Second Shabbat Chanukah - 5760
The Meaning of the TempleSome general background on the "Haftarot"
The Eighth Day of Chanukah, the Holiday commemorating the re-dedication of the Second Temple, is always called "Zot Chanukah," the Day of Chanukah. One reason is that the "Maftir," the additional Torah Reading for that day, begins "Zot Chanukat HaMizbeach," (Bamidbar 7:84) "This was the dedication of the Altar of the 'Mishkan' (the Portable Temple used in the Desert)". The verses in Parshat Naso give an account of the offerings brought by the Twelve Princes of Israel, and then describe the Presence of Hashem descending upon the "Mishkan," from which Hashem speaks to Moshe from the top of the Ark in the Holy of Holies.
This year, the second Shabbat Chanukah falls, as it must, on the Eighth Day of the Holiday. The "Haftarah," the portion of the Prophetic works selected to be read after the Parshah, is taken from "Melachim "/Kings I, Chapter Seven, verses 40-50.
Two types of vessels are described: copper and gold. A vast number of copper vessels, including pans (for removing the ash from the Altar), shovels (for lifting the ash) and bowls (for holding blood to be sprinkled upon the Altar), were designed and produced by one Chiram of Tyre, whose name is later given as Chirom, and whose identity, somewhat enigmatic in the Haftarah, is discussed in more detail below. He also designed massive pillars, including the famous Temple pillars "Yachin" and "Boaz," pillar-covers, decorative pomegranates, basins, a gigantic "Sea-Mikveh" (called that because it was the largest object of that type that had ever been created), and elaborate copper "oxen."
The golden vessels were made by Shlomo. These included the Golden Altar for "Ketoret," (incense) and the Golden Tables on which were placed the "Lechem HaPanim," the 'Showbread." The Tables brought the blessing of food to the Jewish People, which had been unnecessary in the desert, where the People's food requirements were met by the miraculous "Mohn."
Ten new Menorot of Gold, an additional link to Chanukah, were also fashioned by Shlomo, to be placed on the right and left of the original Menorah made by Moshe. These were made with decorative golden flowers and lamps and golden tongs, for the removal of the wicks, all of the purest gold.
There are a number of opinions regarding the identity of Chiram, the craftsman who designed and produced so many vessels for use in the First Temple. One is, not surprisingly, that it was none other than King Chiram of Tzor himself, augmenting his assistance in the form of providing excellent lumber with additional assistance in the form of superb copper work, in connection with the auxiliary vessels of the Temple.
Another opinion is that this Chiram was not the King, but a Jew born to a non-Jewish Tzor-ite father, also a great copper craftsman who taught his son the trade, who had married a Jewish woman from the Tribe of Naftali, in accord with Kings I; 7:14.
A third opinion is that our Chiram was a Jew from both parents. The mother was a widow from the Tribe of Dan, in accord with a reference in "Divrei HaYamim"/Chronicles 2; 2:13, and a Jewish father, whose origin was the Tribe of Naftali, as stated here in Melachim. The father is described as a "Tzor-ite" because he lived there, probably practiced his trade for the King, and may have named his son after his royal patron.
An initially surprising aspect is evident in both the First Temple, built by Shlomo, and the Second Temple, built by Ezra and Zerubavel; namely, there was significant assistance from foreign nations.
Chiram, King of Tzor, at least provided the towering Cypress trees and Cedars of Lebanon used by Shlomo in the construction of the Temple. He may in fact, according to one opinion cited above, have been himself the Copper Master Craftsman, who designed and produced a multitude of copper vessels for the Temple. According to the other opinions, he provided the environment and education for the learning of that skill.
In the Second Temple, which was a reconstruction of the First Temple, destroyed by the Babylonians, permission to build had to be obtained from the Persian ruler. Coresh was the first to issue the Permit and when this was temporarily revoked, Daryavesh, son of Esther, renewed the Permit and promised and delivered funding and many supplies needed for the construction.
As we will see shortly, when we examine the Prayer of Shlomo upon completion of the Temple construction, the aspect of foreign involvement in its construction will become less strange.
But first, some background:
On the Holiday of Sukkot, in addition to the other sacrifices, thirteen bulls are brought on the First day, twelve on the next Day, and so on, until on the Seventh Day, seven bulls are sacrificed. By a little arithmetic, we determine that seventy bulls were offered on Sukkot. On the Eighth day, "Shmini Atzeret," only one bull was brought. According to Jewish Tradition, the seventy bulls are brought for the welfare of the "Seventy Nations of the World," and the single bull brought on Shmini Atzeret, is brought for the sake of the People of Israel, after all the "guests have gone home."
The Temple in Jerusalem was meant and will once again be meant not only for the Jewish People, but also for the welfare of all the other nations of the World.
Shlomo prays as follows, for his People and for the whole world:
"But will G-d in truth dwell on the earth? Behold, the entire universe cannot contain You, certainly not this house that I have built." Nevertheless, "May Your eyes be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place about which You said, 'My Name shall be there' " "And be mindful of the pleas of Your servant, and Your People, Israel, when they shall pray towards this place; May You hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and when You hear, forgive." (Kings I 8:27,29-30)
"And concerning the stranger, who is not of Your People, Israel, when he shall come from a far country for Your Name's sake; For they shall hear of Your great Name, and of Your mighty hand, and of Your outstretched arm - when he shall come and pray towards this house; May You listen in heaven Your dwelling place , and do according to all that the stranger asks of You; so that all the people of the earth may know Your Name, to fear You, as does Your People, Israel, and so they may know that Your Name is called upon this house that I have built." (Kings I 8:41-43)
But the Jewish People has a special relationship with Hashem. "If they sin against You - for there is no man who doesn't sin - and You are angry with them, and deliver them to their enemy, so that they will carry them away captive into the land of the enemy, far off or near If they return to You with all their heart and all their soul in the land of their enemies and pray to You toward their land, which You gave their fathers, the city which You chose and the house which I built for Your Name; then hear their prayer ; And forgive Your People ; For they are Your People, and Your inheritance, which You brought out of Egypt, the furnace of iron " (Kings I; 8:46,48-51)
That celebration of Shlomo ended on the Eighth Day of Sukkot, on Shmini Atzeret, the day when all the other Mitzvot of Sukkot: the Sukkah, the Lulav and Etrog, are all gone, except the commandment to "be happy." "On the Eighth Day, he sent the People away, and they went unto their tents joyful and glad of heart." (Kings 1, 8:66)
We echo his prayers for a "Beit HaMikdash," a Holy Temple, which will be a Spiritual Center for the World, in our prayers of the High Holidays. There we recall the Promise of Hashem, "And I will bring them to My Holy Mountain, and I will make them joyful in My House of Prayer, for My House will be called a House of Prayer for all the Nations." (Yeshayahu 56:7)
Thus, the "Maftir," the "Haftarah," and the Special Day, the Eighth Day of Chanukah, link the "Mishkan," the First Temple, and the Second Temple. And the Prayers of all the Prophets, and our own Prayer for the "Bayit Shlishi," the Third Temple, to be built by the "Mashiach" in Jerusalem "soon and in our days," add the final link to that Golden Chain.
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU