Shiur #08: The Functions of the Mikdash (Part IV) - The Seat of God's Kingdom and the Site of God's Love for Israel

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mikdash
Yeshivat Har Etzion


Shiur #08: The Functions of the Mikdash (Part IV)

The Seat of God's Kingdom and the Site of God's Love for Israel

 

Rav Yitzchak Levi

 

 

            In this shiur, I wish to consider the Mikdash as the place that gives expression to God's kingship in the world, on the one hand, and to the great love between God and the Jewish people, on the other.  I also wish to examine the significance of the combination of these two dimensions in the Mikdash in general and in the keruvim in particular.

 

I.  THE ESSENCE OF THE KERUVIM - THRONE AND BED

 

There are two dimensions to the keruvim, and there is a certain tension between the two.  On the one hand, emphasis is placed on their connection to the kaporet and the ark upon which they rest[1] - "And the keruvim shall stretch out their wings on high, overspreading the kaporet with their wings… toward the kaporet shall the faces of the keruvim be" (Shemot 25:20).  On the other hand – "And their faces shall look one to another" (ibid.).  The keruvim maintain a twofold relationship –towards the ark and kaporet and towards one another.

 

In order to define the relationship between these two components, let us consider the amazing words of Rav Shlomo Fisher in his derashot:

 

The Ibn Ezra in Parashat Teruma (25:22) writes as follows: It may be asked: Why is no mention made of the incense altar? The answer by way of a parable is that the glory does not move.  Hence the ark has the form of a chair.  And here is the menora and the table.  Therefore, no mention is made of the incense altar.  These are the words of the Ibn Ezra.  He means to allude to what is stated regarding Elisha (II Melakhim 4:10): "And let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a chair, and a lamp." That is to say, these four vessels constitute one's personal furniture in one's residence (for which the word Mishkan is actually an acronymmita, shulchan, kisei, ner].  Now the Mishkan is, as it were, the private residence of the Holy One, blessed be He, and therefore it contains the ark, which comes in place of a chair, and a menora and a table.  The incense altar does not belong to this system, and, therefore, to emphasize the connection between these vessels, the Torah distanced the command regarding the altar and recorded it elsewhere….

 

Now it seems strange that we should have mentioned the incident involving Elisha, for surely there mention is made of four vessels, whereas here only three are mentioned.  Where is the bed? In fact, however, there is no difficulty.  For just as the ark represents a chair, it also represents a bed.  This is explicit in Scripture (II Melakhim 11:2): "But Yehosheva took… Yo'ashhim and his nurse in the bed chamber." And Rashi explains: in the attic of the Holy of Holies… and it is called a bed chamber based on [the verse] "That lies between my breasts" (Shir Ha-shirim 1:13).  That is to say, there are two aspects to the Shekhina's resting on the keruvim.  One dimension – as a king who sits on his throne.  And about this it is always said in Scripture: "Who sits on the keruvim." And a higher and more exalted dimension, the ark as bed, as it is written: "That lies between my breasts."

 

A perceptive person will understand that these two dimensions parallel the two aforementioned dimensions in the ark and the kaporet, whether the ark is the main thing and the kaporet secondary, or the reverse, that the kaporet and the keruvim are the main thing, and the ark secondary.

 

Now in the midrashim of Chazal, we find two kinds of parables.  The first is that the Holy One, blessed be He, is a groom, as it were, and the people of Israel is a bride, and the canopy is the Temple, as the poet says at length in the lamentations for the Ninth of Av.  The second parable is that the Torah is the bride and Israel the groom.  As Chazal said in Midrash Rabba at the beginning of Parashat Teruma: It can be compared to the only daughter of a king… Thus God said to Israel: "I have given you a Torah from which I cannot part… wherever you go make Me a house wherein I may sojourn." These are the two dimensions mentioned above.[2]

 

1.  THE KERUVIM AS THE SEAT OF GOD'S KINGSHIP

 

As noted by Rav Fisher, in several places in Scripture God is referred to as "He who sits upon the keruvim" (I Shmuel 4:4; II Shmuel 6:2; II Melakhim 19:15; Yeshayahu 37:16; Tehilim 80:2; I Divrei Ha-yamim 13:6).  According to this image, the wings of the keruvim constitute the seat of the king's throne in the royal palace.[3] The Temple expresses the fact that God created the world, oversees it, and rules over His creatures.  The royal throne is located in its innermost chamber, which is not at all meant for human service; such service is performed in the courtyard and the sanctuary, which are directed toward this chamber, where the royal presence of the King, the King of kings, is represented.

 

2.  THE KERUVIM AS AN EXPRESSION OF THE LOVE BETWEEN GOD AND ISRAEL

 

Rav Katina said: Whenever Israel came up to the Festival, the curtain would be removed for them and the keruvim were shown to them, whose bodies were intertwined with one another, and they would be thus addressed: "Look! You are beloved before God as the love between man and woman." (Yoma 54a)

 

            When the keruvim are regarded as male and female, they represent the intimate love between God and the people of Israel.  That love reveals itself in the innermost chamber of the Mikdash.  Perhaps we can say, based on the words of Rabbi Akiva that "Shir Ha-shirim is the Holy of Holies" (Yadayim 3:5, Shir Ha-shirim Rabba, parasha 1), that in a certain sense, the Holy of Holies enjoys that dimension of Shir Ha-shirim.

 

            According to this understanding, the people of Israel themselves are represented in the innermost and most sanctified chamber of the Mikdash.  Thus, that chamber gives expression not only to God's kingdom, but also to His encounter with the people of Israel.  One keruv represents God, and the other – the people of Israel; together with the ark upon which they rest, they symbolize the connection between God, the Torah, and Israel (see Zohar, Acharei Mot 73a).

 

            This is also the way that the Netziv explains the inner meaning of the keruvim:

 

…The pair of keruvim, male and female, teach us that the love between Israel and their Father in heaven… is the love of a giver and a receiver, like a male and a female… It is part of the natural order that the giver yearns to give with love and that the receiver's eyes are always lifted up to the giver, and this is the nature of a man and a woman.  So too the Holy One, blessed be He, yearns to lovingly bestow blessing upon Israel at all times.  As Chazal say in Bereishit Rabba, parasha 20: The Holy One, blessed be He, yearns only for Israel, as it is stated: "His desire is toward me" (Shir Ha-shirim 7:11), and Israel's eyes are lifted up exclusively to God.  (Ha'amek Davar, Shemot 25:18, s.v. shenayim.

 

3.  THE KERUVIM COMBINATION OF A ROYAL THRONE AND THE LOVE BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN

 

These two aspects of the keruvim God's seat and royal throne, on the one hand, and marital bed on the other – represent different points.  The truth, however, is that they complement one another.  The throne is based on the bed; God's kingship is founded on the connection between Him and the people of Israel, and the stronger the connection, the more well-founded is His kingship.  It is precisely through the revelation of the inner connection between God and the Jewish people that the standing of God's throne is strengthened in the world. 

 

There no contradiction between the two goals; Israel's fierce love of God plays a decisive role in His kingship, in that it makes it possible for it to be recognized.  While the primary characteristic of the acceptance of kingship is fear, while that of intimate connection is love, there is also a recognition of kingship that is achieved through love and communion.

 

The Divine reveals itself most perfectly through a combination of love and fear.[4] An allusion to this may be found in the fact that the two words yir'a (fear) and ahava (love) can be read together in two directions, across and down:

 

Yir

ah

Ah

va

 

At the source, all is one.  In the Mikdash, the source of all, opposites unite: kingship and mating, fear and love.  The mitzvot that are fulfilled in the Mikdash express at one and the same time the fullness of the connection between God and the people of Israel.  On the one hand, the Mikdash involves mitzvot of fear, as befits a royal palace; on the other hand, it involves mitzvot of love, as befits the meeting place between God and Israel.[5]

 

We will see at length below that these two aspects of the keruvim and of the Holy of Holies are found in Temple as a whole.  Throughout the Mikdash, we find these two dimensions of throne and bed.  On the one hand, the Temple expresses the site of God's kingdom; on the other hand, it expresses the unmediated closeness between God and the people of Israel.  The combination of these two aspects is the very essence of the Mikdash.

 

II.  THE MIKDASH AS GOD'S ROYAL PALACE

 

1.  SOURCES

 

The first expression of the Mikdash as the seat of God's kingdom is found already in the first mention of the word "Mikdash" in the Torah – at the end of the Song of the Sea:

 

You shall bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which You have made for You to dwell in, in the sanctuary (mikdash), O Lord, which Your hands have established.  The Lord shall reign for ever and ever.  (Shemot 15:17-18)

 

            The Ibn Ezra (ad loc., v. 18, s.v. Ha-Shem yimlokh) explains: "When He will build the Temple for the sake of His name, then His kingship will be seen on earth." The song praises God as a warrior who thwarts His enemies, and by virtue of this becomes a glorious king who gives His land to His nation as an inheritance and builds a Temple as an expression of His kingship – just as a human king goes before his people, conquers land and settles his nation therein, and only when the nation becomes established in its territory and accepts the king's rule, does the king build himself a palace and dwell therein. 

 

In the context of this song, this means that Israel's entry into the land and the construction of the Temple constitute a clear continuation of the revelation of God's kingship in the miracles performed at the Yam Suf and in the drowning of Pharaoh and his army.  As the Mekhilta says on the verse: "And the Lord said to Moshe, Why do you cry to Me? Speak to the children of Israel, that they go forward" (ibid.  14:15):

 

Rabbi Yishmael says: "Why do you cry to Me?" – By the merit of Jerusalem I shall split the sea for them, as it is stated: "Awake, awake; put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for henceforth there shall no more come into you the uncircumcised and the unclean" (Yeshayahu 52:1).  And it is stated: "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old.  Are you not the One that has cut Rachav in pieces, and wounded the crocodile? Are you not the One which dried the sea, the waters of the great deep, that made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?" (ibid. 51:9-10).  (Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishmael, masekhta de-Vayehi Beshalach, parasha 3)

 

            That is to say, the process of the splitting of the sea and Israel's recognition of God's kingship lead directly to the Temple in Jerusalem.  Thus, the song of the sea serves as the first herald of the Temple – the seat of God's kingdom.

 

Another midrash points to the revelation at Mount Sinai as the event in the wake of which the command is given to build the Mishkan.  According to this midrash, after Israel's joyful acceptance of the yoke of the kingdom of heaven at Mount Sinai, God issued the command – as a Divine response – to build the Mishkan.  Acceptance of the yoke of the kingdom of heaven by the entire nation of Israel invites God, as it were, to rest His Shekhina among them and reveal His kingdom in the Mishkan:

 

And when our forefathers stood at Mount Sinai to accept upon themselves the Torah, the Holy One, blessed be He, watched and said: Perhaps Israel will not accept my Torah upon themselves, just as the [other] nations of the world did not accept it upon themselves … I will issue a decree and they will perish from this world and from the World To Come.  When they joyfully accepted the yoke of heaven upon themselves, He too descended from His glorious and majestic place in the upper heavens.  And it says: "Can a woman forget her sucking child" (Yeshayahu 49:15), and it says: "If I forget you, O Jerusalem," and it says: "Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth" (Tehilim 137:5-6).  When Israel joyfully accepted the kingdom of heaven and said: "All that the Lord has said we will do, and we will obey" (Shemot 24:7), immediately the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moshe: "That they bring Me an offering… And this is the offering… And purple and scarlet… And rams' skins… Oil for the light… shoham stones… And let them make Me a sanctuary" (ibid. 25:1-8).  (Tanna de-Bei Eliyahu, Eliyahu Rabba, parasha 17)

 

            Another place where we may see that the acceptance of the yoke of the kingdom of heaven led to the command to build the Mishkan is the section that precedes this command.  Parashat Mishpatim, where Israel accepts God's kingdom upon themselves in practice, through the acceptance of His judgments, teachings and commandments, immediately precedes Parashat Teruma, which commands about the establishment of the Mikdash, in which their king shall dwell among them.

 

            The strongest expression of God's kingship is, of course, Tehillim 24, which was recited at the dedication of the Mikdash (and which is customarily recited during the High Holy Days):

 

Lift up your heads, O you gates, and be lifted up, you everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in.  Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.  Lift up your heads, O you gates, and lift them up, you everlasting doors, that the King of Glory may come in.  Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the king of glory.  Sela.  (Tehilim 24:7-10)

 

2.  THE EXPRESSIONS OF KINGSHIP IN THE TEMPLE SERVICE AND ITS LAWS

 

A number of mitzvot and modes of service used in the Mikdash are connected in their very essence to the nature of the place as the seat of God's kingdom:

 

The mitzva to fear the Mikdash and the mitzva of prostrating therein, which includes extending the hands and feet - an expression of absolute self-effacement before the source of all – express man's feeling that he is in the house of the King of the universe.

 

            One of the reasons given for the mitzva of guarding the Mikdash is that reverence must be shown to the king: "There is no comparing a palace without guards to a palace with guards" (Sifrei Zuta, piska 18, s.v. ve-nilvu alekha; and Rambam, Hilkhot Bet Ha-bechira 8:1).

 

            Even the formula that was used in the Mikdash as a response to berakhot – not "Amen," but rather, "Blessed be the name of His glorious majesty forever and ever" (Yoma 3:8) – emphasizes the fact that the Mikdash is the seat of God's kingdom.

 

            The Halakha states that there is no sitting in the Temple courtyard, except for the kings of the house of David (Yoma 25a).  The reason for this seems to be that the Davidic kings represent God's kingdom – as is stated with respect to Shlomo, "And Shlomo sat on the throne of the Lord as king" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 29:23) – and therefore they are the only ones who are permitted to sit in the place of His kingdom.

 

            On Rosh Ha-shana, they blew in the Temple both the shofar and the chatzotzrot (trumpets) (Rosh Ha-shana 3:3).  The blast of the shofar is a clear sign of crowning a king (see I Melakhim 1:39; II Melakhim 9:13), but the gemara (ibid. 27a) explains that the combination of blowing both a shofar and chatzotzrot is unique to the Temple, based on the verse, "With trumpets and the sound of the shofar shout before the king, the Lord" (Tehilim 98:6). 

 

Moreover, when Rosh ha-Shana fell out on Shabbat, they would blow the shofar in the Mikdash, but not in the provinces (Rosh Ha-shana 4:1).  One of the explanations in the Yerushalmi (ibid.) connects this to the fact that the Mikdash is the place where sacrifices are offered, and one of the meanings of a sacrifice [korban] is drawing near (kirva) to God by effacing oneself before His kingdom.  Since the Mikdash is the site of God's kingdom, God should be crowned as king by way of a shofar blast even on Shabbat, which itself is a recognition of God's kingdom, and thus the sanctity of time and the sanctity of place join together in crowing God as king of the world.[6]

 

            The rule that "there is no poverty in a place of wealth" (Shabbat 102b, and elsewhere) also stems from relating to the Temple as a seat of royalty, where it is fitting to follow the ways of kings and wealthy people.  For example, holy vessels and priestly garments that became defective are not fixed or mended, but rather new ones are fashioned in their place (Zevachim 88a-b).  It was also the custom of the one who gave the daily offering to drink from a golden cup (Tamid 29a).

 

            There are clear parallels between the High Priest and the king: the golden tzitz is similar to a royal crown, both the High Priest and the king are anointed with the anointing oil, and there is a similarity between the laws governing the honor due to a king and the honor due to the High Priest.[7] This correspondence is based on the idea that just as a king of flesh and blood is charged with the administration of the state – life in this world -  so, too, the High Priest is in charge of Temple life -  eternal life. 

 

3.  THE SHEKHINA IS IN THE WEST

 

            The Temple is built on an east-west axis, and its western portion is also its most sanctified section.  Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi (Bava Batra 67a) bases the assertion that the Shekhina is found in the west on the verse: "The host of heaven worships You" (Nechemya 9:6), that is to say: the heavenly bodies move on an east-west axis, as if they were bowing down each day before God.  As it were, the created world reveals its deep recognition of God's kingship by bowing down daily before the King, King of kings; by serving God in the Temple from east to west, man – the only created being with free choice – represents all of creation as he actualizes creation's yearning for the Creator on a daily basis.

 

4.  TIME IN THE MIKDASH

 

            Time is measured differently in the Temple than in the provinces.  In the Temple, the night follows the day (Chullin 83a).  This may be connected to the previous point: The rising of the sun symbolizes its recognition of God's kingship, and therefore in the place that marks this kingship, the day begins with sunrise.

 

5.  "SANCTUARY OF THE KING, ROYAL CITY" - THE MIKDASH AND JERUSALEM

            In his wonderful piyyut, "Lekha Dodi," Rav Shlomo Alkabetz refers to the Mikdash and Jerusalem as "sanctuary of the king, royal city." The connection between the Mikdash and the city of Jerusalem revolves around the matter of kingship.

 

            The kingdom of God is, indeed, emphasized in the history of Jerusalem.  The city is located on the border between Yehuda and Binyamin, the border between the tribe of royalty and the territory of the Shekhina.  David brought the ark to Jerusalem immediately after he was crowned as king of all of Israel, and the ark remained there even after David left the city at the time of Avshalom's rebellion.  And Shlomo built his royal house at the foot of the house of God in order to emphasize the connection between the earthly royal palace and the palace of the kingdom of God.

 

            The connection between Jerusalem and the kingdom of God finds explicit expression in the wording of the kedusha recited on Shabbat morning according to certain rites: "From your abode, our King, appear and reign over us, for we wait for You.  O when will You reign in Zion… May You be exalted and sanctified in Jerusalem, Your city… 'The Lord shall reign forever, Your God, O Zion, for all generations.  Praise the Lord' (Tehilim 146:10)." And so, too, in the High Holiday prayers: "You shall reign over all whom You have made, You alone, O Lord, on Mount Zion, the abode of Your majesty, in Jerusalem, Your holy city….  'The Lord shall reign forever, Your God, O Zion, for all generations.  Praise the Lord' (Tehilim 146:10)."

 

III.  THE MIKDASH AS THE PLACE THAT EXPRESSES THE LOVE AND INTIMACY BETWEEN GOD AND THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL

 

1.        SOURCES

 

In his derasha, Rav Fisher refers to the midrash that states that the bed chamber in which King Yeho'ash was hidden (II Melakhim 11:2; II Divrei Ha-yamim 22:11) was the attic of the Holy of Holies (see Rashi, II Melakhim 11:2 and the commentary attributed to Rashi, II Divrei Ha-yamim 22:11; according to the Tanchuma, Vaera 9 – the Holy of Holies itself).  It was called by that name owing to the intimate relationship between God and Israel to which it gives expression.

 

Midrash Shir Ha-shirim Rabba (parasha 1), in contrast, understands that the expression "bed chamber" refers to the entire Temple, and that same image is used in connection with the Mikdash in Vayikra Rabba (17, 7):

 

Rav Berachya said: It is written: "For the bed is too short for one to stretch oneself (histare'a)" (Yeshayahu 28:20) – which means, the bed is not able to hold a woman and her husband and her friend (re'a).  "And the covering is too narrow (tzara) when one gathers (kanas) himself up" (ibid.) – means: You have caused great anguish (tzara) to Him of whom it is written: "He gathers (kanas) the waters of the sea together as a heap" (Tehilim 33:7). 

 

The midrash compares idol worship to a woman who brings a strange man into her bed: As it were, the people of Israel brought a strange god into the Holy of Holies, instead of associating there exclusively with its "husband" – God.[8]

 

            Rav Fisher also alludes to Chazal's comment that the poles of the ark "would press against and push out the parokhet, and they would look like the two breasts of a woman, as it is stated: 'My beloved is to me a bundle of myrrh that lies between my breasts' (Shir Ha-shirim 1:13)" (Yoma 54a).  Indeed, another common metaphor for the relationship between God and Israel is the relationship between a bridegroom and his bride.  Chazal's famous dictum regarding a married couple: "If they merit, the Shekhina dwells between them; if they do not merit, a fire consumes them" (Sota 17a), is undoubtedly based on the keruvim: If Israel merits, God reveals Himself and speaks to the people of Israel from between the two keruvim; but when the Shekhina does not rest there, a fire goes out from between them (as we find in various places the image of a fire issuing forth from the Holy of Holies, as in connection with the slaughter of the inclination towards idol worship [Yoma 69b] and elsewhere). 

 

The image of marriage, which is instructive about the essence of the keruvim and the essence of the chamber in which they are found, also underlies the following midrash on verses found in Shir Ha-shirim:

 

"Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth" (Shir Ha-shirim 1:2)… Rabbi Meir says: This refers to the Tent of Meeting.  And he proves this from the verse: "Awake, O north wind; and come, you south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.  Let my beloved come into the garden, and eat its choicest fruits" (ibid.  4:16): "Awake, O north wind" – this is the whole-burnt offering that is slaughtered in the north; "And come, you south" – these are peace offerings that are slaughtered in the south; "Blow upon my garden" – this is the Tent of Meeting; "That the spices thereof may flow out" – this is the burning of the incense; "Let my beloved come into the garden" – this is the Shekhina; "And eat its choicest fruits" – these are the sacrifices.

 

The Rabbis say: [This refers] to the Temple.  And the Rabbis prove this from the same verse.  (Shir ha-Shirim Rabba, parasha 1)

 

            A similar metaphor – the image of the Mikdash itself as a wife – is used already by Yechezkel:

 

Also the word of God came to me, saying, Son of man, behold, I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes at a stroke… So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died… And the people said to me, Will you not tell us what these things mean to us… Then I answered them… Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I will profane My sanctuary, the pride of your strength, the delight of your eyes, and the longing of your soul… (Yechezkel 24:15-24)

 

            Interesting are the words of Rabbi Yitzchak:

 

Since the destruction of the Temple, sexual pleasure has been taken [from those who practice it lawfully] and given to sinners.  (Sanhedrin 75a)

 

            As it were, from the moment that it became impossible for God and Israel to give expression to the intimate connection between them and to fully reveal their love for each other, it also became impossible for the love and intimate connection between man and wife to find full expression.  As the Maharal of Prague says in his Chiddushei Aggadot (ad loc.): "The connection between God and Israel in the house of God is an absolute connection.  And through this connection man and wife also connect in supreme connection… And this connection was in total unity, and this is the pleasure of sexual intercourse."

 

In this context, the Maharal also mentions the words of the gemara (Eruvin 63b) that "as long as the ark and the Shekhina are not in their place, sexual intercourse is forbidden." This statement implies that there is a deep connection between the ark and the Shekhina being in their place, which expresses the full revelation of the intimacy between God and the people of Israel, and the possibility of fully and perfectly realizing the connection between man and wife (this was already mentioned in Lecture no.  6).

 

2.        LOVE AND INTIMACY IN THE MIKDASH'S FUNCTIONS

 

Several functions of the Mikdash give expression, in a different way, to God's closeness to the people of Israel and the entire world.

 

It is from the Mikdash (even when it stands in ruin!) that God watches over the world:

 

Rabbi Elazar said: The Shekhina did not depart from the Temple, for it is said: "And Mine eyes and My heart shall be there perpetually" (II Divrei Ha-yamim 7:16).  So it also says: "With my voice I call unto the Lord, and He answers me out of His holy mountain, sela" (Tehilim 3:5).  For although it was laid waste, it still retained its holiness… As it is written: "His eyes behold, His eyelids try the children of men" (ibid. 11:6) – Rabbi Yannai said: Even though His Shekhina is in heaven, "His eyes behold, His eyelids try the children of men." God was here like a king who had an orchard, wherein he built a tall tower and commanded that workmen should be engaged to do his work there.  The king said that the one who was proficient in his work would receive full reward, but one who was indolent in his work would be handed over to the government. 

 

The king is the King of kings, and the orchard is the world in which God has placed Israel to keep the Torah.  He also stipulated with them that he who keeps the Torah has entry into the Garden of Eden, but he who does not keep it is faced with gehenom.  Thus with God, though He seems to have removed His presence from the Temple, yet "His eyes behold, His eyelids try the children of men." (Shemot Rabba 2, 2)

 

The Mikdash is also the place where God and the people of Israel meet.  This is the source of the term, Ohel Mo'ed, "Tent of Meeting," as it is stated: "And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the covering, from between the two keruvim which are upon the ark of the Testimony, of all things which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel" (Shemot 25:22); "And when Moshe was gone into the Tent of Meeting to speak with Him, then he heard the voice speaking to him from off the covering that was upon the ark of Testimony, from between the two keruvim; and it spoke to him" (Bamidbar 7:89).  Similarly, the Mikdash is described as the place from which man draws the Holy Spirit (Bereishit Rabba 70, 8), that is to say, the place where man encounters the living word of God.

 

The Mikdash is also a place of prayer, communal and individual, in every situation, as Shlomo states in his prayer (I Melakhim 1:8).  This too gives expression to the unmediated closeness of the people of Israel to God.

 

As we saw earlier (Lectures 1 and 6), communal meal-offerings, first-fruits and the water libation involve human action, the purpose of which is to bring blessing into the world.  As the Chinukh states (commandment no.  95), in God's great mercy, He wanted "to establish a place for them in the land for the welfare of men… Blessing and holiness will always multiply there in accordance with the good deeds that people perform there, and then in the wake of the good deeds, the springs of goodness will open before them."

 

The holy vessels themselves, like the table and the showbread that rested on it, are means which man must activate in order to bring blessing into the world.  As the Zohar states (Shemot 153b): "Rabbi Yose then spoke on the words: 'And you shall make a table of acacia wood' (Shemot 25:23).  This table stood in the Mishkan, and there rested upon it the blessing from above, and from it issued nourishment to the whole world.  Not for a moment was the table to remain empty, since blessing does not rest upon an empty place.  Therefore, it was that the showbread had always to be renewed upon it each Shabbat, in order that the blessing from above might always rest upon it, and that food and blessing, because of it, might emanate from the table to all the tables of the world."

 

SUMMARY

 

            We have seen that the keruvim, the Holy of Holies, and the Mikdash as a whole give expression to man's overall relationship with God, combining great love and great fear: exaltedness and dread together with intimacy and endearment, king and bridegroom all in one.  In this way, the Mikdash faithfully reflects our attitude toward God: on the one hand, "You cannot be comprehended in any manner" (Tikkunei Zohar 17a), while on the other hand, "no place is empty of Him" (ibid.  122b).

 

***

 

            In the next lecture, I hope to complete the discussion of the functions of the Mikdash, and I will try to determine the Mikdash's primary objective from among its two main functions.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)





[1]   We will not expand here upon the relationship between the ark, on the one hand, and the kaporet and the keruvim, on the other.

[2]   Beit YishaiDerashot, vol. II, no. 57, p. 327.

[3]  There is an essential difference here between the Mikdash and idolatrous temples.  In those temples, an idol rests upon the throne; in the Mikdash, nothing rests upon the seat formed by the wings of the keruvim. 

[4]  This combination appears already at the foundation of the Mikdash, that is, at the revelation at Mount Sinai: in Shemot 19 – the dimension of fear and in Shemot 24 – the dimension of love.

[5]   This is also the relationship between the Written Law, in which God's kingship is revealed, and the Oral Law, in which the people of Israel are represented in the revelation of the Torah.

[6]  Resting from all work on Shabbat expresses man's recognition that the world has a Master, and by resting from work, he crowns Him as king.  This is the meaning of the prayer, "Those who keep Shabbat will rejoice in Your kingdom." Shabbat is an expression of kingship in time, whereas the Mikdash is an expression of kingship in place.  This explains the many connections between Shabbat and the Mikdash, such as the juxtaposition of the mitzva of Shabbat and the mitzva of fearing the Mikdash – "You shall keep My sabbaths, and reverence My sanctuary, I am the Lord" (Vayikra 26:2) –Shabbat's juxtaposition to the construction of the Mishkan (Shemot 31:12-17; 35:1-3), and the fact that Chazal derived from the connection  the 39 forbidden labors of Shabbat.  This, of course, is a broad topic, and we merely alluded to it in order to show the essential connection between kingship that reveals itself in the sanctity of time – Shabbat – and kingship that reveals itself in the sanctity of place – the Mikdash.  On Shabbat in the Mikdash, God's kingship reveals itself in all of its dimensions – time and place – and therefore the shofar is blown in the Mikdash even on Shabbat.

[7]   There are many parallels between the king and the High Priest, but this is not the framework to expand upon the matter. 

[8]  A similar metaphor is found in Shir Ha-shirim Rabba (parashiot 2-3), where the words "the chamber of her who conceived me" (Shir Ha-shirim 3:4) are interpreted as referring to the Tent of Meeting, as opposed to "my mother's house" (ibid.), which refer to Mount Sinai.