The Book of Kings
Rav Alex Israel
Dedicated in memory of both Zissel Bat
Yitzchak Gontownik, and Avraham Ben Yosef Halevi Gontownik,
on the occasion
of his tenth yahrzeit, by his children, Anne and Jerry Gontownik, and Sidney
and his grandchildren, Ari and Shira, Zev and Daniela, Yonatan,
Ranan, Hillel, and Ezra Gontownik.
Chapter 8-9 - The Dedication of the Mikdash
week, we will take a look at the rich depiction of the ceremonial dedication of
the Mikdash. This was a fourteen day celebration for the entire nation,
"joyful and glad of heart," and attendees hailed from Mesopotamia to Egypt. The
festive throngs offered an extraordinary number of korbanot, so numerous
that the king had to temporarily sanctify the entire courtyard of the Temple so
that it could also be used for sacrificial purposes!
The story is structured in the following way:
Narrative: gathering and dedication ceremony (8:1-11)
Shlomo "blesses the assembly of Israel" 8:12-21
Shlomo Ha-Melekh's prayer (8:22-53)
B Shlomo "blesses the assembly of Israel" (8:55-61)
Narrative: dedication ceremony and departure (8:62-9:2)
God's response to Shlomo
Shlomo gathered… and all the men of Israel were gathered to Shlomo" (8:1-2)
This teaches us that the Shekhina does not rest other than upon the
entire community. Similarly [at the dedication of the Mishkan in
Vayikra 9:24], "And all the people saw," … and at the giving of the Torah
it states, "For on the third day God will descend in view of the entire nation"
(Shemot 19:11). (Seder Olam ch.15)
midrash parallels three events: The dedication of the Mishkan, the
dedication of the Mikdash, and Matan Torah. What do they have in
common? The midrash indicates that the first critical similarity is the
collective, national dimension of all three - the mass gathering. Here, at the
opening of the Mikdash, the text specifies how the entire nation
mobilizes and convenes for this historic event, reminiscent of the experience at
second feature of these three events is the Gilui Shekhina, the
tangible and evident presence of God at these foundational moments. It is
fascinating that the details of our story in Sefer Melakhim
directly mirror those of the Mishkan. Two specific textual parallels
us begin with the scene from our chapter in Sefer
the kohanim came out of Kodesh,
cloud filled the House of God.
kohanim could not remain and perform the service because of the cloud,
the presence of God filled the entire house of God.
is a direct reflection of the pesukim that end the dedication of the
Mishkan in Sefer Shemot:
cloud covered the tent of meeting,
the presence of God filled the Mishkan.
Moses could not enter
the tent of meeting
rested upon it,
the presence of God filled the Mishkan.
elements are identical: the cloud fills the Mishkan or Mikdash,
indicating that God's intense presence occupies the Mishkan/Mikdash. This
results in the restriction of access to those who are meant to enter – Moshe or
the kohanim - to perform the service.
description of Shlomo's inauguration of the Mikdash in Divrei
Ha-Yamim highlights and mirrors yet another moment in the Channukat
Shlomo completed his prayer,
descended from heaven and consumed the burnt offerings
and the zevachim
the Children of Israel saw as the fire descended… and they bowed with their
faces to the ground praising God, "For he is good, for his kindness is
eternal." (Divrei Ha-Yamim II 7:1-3)
the desert, a similar scene unfolded at the dedication of the
from before God
consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar.
all the people saw, and shouted, and fell on their faces.
these descriptions aim to demonstrate symmetry between the two occasions,
emphasizing the manner in which the presence of God in Shlomo's Mikdash
was equivalent to that of the Mishkan.
further parallel is particularly poignant. On the eighth day, the culmination of
the seven-day Mishkan dedication, Aharon blesses the nation immediately
after completing the complex order of korbanot:
lifted up his hands towards the people and he blessed them
and descended [from the altar] from performing the sin offering, the burnt
offering, and the shelamim. Moshe and Aharon entered the Tent of Meeting;
they emerged and blessed the people. (Vayikra
feature also finds its reflection in Shlomo’s dedication:
when Shlomo finished his prayer to God …he arose from before the altar, from
kneeling on his knees with his hands outstretched to heaven. He stood and
blessed the entire community of Israel… (Melakhim I
both stories, we have leaders with hands extended (admittedly with different
functions) at the altar, who conclude the ceremony with a blessing to the
far, we have compared the dedication of the Mishkan with that of the
Mikdash. But Seder Olam notes that another event must is included
in the series of revelational events about which it may be said, "The
Shekhina does not rest other than upon the entire community." That
experience is the revelation at Sinai, in which there is also a cloud, fire, and
God's descent or tangible presence among the community of Israel:
led the people out of the camp towards God …
Mount Sinai was all in smoke, for God had descended upon it in
fire …and the mountain trembled …and all the people saw the thunder
and lightning and the sound of the shofar … and stood at a distance.
(Shemot 19:18; 20:15)
three foundational national events of collective revelation are grouped
together. The Mikdash dedication, then, far from being yet another in a
series of royal or national ceremonial events, now finds itself in a far more
significant grouping. As we have indicated in a previous shiur,
the building of the Mikdash is a national milestone of momentous
significance, on par with Matan Torah and the dedication of the
following two Midreshei Tannaim reflect our two respective points of
reference. Both are based on the same phrases in Shir Ha-Shirim 3:11,
which refer to Shlomo Ha-Melekh:
the day of his wedding” – that is Matan Torah
the day of his bliss” – that is the day of the building of the Mikdash.
the day of his wedding” – that is the seven days of the milu’im
the day of his bliss” – that is the day of the building of the Mikdash
PRAYER – HOUSE OF PRAYER
think that the most striking aspect of Shlomo's prayer relates to the following
will God really reside upon earth? Even the heavens to their uttermost reaches
cannot contain You, how much less this House that I have built! Yet turn, O Lord
my God, to the prayer and supplication of Your servant, and hear the cry and
prayer which your servant offers before you this day. May your eyes be open day
and night towards this house, towards the place of which you have said, “My name
shall abide there,” to listen to the prayer that your servant will pray towards
this place. (8:27-29)
every phrase in this passage is critical, but if we may summarize, we can state
the following. First, in Shlomo’s view, God is not contained by the Beit
Ha-Mikdash. It is not God's residence. At the very most, it is a place at
which "My name shall abide there," a place which REPRESENTS God but does
not, in fact, enclose or confine Him.
we may ask what the point is. If this is NOT God's residence, then how does the
Mikdash function? This is Shlomo Ha-Melekh's second point. The
Mikdash is, quite simply, a house of prayer. It is the portal through
which our prayers find God and through which God hears our prayers. God dwells
"in the heavens," but his eyes and ears are focused upon this
articulates these principles in the theological preamble to his speech, quoted
above. However, in the body of his speech, these emphases are restated in a
deliberate and well ordered list, organized by a refrain of sorts, a recursive
formula. Here Shlomo presents a sevenfold menu of scenarios which would
necessitate prayer. He articulates the appeal by the petitioner followed by
God's reaction or response - God hearing Israel's prayers and issuing
forgiveness. The section (8:31-53) follows the same frame or pattern
- When X happens [a curse/military defeat/drought/plague/the foreigner/going out
– They offer "prayer and supplication to you in this
– "O hear in your heavenly abode, and take action…"
– And forgive your people
we mentioned, the implications of this are significant: That God dwells not in
the Mikdash, but "on High," and that the primary function of the
Mikdash is prayer.
ISRAEL TURNING THEIR HEARTS TO A SINGLE PLACE
ramification of this philosophy is the centrality of Yerushalayim and the
Mikdash as the conduit for ALL prayer, from near or far. This finds
expression even in the Halakha of the orientation of prayer. The
gemara discusses the instruction to always pray facing the
one is standing outside of Israel, a person should focus one's mind (yechaven
libo) towards Eretz Yisrael, as it says, “And pray unto You
towards their land” (Melakhim I 8:48).
he stands in Eretz Yisrael, he should focus his mind towards
Yerushalayim, as it says, “And they pray unto the Lord, toward the city which
You have chosen” (ibid. 44).
he is standing in Yerushalayim, he should focus his mind towards the Beit
Ha-Mikdash, as it says, “If they pray toward this house” (Divrei
Ha-Yamim II 6:26).
he is standing in the Beit Ha-Mikdash, he should focus his mind towards
the Holy of Holies, as it says, “If they pray toward this place”
(Melakhim I 8:35).
Consequently, if he is in the east, he should turn his face to the west; if in
the west, he should turn his face to the east; if in the south, he should turn
his face to the north; if in the north, he should turn his face to the south.
In this way, all Israel will be turning their hearts towards one place.
Avin and others say R. Avina said: What is the meaning of the verse (Shir
Ha-Shirim 4:4), “Your neck is as the tower of David, built like Talpiot?”
– It means a hill towards which all mouths turn. (Berakhot
you read this piece from the gemara, you will surely notice that all the
Biblical quotes, the support texts, have their origin in this inauguration of
the Mikdash and in particular, Shlomo Ha-Melekh's speech. When we pray
towards Jerusalem, we are invoking the concept articulated by Shlomo. And the
result is a beautiful expression of global Unity: "All Israel turning their
hearts to one place."
VIEWS OF THE MIKDASH
a philosophical perspective, it is worthwhile to consider that Shlomo's prayer
raises an ancient machloket regarding the role of the Mikdash. Is
the Mikdash a place for God or a place for Man? Is it God's resting place
on earth, the seat of the Shekhina, or alternatively, merely a facility
to give humans the opportunity to approach Hashem? We find this
discussion arising with regard to the Mishkan. The Ramban is of the
is befitting a holy nation that there be within their midst a sanctuary so
that God's presence may dwell among them… The central focus of the
Mishkan - the place of God's presence - is the aron, as it states,
“There will I meet you, and I will speak with you from above the
kapporet… [all that I will command you concerning the Children of Israel] (25:21). (Ramban,
Introduction to Parashat Teruma)
the Ramban, God's presence is in residence over the aron in the
Mikdash. "They should make me a Mikdash AND I SHALL RESIDE AMONG
THEM" (Shemot 25:8). “Mishkan” is from the root SHKH"N, indicative
of a habitation, a home.
Rambam (Maimonides) expresses the purpose of the Mikdash
is a positive command to make a house for God, facilitating the sacrificial
service, and [the nation] celebrates there three times a year, as it states,
"You shall make for me a sanctuary" (Shemot 25:1). (Laws of the Temple,
Maimonides’ perspective, the Mishkan or Mikdash has a different
focal point. The main point is not GOD's residence, but OUR
SERVICE of Him. For the Rambam, the most central kli of the
Mishkan is the mizbe’ach, the altar. For the Ramban, it is the
aron. Of course, this argument about Temple furniture expresses a deeper
disparity in perspective. The aron is where God resides among Israel; the
mizbe’ach is where Israel approaches God. The mizbe’ach is where
we bring korbanot; korban is from the root KR"V, drawing near or
approaching God. Does the Mikdash represent God's presence or does it
facilitate our opportunity to access God?
this further, it is possible that the two names for the Mishkan represent
these two perspectives. MISHKAN designates the residence of God; OHEL
MOED – Tent of Meeting – indicates that we are invited to meet with God
there, to convene with Him. Of course, BOTH approaches are well represented in
our Torah and our tradition. The Mishkan as described in Sefer
Shemot clearly seeks God's presence as immanent in the Mishkan,
whereas Sefer Vayikra focuses upon the korbanot, the sacrifices
upon the mizbe’ach.
it was David Ha-Melekh, Shlomo's father, who viewed the Mishkan very much
as God's residence:
king said to the prophet Natan, “Here I am dwelling in a house of cedar, while
the ark of God abides in a tent!" (Shmuel II 7:2)
wanted to build a resting place for ark of the covenant, for the footstool of
God. (Divrei Ha-Yamim I 28:2)
as we read about Shlomo's keruvim and about the Yam and the
mekhonot, we certainly gain the sense that the Mikdash designated
as a place of Hashra'at Shekhina, as God's abode. Shlomo affirms this
perspective in 8:13, when he says:
have built a stately house for you, a place where you may dwell
yet, in Shlomo's prayer we hear Shlomo expressing the other side of the coin as
The dominant feature of the chapter is the service of God, the korbanot,
as "King Shlomo and the whole community of Israel… were offering sheep and oxen
in abundance that they could not be numbered" (8:5). Furthermore, the sense of
the Mikdash in this perek is not a place for God to reside, but a
place in which man can sacrifice and pray to even a transcendent God, approach
Him, and God will hear and respond:
the heavens to their uttermost reaches cannot contain You, how much less this
House that I have built! Yet turn, O Lord my God, to the prayer and supplication
of Your servant.
striking feature of Shlomo's prayer that we have mentioned in a previous
shiur (shiur #5) bears restating here. Shlomo emphasizes the
access that the non-Jews may gain to the Mikdash:
the foreigner who is not of your people Israel comes from a distant land for the
sake of your name – for they shall hear about your great name and your mighty
perceives the Mikdash as open to the non-Jewish world. He believes that
many foreigners, gentiles, will hear about God and come to find our more, to pay
homage to the Almighty. Shlomo repeats this point later in his
ALL the peoples of the world may know that the Lord alone is God, there is no
is surely not alone in this perspective of the Beit Hashem. This
universal exposure finds itself in many other prophets as well, especially in
relation to the Messianic era:
As for the foreigners who attach themselves to the Lord to be His servants … and
hold fast to My covenant, I will bring them to My holy mountain and let them
rejoice in My house of prayer, their burnt offerings and sacrifices shall be
welcome on My altar, for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all
peoples. (Yishayahu 56:6-7)
the nations… shall make a pilgrimage year by year to bow down to the King, Lord
of Hosts, and to observe Sukkot." (Zekharia
I believe that Shlomo is the first figure in Tanach to have really stated out
loud that gentiles are welcome to join us in the service of
HOUSE OF DAVID
further prominent component of Shlomo's speech, especially in his preamble
(8:12-21) is the special relationship between God and the House of David.
Shlomo, goes into the family history, and God's promise that David's son will
build the Temple. It is almost as if Shlomo has to justify his legitimacy in
instituting a permanent Mikdash. After all, if his father was restricted
from building it, why should he be allowed?
shall deal with this unique relationship in a few weeks from now, when we
discuss the dissolution of Shlomo's kingdom in the revolt of Yerovam.
RESPONSE (9:1-9) – CONDITIONAL PROMISES
response confirms His agreement and consent to Shlomo's requests.
consecrate this house which you have built.
set my name there forever.
eyes and heart shall be ever there. (8:3)
is quite a statement, indeed, a statement which we believe holds true to the
God adds a critical caveat, namely that ALL the promises – the royal House of
David, the promise of tenure in Eretz Yisrael, the very continued
existence of the Beit Ha-Mikdash – are all conditional upon Shlomo's personal
dutiful fulfillment of the mitzvot:
you walk before Me as David your father walked; wholeheartedly and with
uprightness, doing all that I command you and keeping my statutes and judgments.
nation too, is warned that diversion from God's commands, and in particular, the
worship and following of foreign gods will bring calamity and ruin upon the
the one hand, this prophetic message is an incredible achievement. God has
affirmed his sanctification and approval of the
yet, we must pay some attention to the manner in which God is communicating with
Shlomo. In this prophecy, the volume of threatening verses clearly outweigh the
pesukim that commend and affirm God's approval. Moreover, look at the
opening verse: "God appeared a second time to Shlomo, as he appeared at Givon."
(9:1) what was he told at Givon? At that prophecy (3:5-14) the promises are also
predicated upon absolute commitment to Torah:
you will walk in My ways and observe My laws and commandments as your father
we recall that Shlomo received a further warning at the mid-point of his
building of the Mikdash (see 6:12 '…if you follow my laws etc.') we now have
three explicit warnings to Shlomo as to what may befall him and his nation if he
should fail to live in accordance with God's mitzvot.
we wonder, does Shlomo need such mentoring? Is God seeing something that we are
not, that gives him cause to warn Shlomo with such regularity?
shall discover some answers in our upcoming shiur that will discuss the
sins of Shlomo, his divine condemnation, and the decline of his
for further discussion and thought:
and Prayer: Shlomo prays on his knees, with his hands outstretched. This unusual
posture may have been standard in ancient times. See also in Yishayahu
1:15 and 45:23. One wonders whether the arms were fully outstretched or just
palms extended, as the way in which the Muslims pray.
in his prayer or speech emphasizes himself and his own role in building the
mikdash in a prominent and repetitive manner. Shlomo discusses his own
royal House, and the ceremony ends, the people bless Shlomo. Is this to be
expected as the position of king necessitates the central and pivotal position
of the monarch, or is this excessive?
from Shemot chapter 24, describing the giving of the Torah, are starkly
reflected in Shemot ch.40, describing the Mishkan, as well as in
the pesukim that we quoted from Divrei Ha-Yamim:
Moshe ascended the mountain… and GOD'S PRESENCE rested upon Mt. Sinai, and the
CLOUD enveloped it for six days, AND HE CALLED TO MOSHE on the seventh day from
the cloud… and Moshe entered the cloud and ascended the mountain" (24:15-18).
However, these verses deal with Moshe and not the nation in its
are the seven days of the dedication ceremony of the Mishkan described in
Shemot ch.29 and Vayikra chs.8-9. It is highly probable that
Shlomo's celebration specifically for seven days (and then an eighth – see
Divrei Ha-Yamim) is built upon the pattern set in the wilderness with the
Not relevant for
scenario 1 – a curse, or 5 – the foreigner.