Judaism: The Aliya Room
Parashat Teruma, this week's reading, includes G-d's command to make a Sanctuary
Shemot 25:8 states:
ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם
Make for me a sanctuary and I will dwell within them
There is a problem with this verse. Should it not rather say?
ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכו
Make for me a sanctuary and I will dwell within it
Tractate Yoma 69b relates that Ezra the Scribe, the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) of the time and builder of the Second Temple, acted to eradicate the obsession for avoda zara (idolatry), which was the root cause of the first Temple’s destruction and the exile of the majority of the Jewish nation.
Ezra and his colleagues fasted for three days and nights, after which they saw the fiery form of a lion cub exiting from the Kodesh K’doshim (the Holy of Holies) of the Temple. It was the corporeal form of human compulsion for avoda zara, which from that time on, although present, was very much weakened.
This requires an explanation:
1). Why was the habitat of avoda zara in the Kodesh K’doshim?
2). How did the escape of the drive for avoda zara from the Kodesh K’doshim influence the Jewish national psyche?
For the answers to these questions we have to turn to this week's reading, parasha, Teruma.
Hashem commands Moses to construct a portable Beit Mikdash – the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and its accompanying vessels.
The basic structure of the Mishkan was two rooms: the Kodesh Kadashim (Inner Sanctum, Holy of Holies), which was off limits to all except the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur, and the Sanctum, the Kodesh. This two-room structure was enclosed in a courtyard called the azara.
These three elements – Kodesh K’doshim, Kodesh and Azara, were present in the Beit Mikdash (Temple) of Shlomo Ha’melech (the king) and of Ezra Ha’sofer (the scribe), and will be present again in the next Beit Mikdash we will soon build, with the aid of Hashem.
At the time of the Mishkan and first Mikdash, the Kadosh Kadashim contained the Holy Ark. However, towards the end of the second Temple period, King Yoshiyahu removed the Ark and concealed it in the depths of the Temple Mount. So the Kadosh K’doshim in the subsequent Temple was an empty room.
In all the sacred structures, the Kodesh area contained three vessels: the Menorah, the Altar for burning of the aromatic Ketoret (incense), and a Table for the Lechem Hapanim (show bread).
Upon leaving the Kodesh and passing through a vestibule (the Ulam), one exited into the courtyard (the Azara), which contained the large altar for burning of the innards of the respective sacrifices.
The higher level sacrifices (Kodshei Kadashim) such as the Olah, Chatat and Asham sacrifices are required to be slaughtered, and their blood collected in the northern area of the Azara.
Stand now in front of a mirror. What do you see? Your head, two eyes, a nose and a mouth. Look down and you will see your neck and throat which lead to the internal areas of your chest and abdomen.
You are looking at a human being. But, in fact, if you look closer you will see one of the most profound creations in Hashem’s world – a miniature Beit Hamikdash, for all of the elements of the Bet Hamikdash are contained in your physical structure.
The uppermost part of your body, the head, contains two areas: an inner sanctum – your kodesh kadashim, and an outer sanctum. Your kodesh kadashim is your brain and private, hidden thoughts. And just as in the Kodesh Kadashim of the Mishkan and Beit Hamikdash, no one can enter your thoughts without your permission.
(It is interesting to note that the brain is enclosed within a double membrane, and the entrance to the Kodesh Kadashim in the second Temple was through a double curtain).
Now view your face.
You are in your outer sanctum or kodesh; for it contains all the elements of the Temple’s Kodesh: Your eyes parallel the Menora. Your nose with its sense of smell parallels the Altar for the aromatic Ketoret. And your mouth is the Table of the “show bread.”
We leave your Kodesh and pass through the big doors (throat and neck) leading to your Azara (courtyard), which contains your digestive organs. Just as the altars of the Mishkan and Batei Hamikdash burn and digest the flesh placed upon it by the Kohanim to give sustenance and nourishment and to the world, so do your internal organs.
When one exits the Beit Hamikdash, he faces east with his back to the west; and in order to get to the north where the higher korbanot (sacrifices) are slaughtered, one must turn to the left. When you proceed from your face to your chest, your heart is to your left. It is in your heart that the upper korbanot and higher emotional feelings are processed.
However, there was an area in the Temples which was holier even than the Kodesh Kadashim. Atop the Kodesh Kadashim was a room called the “Aliya” which was totally empty, and a kohen ascended to it only once every seven years to examine the structure of the walls.
So what is the parallel of the Aliya room in our physical structure?
The answer is: Tefillin of the head, which is placed above our personal Kodesh Kadashim.
Tefillin of the head contains four separate compartments; each one containing a different section of the Torah written on a small piece of parchment. The brain’s cerebral cortex too is divided into four sections: The frontal lobe associated with reasoning, motor skills, higher level cognition, and expressive language, the parietal lobe associated with processing tactile sensory information such as pressure, touch, and pain, the temporal lobe for interpreting sounds and the language we hear, and the occipital lobe associated with interpreting visual stimuli.
Yes; we are all virtual, living, walking, breathing Batei Mikdash (Holy Temples)!
But there is more. The Kadosh Kadashim (minds and inner thoughts) of all Jews are connected by invisible conduits to the Kadosh K’doshim of the Heavenly Beit Hamikdash, and the outer sanctums indelibly forged on our faces are connected to the Kodesh area of the heavenly Beit Hamikdash.
When Ezra Hasofer removed the yetzer hara of avoda zara from the inner sanctum of the Beit Hamikdash, the effect was its removal from all our “work stations” connected to the “main frame” in the Kodesh K’doshim in Yerushalayim.
The implications are far reaching. Something died within us when the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed. Our connection to the earthly Beit Hamikdash was deleted and we are now connected only to the heavenly one.
How can we restore the earthy Beit Hamikdash?
It can be achieved by purifying our inner and outer sanctums, and all our other organs. But it is only in Eretz Yisrael that this re-connection can be forged, because it is only here that Hashem and the Jewish nation maintain a continuous dialogue, as stated in the Torah (Devarim 11,12):
ארץ אשר ה’ א-להיך דרש אתה תמיד עיני ה’ א-להיך בה מרשית השנה ועד אחרית שנה:
It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end…
Excerpt from my book “With All Your Might” Parashat Teruma 5767 (2007)
I have just returned to my home in the Old City of Yerushalayim, having had to pass the David’s Citadel Hotel.
The hotel is in virtual siege, because the United States Secretary of State, was meeting there with our Prime Minister.
What gripped me as I was passing, was the convergence of so many TV and satellite vehicles parked along King David Street. I counted 20 from different countries in that area alone, with more on the side streets. The entire world was here to see what is happening in Eretz Yisrael.
I approached an IDF soldier from Ethiopia and said to him, “Look! a little country of 6 million Jews and the whole world is here.” He said to me “Am Yisrael Chai” (the nation of Israel lives on) and spontaneously we embraced each other.
I advanced about 50 meters and stood before two soldiers, a young man and woman, and repeated to them my feelings that the whole world is here to see the Jewish people. The girl soldier said to me, “Eretz Hakodesh” - the holy land.
During the rest of my trek home I was under a sad cloud.
How is it that the Gentiles of the world feel the intrinsic importance of Am Yisrael and Eretz Hakodesh, while many of the religious leaders in the galut, Diaspora, disregard – and even disdain- its sanctity?
How can it be that their minds are centered more on the Talmud’s analysis of when an ox gores a cow, than in the return of the Jewish nation to the Holy Land after 2000 years of exile?!
One who is not elated at the renaissance of our people today in Eretz Yisrael is one who, on the night of the seder, is troubled in the thought that the marror might not be the most stringent, chumra, size, rather then being elated at our exodus from Egypt and nationhood.
My heart hurts for the students and congregants who have fallen victim to the sweet song of aloofness and escape from national and religious responsibility being sung to them in many yeshivot and shuls, as I was as a youth when learning in yeshivot of the US.
May Hashem grant us all to understand who we are, and what the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael is, at least to the degree of understanding of the gentile news media.