The Temple Academy came into existence to meet a need. While the Temple is the key to understanding so much of Hashem’s word, very little accurate information is known by most of the people. What is required to change this tragic reality is a course or better yet a series of courses addressing the multitudes of different aspects of the Temple. These courses must be designed to equip the student to learn and use the tools they will need to prosper in this endeavor. The student must learn the vocabulary to the Temple, have a thorough knowledge of Temple topics from the Tanach, Jewish writings, Josephus and other historical sources, as well as archaeological and scholastic works. The courses must be put together in such a way as to build one upon another.
The first lesson in our first course (the beginning of the journey) Introduction to the Temple, explores The Command to Build. The goal of this lesson is to fully understand this commandment in all of its levels and implications. Questions to master as you take Lesson One are whether or not this is a standing command applicable to all generations? Also to whom does this command apply? Are there any degrees of this command that we should be aware of (such as those listed in Ezekiel 43)? Also an objective of the first lesson is to understand why this command is placed in the Torah at the precise location of Shemot (Exodus) 25 and how this relates to the other commandments that follow.
Our second lesson in our first course Introduction to the Temple, explores A Brief History of the Mishkan and Temple.. The goal of this lesson is to have a working knowledge of the journey and path of the various Temple Structures. There are eight different phases of the Temple. The first is the Mishkan in the Wilderness followed by the series of locations that the Mishkan was erected across the Jordan River. There are distinct differences between the Mishkan in the Wilderness to those across the Jordan. At this point we want to mark the differences but also to note that terminology from the original Mishkan will continue to be used such as “within the curtains”. As trite as this may seem, it will resurface in later lessons.
We have two main descriptions of Jerusalem from the Temple Era. In the late Second Temple period Josephus gave us a description that is invaluable and we will use repeatedly throughout our eight courses on the Temple. The other description is from Nechemiah 3 and it is invaluable in all that it teaches us. This description is from the early Second Temple period. Not only does this text relate to the early Second Temple period but most of the sites mentioned are also true to the late First Temple period. A key exercise that we will tackle later in our studies is trying to match the locations presented by Nechemiah with those of Josephus. Of key importance is this study will be learning the names of the locations, in particular gates, towers, and various water related entries such as springs, pools, conduits and such.
We can establish very definitely that the actual location of the Temple, specifically the location of the Holy of Holies was where the Dome of the Rock sits. This is supported by locating key positions described as part of the Tavnit of the Temple Compound found in numerous sources. We are now able to locate numerous landmarks such as stairways, buildings, mikvaot, tunnels and other structures. Most importantly the discovery of these structures has allowed us to understand how the Temple functioned. The other theories each have avid followers supporting their position of the Temple, however; these theories fall apart when examining the texts in their fullness in conjunction with the history of the Temple, the rules of Tavnit, and the important aspect of function.
I was once asked by a friend, “What is the most important message or topic of the Temple?” While there are many (almost infinite) important topics and lessons to learn, the subject of “kedusha” will always be one of the essential concepts to master. Its importance is easily seen in the Hebrew name of the Temple, Beit haMikdash – House of Kedusha.In today’s English, the word “holy” is usually understood as “to separate.” While this is true, it falls far short of what the word “kodesh” actually means. Hashem is “kodesh” without question. Man, who was created in the image of Hashem, originally had a “kedusha,” but when man fell, man lost his “kedusha” and even the concept of what it entailed.
One of the greatest keys to the scripture is an understanding of the Sanhedrin. Possibly in the non-Jewish Torah World, the concept of the Sanhedrin and what this means, is likely the least understood and often over-looked topic in Biblical studies. It is the key to comprehending the Rabbinical documents such as the Mishnah, Tosefta, and both editions of the Talmud. More than this comprehending the role of the Sanhedrin is critical not only to understanding the Temple but also to the rebuilding of the Temple. The great bonus of realizing the role of the Sanhedrin and employing this knowledge will open up every single commandment in the Torah.
The concept of the three camps (the Camp of the Kohanim or Shekinah, the Camp of the Leviim, and thee Camp of Yisrael) is not one that you often read about or might not have been aware of until now. Regardless, it is an absolute necessity to understand both the Torah and the Temple. A key factor in this is the role of the Sanhedrin and the authority given to them to safeguard the fulfilling of the commandments.
Possibly the most difficult topic of study concerning the Temple is the study of the Korbanot or Sacrifices. The first difficulty is the extensive complexity of the ceremonies involving these korbanot. While there are five major categories of korbanot: The Korban Olah or Elevation Offering – often called the Burnt Offering; the Korban Chatat or Sin Offering; the Korban Asham or Guilt Offering; the Korbanot Shelamim or Peace Offerings; and the Korbanot Menachot or Bread Offerings. These five categories are divided into two very different designations. The first is the Korban Kodshai Kodashim or Most Holy Sacrifices, while the second is the Korban Kodashim Kalim or Holy Sacrifices. The Kodshai Kodashim sacrifices were eaten within the kedusha of the Azarah and not allowed to leave this sanctity. They could only be eaten by the kohanim and their families. The Kodashim Kalim sacrifices were eaten by the people of Israel and had to be eaten within the walls of Jerusalem. Each of these five types of offerings are sub-divided into numerous applications such as Obligatory or Voluntary Offerings, Community or Individual Offerings. In addition, there are specific times and situations that required specific offerings such as a Korban Olah that was required of a male when he made pilgrimage for one of the Shalosh Regalim (Pilgrimage Festivals – Hag haMatzah or Unleavened Bread, Shavuot and Sukkot).
This is part of the tavnit of the Temple and its ceremonies. It is inconceivable that any of us would allow a doctor to treat our body who had not first mastered anatomy. This is where the medical student begins. The temptation to apply spiritual understandings to the korbanot and various ceremonies of the Temple should be reserved until the student has mastered a working knowledge of the korbanot. It is one of the keys to the ceremonies.
As you will see in the category of the Kodashim Kalim there is much more than just the Korbanot Shelamim or Festival Peace Offerings. This lesson also gives an overview of the Bird Offerings and the various Menachot or Bread Offerings. Special offerings such as the Milium or Inauguration Offerings are also discussed. Again, remember that this lesson is just an introduction into the scope of the Korbanot. Later we will look at spiritual applications. It is truly amazing as we see the diversity and manifold requirements given by Hashem in regards to the Korbanot.
One of the most crucial areas to understand regarding the Temple is its administration. At the least, the Temple was a huge complex with thousands of worshipers daily, not to mention the hundreds of thousands that attended during the festivals. The volume of korbanot was staggering that called for efficient and well organized systems in place. Needs such as water supply, quantities of salt and other items necessary for the Temple to function kept Israel employed for outside the Temple walls. Massive warehouses within the Temple were required for the ample storage and administration for the maasarot (tithes) and terumot (freewill) offerings.
Try to place yourself within the Temple witnessing as well as participating in the worship. Besides the weekday services this lesson goes into the special ceremonies of Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh (New Moon). This lesson and the next which will discuss the ceremonies within the Temple conducted on the Festivals will bring a new dimension to the Temple employing all that you have learned in the previous lessons.