Shiur #6: Chapter 6 - The Mikdash
Sefer Melakhim: The Book of Kings
By Rav Alex
This week of Torah learning at the Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash of Yeshivat Har Etzion is being sponsored by Ronni & Nachum Katlowitz in honor of Ronni's mother's birthday - Happy Birthday Mrs. Lucia Pasternak!
Shiur #06: Chapter 6 The Mikdash
By Rabbi Alex Israel
The crowning glory of Shlomo's empire is undoubtedly the Beit Ha-Mikdash. In Sefer Melakhim, the center stage of the Shlomo narrative is filled by three chapters (6-8) that detail the building and dedication of the Beit Ha-Mikdash. This testifies to its predominant role.
One of the aspects of the Beit Ha-Mikdash that makes an immediate impression is its large dimensions, especially in comparison with its predecessor, the Mishkan. Its length and breadth (60 cubits x 20 cubits) are double that of the Mishkan. The added entrance hall adds a further 10 cubits to the length of the structure. Its height (30 cubits) is triple that of the Mishkan. This is a building of sizeable proportions.
Some of the "keilim," the utensils or ritual furniture of the Mishkan, also find themselves enlarged or multiplied in Shlomo's Mikdash. For example:
1. Ten menorot, five on each side of the heichal (7:49), rather than the single menora in the Mishkan.
2. Ten tables for the showbread (Divrei Ha-yamim II 4:8).
3. Ten washbasins (kiyorim) (Melakhim 7:38).
In each of these cases, there is a tenfold increase! The Meshekh Chokhma (Shemot ch. 28) tries to get to grips with the technical details. He makes a simple mathematical calculation: To achieve the equivalent illumination that was produced by a single menora in the Mishkan, ten menorot were needed in the Mikdash! This is a very practical explanation for the increase in illumination.
Shimoni give a more
symbolic understanding. He explains that the ten basins and ten tables are a
reflection of the increased needs of a more populous nation in the realms of
rainfall (water, represented by the basin) and grain (the table held bread). In
this midrash, the guiding principle is that a larger nation requires the
representation of a larger Mikdash.
The ten menorot hold 70 lights corresponding to the Seventy Nations of
the world, expressing
But possibly, we are trying too hard. In a previous shiur, we discussed the imperial grandeur of Shlomo's kingdom, in which everything is on a larger scale, luxurious and striking. The Mikdash is a prime example. The permanence of the structure, built of stone, wood, and the finest decorative materials, amply demonstrates the shift in national fortunes and the transition from a nomadic wilderness people to a regional powerbroker.
However it would appear that this sense of expansion is not limited to the material realm. It manifests itself in further areas. Whereas in the Torah, the prescription against using hewn stone is applied exclusively to the altar, the mizbeach (see Shemot 20:22), in the Mikdash it seems that this law was expanded:
When the house was built, only finished stones cut at the quarry were used, so that no hammer or axe or any iron tool was heard in the house when it was being built. (Melakhim I 6:7)
It is not only regarding the mizbeach that this law is applied, but regarding the entire building site!
In the four
hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites left the
date for the "project" of the Beit Ha-Mikdash is anchored here in a reference
to the Exodus from
interesting that the consciousness of Yetziat Mitzrayim appears
prominently throughout these chapters.
It is mentioned repeatedly in the chapter that describes the ceremonial
dedication of the Mikdash (see
8:9,16,21,51,53,65). It is clear
that Shlomo views the building of the Mikdash as the culmination and
completion of a long journey that began with the nation leaving
Moshe was instructed at the Burning Bush: "When you take the people out of
You will bring them and plant them in your holy mountain,
The place for You to dwell in, O Lord,
The Mikdash, O Lord, which Your hands established.
The Lord will reign forever and ever. (Shemot 15:17-18)
What do we observe in these pesukim? First, we identify a clear plan, indicating that a Mikdash a sanctuary is the stage designated immediately following our entry into the Land. But second, pay attention to the phrase "makhon le-shivtekha," The place for You to dwell in. This language is repeatedly quoted by Shlomo in his prayer:
I have built for you a stately house, a place where you may dwell forever - makhon leshivtekha olamim" (Melakhim I 8:13; see also 8:39, 43, 49)
from Shemot is used no less than four times in Shlomo's speech! Pay
attention too, to the use of "forever" as a reference to God's eternal reign, or
residence in the Mikdash. Our conclusion is that that the situation
predicted and charted by Shirat Ha-Yam has found its realization in
Shlomo. At this moment in time,
This sense of a flowering of our national purpose is echoed in many later sources. The Ramban, Nachmanides, discusses the historical process heralded by Yetziat Mizrayim:
The Exile is not complete [ended]
until they return to their land and to the [spiritual] level of their
forefathers. Now, when they left
The Ramban says that with the establishment of a Mishkan, the Shekhina was present and evident - "the presence of God over their tents;" yet this could not be the fullest state of national realization, of the nations foundational maturation, since they still had to "return to their land." Now, with the sense of national stability realized in the Shlomo era, the building of the Mikdash makes the establishment of the Shekhina into a tangible reality. At this point in history, the process of Yetziat Mitzrayim comes to its fruition, its culmination.
this magical number of 480 (the number of years since the Exodus),
forty years multiplied by twelve (the tribes of
One can view Yetziat Mitzrayim as the birth of the nation. If the process that began with the Exodus ends now, then we are witness to a critical watershed here. The early stage of development, the foundational period of becoming a nation, has reached its completion. We now move towards a state of national maturity, adulthood.
YERACH (THE MONTH OF) ZIV, BUL AND EITANIM. A NEW CALENDAR?
One further feature of our perek is several references to names of months that we do not ordinarily recognize.
The month of ZIV, that is the second month. (6:2)
In the fourth year the house was founded in the month of ZIV, and in the eleventh year, in the month of BUL, that is the eighth month, the house was completed. (6:37-38)
And all of
Three months are specified by name: Ziv, Bul and Eitanim. It is likely that Shlomo had names for all the months of the year and it would appear that Shlomo is instigating a new calendar of sorts. Unfortunately, this episode is the sole place that these month names appear, and with this lean evidence, it is impossible to reconstruct the names of the other nine months. Interestingly, the text here realizes that we are unlikely to recognize the names and therefore translates them into the traditional month numbers, familiar from the Torah and elsewhere in Tanakh.
Throughout the Torah, months are assigned numbers rather than names. Immediately prior to the Exodus, we received the instruction:
This month shall be the leading month for you. It is the first of the year." (Shemot 12:1)
This designates the calendar as starting from Nissan. Why does the calendar start at Nissan, and why does it consist of a simple numerical ordering of unnamed months? It is quite simple. The objective is that our entire history reflects the indelible mark of the Exodus. The memory of the formative event is branded into the very mechanism in which we mark time. (Just like the Creation is the foundation of the week structure, and in Hebrew, the days of the week bear numbers rather than names.) The numerical months of calendar clearly testify to the Exodus. And this pushes the question; why does Shlomo suddenly develop these names?
Some academics hear resonances of Phoenician month names in this text, and they suggest some foreign influence or intent, possibly as a result of Shlomo's alliance with Hiram. They even suggest that since much of the architecture of the Mikdash is Tyrian (see 7:13), they used a double date system so that all cultures would have access to the calendar. This approach however is unconvincing. First, it is only the month Ziv that matches the Phoenician calendar. They have no Eitanim. But furthermore, kings like Achav were far closer to Phoenician culture. They even worshipped their Gods. But they didnt move to change the names of the months.
I would prefer a more spiritual explanation. These are Jewish names. Shlomo is attempting to reframe the months of the year in the same manner in which he tries to redraw the boundaries of the Tribes to reflect new realities. The numerical system of names points us back directly to the Exodus; it marks time from the birth of the Jewish People as a nation. (Similarly, the Ramban suggests that we currently use the month names of Nissan, Iyar, Sivan, etc., which are of Babylonian origin, to recall the Babylonian exile and the manner in which we returned to our land. In that case, the more recent Babylonian experience displaces the more distant Egyptian redemption.) If Shlomo perceives his era as closing the chapter of Yetziat Mitzrayim and opening a new era of a strong nation state and a stable monarchy, then it is possible that he sought to update these months as well. New names indicate a sense of a new historical stage. The sense, then, is that the designation of months according to Yetziat Mizrayim has been superseded; new names thus emerge. The feeling is most certainly one of closing a chapter and opening a new one.
If we are indeed moving to a new era, a new stage of Jewish History, I believe that Shlomo uses yet a further symbolic medium to communicate this concept. Let us study the keruvim of Shlomo's Mikdash.
The keruvim symbolize God's presence. God is described as "seated on the keruvim" (Tehillim 80:2, 99:1). In Sefer Yechezkel, the keruvim surround God and are a central feature of his enigmatic "Chariot" (see Yechezkel ch.10).
There is no
object that actualizes the manifestation of Gods presence more than the aron "the
epicenter of the Mishkan in the
wilderness is the Kodesh Kodashim that houses the aron. Of course, the aron, unlike the menora and the
mizbeach, has no
I will meet with you there and I will speak to you from above the kapporet, from between the two cherubs all that I will command you to Bnei Yisrael. (Shemot 25:22)
The ark is an object that is designed to travel; it has carrying rods or handles. Unlike the handles of the other keilim of the Mishkan, the handles or poles of the aron may never be removed (Shemot 25:15). Many commentaries view this is as a sign of the constant need for the aron to be moveable, portable, transient. In fact, one of the most enduring images of the aron is the passuk that we recite when opening our "aron kodesh" in the synagogue:
And it was when the ark traveled, Moses said:
Arise, O Lord! Scatter your enemies; may Your foes flee before You!
And when [the ark] rested, he would say:
Lord, to the myriads and thousands of
There is a corollary between the movement of the aron and the travels of God. We may take this a stage further: the transient nature of the aron is an expression of God's boundlessness.
Shlomo Ha-Melekh did not alter the aron. He constructed and designed many new keilim for his Mikdash, but the aron is unchangeable. In his Kodesh Kodashim, however, he creates two wooden keruvim overlaid in gold, huge keruvim that tower over the aron, with a wingspans of 10 amot each. These keruvim extend from wall to wall in the Kodesh Kodashim, where the Keruvim stand on the floor (Rashi).
How can we
explain this? I think it is clear that Shlomo is expressing the notion that the
keruvim that had previously been
mobile are now fixed in place, permanent and non-transient. This reflects the fact that God, who had
formerly "moved about in a tent and Tabernacle"
without a permanent home or place, now has an established address, an allocated
residence, a Mikdash. The keruvim reflect the fact that God has
come to rest in
One further addition to Shlomo's Mikdash is the paneling of the floor (6:15). In the Mishkan, there was no floor; the floor was the desert sand! Once again, we see the shift to permanence represented by the Mikdash.
INWARDS OR OUTWARDS?
Parenthetically, let me add that Chazal observe a further difference between the keruvim of Moshe and the Mishkan and those of Shlomo in the Mikdash.
To which direction do the keruvim face? In Shemot, we read that they stand, "their faces towards each other" (25:20), but in Shlomo's Mikdash, "they faced the House [Temple]" (Divrei Ha-yamim II 3:13). The Talmud attempts to resolve the dissonance between the two images and emerges with a resolution:
This tradition assumes that the keruvim were somehow miraculous, and that both sets of Keruvim both in the Mishkan AND the Mikdash shared the property of facing each other at times and facing forward at others. This mobility on the part of the keruvim was a function of, and predicated upon the spiritual state of Am Yisrael - whether they worshipped God faithfully or not.
suggest a different possibility following the text more rigidly that the keruvim of the Mishkan and the Mikdash actually functioned differently.
In the Mishkan, the keruvim faced one another, and in
Shlomos Mikdash they faced outwards. This shift in the facial orientation of
the keruvim may hint to a deeper
shift in the texture of Shlomo's Mikdash. The Mishkan was essentially
internally directed, intended for service WITHIN the Jewish people. In the wilderness, we were a detached
and isolated society. In contrast,
the keruvim of Shlomo, the vehicles
of the Shekhina, were directed in an outwards trajectory. They, like the
Another detail of our chapter echoes this theme. Our chapter is abundant in technical specifications and architectural jargon. One particularly difficult term relates to the windows of the Mikdash, termed "chalonei shekufim atumim" (6:4). What does this phrase indicate? In ancient Hebrew, a chalon is an empty window, basically an open aperture in the wall. But the other phrases elude a clear explanation.
is that "shekufim" is from the word "to look through;"
in other words, these openings were transparent. But they were also "atumim,"
sealed. In simple language, Shlomo
installed an unusually advanced and expensive technology in the
However, the midrash makes a different statement here (see also Menachot 66b):
R. Chanina said: The Beit Ha-Mikdash had windows through which light would extend to the world, as it states: He made for the house chalonei shekufim atumim they were narrow inside but wide on the outside to radiate light to the world" (Vayikra Rabba 31:7)
I would like to leave you with a question to think about for next week. It relates to a strange insertion into chapter 6 and the unusual structure of the entire Mikdash "unit."
If we chart out the pattern, we find the following:
6:1-10 The structure of the Beit Ha-Mikdash
6:11-13 Communication from God
6:14-38 The decoration of the Mikdash
7:1-12 Royal buildings
7:13-51 The metalwork for the Mikdash
Ch.8 The dedication ceremony of the Mikdash
It appears that the description of the Mikdash is interrupted by two "insertions." The first is a statement by God, words of encouragement which conceal a warning:
that you are building if you follow my laws and observe my judgments and
faithfully keep my mitzvot, I will fulfill for you the promise that I
gave to your father David: I will reside amongst the Children of Israel and will
never forsake my people,
this prophecy disrupt the flow of the details of the
More problematic is the strange placement of the section that describes the royal buildings. This section represents an awkwardly out of place intrusion into the smooth flow of the detailed building plan of the Mikdash. Couldnt this section have been placed a different point of the story? What statement is made by its appearance specifically here?
We will take up these problems in our next shiur.
 Melakhim chapter 6 is the haftara for Parashat Teruma. For VBM shiurim on the haftara, see:
Rav Moshe Lichtenstein: http://www.vbm-torah.org/archive/haftara/19teruma.htm
Rav Yehuda Shaviv: http://www.vbm-torah.org/haftora.html
 The Mishkan was 10x30x10=3,000. The Mikdash was 20x60x30=36,000, a multiple of 12!
Melakhim 1:1) discusses three national mitzvot: to appoint a king, to
eradicate Amalek, and to build the
have seen this number as too perfect and neat and assume that it is an invention
of the author of Sefer Melakhim.
Josephus (Antiquities 8:3) speaks of 591 years from the Exodus to
In general, there is an interesting question as how to relate to the number 40 as it expresses itself in the Book of Judges: "And the land was quiet for 40 years." Does it indicate 40 years precisely, or simply the period of a generation? Let us recall that when we talk about (the form number) 40 as it relates to the 40 years in the wilderness, the 40 days in Noah's ark, the 40 days Moshe spent on Mount Sinai, or the reigns of David and Shlomo, which lasted 40 years, we see no reason to take those numbers at anything other than face value. Sometimes, things in life may simply be multiples of 40!
 An identical phenomenon may be found in Megillat Esther where all the Babylonian names of months such as Nissan, Iyar, or Adar are translated into the numerical month system. See, for example, Esther 2:16; 3:7,13; 8:9, 12. The assumption is that the new names the Babylonian or Persian names of the months (Nissan, Iyar, and Tammuz are not names of Jewish origin!) need to be "translated" to the Hebrew system of numbering.
 See Olam Ha-Tanakh.
 Commentary to Shemot 12:2
 See Sefer Ha-chinukh, Chizkuni and R. Hirsch, who develops this point in a philosophical vein.
 See Shmuel II 7:6-7 and the entire chapter there.
 There are fascinating philosophical readings of this midrashic resolution of the textual problem in Nefesh Ha-Chaim (1:8) and the Netziv's Ha-Amek Davar (Shemot 25:22).
This tradition of the keruvim as a spiritual barometer of the state of the relationship between Am Yisrael and God is reflected in the following aggadic text (which is unlikely fully accurate according to historical conditions): "R. Katina said: Whenever Israel came up [to the Temple] for the festival, the curtain [of the sanctuary] would be removed for them and the keruvim, whose bodies were intertwined, were shown to them. Then [the onlookers] would be thus addressed: Look! You are beloved before God as the love between man and woman" (Yoma 54a)
 A comprehensive list of all the terms may be found in the appendices to Daat Mikra; see volume 2, appendix section pp. 77-78. The practical meaning of many of these phrases is unknown to us.
 Chalon has a dagesh in the lamed, indicating an emphasis on the letter, as if it were doubled. Thus, chalon comes from the word chalal meaning a space or empty place. In Modern Hebrew, the term for "Outer Space" is chalal.
 For example, Bereishit 18:16; 26:8.
 See the Ralbag, who protests that, in fact, this architectural design admits light to a greater extent!