Friday, July 27, 2012

A Piece of Heaven on Earth - The Beis Hamikdash©



We once had a Beis Hamikdash here on earth, in the center of Yerushalayim, the center of the world. The Beis Hamikdash was the consulate (embassy) of the Ribbono shel Olam in our world. What is a consulate? One country acquires a piece of property in a different land — and in the perimeters of this property, the rules and laws of the host country do not apply. Only the laws of the visiting country are in effect. (Heard from Harav Raphael Auerbach)

The Beis Hamikdash was a piece of Shamayim on earth, and in that place all the laws of Shamayim
applied, not the rules of earth. The heavenly reality was apparent for all to see and experience. For instance, there were no flies in the BeisHamikdash, even though 80 million sacrifices were slaughtered there every year. Hundreds, and sometimes thousands of sacrifices a day, yet not one fly was found in the vicinity of the Beis Hamikdash, despite the fact that there was so much blood and meat around and
the azarah was outdoors.

In Gan Eden there were no such creatures as flies, mosquitoes, fleas, or any other insects that breed in
swamps. Only after Adam Harishon was expelled from Gan Eden did he, and subsequently, all of mankind suffer from this pestilence. Chazal say (Brachos 61) that the yetzer hara resembles a fly. Likewise, the Midrash says on the passuk “Accursed is the ground because of you” (Bereishis 3:17) that after Adam Harishon sinned, he and subsequently all of mankind suffer from flies and the like, as they were caused by the tumah of Adam Harishon’s sin. But in the Beis Hamikdash the rules of Gan Eden reign supreme; of course, there were no flies there.

The fact that a snake never harmed anyone in Yerushalayim indicates that the Beis Hamikdash and its surroundings, Yerushalayim, were part of Gan Eden. Because of the trouble the snake caused in the original Gan Eden, Hashem curtailed its power and influence in His earthly Gan Eden. In fact, all the 10 nissim listed in Avos (5:5) occurred because the Beis Hamikdash was Gan Eden on earth. (Heard from Harav Shalom Meir Wallach, based on the Yaavetz, introduction to Pirkei Avos)

It says in the Mishnah that never did a snake or scorpion harm anyone in Yerushalayim, meaning that even if someone was bitten by a snake or scorpion, the venom did not harm them. This was also so before the Beis Hamikdash was built there, indicated by the word l’olam. This, even though Yerushalayim is a place of hills and rocks (as David Hamelech says in Tehillim 125:2), the natural place of these creatures. (Meam Loez on Pirkei Avos, p. 241)

Even today, when we see the stones of the Kosel, we’re amazed how such enormous stones could have
been put in place without today’s modern technology. For example, the largest stone in the Kosel weighs 570 tons (the weight of 67 large elephants). Its length is 13.6 meters, the length of an “accordion bus.” The whole Beis Hamikdash was built of tremendous stones untouched by a metal instrument. Shlomo Hamelech used a little worm, called the “shamir.” Although small in size, this worm had tremendous power. When put upon a rock, it could split it in two.

The construction of the Beis Hamikdash took place without any of the noise that usually accompanies construction. Each huge boulder was brought to the site, the shamir cut it, and each rock miraculously found its own place and maneuvered itself into position without human help. Some say it was not even necessary to push or tap the stones to get them into the right place and align them properly. This unique quiet and tranquil construction showed that this Beis Hamikdash could and would bring peace and harmony to the world. The perfection of these stones symbolized the perfection of Torah itself.

These wondrous stones were not broken or destroyed when the Babylonians razed the Beis Hamikdash. The angels took them away and replaced them with ordinary stones so that the Babylonians would think they had succeeded in destroying the Beis Hamikdash. The original stones will reappear and be used in the building of the third Beis Hamikdash.

The second Beis Hamikdash, built by the Jews who returned from Bavel, was built with regular stones.
Hashem did not return the former, miraculous stones because He knew that the second Beis Hamikdash was only a temporary Bayis and would eventually be  destroyed. (Meam Loez, Melachim I, p. 156)

Even the foundation stones of the first Beis Hamikdash, which were inserted below ground level, were all of expensive, precious stone. (Melachim I 5:31) True, human eyes could not see them, but to Hashem all is revealed. In this way, Shlomo Hamelech showed how much the honor of Hashem was important to him. (Meam Loez, Melachim I, p. 140)

The laws of Heaven governed in the Beis Hamikdash. In our physical, natural world there are laws of space, volume, and time. In the Beis Hamikdash the laws of space, volume, and time did not apply. There was no limitation of space. Millions of people used to come up to Yerushalayim on the three Regalim, Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos. They all squeezed together into the Beis Hamikdash, packed so closely that their feet did not touch the ground.

Chazal (Avos 5:5) use the word “tzefufim” to describe the people standing in the Azarah, which is usually translated as “tight.” But Rashi (Yoma21a) says that the word comes from the root “tzaf,” meaning to “float.” They were so closely packed together, it was as if they were floating in the air, in that their feet did not touch the ground. Yet, when they bowed down to Hashem, there were four amos around each one of them on each side. Thus, they could make requests of the Ribbono shel Olam in tefillah without their neighbors overhearing. They could also confess their sins while in this position, and all those around them would not hear what they said.

It’s not that the outside borders of the Beis Hamikdash expanded when the people bowed, nor did they contract when the people stood. And yet the space inside changed accordingly. This was a purely spiritual phenomenon, which happened within the confines of the Beis Hamikdash because of its holiness. The above miracle shows that the Shechinah was among them. (Heard from Rebbetzin Rina Tarshish)

On one day of the year, 14 Nisan, during a few hours after chatzos, midday, the Jews who were
assembled in Yerushalayim, i.e., most of Klal Yisrael, brought the korban pesach. The korban pesach could be eaten only by those who “pre-registered” for participation in the group. Each and every chaburah (group) found a stove to roast its korban pesach, even though one million two hundred thousand korbanos were brought during the same few hours. (It should be noted that about 20 million sacrifices were offered in the week of Erev Pesach alone).

In every korban pesach a minimum of 10 people participated, meaning that 12 million people had to
sleep over in Yerushalayim on the Seder night, as the halachah is that anyone who offers a korban must
sleep over in Yerushalayim that same night. The area of Yerushalayim was, in all, approximately 4 square kilometers. Compounding the space crisis, consider that in order to avoid problems of tumah and taharah, all the houses in Yerushalayim were only one story high (so that there should be no
balconies that can cause these problems). And in this small area, all these millions of people fit in, with the Mishnah even adding that “no one ever said, ‘There isno room for me in Yerushalayim.’” (Heard from Harav Shalom Meir Wallach)

In order to comprehend the greatness of this miracle, one needs only to consider the size of the Warsaw Ghetto (l’havdil) during World War II, which was 18 square kilometers in size. At its peak, the ghetto housed about half a million people, and the crowding was excruciating. Pictures of an ordinary day in the Warsaw Ghetto seem to depict large demonstrations. That is because many thousands lived on the street, for lack of space in the buildings, even though many of the buildings were several stories high.

Because of the holiness of the place, everyone who lived in Yerushalayim had parnassah in great abundance. No one ever said, “I feel constrained because of lack of a livelihood.” (Meam Loez, Avos, p. 241) The walls of the Beis Hamikdash were covered in protruding shapes of fruit made out of gold. These fruits would multiply and grow, each in its season. For example, when the vines in the vineyards around the country were producing grapes, the golden grape bunches on the walls of the Sanctuary also sprouted an abundance of golden grapes. This was so for every type of fruit represented on the walls. (heard from Rav Shalom Meir Wallach)

Once in seven years, at the occasion of Hakhel, the king read the whole Book of Devarim to the entire
nation.  All the Am had to come.All males were commanded to come, and there was a mitzvah to bring all their children. This meant that millions of people, with many more millions of children — ranging from babies till 13-year olds — were all crowded into the Ezras Nashim, listening to the king for hours at a time. The miraclewas that no baby or toddler soiled or dirtied his diapers and no child ever disturbed the proceedings by becoming restless. (Heard from Rav Raphael Auerbach)

The olei regel brought with them many types of sacrifices, besides the specific sacrifices of the Chag
they had come up for. They brought olos re’iyah, shalmei chagigah, shalmei simchah, and many other
types of korbanos. All these korbanos were burnt on the mizbe’ach (altar) within a short time, for the fire of the mizbe’ach would burn wet things at the same rate as dry things. (Heard from Rav Wallach)

In the center of the mizbe’ach was an ash pile called tapuach, the apple, which at some times reached the size of 300 kor, i.e. 55,000 liter. From only two logs of wood, the fire on the mizbe’ach had the heat intensity of the sun at noon (heard from Rav Shalom Meir Wallach). Rain never extinguished the fire, even though the altar was outdoors. It is not that Hakadosh Baruch Hu withheld rain from that particular spot; He caused rain to fall there. Nevertheless, the fire was never extinguished. From above the altar a tall, straight pillar of smoke ascended, reaching the heavens. No matter how strong and violent the winds were, they never dispersed this column of smoke from its vertical position.

The lesson for Yidden was clear. The fire on the mizbe’ach represents Divine service. Just as the fire
on the altar continued to burn despite the onslaught of the elements, we too are expected to maintain our
avodas Hashem in spite of the vicissitudes of life.(Ruach Chaim by Harav Chaim of Volozhin, on Pirkei Avos)

Eighty million sacrifices were brought up on the altar every year. Even if the altar had been made of
one large stone, it should have melted from the intense heat generated by the constant burning korbanos.
Yet it did not melt, even though it was composed of many tiny stones, held together by lime, pitch and lead. (Tiferes Yisrael)

The mizbe’ach had to be in a specific, designated spot, the place where Adam Harishon brought a korban after he was created; the place where Kayin and Hevel brought their korbanos; where the korban was brought after the Mabul by Noach and his children; and finally, where Avraham Avinu made the Akeidah.

Even though millions of sacrifices were brought each year, adding up to astronomical figures of billions and trillions over the years, no animal ever dirtied the Azarah with its waste. Even so, each korban was kept with its face to the altar in case of such an occurrence, because we don’t rely on miracles, even though we are confident that a miracle will take place. (Ritva citing a Midrash)


There was a place allotted for the Aron Hakodesh and the Aron Hakodeshwas indeed there … but it did not take up any space at all (Bava Basra 92). The Kodesh Hakodashim, where the Aron stood, measured 20 amos by 20 amos. Yet despite this, at each side there was a 10- amah distance from the periphery of the Aron to the wall of the chamber. This miracle took place for hundreds of years during the time of the First Bayis.

Above the Aron were two keruvim (cherubs) with the faces of a male child and a female child — symbolizing Hashem and Klal Yisrael, respectively. In Shlomo Hamelech’s First Bayis there were two sets of keruvim. One set was made of pure gold, by Betzalel, and was part of the cover of the Aron. The second set was made by Shlomo, and was much bigger in size. Those keruvim were made out of olive wood plated in gold, in such a way that their wings moved. When they were placed in the Kodesh Hakodashim the keruvim spread out and positioned their wings, with no human assistance. Each wing was 5 amos wide, 20amos in all, taking up the whole area of the Kodesh Hakedashim. This means that their very large bodies did not take up room at all.

In the Second Bayis there was no Aron and therefore no keruvim, but two cherubs were drawn on the wall. These drawn keruvim functioned in the same way as their predecessors, turning away from each other when the Nation was out of favor with Hashem and turning toward each other when the Nation was in favor with Hashem (Meam Loez, Malachim I, p. 170-172).

The Tosefta says that the poles that carried the Aron extended themselves, miraculously, out of the Kodesh Hakodashim into the dividing curtain. As the first destruction approached, the poles contracted into their traveling mode, thus hinting to the kohanim, who were allowed entry to the Kodesh but not the Kodesh Hakodashim, that it was time to secrete the Aron in the subterranean chambers that Shlomo Hamelech had built for this purpose. A kohen during the Second Bayis period once stumbled on a loose tile and was about to call the other kohanim over to show them that this might be the place where the Aron was hidden, but he died immediately, before he could reveal the secret to anyone. The Aron is concealed under the area of the Beis Hamikdash till this very day.

When the people were oleh regel (for Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos), an amazing miracle took place.
The kohanim opened all the doors to the Beis Hamikdash and all the people, no matter where they stood in the Beis Hamikdash, could see right into the Kodesh Hakedashim. There they could see the keruvim facing each other, showing how much Hashem loves Klal Yisrael,and sending them home very much encouraged and happy (Heard from Rav Yonasan Alpert based on Yomah 54b).

The entire Nation went up to Yerushalayim during the Shalosh Regalim, leaving their farms and homesteads unguarded. Hashem protected their possessions and property from the surrounding gentiles, and from all harm. As it says in the Torah (Shemos 34:24), no one even felt a temptation to the vast land and many houses left totally empty for a sizeable amount of time (including traveling).

Within the Ezras Nashim there were four (some say two) tall golden lampposts, each holding four golden bowls of oil. Each lamppost was a hundred amos tall, approximately the height of a 15-story building. For such a tall, thin object to stand straight and upright, one would need 33.33 amos on both sides to stabilize it and hold it up. This would mean that the base needed was almost 67 amos. If one takes into account the size of the Ezras Nashim, and the fact that so many people were there during the simchas beis hasho’eivah, there was no space for these bases. The Yerushalmi says the nes could have taken two forms: either these large bases were indeed there but took up no room at all, or the hundred amah lamp stood straight and tall with no base.

Next to each lamppost there were four ladders, up which the pirchei kehunah used to climb to pour oil into the bowls. The light from these lamps was so dazzling that every nook and cranny in Yerushalayim was lit up so bright and clear that women could have sorted rice by its light. In reality, no one sorted rice by this lamp light, as that would have been unlawful because of me’ilah, using sacred property for a mundane purpose. However, the Gemara uses the above statement to show us the power of the light of these lamps and how great was the illumination.

Pirchei kehunah were the young kohanim, ranging in age from 13 to 20. They were called pirchei kehunah as their beards had just started to sprout, as in the word lifro’ach, to bloom. Alternatively, they worked so swiftly they seemed like birds in flight, as in porei’ach, to fly. In addition, the word pirchei has the connotation of perach, a flower. They were as comely as beautiful flowers.

Each one of the pirchei kehunah carried up 30 lugim (18 liters) on a steep upward incline, showing their great strength and the fact that Hashem was helping them. The 120 lugim, required for the four lampposts, allude to Moshe Rabbeinu (who lived that many years), suggesting that the light of Torah he transmitted to the Jewish people shines upon the Jewish people as did the light of the candelabra (Tosafos Yom Tov).


In the natural physical world, things never remain the same. Flowers fade, plants wither, iron rusts, and
animals die and decay, rotting away to dust. This is a natural physical phenomenon. Spiritual things, however, remain the same and never decay. Because of the extreme spirituality and kedushah of
the Beis Hamikdash, the meat of the korbanos never rotted. All the limbs that remained, and were not
burnt right after shechitah, were put at the side of the altar – where time stood still. They would sometimes remain there for a few days, and even when the weather was extremely hot they always remained as fresh as the moment the animal was slaughtered.

A similar phenomenon occurred with the twelve loaves of bread, the lechem hapanim. All week they
remained piping hot, steam rising from them as if they had just come out of the oven. According to scientific natural law, when the bread was divided among the mishmar of kohanim, each kohen should have gotten a piece the size of a tiny pea. A nes occurred, though, and each kohen received a piece the size of a kezayis. Sometimes the kohen gadol would take six of the loaves (as this was his privilege); even then, the remaining loaves would divide into a kezayis for each kohen! The Gemara says that after eating a few bites, the kohanim would feel as full as if they had partaken of a four-course meal. This was because in the Beis Hamikdash, there was no reality to limitation of quantity – such limitation did not apply.

The showbread, which was baked late on Friday and was placed on the Shulchan (Table) on Shabbos,
was never invalidated, as a new set of breads could not be baked on Shabbos. Had the showbread been invalidated, G-d forbid, it would have meant that the Table would have had to remain empty all week, which would have been an irremediable disaster (Meam LoezAvos, p. 240). This is because the breads brought the blessing of parnassah to the entire world, and without their being on the Table an untenable lacking would have occurred. Till today, the blessing of parnassah and all the gashmiyus we have is still from the effect of the lechem hapanim; that is, today we are “mefarchesim.” (When one shechts a chicken, even after its head has been removed it continues jumping around. A chicken that moves after being slaughtered is called a mefarcheis.)

All brachah and good comes from Shamayim, which is likened to the head. This good passes through the Beis Hamikdash — likened to the neck — on to the body, our world. Today we are living “through the good that once came through the Beis Hamikdash” (Harav Shimshon Dovid Pincus, zt”l).

The Minchas Omer, consisting of a small amount of barley cut on the eve of the 16th of Nissan, was sifted through 13 sieves and was offered on the morning of the 16th of Nissan. It was never disqualified. All new grain was forbidden until the Omer was offered. People would start eating the new grain on the afternoon of the 16th. Had the Omer been disqualified, there would have been no way to inform people who lived far away, since there was no effective method of communication. In order to protect people from sinning inadvertently, Hashem made a nes that the Omer was never disqualified.

The two breads offered on Shavuos, the shtei halechem, were also irreplaceable and therefore were
never disqualified (Meam Loez, Avos, p. 239-240).

The korbanos were cooked in pottery vessels that absorbed the juice of these korbanos. The vessel then became forbidden and had to be broken. However, it was forbidden to remove them from the Beis
Hamikdash. Considering this, the floor of the Azarah should have been littered with piles and piles of broken pottery … but an amazing miracle occurred: the floor swallowed up the pottery. The floor also swallowed up the trumas hadeshen and the different parts of bird offerings that were not needed (Heard from Rav Shalom Meir Wallach).

On the roof of the Temple building was a guardrail three cubits high. Above the guardrail were spikes
shaped like swords, to prevent birds from standing on the edge of the roof and soiling the walls of the
facade. Chazal were also concerned that birds standing on the edge of the roof might be holding small,
dead creatures in their beaks and drop them into the Temple courtyard, causing problems with taharah
(The Temple in Yerushalayim – Rav Dov Levenoni).

The Aruch states that the crow chasers were required only for the Second Bayis. During the period of the First Bayis the Divine Presence was so palpable that the crows instinctively refrained from alighting there (ArtScroll Mishnayos Middos, p. 145).

During the era prior to the passing of Shimon Hatzaddik (in the first 40 years of the Second Bayis) the ner maaravi, the western lamp of the Menorah, would miraculously stay lit for a full 24-hour period from one evening’s lighting to the following evening’s lighting - despite its receiving the same amount of oil as all the other lamps, an amount only sufficient to burn throughout the longest winter night.

Yericho was located 23 miles from Yerushalayim. Eight, some say nine, different sounds having to do
with the Beis Hamikdash were heard there:
1. The great gate being opened
2. The shavel (a musical instrument with 10 holes;
each hole could produce 10, some say 100, notes)
3. The wheel of the larve, made by Ben Katin
4. Gevini, the crier
5. Cymbals, copper discs
6. A flute (played on 12 days during the year)
7. The song of the Leviim
8. The shofar — every day 21 blasts were blown at the offering of the tamid, morning and evening
9. The sound of the kohen gadol on Yom Kippur saying the Shem Hameforesh; others say it was the nation answering him, saying “Baruch Shem kvod Malchuso l’olam va’ed”

The fragrant smell from the ketores (incense) reached Yericho, hence the name Yericho, from rei’ach — to smell. (In the mountains of Michvar, the smell caused by the ketores was so strong that the
goats sneezed because of it [Mishnayos Tamid 8:9]).

This was inspired by the special spiritual status of Yericho, its being the first portion of the Land to be
conquered by Yehoshua. It joined Yerushalayim on commonality of holiness. Some say the sounds traveled through an escape tunnel that King Chizkiyahu had dug from Yerushalayim to Yericho, while others maintain that there are no mountains to obstruct the sound on the way from Yerushalayim to Yericho (ArtScroll Mishnayos Tamid, p. 73). Either way, it cannot be understood naturally.

It must be noted that these miracles and many, many more were seen by millions of olei regel over
hundreds of years, both in the First and Second Bayis (Heard from Rav Refael Aurbach).

It is our sincere prayer that this article should stir the hearts of readers to beg, from the depths of their beings, “Oh, Father, oh Merciful Father, have mercy on us! Two thousand years of galus, pain and persecution are enough! The suffering today comes upon us like the mighty waves of a turbulent sea. There is no family that is not suffering, either from parnassah problems, illness, older unmarried singles, or children who have left Your holy Torah, and many families suffer from some or all of the above.

“Just as the good we have comes from the avodah that was once done in the Beis Hamikdash, likewise,
what we are lacking comes from the fact that Your House is in ruins and we cannot do the avodah. Save the remnant of Your people, who despite all the torturous hardships keep clinging to You. Please rebuild Your House very soon in our days, so we may look upon it and merit to see all its miracles once again, at which time Your Glory will be revealed to all mankind.
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