intended to increase the knowledge, interest, and anticipation of the reader, thereby hastening the realization of our hopes and prayers for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash.
Midot, the Mikdash
The rulings of R. Eliezer ben Ya'akov pertaining to the Mikdash are accepted as normative Halacha in the Gemara and by the Rambam. On two occasions where R. Eliezer ben Ya'akov had "forgotten" something, another sage, Abba Sha'ul, supplied the missing information (Midot 2:5, 5:4). The studied reminisces of these Chachamim and their ability to conserve the body of "Hilchot Beit HaMikdash" formed the basis of Seder Kodashim and Seder Tahorot (ritual purity laws). The work of later sages such as R. Akiva, R. Yishma'el, R. Meir, R. Yehuda linked the earlier traditions to the authoritative Mishna of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi.
Midot is one of our two major sources which describes the "physical plant" of the Mikdash; Josephus is the other. Masechet Midot is divided into five chapters containing 34 mishnayot in all and it is obvious that the mishnayot included in Midot, represent only a small fraction of the material once "salted away in the Mikdash archives". Midot not only describes the architecture of the Mikdash, the construction of the Mizbei'ach, etc., but it also reveals a rare glimpse into "Mikdash maintenance". It also raises more questions then it answers. One mishna describes a small entrance in a corner chamber located in the northwest corner of the Beit HaMokeid, through which the Kohanim were able to descend an illuminated tunneled stairway leading to an underground structure called the Chamber of Immersion. This mishna (1:9) emphasizes how the lamps in the tunnel were kept burning "here and there" to light the way for the descending Kohanim.
Who tended these lamps and all the hundreds of other lamps in the Mikdash? We don't know. In the aforementioned Chamber of Immersion, a bonfire was continually kept burning so that the Kohanim could warm themselves when they emerged from the freezing underground Mikva. Who "shlepted" the wood from "Mikdash Central Supply" and carried it down the stairs to fuel this fire and all the other fires in the Mikdash? Another mishna reads, "…And in the Upper Story (of the Bayit above the Kodesh HaKodashim) were openings into the (ceiling of the) Kodesh HaKodashim through which they used to let down workmen in (closed) boxes, so they could not feast their eyes on the Kodesh HaKodashim" (Midot 4:5). Tif'eret Yisrael (49) comments, "When they had to repair the walls of Kodesh HaKodashim, they would lower the craftsmen in boxes through these openings by means of ropes… and the box was closed on three sides so that they would not be able to look around…". But hosts of other unanswered "logistical"questions immediately spring to mind. Who did "sponja" (sluiced down the floors) in the Kodesh HaKodashim and in the Heichal? On his Aliyat Regel (pilgrimage) to the Mikdash, Philo, the Alexandrian Hellenist-Jewish philosopher, witnessed Leviyim "sweeping porticoes…. (to) insure cleanliness." Did the Leviyim do all theday-to-day maintenance and repair work in the Mikdash? Masechet Midot ends with a wonderful portrait of the sages of the Great Sanhedrin sitting in the Chamber of Hewn Stone "judging the priesthood". With a loving brush, and a wealth of color, the Mishna pictures the sages rejoicing and celebrating because on that day"no blemish was found in the seed of Aaron. And thus they used to say, 'Blessed be G-d, blessed be He that chose Aaron and his sons to stand and serve before the Lord in the House of the Holy of Holies!"
Rambam in his introduction to the Mishna writes, "…Midot describes the measurements of the Mikdash and its accouterments. The purpose of all this is, that when the Mikdash will be rebuilt (speedily in our day), it must be heedfully constructed in the same proportions, because they are prescribed by Ru'ach HaKodesh as it is written, 'All this (do I give) thee in writing, as the Lord has made me wise by His Hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern" (Divrei HaYamim Alef 28:19). Rambam could as easily have quoted Pesukim 11 and 12 in the same Perek, "Then David gave his son Solomon the pattern of the Ulam (entry hall of the Mikdash)and of the houses (the chambers) thereof, and of the treasuries thereof, and the upper rooms thereof, and of the inner chambers, and the place of the Ark Cover (Kodesh HaKodashim). And the pattern of all he had by the Spirit, for the courts of the House of the Lord, and for all the chambers round about…" The Tanach emphasizes that the plan of the Beit HaMikdash and its accouterments, like that of the Mishkan before it (Shemot 25:9), was divinely inspired. Rambam also notes, "When they built Bayit Sheini in the days of Ezra, they built in the manner of Solomon (i.e. Bayit Rishon) and incorporated some features derived from Sefer Yechezkel (Hil.Beit HaBechira 1:4).
"And if they be ashamed of all that they have done, make known unto them the form of the House and the fashion thereof, and the goings out thereof, and the comings in thereof, and all the forms thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and all the laws thereof, and write it in their sight; that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them" (Yechezkel 43:11). The Radak comments, "…that they may keep the whole form thereof, and all the ordinances thereof, and do them, that they keep (the image) of these things in their heart, and that they believe that it shall be so and that they will indeed (one day) construct the buildings, the forms and observe the ordinances in the future. But if they do not keep these images in their hearts, they will not do them…."
Catriel's book in progress: The Temple of Jerusalem, A Pilgrims Prospective; A Guided Tour through the Temple and the Divine Service