Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto ("RaMChaL"):

Studying Mishkney Elyon

Students of Mishkney Elyon are awed by the depth and holiness of the secrets it discusses, and rightly so. The Temple is the Gate of Heaven, a place which inspires utmost awe. It is a Torah commandment to respect and revere the Temple (Leviticus 19:30). Access to the innermost areas is strictly limited, and people may only ascend the Temple Mount in a state of purity and holiness.

Does it follow that knowledge of the inner meaning of the Third Temple should be out of bounds for most people?

The study of certain areas of Kabbalah requires due preparation as uninitiated students can seriously harm themselves and others if they gain a distorted view and misuse their knowledge. However the ARI and other towering sages of the later generations sanctioned and encouraged the wider dissemination of works that explain the kabbalistic foundations of Jewish faith and belief. These have the power to deepen people's faith and invest their religious practice with greater meaning.

Kabbalah secrets are gleanings of divine wisdom that ultimately lies beyond the grasp of human intelligence. "The true goal of knowledge is the realization of one's ignorance" (Chovot Levavot 1:10). Yet Kabbalah is an essential part of the Torah "brought down" by Moses from Heaven to earth so that people might study and fulfill it. Kabbalah is the inner soul of the Torah since it deals with our relationship with God. Kabbalah works dealing with the underlying concepts of faith may be safely studied as long as the student is sincere, serious and willing to make some effort.

Even a partial reading of Mishkney Elyon with little or no understanding can greatly strengthen one's faith in the Temple and its importance. In the words of Rabbi Chaim Friedlander, who was the first to publish Mishkney Elyon in Hebrew:

"Even a person who has no previous knowledge of Kabbalah comes away from this work with a feeling of enhancement and can gain a great deal of important basic information as well as an understanding of how every detail of the Temple buildings and service is rooted in the most exalted heights. Seeing the splendor and glory of the House cannot but inspire us to hope, wait and pray with greater strength that the House will be built quickly in our days" (Introduction to Mishkney Elyon in Ginzey Ramchal p. 147)

Suggestions for Further Reading

On the Temple:

The Holy Temple Revisited by Rabbi Leibel Reznick (Jason Aaronson). Scholarly exploration of the history and significance of the Sanctuary, walls, gates and courtyards of the Holy Temple based on talmudic, archeological and historical sources.

The Light of the Temple (Temple Institute). The world of the Temple comes to life in this lavishly illustrated account of its history and services.

The Second Temple according to Rambam by Dov Levanoni (Brit Shalom Publications). Includes numerous color pictures of a Second Temple model and large pull-out Temple map.

The Holy Temple of Jerusalem by Chaim Richman (Carta/Temple Institute). Visual depiction of the rites and functions of the Holy Temple and celebration of the annual pilgrimage festivals in biblical Israel.

The Mishkan and the Holy Garments by Rabbi Shalom Dov Steinberg (Toras Chaim). Elucidates the structure and meaning of the Tabernacle, its vessels and priestly garments based on Rashi and other commentators. With diagrams and illustrations.

On Kabbalah:

The Way of God (Derech HaShem) by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (Feldheim).

The Knowing Heart (Daat Tevunot) by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto translated by Shraga Silverstein (Feldheim).

138 Openings of Wisdom (Klach Pischey Chochmah) by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto translated by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

Innerspace by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (Moznaim). Introduction to the Kabbalah view of the world.

Mystical Concepts in Chassidism by Rabbi Jacob Immanuel Schochet (Kehot Publication Society). Clear systematic explanation of fundamental kabbalistic concepts.

Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation in Theory and Practice by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (Samuel Weiser). Translation of this foundational work together with an extensive commentary throwing light on the meaning and implications of central concepts in Mishkney Elyon.





Translated by Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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