The Mikdash (Sanctuary)


The Mikdash (Sanctuary)

The Mikdash is built of three parts: The Ulam (Hall); the Kodesh (the Holy area) also known as the Heichal, and the Kodesh Kodashim, the Holy of Holies. Together they are all called the Heichal (according to the Rambam's Laws of the Beit Habechira). On the sides of the Heichal was a series of small compartments, whose purpose is not explained in the texts.

The Mikdash: The Heichal (Kodesh) and the Kodesh Kodeshim

In the Heichal the following vessels were found: the Menorah in the south, the Table of the Showbread in the north and between them, in the center of the Heichal, the Incense Altar. The Ark of the Covenant was situated in the Holy of Holies. (Sources: Midot 4 and 7; Yoma).

The Mikdash: The Kaleh Orev

Atop the roof of the Heikhal was a network of sharp golden spikes, one cubit (50 cm) in height, known as the Kaleh Orev. Its function was to prevent ravens and other birds from landing and perching there, thus ensuring that they would not drop impure meat in the area and defile the offerings. Another opinion states that these spikes completely covered the roof of the Heichal. (Source: Rambam, Beit Habechira 4,3)

The Mikdash: Dimensions & Knives Dispensary

The height of the Mikdash was one hundred cubits from the floor of the Court until the iron piling on the roof. Its length from the Ulam entrance until the end of the Holy of Holies was also one hundred cubits. The Ulam was wider than the Heichal by fifteen cubits on both sides, and this additional width created an open space called the Knives Dispensary. The total length of the Ulam (north-south) was one hundred cubits, and its width was eleven cubits. (Sources: Midot 4, 6-7).

The level of sanctity of the Ulam was identical to that of the Heichal. However other opinions say it was identical to the sanctity of the area between the Ulam and the Mizbeach. The level of sanctity of the Heichal was greater than that of the Ulam and only priests were permitted entry into the Heichal to perform their service and for prostration. Only the High Priest was permitted entry into the Holy of Holies, and only once a year, on Yom Kippur, while wearing white garments. (Sources: Kelim 1).

The Mikdash: The Kodesh & Ulam

The Showbread loaves were placed on small tables in the Ulam on the Sabbath day - both the loaves of the previous week that were being replaced, and the new loaves, before being placed upon the Table of the Showbread. The young priestly trainees entered into this area to see the golden crowns. Three vessels stood within the Kodesh: the Golden Table - on which the showbread loaves were arranged on the Sabbath; the Golden Menorah, which was lit every day; and the Golden Incense Altar, on which incense was offered in the morning and at twilight.


The Mikdash: The Entrance and the Ulam

12 stairs were located at the front of the Ulam and each stair was one half a cubit high. The priests stood on these stairs at the conclusion of the daily Tamid service - the burnt offering - and bestowed the Priestly Blessing upon the people. (Source: Tamid 7:2).

At the entrance to the Ulam, through which the Kodesh was entered, there were a number of beautiful decorations. Above the entrance were five decorative lintels made of oak wood. In the entrance itself two decorations hung: the 'Nivreshet', which was a golden lamp donated by Queen Helene, and the "Golden Grapevine." When an individual donated gold for use in the Mikdash, his donation would be fashioned into the shape of a leaf or cluster. Whenever necessary, some "leaves" of the grapevine where removed and the gold was used to finance renovations.

Within the two windows above the entrance to the Heichal, two ornamental golden crowns were placed. There also were golden chains in the Ulam. The young priestly trainees would climb these chains to see the crowns. (Source: Midot 3:8).

The entrance to the Ulam was the largest of all the Temple gates. It was forty cubits high and twenty cubits wide. The other gates were twenty by ten cubits. At the entrance to the Ulam, there was a curtain and not doors as in the other entrances. (Source: Midot 2:3).

Top left picture shows the kohanim standing on the stairs to the Ulam at the conclusion of the daily Tamid service. Above them, reflecting the morning sun, is the golden lamp donated by Queen Helene. Above the entrance to the Ulam are the five oak lintels.

Top right pictures shows the recited of the morning Shema, ("Hear O Israel, HaShem is our G-d, HaShem is One"), as the first rays of the sun rising up over the Mount of Olives reflects in the golden lamp donated by Queen Helene. The Ulam stairs and five oak lintels are also visible.

The bottom right picture clearly shows the entrance o the Ulam, the stairs, the lintels, the lamp of Queen Helene. Inside the entrance can be seen the golden grape leaves.

The bottom center picture, inside the Ulam, shows the golden grape leaves on the left, and behind them, in the niche above the entrance to the Hechal Sanctuary, can be seen one of the two ornamental golden crowns. A young kohen in training can be seen on the right, suspended by the golden chains, as he peers at the golden crown.

The bottom left picture shows the kohanim, led by the Kohen Gadol, (High Priest), performing the Priestly Blessing while standing on the stairs leading to the Ulam.

The Mikdash: The Ulam Tables & Knives Dispensary

Two tables stood inside the Ulam. One was made of marble (others say of silver) and the other of gold. Before the Sabbath, the new Showbread loaves were baked in the Place of the Hearth placed on the marble table. The next day, on the Sabbath day, the priests arranged the Showbread loaves on the Table of the Showbread within the Kodesh area. The outgoing loaves that were removed, were placed on the golden table in the Ulam. The loaves remained there until the frankincense from the censers on the Showbread table were offered on the mizbeach. After this, the loaves were distributed to the priests for consumption. (Source: Menahot 11:7).

One table was made out of marble (others say silver that looked like marble) and the second table was specifically made of gold, because of the principle that "we increase in the level of holiness and do not decrease." Since the loaves were already on a golden table in the Kodesh, they could not be removed and placed on a table of lesser splendor. (Source: Menahot 11:7).

The Knives Dispensary was located on both sides of the Ulam. According to some opinions, there were chambers here in which the knives used to slaughter the offerings were stored. Each watch had its own special "window" to store the knives used during its watch. Others say that there were only storage "windows" on either side of the Ulam in which the knives were stored, but not an actual chamber.

During the Second Temple era, the window of the priestly family of Belga's watch was sealed as a punishment, due to the act of Miriam the daughter of Belga who kicked the mizbeach and disgraced it during the time of the Greeks. (Source: Midot 4:7; Succah 5).

The Ulam was wider than the Kodesh by fifteen cubits on each direction. This addition on the two sides of the Ulam were the windows of the Knives Dispensary.

The level of sanctity of the Knives Dispensary was identical with that of the Ulam.

The Mikdash: The Pishpeshim

On both sides of the entrance to the Kodesh there were small openings called pishpeshim. The southern opening was always closed and no one ever entered through it, as the verse states: "This gate will be closed... and no man will enter in by it, because Hashem the G-d of Israel has entered through it." (Ezekiel 44:2) The northern opening was opened each morning using two keys. Through it one could enter the compartment and from there to the Kodesh. It was necessary to first enter the Kodesh through the compartment since the main doors of the Kodesh could only be unlocked from inside. (Sources: Tamid 3:7; Midot 4:2).

The Two Small Openings share the same level of sanctity as the Kodesh.

The Mikdash: The Kodesh Doors

At the entrance to the Kodesh, there were four doors overlaid in gold on both sides of the wall. Two doors were on the side facing the Ulam, and two doors on the side facing the Kodesh. The gate of the Kodesh was locked from the inside by a bolt and it could only be opened from the inside. When the doors to the Kodesh were opened, it was then permitted to slaughter the Tamid - the daily burnt offering. For this was required to be done "facing the tent of the meeting" (Ohel Mo'ed). The Mishna relates that the sound of the Great Gate opening could be heard as far away as Jericho. (Sources: Midot 4:1; Tamid 3:7).

The entrance to the Kodesh was twenty cubits high and ten cubits wide. The wall at the entrance to the Kodesh was five cubits thick. Each of the four doors was five cubits wide and ten cubits high. Two doors were affixed on the exterior side of the doorway and opened inward to cover the width of the doorway. The two other doors that were affixed on the interior opened inward into the Kodesh and covered the wall. In this manner, the doorway and the eastern wall of the Kodesh were entirely covered with gold. (Source: Midot 4:1).

The Mikdash: The Kodesh

The Kodesh (holy area) in the Mikdash is comparable to the Kodesh in the Mishkan. Inside were three vessels: the golden Menorah in the south, the Table of the Showbread in the north, and to the east of these, in the center of the Kodesh, the Incense Altar. Our Sages said: "One who wishes to become wise should go south, and one who wishes to become wealthy should go north. This is alluded to by the location of the Menorah in the south and the Table of the Showbread in the north." (Baba Batra 25:b).

The Menorah symbolized spiritual blessing in the world, and the Table symbolized material blessing. The synthesis of these two concepts, both spiritual and material blessing, is symbolized by "the Incense Altar that stood before G-d," the incense altar that stood between the Menorah and the Table of the Showbread.

During the First Temple period, the outside of the Kodesh (holy area) was built of large stones, and the inside was constructed of cedar wood overlaid in gold. The inner dimensions of the Kodesh during the time of the Second Temple were: from east to west (from the Heichal doors to the curtain of the Holy of Holies) - forty cubits. From north to south - twenty cubits. The height of the Kodesh, in its interior, was forty cubits. From the outside it had a height of one hundred cubits. The foundation of the Kodesh was six cubits above the floor of the Court.

The height of the interior of the Kodesh was forty cubits, and the height of the attic was forty cubits, with one cubit on top for the metal piling which served to deter birds from settling on the roof of the Mikdash. The remaining height was taken up by the width of the support beams, the ceilings, and their decorations. (Source: Midot 4,6)

The level of sanctity of the Kodesh was greater than that of the Ulam. Only priests were allowed entry into the Kodesh, and only while performing a service or to prostrate themselves at the end of the Tamid service. (Source: Kelim 1:8).

The Mikdash: Exterior of the First Temple

During the First Temple period, King Solomon made a number of unique innovations to the Court. "Solomon's Sea," constructed of copper, was a large round vessel that stood on twelve oxen made of copper. Three oxen faced north, three faced south, three faced west and three faced east. Some opinions maintain that the "Sea" served as a ritual bath for the priests, and others state that it served as a reservoir that provided water for use in the Court. According to the opinion that the "Sea" served as a ritual bath, it was located outside the Court.

Additionally, King Solomon fashioned ten ornamental copper wagons called mechonot. Each wagon carried a laver filled with water. Five mechonot were arranged in a line to the right of the Ulam, and five to the left. On both sides of the entrance to the Ulam stood two high, decorated pillars. The pillar to the right of the entrance was called "Yachin," and the one to the left was called "Boaz." (Source: Kings I, Chapter 7).

The Mikdash: Interior of the First Temple

In addition to the original Menorah and Showbread Table from the time of the Tabernacle, King Solomon added another ten Menorot and ten Showbread Tables. Thus eleven Menorot, eleven Showbread Tables and the one Incense Altar stood inside the Kodesh. The Menorot were arranged in two rows of five. At the end of these rows, adjacent to the curtain, stood the original Menorah from the time of Moses. The Tables of Showbread were arranged in similar fashion, at the north of the Kodesh.

One opinion in the Talmud states that all eleven Menorot were kindled, and that bread was placed on all eleven Showbread Tables. Another opinion maintains that only the original ones from the time of Moses were actually used. The walls of the Kodesh were decorated with elaborate wood carvings in the shapes of cherubs, palm trees and flowers. (Sources: Kings 1,7:47-48; Menachot 99).

In the First Temple, the interior walls of the Kodesh were of cedar wood, overlaid with gold, and decorated with designs such as palm trees, flowers and Cherubim. During the Second Temple period, the walls of the Kodesh were covered with plates of gold. (Sources: Kings I, Ch. 6;Tanhuma Teruma 11; Midot 4:1).