Photo Credit: Jodie Maoz

In our parsha we learn of the construction of the Mishkan, so our haftara deals with the construction of the first Beit HaMikdash by Shlomo HaMelech. The haftara begins with the statement that Hashem made Shlomo very wise, as He had promised to do. The Radak explains that a well-built building reflects the wisdom of its architect and that this was the case with the Beit HaMikdash. Everybody who beheld Shlomo’s building could appreciate the great wisdom of the one who had designed it.

The Beit HaMikdash was based on the design of the Mishkan, but it embellished upon that basic design. Our Sages have explained that every enhancement and enlargement of the original design was done with a higher purpose intended by Shlomo. In our haftara we learn of the dimensions of the Sanctuary. These are double those of the Mishkan in length and width, and triple in height. Because of the greater area enclosed by the structure, we have seen prior to the text of the haftara that Shlomo built ten more menorahs and ten shulchans for the lechem hapanim. Although this is not mentioned in our haftara, it also serves to demonstrate the wisdom of Shlomo. The additional menorahs were needed ostensibly to increase the illumination in the larger structure. But the additional shulchans are built simply because every menorah must be opposite a shulchan.


The trebled height of the Beit HaMikdash the Malbim associates with greater ambition that Shlomo has for the spiritual purpose of the Sanctuary that he has built. The height of the Mishkan represents the lowest level to which tradition teaches that the Shechina, the Divine immanence resting in the Mishkan, will descend. The Mishkan, as we know, is meant to be a “dwelling place” for Hashem’s presence in the midst of the people of Israel. However, Shlomo has built his Beit HaMikdash to accommodate additional “worlds” of the Divine Emanation before it reaches this physical world. Thus Shlomo’s edifice is meant to be a conveyance by means of which one might be elevated above the limits of the physical world, as opposed to a resting place for the divine descending into it.

This is also suggested by the architectural conceit of a building upon a building that was incorporated into the design of the Beit HaMikdash. When viewed from outside, it looked as though there was a second, higher Beit HaMikdash built above the earthly one. Of course, this was exactly correct – although its appearance in the physical world was meant to be allegorical and to inspire the one who beheld it to think of the Beit HaMikdash in heaven that was above the one on the Temple Mount in the earthly Jerusalem.

In this vein, the Malbim also explains that the total volume of the Beit HaMikdash was 18 “mil,” a Roman measure used by the Sages probably not very different from our mile. According to a Midrash, the distance between the earthly and the heavenly Beit HaMikdash is 18 mil. Thus, in the design of the Beit HaMikdash, Shlomo was also seeking to incorporate this entire distance, again providing a means of connecting the two, if only the physical area could be unfolded into a straight line that the wise might follow to their destination.


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Avraham Levitt is a poet and philosopher living in Philadelphia. He writes chiefly about Jewish art and mysticism. His most recent poem is called “Great Floods Cannot Extinguish the Love.” It can be read at He can be reached by email at [email protected].