Tisha B’Av is the saddest date of the Jewish calendar when we mourn the destruction of the first and second Jerusalem Temples, known in Hebrew as the Beit HaMikdash, and yearn and hope for the rebuilding of the third Temple speedily in our times. It is said that studying about the Temple, is one way to help rebuild it. Below are a bunch of random tidbits (taken mostly from Mendel’s tweets) about the Beit HaMikdash, in no specific order:
(1) The two Jerusalem Temples were modeled primarily after the biblical Tabernacle (called the “Mishkan”) in the desert built by Moshe upon G-d’s direction. Like the Mishkan tabernacle, the main pieces of equipment were the Ark, the Menorah, the Showbread Table and the two Altars – inner and outer. Unlike the Mishkan which was a temporary structure, the Jerusalem Temples were built of stone and designed to be a fixed central place of worship and designated place to receive G-d’s Divine Presence.
(2) The Temple was a unifying national gathering space. On each of the biblical pilgrimage holidays (Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot) all Jews gathered there. Indeed, it was built on the hill where, as the popular legend (which is not verified in classic Jewish sources) goes, two brothers met, surprising each other in the darkness with empathy & kindness.
(3) The inner core of the Temple, its innermost sanctum was an untouchable space, entered only by the High Priest on holiest day of #YomKippur. “Holy of Holies” space symbolizes our innermost soul core, essence of our identity, being beyond any action, the nucleous, untainted, pure. That’s where the Ark of the Covenant (containing the whole and broken Tablets, a Torah scroll and other items) was present in the first Temple and concealed in the second Temple.
(4) Just outside of Temple’s “Holy of Holies” was its engine room or motherboard with trio or tripod of specialized equipment… Menorah, Showbread Table & Inner Altar. The individual roles of these three & their interplay have significance far beyond the Temple. Menorah and its light = Torah study, Inner Altar with its rising incense = service of G-d through prayer, Showbread Table = acts of lovingkindness – representing the 3 Pillars at the start of Ethics of our Fathers. Even in terms of direction: Menorah shone from above to below, the Altar’s incense rose upwards from below, and the bread on the Table was a sideways motion back and forth between people. Some see it as the Menorah being spiritual, the showbread Table representing the physical, and the Inner Altar burning heavenward as the spiritual & physical merging, fusing, becoming one.
(5) The Ark is the holiest piece of Temple equipment but Maimonides says the Altar was its defining piece. This goes back to the argument whether Divine Presence from above or Human Offering from below is the defining characteristic and primary focus of the Temple.
(6) The Temple had a lot of designated spaces. Places with different degrees of holiness, levels of accessibility & different purposes. There were 15 semi-circular steps in its center upon which the Levites would play music and sing Psalms. There was the chamber of wood where wood piles were donated and stored for use on the altar. The wood was chopped though mid-summer, and on the 15th of Av a joyous festival was celebrated known as the day of the breaking of the ax. There was a secret-room where people anonymously left coins for the poor and based on an honor system the poor would go and take for their needs. There was an area for the Sanhedrin, the supreme court, the highest court in the land would sit in justice. There were the Gates of Nikanor, the Pillars titled Yachin and Boaz, and many other features, each with their own meaning, background and story.
(7) The 1st Temple was planned and prepared for by King David but built by his son King Solomon. The 2nd Temple was built by returnees from the Babylonian exile led by Ezra and Nehemiah, while under the rule of Persia. The 1st Jerusalem Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, the 2nd Temple by the Romans. The Jews were beaten & exiled from Israel both times. The Talmud attributes the 2nd Temple’s destruction to senseless hatred and infighting among the Jewish people themselves.
(8) After its destruction, G-d continues to dwell among our people. Our synagogues and homes are small-scale Temples, “Mikdash-Me’at” a micro Beit HaMikdash. Indeed, G-d dwells everywhere, “the whole world is filled with G-d’s glory” but these concentrated, consecrated and designated spaces have a special degree of holiness, with G-dliness can be more revealed and more readily accessed.
Mendel has a parable for the Beit HaMikdash based on nature retreats, you’ll have to be in touch about that one.
We can add to this one day, but for now, a little taste of the Temple.