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Posted on October 10, 2017 By Rabbi Dr. Azriel Rosenfeld | Series: | Level:

H. Service – Avodah

“In the eighth book I will include commandments regarding the construction of the Sanctuary and the regular communal sacrifices. And I have called this book the Book of Service.”

41. The Temple – Beis ha-Bechirah

We are commanded to make a house [i.e., a Temple] for Ha-Shem, as it says “And they shall make Me a Sanctuary”.1 Since the time of David it is forbidden to make this Temple anywhere but on mount Moriah in Jerusalem, as it says “And David said: This is the house of Ha-Shem the G-d”,2 and it says “This is My eternal resting place”.3 The Sanctuary and the city of Jerusalem were sanctified by Solomon; they remain holy even when the Temple does not exist. They can be added to only by a king, a prophet, and a Sanhedrin. We are commanded to respect the Temple, as it says “And you shall fear My Sanctuary”.4,a

The house consists of a court (azarah) containing a palace (heichal) that is divided into three parts: the hall (ulam), the holy place, and the holy of holies. The court and the adjacent women’s court (ezras nashim) are surrounded by an outer zone (cheil). In the court in front of the hall are the altar and the washing-basin. The altar must be built of perfect stones that have not been touched by iron, as it says “And if you make Me a stone altar you shall not build them hewn, for you have raised your sword over it and profaned it”,5 and it says “You shall build Ha-Shem‘s altar of whole stones”.6 The ascent to the altar is by a ramp rather than by steps, as it says “And you shall not go up to My altar by steps”.7 In the holy place are the altar for incense, the candelabrum, and the table for the showbread; these and all the associated utensils must be made of metal. It is forbidden to damage any part of the sanctuary or altar, as it says “And you shall destroy their altars… you shall not do so to Ha-Shem your G-d”.8,b

The land of Israel is holier than all other lands: the omer sacrifice, the bread-sacrifice on Shavuos, and the first fruits can be brought only from there. Walled cities in the land are even holier: lepers must must be sent out of them. Jerusalem is even holier: corpses cannot stay there overnight; crops must not be grown there; furnaces and garbage heaps are not permitted there; houses cannot be rented there, and if sold they revert to the owner at the Jubilee; the second tithe and the sacrifices that are holy in a minor degree can be eaten there. The Temple mount is even holier: persons who are impure on account of a running issue cannot enter there. The outer zone is even holier: non-Jews and persons who are impure on account of contact with a corpse cannot enter there. The women’s court is even holier: one who has immersed himself on account of impurity cannot enter there on the day of his immersion. The westernmost 11 cubits of the court are even holier: one who has not yet brought a sacrifice on account of impurity cannot enter there. The next 11 cubits of the court are even holier: non-priests cannot enter there except when they bring sacrifices. The part of the court between the altar and the hall is even holier: priests who have blemishes or whose hair is long or whose clothes are torn cannot enter there. The palace is even holier: priests cannot enter there without washing their hands and feet. The holy of holies is even holier: only the high priest can enter it, and only during the Yom Kippur service.c

The priests and Levites are commanded to guard the Sanctuary at night and are forbidden to abandon it, as it says “[And Ha-Shem said to Aaron… and bring near your brothers the tribe of Levi too…] and you and your children with you before the tent… and they shall guard the tent… and you shall guard the holy things”9; and it says “And the Levites shall camp around the tent… and the Levites shall guard the tent”10; and it says “And those that camp before the tent of meeting to the east shall be Moses and Aaron and his sons guarding the Sanctuary”.11,d


1. Ex. 25:8 a. 1:1,3; 6:11,14-15; 7:1
2. I Chronicles 22:1 b. 1:5-7,13-15,17-18; 5:3,7
3. Psalms 132:14 c. 7:12-22; 5:12
4. Lev. 19:30; 26:2 d. 8:1-3
5. Ex. 20:21
6. Deut. 27:6
7. Ex. 20:22
8. Deut. 12:3-4
9. Num. 18:1-5
10. Num. 1:53
11. Num. 3:38