Laws of the Bais HaMikdosh
(The Holy Temple)
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
The Table of Contents contains links to the text. Click on an entry
in the Table of Contents and you will move to the information selected.
"I BELIEVE WITH COMPLETE FAITH IN THE ARRIVAL OF THE MOSHIACH.
AND THOUGH HE MAY TARRY, I SHALL WAIT EACH DAY, ANTICIPATING HIS
Maimonides, Principles of the Faith, No. 12
THIS PUBLICATION IS DEDICATED
TO THE REBBE,
RABBI MENACHEM M. SCHNEERSON
Click here, to see pictures
of the Rebbe
The Daily Sicha (in Real Audio)
- Listen to selected excerpts of the Rebbe's Sichos
[talks] which are relevant to the particular day.
We are pleased to present, to the visually impaired and the blind, our
publication, "Laws of the Bais HaMikdosh (The Holy
"During the "Three
Weeks,"(2) it is customary to study topics relating
to the Holy Temple.
"This study should be carried out in anxious anticipation of the Holy Temple
being rebuilt. We should study about the Holy Temple with the awareness that
in the very near future we will see what we are studying about in actual
The Rebbe, 24 Tamuz, 5751/1991
"G-d told the prophet Yechezkel that through studying the laws of the structure
of the Holy Temple it is considered as if we have been involved in its actual
"As we are so close to the Redemption, the subject must be approached as
a present reality; at any moment the Third Holy Temple which is already built
in the heavens will descend and be revealed on earth."
The Rebbe, 17 Tamuz, 5751/1991
The text of the book: "Seek Out The Welfare Of Jerusalem" [Analytical Studies
by the Rebbe, of Rambam's rulings concerning the Holy Temple], published
by Sichos in English - is available on-line at:
and is divided into a special study program.
Our sincere appreciation to the publishers of the Tzivos Hashem
Newsletter, for allowing us to use their material.
Also, many thanks to our copy editor, Reb Mordechai Staiman, for his tireless
It is our fervent hope that our learning about Moshiach and the Redemption
will hasten the coming of Moshiach, NOW!
Rabbi Yosef Y. Shagalov,
Committee for the Blind
13 Tamuz, 5759
Brooklyn, New York
1. Adapted from the 'Tzivos Hashem Newsletter,' edited by Dr. Dovid
2. The "Three Weeks" begin on the 17th of Tamuz (July 1, 1999), and
continue until the 9th of Av (July 22, 1999). Ed.
The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of Lubavitch, issued a call
that "The time of our Redemption has arrived!" and "Moshiach is
on his way!"
The Rebbe stressed that he is saying this as a prophecy, and asks
us all to prepare ourselves for the Redemption, through increasing acts of
goodness and kindness.
Let us all heed the Rebbe's call.
THE MITZVAH TO
When the Jews received the Torah at Mt. Sinai, they were commanded to build
a Holy Sanctuary for G-d, called in Hebrew, a Mikdosh.
The purpose of the Temple is to provide G-d with a place to dwell in this
world, a House to which offerings may be brought.
Men and women must help to build the Temple. It is a mitzvah to build
it as beautifully as possible. If money is available, one should even cover
the whole structure with gold! However, children may not be taken away from
learning Torah, even for the sake of building the Temple. We do not build
the Temple on Shabbat or on Yom Tov.
A person is meant to go to the Temple three times a year, to celebrate the
Festivals of Pesach, Shavuot, and Succot.
A BIT OF HISTORY
The first Sanctuary was built by Moshe and the Jews. It was movable, and
could be transported with the Jewish people from place to place in the
After nearly 400 years, King David, the ancestor of Moshiach, designed a
permanent Temple for G-d in Jerusalem. It was built by his son, King Solomon.
This was the first Holy Temple. It stood 410 years!
The first Temple was destroyed by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, who
cast the Jews into exile.
After 70 years, the Jews were at last able to return to Israel, under the
leadership of Ezra the Scribe. He supervised the construction of the Second
Temple. This occurred right after the story of Purim took place.
The Second Temple was larger than the First, and stood for 420 years! It
was destroyed by the Roman armies led by Titus.
The Third Temple will be rebuilt on the same spot that the first two Temples
stood, when Moshiach comes, may it be very soon!
In building the Temple, large, expensive stones were used. Some were used
in their natural form; others were shaped with tools, such as the huge stones
still standing in the Western Wall.
On the Temple Mount itself, however, no iron tools could be used. Even to
hear the sound of an iron tool was forbidden, because iron (as used for weapons)
shortens the life of man, and the Temple is meant to prolong it.
THE TEMPLE MOUNT
The entire Temple area was built on a mountain slope, not on flat ground.
When a person entered the Temple, he would have to climb up Mt. Moriah, mounting
the steps from level to level as he went.
It is no accident that the Temple is built on a mountain. On a mountainside
it is very hard to stand still. You always have to keep climbing. When it
comes to learning Torah and doing mitzvot, it is the same. We must
also keep climbing--by learning and doing more.
The Temple Mount is called Mount Moriah. The word moriah is from the
word yirah, meaning "fear" and "awe." When the Temple was standing,
the world was filled with fear and awe of G-d. The word moriah is
also from the root ho-r'ah, which means "teaching." This is because
the highest court in all Israel, the Sanhedrin, used to sit in the
Temple, so that teaching and instruction would go out from there to all the
SANHEDRIN, THE SUPREME COURT
The Supreme Court of seventy-one Sages (the Sanhedrin) had its chambers
in the Temple. Here they would judge the people, and teach them to go higher
and higher in Torah and mitzvot.
The room in which the Sanhedrin would meet was called the Chamber
of Hewed Stone. It was called by this name because the chairs for the judges
were carved out of solid stone.
The wisest and most righteous judges in Israel used to meet there, right
by the Temple, so that when they were deciding the most difficult problems
of the Jewish nation they would always think of G-d, and explain His Torah
When Moshiach comes, and the Temple will be rebuilt, the great
Sanhedrin will once again meet in the Chamber of Hewed Stones in the
Temple. At that time, peace will reign, and the city of Jerusalem will expand
to include all of the Land of Israel!
TO HOLD THE TEMPLE IN
We are commanded to hold the Temple in awe, and to revere it. Of course,
it is not just the building that we revere, but the One who commanded us
to build it.
How do we revere the Temple? We are not to enter the Temple Mount holding
a staff, or with sandals on our feet, or dressed in informal clothes, or
with dust on our feet, or money in our hands. Needless to say, we should
A person should not take a shortcut through the Temple Mount, entering on
one side and going out the other, just to make the way shorter. Rather one
should walk around the outside, and enter only for the sake of a
When leaving the Temple, a person should not turn around and walk away. He
should go backwards slowly, and then turn to his side until he is out of
A person should not act frivolously or joke around opposite the eastern gate
of the Temple, for it is directly opposite the Holy of Holies.
Even though the Temple is now in ruins because of our sins, a person must
hold it in awe and behave in a dignified manner at all times, just as when
it was standing.
TO GUARD THE TEMPLE
It is a mitzvah to station guards around the Temple, just as a king
would have guards around his palace. Not that we have to protect G-d, for
He is mightier than any army, rather we station guards to show Him honor.
Every night, 24 guards would take up their positions around the Temple. The
kohanim (Temple priests) stood guard inside, and 21 Levites stood
guard on the outside.
In the time of Moshiach, when the Temple will be rebuilt, even non-Jewish
nations will send their armies to protect the Holy Temple, so that the Jews
can perform their service there, in peace, to the benefit of the whole world.
The following vessels must be in the outer courtyard:
1. The Great
The Great Altar was made of stone. It was for burnt offerings, such as animals,
birds, flour baked into matzos, and libations (pourings) of wine.
On top of the Great Altar three fires were kept burning: one was for the
daily offerings, one to provide coals for burning the incense on the Golden
Altar, and one just to fulfill the commandment of always having a fire burning
on the Altar of G-d.
The kohanim (Temple priests) were not allowed to go up on the Altar
by means of steps, nor was it permissible to build steps for the Altar. Only
a ramp was allowed.
The Great Altar of the Temple was in a very precise place, which may never
be changed. This place is so holy that even non-Jews recognize its holiness
and have never worshipped idols on the spot.
The Great Altar was built on very holy ground. It is the same place where
our forefather Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac (Yitzchok). Noah
had made offerings to G-d there after the flood. Even Adam had made his offering
to G-d there. In fact from that very spot G-d had taken the earth with which
He created man! The Altar of our Third Temple will also be built exactly
in this same place.
Large amounts of wood were used for the fire on the Great Altar.
Kohanim who could not serve in the Temple, either because of age or
some other reason, would check all the wood for worms before it went to the
outer Altar. They did this in a chamber called the Wood Room.
2. The Kiyor, Wash-basin
The Kiyor (Wash-basin) was a large vessel full of water, used by the
kohanim to wash their hands and feet, before beginning their service
in the Temple.
The Kiyor, originally had only two taps, but later it was redesigned
by one of the High Priests called Ben Katin, to have twelve taps. This enabled
all the twelve priests who participated in the daily offering to wash their
hands and feet at once, before they began the Temple service.
* * *
In the inner Holy Chamber, there are three vessels:
1. The Small Golden
The small Altar was made of pure gold, and was for offerings of sweet smelling
The menorah was made of pure gold. It had three feet, and seven straight
branches. On each branch there were three upside-down cups. Near the base
was another cup, bringing the total to 22 cups--exactly equal to the number
of letters in the aleph bais, the Hebrew alphabet.
There were also 9 flowers and 11 egg-shaped bulbs decorating the
menorah. The flowers were a symbol of the world's potential for growth
and development. The bulbs were a symbol of limitless spiritual pleasure.
The menorah was lit by the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, every
day toward evening.
All the flames in the menorah faced the central lamp. This lamp was
called the nair ma'aravi--the western lamp--because it faced the Holy
of Holies. This lamp was the first one kindled every day toward evening,
and it would burn miraculously long after the others had burned out, until
it was time to rekindle the menorah the next day. This was a sign
to the entire world that G-d dwelt with the Jewish people.
3. The Shulchan,
Twelve specially baked "loaves" were placed on this golden table every Friday
before Shabbat. They stood in two rows. Between each tray was an
air-space; the "loaves" were called the lechem hapanim, because they
were shaped like a barge, facing in 2 directions at once.
The holiest part of the Temple was in the west. It was called the Holy of
In it stood the Ark, in which the Ten Commandments were kept. This box was
made of wood, with a layer of gold inside and a layer of gold outside. There
were really three boxes, one within the other.
The cover of the Ark was solid gold more than 6" thick.
On top of the Ark-cover were two golden figures, a boy and a girl. Like soldiers
they stood guard over the Torah. G-d spoke to Moshe through their wings.
When G-d was pleased with the Jewish people, these figures would face towards
each other with love.
Beside the Ark was the legendary staff of Moshe's brother, Aaron, the first
high priest, which once miraculously sprouted almond blossoms overnight,
and a flask containing manna, a memorial from the time of Moshe and
from the time the Jews were in the wilderness. This was to remind Jews how
G-d sustained our ancestors for forty years in the desert, and how surely,
He can sustain us now and at all times!
No one was ever allowed into this Holiest Chamber except the Kohen
Gadol, and he could only enter once a year, on Yom Kippur, to
pray for the welfare of the Jewish people.
To clean the Holy of Holies, men were lowered from above in baskets. The
baskets faced the wall, so that the men could do their job without looking
into the room itself.
When King Solomon built the Temple, he knew that it would ultimately be
destroyed. He built secret underground rooms in which to hide The Ark with
the Ten Commandments, as well as Aaron's staff, the small vessel with
manna, and the oil for anointing.
Before the First Temple was destroyed, King Yeshiyahu commanded that the
Ark be placed in these secret passageways. He also hid the staff of Aaron,
the bottle of manna, and the oil for anointing.
None of these things was found again, not even in the time of the Second
Temple, but they will all be returned in the time of Moshiach, when the Third
Temple will be rebuilt, speedily NOW.