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Ask the rabbi Family and Society The Temple and Sacrifices

The temple as a model of the universe

Rabbi Ari ShvatTishrei 29, 5775
Question
Was the Jewish Temple a model or replica of the whole universe?
Answer
The Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) in Jerusalem and the mishkan (Holy Tabernacle) which preceded it, are a form of “tzimtzum”, where God designates one place to, as if it were, “concentrate” His Divine Presence, for us to “meet” with Him. This corresponds to the kabbalistic idea according to which God did a similar “tzimtzum” when He created the world, as if it were, “concentrating” Himself to appear in a limited place. Accordingly, we understand why the 39 creative-acts prohibited on Shabbat are exactly those 39 which were used to construct the Mishkan, for Shabbat brings us back to the pre-creation Godliness which abounded before that original “tzimtzum”. This doesn’t mean that these buildings were a replica or model for the universe, but it’s a figurative and symbolic parallel.
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