No iron (Barzel) was used in the construction of the first two Temples. Iron could not even be used as a tool as derived from the verse, “an iron utensil was not heard in the House while it was being built.”
Iron, with its superior strength, represents a powerful and stubborn Kelipah which could not be refined in earlier generations. And so it could not be incorporated into... the Beis Hamikdosh.
In a vision, Daniel saw a statue which represented the exiles which the Jewish people would suffer. Edom (Rome), the force which destroyed the Beis Hamikdosh and began this long bitter exile, was depicted as legs of iron.
Iron can only be defeated with iron.
By accessing the Barzel of Kedusha we can refine and nullify the strong Kelipah of Barzel, the iron of Edom
The iron of Kedusha lies in the essence of the Neshama. The Jewish people are called a stiff-necked people. In a positive sense, this refers to our ability to be stubborn in standing unbending and uncompromising in our service Hashem, even when facing the stubborn obstructions from within and without.
In the final generation of Golus, we can access the iron of the Etzem Haneshama. Using this powerful force of Kedusha, we will overcome the iron of Edom. The iron legs on which Golus stands will crumble.
And when it does, the eternal Beis Hamikdosh Hashelishi will be built using iron – the Barzel of Kedusha.
After the destruction of the Beis Hamikodsh, the Chachomim instituted many practises to keep the Beis Hamkidosh and Geulah alive in our hearts and our minds.
One of them is the simple act of washing Netilas Yodayim before eating bread....
This Halocha came about when the Beis Hamikdosh still stood. Before eating Terumah, a Kohen would need to wash their hands so that they would be pure. This requirement was applied to Chulin (non-sacred foods) and was extended to Yisraelim as well as Kohanim.
Even now when Kohanim no longer eat Terumah, we are all still required to wash our hands before eating bread. The reason for this is that Chaza”l anticipate that the Beis Hamikdosh will speedily be rebuilt and we will have to be immediately familiar with observing the laws of purity and impurity.
The return from Golus Bavel was not a complete Geulah because they did not make a remembrance for Yerushalayim and the Beis Hamikdosh. In the merit of our Zecher LeMikdosh we will merit a Geulah Shleimah (Chasam Sofer).
Next time you wash Netilas Yodayim, take a few moments to meditate on how this act is preparing ourselves and the world for the imminent coming of Moshiach and the Beis Hamikdosh Hashlishi.
The two Keruvim reflected the relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people. When we were faithful to Hashem, the Keruvim would face one another. But when we were not following in Hashem’s way, the Keruvim would turn their backs on each other.
When the non-Jews entered to destroy the Beis Hamikdosh, they found two Keruvim intertwined in an intimate embrace, like the de...ep love between husband and wife.
(Since the Aron had already been hidden, these were other decorative Keruvim and not the Keruvim from the Aron cover).
The Temple was being destroyed and the Jewish people sent into exile because of their terrible sins. How could it be that at this time the Keruvim were in the most intimate of positions?
There is a halacha which obligates a man to spend intimate time with wife before leaving on a journey. It is a time of heightened love and closeness.
Despite the fact that the Jewish people were going into Golus, hidden in the Holy of Holies, Hashem’s deep love for his bride shone deeper than ever. Yes Golus is concealment, but it is the beginning of the process of revealing the greatest of lights.
We have a tradition that on the day of Tisha B’av, at the moment of the Churban itself, the Neshama of Moshiach was born. This Neshama was conceived through the deep spiritual union embodied in those Keruvim.
After conception, hidden inside the womb, the fetus grows and develop, finally emerging to a state of revelation at birth. The conception of Geulah began nearly 2000 years ago in the privacy of the Holy of Holies. Ever since, it has been developing and growing. It is now long overdue and ready to emerge.
The holiest chamber of the Beis Hamikdosh was the Kodesh Hakodoshim (Holy of Holies). In the first Temple, the Aron Hakodesh stood in this room on the Even Hashesiya, the foundation stone of the world.
The Aron was hidden towards the end of the first Temple period and was not present in the second Beis Hamikdosh. Yet the Kodesh Hakodoshim remained the holi...est place on earth and only the Kohen Gadol would enter it on the day of Yom Kippur.
Unlike the other vessels in the Beis Hamikdosh, the Aron was not used for any Avodah (service).
The three areas of the Beis Hamikdosh represent three different dimensions in our personal Avodah and connection to Hashem.
The outer courtyard of the Beis Hamikdosh, where the Korbanos were brought, represents our Avodah of refining and elevating our animalistic side.
The Kodesh represents our connection to Hashem through the service of the Neshama. The Menorah reflects our Torah and Tefillah. The Shulchan represents Tzedaka and engaging in the world L’shem Shamayim.
Both of these areas represent a relationship with Hashem forged by what we do; a service that requires vessels.
The Kodesh Hakodoshim expresses a level of relationship which goes beyond and deeper than what we do. At this level, our relationship is not about what we do but rather the very fact that we are. The Kodesh Hakodoshim is the oneness and essential bond from the essence of our Neshama. This bond is not defined or limited by “vessels”.
Our sages refer to the Holy of Holies as the Cheder Hamitos (lit. the Bedroom). The bedroom is a sacred space, a place of privacy that reflects the deep union and oneness of husband and wife. The Kodesh Hakodoshim, the level we access on Yom Kippur, is our deepest union and oneness with Hashem.
The Aron was a wooden box coated with gold. It was actually made as three boxes; the innermost and outermost were boxes of gold. In between was a box of acacia wood. The exposed tops of the wooden box were then plated with gold.
Like the Aron, our Neshama also has multiple layers. ...
Gold cannot decay and will not tarnish. It is pure and will always be beautiful. Wood on the other hand is subject to decay. It can be beautiful and polished but it can also be rotten.
The inner core essence of every soul is pure gold. It desires only goodness and connection with Hashem.
The middle layer is our psyche of feelings and ideas. Here we have the emotions and understandings of our G-dly soul, but we also have the desires and dark emotions of our animalistic side. We cannot stop ourselves from having these feelings. Like wood, our middle layer can be beautiful but it can also be downright rotten.
Our outer layer are our behaviours; our thoughts, our speech and our actions. Tanya teaches that no matter what we may feel on the inside, we have the ability to rule over our negative inner feelings to not give them expression.
So while the middle box may be a place of inner turmoil. Our outer box, our behaviours can and should still be like pure gold.
Through this, we too become a fitting vessel for Hashem’s presence to rest and be manifest.
As part of Hakhel, a wooden Bimah was erected for the king to read the Sefer Torah from. The meforshim explain how it was possible to have a wooden structure when, as discussed previously, no wood could be used or built in the Beis Hamikosh.
Resolutions include that the Bimah stood in the Ezras Noshim where the prohibition did not apply since it had a lesser degree of Kedusha than the actual Azarah.
Alternatively, the issur only applies to permanent fixtures. The Hakhel Bimah only stood for a couple of days before being dismantled.
In Avodas Hashem we stress the concept of Bittul – humility and surrendering of self. Arrogance is antithetical to serving Hashem and seemingly has no place.
A Bimah, which elevates the person, represents a sense of pride, strength and upliftment. These do have an important need in our inner Hakhel; collecting the various dimensions of our lives and personalities to dedicate them to Hashem.
Without this strength we would not feel ourselves worthy of drawing close to serve Hashem. We would be intimidated by those who mock and challenge us. This pride ensures that our humility does not allow us to become the proverbial “doormat”.
But our Bimah must be of wood, something temporary and not-lasting. We use it only in the holy areas and only as required. We should not let confidence become over-confidence or allow pride to become an internalised, permanent sense of arrogance or brazenness.
The Beis Hamikdosh had to be constructed entirely of stones, bricks or cement. Exposed wood could not be used. This is in contrast to the Mishkan, whose primary structure (the walls) was made of wood.
Everything in creation is classified in one of four orders; inanimate (mineral), plant, animal and mankind. Mankind is the pinnacle of creation. The inanimate, which has no life in it, is the lowest of the four orders.
This is the reality within the paradigm of creation and world order. But in their spiritual origin the inanimate, which appears to be the lowest, derives from the deepest source.
The Mishkan was a temporary dwelling place of the Shechina and reflected the paradigm of creation. And so the plant and animal material were primary. The inanimate was relegated to the floor.
In the Beis Hamikdosh the essential truth of reality was revealed, the way things exits in the source. This is similar to the experience in the Messianic era. And so, the Beis Hamikdosh was constructed of stone (the inanimate).
The four orders exist within the levels of our soul. Our emotions are like plants that grow and are dynamic. The inanimate are our actions which seem simplistic compared to the vitality of feeling and understanding.
Action may seem like the lowest of our expressions, but its source is the loftiest and it is of most consequence. This is the power of the act of a Mitzvah, which achieves more than any meditation can.
The Menora would be lit each afternoon as part of the daily Avodah. All seven flames would be lit each night, but they were not all lit at once. The Kohen would first light five of the wicks. The Ketores would then be offered before the final two flames were lit.
What is the deeper lesson we learn from offering the incense in the middle of lighting the Menorah?
The Ketores represents the essence of the soul and its desire for and oneness with Hashem. With this desire, the Neshama seeks to transcend the world and cleave to Hashem.
The Menorah reflects the conscious levels of the soul, the כוחות פנימיים, which are very much within the world. The seven branches represent the seven Sefiros or Middos, the emotions of the soul.
These emotions are divided into two groups; the first five Middos are the primary emotions of the Neshama for its own Avodah. The final two, Yesod and Malchus refer to the soul’s ability to interact with and influence the world around it.
The ultimate objective is that the experience of oneness (the Ketores) not remain detached from the world and isolated in moments of spiritual upliftment.
We need to permeate our conscious day-to-day living (the Menorah) with the absolute awareness, connection and surrender to Hashem of the soul’s essence; not only in the holy activities of our lives (the five Middos) but also in our day-to-day worldly involvements as well.
When burning the Ketores (incense), the Kohen would bring a panful of glowing coals from the outer sacrificial altar. These coals would be placed on the surface of the incense altar. The Ketores would then be sprinkled onto the coals, giving off their fragrance as they burned.
The external sacrificial altar represents the Avodah of refining our animalistic side, like the physical animal which would be elevated through the fires of the altar. We elevate our selfish impulses and behaviours and our material desires through the consuming fires of love of the G-dly soul, aroused by meditation on Hashem’s greatness.
Like the wood on the altar, what is left after this rectification are the glowing coals. In a glowing coal, the coarse wood has been consumed by the fire. The fire permeates the coal so that the fire and the coal become one.
The incense altar, as discussed previously, represents the essence of the soul and its desire for and oneness with Hashem. This is a far more lofty level than the conscious emotions of the Neshama and its involvement with our animalistic soul.
However the coals on which the Ketores was burned on the inner altar had to come from the outer altar.
Refining our animalistic side is a prerequisite to attaining the deeper oneness of the Ketores. It is specifically through the Avodah of elevating our animalistic soul that our G-dly soul can then achieve its own elevation.
The Mizbeach HaKetores was the inner altar on which incense would be burned twice each day. It measured an Amah by an Amah square and stood two Amos tall.The Midrash teaches that the outer sacrificial altar corresponds to the body. Like the body, this altar would “eat” and “drink” from the sacrifices and wine Nesachim. The inner altar parallels the soul since fragrance, being of a spiritual quality, is something that only the Neshama derives pleasure from.
Chassidus takes this idea deeper. The two altars reflect two dimensions of the soul itself;
The outer altar represents the emotions of the conscious soul, referred to as חיצוניות הלב, the external heart. These are the feelings of love for Hashem that are developed through meditation on Hashem’s greatness.
The internal heart (פנימיות הלב), represented by the inner altar, is the deep and essential desire of the essence of the soul. This desire is not created or defined (and thus limited) by our understanding. It is an implicit, powerful desire only for Hashem that every Jew possesses, because the Neshama on this level is one with Hashem.
Ketores (incense) is related to the Aramaic term for a knot. A knot binds two things together so that they become one. The incense altar, measuring one square Amah, embodies this oneness.
The Neshama too is called Achas (one) because it receives from Hashem’s oneness. And the essence of the Neshama, the internal heart, is the Yechida.