and after the emergence of the pillars the wall was closed around them. As for the words in the verse, "the pillars consumed part of them" [מהנה], this indicates that not in every chamber is there a pillar, but there are three pillars in the entire wall.

Place for cooking the holiest sacrificial portions

There is a place in the north of the Outer Courtyard bounded on one side by these chambers and the Temple building and on the other by the western edge of the Courtyard. This is where the sacrificial portions are cooked in preparation for the Priests to eat them. Understand that cooking takes place in water [Chesed] on fire [Gevurah].

Eastern chambers of the Outer Courtyard

Two more chambers similar to the first are situated in the eastern section of the Outer Courtyard, east of the Inner Court. One of these chambers is situated to the north-east of the third eastern chamber of the north gate, while the second chamber is situated to the south-east of the third eastern chamber of the south gate. In each case these chambers are one hundred cubits long and fifty cubits wide, with entrances on both sides.

Let me explain their function. The "upper" chambers [i.e. those discussed previously, which are in the western section of the Outer Courtyard, parallel to the Temple building] belong to the Inner Courtyard, for that is where the captains of the angels of the World of Beriyah receive their share from behind the Temple building. However, those we are discussing now belong to the Outer Courtyard. Here the armies of the World of Yetzirah receive their share from the Inner Courtyard.

The main flow of sustenance comes out through the gates, while the sustenance which the angels receive from these chambers derives from more exalted lights of which the angels take their share here.

These eastern chambers have openings directly into the Inner Courtyard itself. Thus there are numerous openings for sustenance to reach the angels of Yetzirah. The inner [western] chambers are at some distance from the Temple building. However, the eastern chambers are directly adjacent to [the north-east and south-east corners of] the Inner Courtyard, for the light here does not have the same power as the light there, and therefore they are better able to withstand it.

Place for cooking the less holy sacrificial portions

At the four corners of the Outer Court there appeared four courts measuring forty cubits long and thirty cubits wide. In them shine four great lights. Their function is to put power into the less holy sacrificial portions [Kodshim Kalim] that may be eaten outside [the Temple Mount, anywhere in Jerusalem] in order to prepare them and make them fit for their recipients. All preparations take place on the level of Malchut. Accordingly these four lights are four names of ADNY. The reason why these courts are all forty cubits long and thirty wide is that each of the four root letters of these names when "expanded" consists of three "filling" letters [and every letter contains all ten Sefirot: 4 roots x 10 = 40; 3 "filling" letters x 10 = 30].

Vestibules in the courtyard walls

In the walls of the Outer Courtyard appeared structures in the form of vestibules which act as receivers for the light spreading out from the Temple building to the Courtyard. When the light reached the walls it made for itself places to dwell, but it did not have the power to burst through the walls except at those points where the gates are, because the light of the three great luminaries reached these points. All these vestibules are based on the secret of the Heh's: this is true of all dwelling places. For this reason these vestibules are five cubits wide [Heh = 5]. As the Heh's asserted themselves the light intensified, making their length five times five, i.e. twenty-five cubits.





Translated by Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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