Rabbi Oury Cherki

Pekudey (Haftarah) - The Essence of the Temple

Translated from Hebrew. Published at the Noahide World Center website and in Shabbat B'Shabbato.

The Haftarah of the portion of Pekudai can be divided into two sections.

In the first section, which is read by Sephardim and Yemenites (Kings I 7:40-50), the making of the vessels in the Temple is described as the work of two people: Hiram and Solomon. Even though they evidently did not perform the physical operation of making the vessels with their own two hands, they are given the credit because they were in charge of the operation. The passage differentiates between the vessels of gold and the vessels made of copper. The copper vessels are attributed to Hiram (7:40-45), while all of the golden vessels are attributed to Solomon (7:48-50). Evidently copper, a metal that has an appearance similar to gold but is much less expensive, is an example of technical perfection, the main trait of the serpent. In the book of Genesis, the serpent represents the natural intellect – he had "more cunning than all other creatures of the field" [Genesis 3:1]. (Note that "nechoshet" – copper – and "nachash" – a serpent – share three letters, nunchetshin).

Thus, copper was rightfully ascribed to the labors of the other nations, which settled the whole world. They made "many bridges, markets, and bathhouses, in order to enable Israel to study the Torah" [Avoda Zara 2b]. And therefore the link between the copper vessels and the earth is emphasized in the passage: "The King cast them in the Plains of the Jordan, in the depths of the earth" [7:48]. This is a hint of the lot of the serpent, whose "bread is dust" [Isaiah 65:25]. Hiram represents the part of the other nations which joins together with the sanctity of Israel.

Gold, on the other hand, represents the Torah, which is linked especially to Israel: "‘And the gold of that land is good’ [Genesis 2:12] – There is no other Torah like the Torah of the Land of Israel" [Bereishit Rabba]. Therefore the gold remains the province of the King of Israel. The Temple is a universal house, "A House of Prayer for all the nations" [Isaiah 56:7], and it includes labor from all of humanity, including both Israel and the other nations.

The second section of the passage, which is read by the Ashkenazim (7:51-8:21), highlights the dual role of the Temple. It is both a place for sacrifices and also a place where the face of G-d is encountered. And therefore there are two central points in the Temple, which point to these two concepts: the Altar and the Holy of Holies. The beginning of the dedication consisted of offering sacrifices in G-d’s name, since "holy service is for heaven". "And King Solomon and the whole community of Israel who were with him in front of the Ark brought sacrifices of sheep and cattle which were too numerous to be counted" [8:5].

However, once the Ark was put in its place in the Holy of Holies, no more sacrifices were brought. "The priests could not stand and perform the service because of the cloud, since the House of G-d was filled with G-d’s glory" [8:11]. This was a Divine signal that the main objective of the Temple was for the Shechina to be present within Israel, since they were the first element in the plan of Creation. From the point of the nation the glory of heaven is the most important element, but from the point of view of the Creator the main element is the glory of Israel. This is also what Solomon makes clear. He says: "I have built a House in the name of G-d, the G-d of Israel" – for service. But in the end, it is "a place for the Ark which holds the Divine covenant which You made with our ancestors" [8:20-21].