The sacrificial altar in the Mishkan was very different to the Mizbeach in the Beis Hamikdash.
In the desert, the Mizbeach was constructed as a hollow shell built out of acacia wood. The wood was covered with copper-plate.
The Torah says that the Mizbeach had to be made as a מזבח אדמה, an altar made of earth. How did the Mizbeach in the Mishkan meet this criterion?
At each place that Bnei Yisroel camped the hollow of the Mizbeach would be filled with earth. So, the Mizbeach had dust on the inside and copper on the outside.
In one of the prophesies of Yishayahu, Hashem says about the Jewish peopleמדעתי כי קשה אתה וגיד ברזל ערפך ומצחך נחושה – “I know how stubborn you are, that your neck is like an iron sinew and your forehead is like copper”.
A copper forehead is a metaphor for brazenness – ones holds their head up strong and does not show shame or humility. Rashi explains that the Mizbeach was covered in copper to atone for the sin of brazenness.
But like all Middos, the Middah of brazenness can also be used in a holy sense. It represents being strong in one’s service of Hashem and to not be embarrassed from those who mock at us.
Like the copper coating this brazenness should only be an outward and external show. On the inside, we need to be filled with earth, reflective of humility, as we say in our daily Shemoneh Esrei “let my soul be like dust before all”.
~ Based on Reshimos booklet 108
When the Kohen entered the Kodesh to clean the Menorah in the morning, he would find the 2 eastern lamps still alight. They would be left to burn throughout the day. In the evening all 7 lamps would be lit and would burn through the night.
In our previous post, we explained that 7 branches of the Menorah represent the 7 emotional drives of the soul, which parallel the 7 Divine energies of the Sefiros.
In Tehillim, Hashem’s presence is likened to the sun. Daytime represents a state where Hashem’s presence is openly revealed. We experience illumination and the physicality of the world does not create any concealment.
Night represents spiritual darkness, when we do not perceive G-dliness. We grope around in confusion and we suffer the challenges presented by the material world.
To remain strong in a night-time state, we need the light of all 7 candles – to actively engage with and illuminate each aspect of our soul. For example, it is not enough to just fulfil the Mitzvos with love (Chessed). One also needs to have a feeling of awe (Gevurah) to keep them from sin. The same is true for each of the 7 Middos.
When we experience spiritual daytime, the light of the 6th candle suffices. Because Hashem’s presence is revealed, all we need is to reveal Yesod - our deep connection to Hashem. This connection will be enough to influence all of the other dimensions of our psyche.
But the prerequisite to attaining Yesod is Malchus - humility and surrender to Hashem. And so, when the sun of Hashem shines in our lives, these 2 candles are all that we need.
~ Based on Reshimas Hamenorah, Torah Or 29a
The Talmud teaches that Hashem did not ‘need’ the light of the Menorah. Rather, the light of the Menorah served as a testimony to the entire world that Hashem’s presence rests amongst the Jewish people.
More specifically, the testimony was the miraculous ‘western lamp’ (נר מערבי). The other candles of the Menorah only burned through the night. Even though the ‘western lamp’ contained the same amount of oil, it would burn through the day as well. The Kohen would use it to light the other candles that evening.
According to the view that the Menorah stood facing from east to west, it would seem that the ‘western lamp’ refers to the western-most lamp; the one closest to the Holy of Holies.
However, the commentaries explain that the ‘western lamp’ was actually the 2nd lamp from the East. It is called the ‘western lamp’ because it was the first lamp towards the West.
The 7 branches of the Menorah represent the 7 emotional drives of the soul, which parallel the 7 Divine energies of the Sefiros. These give rise to 7 different ways in which we serve Hashem; love (Chessed), discipline (Gevurah) etc.
The western-most flame corresponds to the first Sefira - Chessed (love and kindness). The 6th candle corresponds to the attribute of Yesod and the 7th candle corresponds to the attribute of Malchus. Yesod is Hiskashrus – a deep bonding and intimate connection with Hashem. Malchus is humility.
So, the unique ‘western lamp’ is Yesod. It is used to light the others because Yesod – a deep intimate connection with Hashem – is the source that ignites and leads to all of the other specific modes of serving Hashem.
The Torah describes this lamp as being ‘before Hashem’ (the Divine presence that rested in the Holy of Holies which was to the West). This is because the intimate connection of Yesod places us face-to-face before Hashem.
But the 6th lamp is only the ‘western lamp’ because it sits to the west of the 7th flame. Whilst the primary aspect of serving Hashem is our Hiskashrus, one cannot attain this deep connection (Yesod) without first having humility (Malchus).
~ Based on Reshimas Hamenorah and Igros Kodesh Volume 3 p229
The first Avodah that was done in the Beis Hamikdash each day was Terumas Hadeshen. This was done before any sacrifices could be brought.
The Kohen designated by a lottery, would go up onto the Mizbeach and take a panful of ashes. He would bring the ashes down the ramp and place them on the side of the Mizbeach. These ashes would miraculously be absorbed by the floor of the Azarah.
In addition to the Terumas Hadeshen, the Kohanim would remove the excess ashes from the Mizbeach and take them to a designated place outside of the camp.
The sacrifices represent our spiritual growth and personal Avodah. But before we can engage in meaningful positive growth, we need to remove and deal with our negative baggage – our ashes. If we don’t, they will hold us back and create a blockage to achieving the growth that we seek.
The ashes placed beside the Mizbeach represents the negative baggage that we can deal with, overcome and transform.
But there may be things that we presently don’t have the ability or strength to deal with. Instead of letting them linger, we need to move them outside; to put them completely out of our mind and out of our experience, so that they too will not pull us down. They should remain outside until we have the strength to face them.
~ Based on Maamar Parshas Reeh 5714
The primary function of walls is to provide protection for those within them. The walls afford this protection in two ways;
Even when the enemy forces are camped outside of the city, making noise and threats, the wall creates a barrier that prevents them from being able to enter and do any real harm.
Behind the protection of the walls, the defending soldiers are able to consolidate and build their strength, so that they can drive away the enemy completely.
Our G-dly soul and animalistic soul are in conflict. The G-dly soul is enclothed within the animalistic soul. Our animalistic side seeks to dominate our G-dly soul, leading us to sin and pursuit of worldly desires. The G-dly soul wants to express its light and subjugate the animalistic soul in the service of Hashem.
Our G-dly soul, like the Beis Hamikdash, is a place of incredible holiness. But we need walls to protect our G-dly side from the attacks of our animalistic soul which seeks to bring us down. This protection is also twofold;
Even when our animalistic soul ‘makes noise’ with thoughts of sin and negative emotions, the wall is the protection that prevents it from getting in and actualising these impulses in thought, speech and action of sin.
The protection of the wall also allows us to consolidate and strengthen our G-dly soul, so that we have the spiritual strength to overcome and transform our animalistic side completely.
Our sages teach חומה זו תורה – the wall of spiritual protection is the study of Torah
~ Based on Sefer Maamarim 5693 p508
The Beis Hamikdash was surrounded by a series of walls. There were walls around the Azarah (courtyard) and there were walls around Har Habayis (the Temple Mount).
Walls create a protective barrier of defence to keep out any enemies or undesirable forces. But they also serve another function; Walls delineate how far the borders of a city extend.
The different areas within the Beis Hamikdash compound had differing degrees of holiness, reflected in what Avodah could be done in each area. These areas were delineated by borders in the form of the walls. The holiness of the inner space extended until the wall.
In Avodah we also need walls around our ‘holiness’. Our G-dly passion needs to be contained so that it does not manifest in the wrong place or the wrong way. Unrestricted, our inner spiritual intentions could result in the opposite of what we are trying to achieve. To share 2 couple of examples;
Before engaging in Avodah, a person should introspect on their spiritual standing so that feel a sense of humility before Hashem. Without ‘walls,’ the Yetzer Hara can hijack this introspection to bring a person to feeling of depression and melancholy. These feelings lead to a sense of inadequacy and apathy, where we feel incapable and unworthy of serving Hashem.
Another example is the condition described in Chassidus where a person’s fiery passion in davening and Avodah can lead to feelings of fiery anger and indignation towards others, once the davening is over. Without protective boundaries, the holy emotions can spill over into unholy manifestations.
We need limits to confine our holiness, ensuring that it is expressed only in a positive way and that it doesn’t express itself where it doesn't belong.
~ Based on Sefer Maamarim 5693 p508