BEIS HA'MIKDASH
 
   

Dedicating The Vessels Of The Mikdash In 5761
Interview by Shai Gefen

For a decade now, Machon HaMikdash has been working on building various vessels of the Mikdash, starting with a golden menora, the gold and copper altars, incense pans, the table, trumpets, vessels for pouring wine and water, and vessels from which blood is sprinkled Ė all with the firm expectation that any minute now, the Mikdash will be built and the vessels will be ready for immediate use. * Beis Moshiach spoke with five senior craftsmen who have been working on this sensitive and complicated project. In the course of the interview they tell how they build the vessels, describe their sentiments in doing so, and discuss how building the vessels contributes to hastening the Geula and the building of the Beis HaMikdash * Presented in conjunction with the Torah readings which describe the fashioning of the vessels of the Mishkan
 

We spoke with five craftsmen who have built vessels for the Mikdash. One craftsman said, "When you see the vessels in front of you, the Geula becomes tangible. I see this as part of the preparations for Geula that a Jew must make." A second craftsman added, "The vessels are powerful because they give you the sense that youíre in the midst of Redemption." "I had the privilege of doing one of the greatest and most significant things for the Jewish nation of all time," concluded another craftsman. These were a few of the remarkable comments we heard in the course of the interviews.

* * *

Machon HaMikdash, located in the Old City, is directed by Rabbi Yisroel Ariel. The purpose of the institute is to instill an awareness of the Mikdash and its vessels among the public, and bring the topic down from the realm of emuna to something tangible and real.

Over a million people have visited the exhibits at Machon HaMikdash on Misgav LaDach Street. The exhibit displays vessels of the Mikdash constructed by famous craftsmen for the third Beis HaMikdash which will be built speedily in our time with the coming of Moshiach. The vessels were constructed according to halacha after closely examining the approaches of various poskim.

Machon HaMikdash can certainly be proud of its accomplishments. After extensive work theyíve succeeded in building most of the vessels. The vessels were designed in their proper dimensions and made out of precious metals Ė the golden altar, the copper altar, the aron haíkodesh, the kapores, the silver trumpets, the fire and incense pans, the vessels for sprinkling the blood, vessels for the wine libations, and the various vessels associated with the menora, like the fire-pans, the tongs, and many other vessels.

Betzalel and Ahaliav built the vessels that were used in the Mishkan and the Beis HaMikdash with their unique G-dly wisdom, as described in the Torah. Who made the vessels on display today in Yerushalayim? Talented craftsmen, most of them originally from the C.I.S., who used their rare skills to build the holy vessels of the Mikdash.

These craftsmen are overawed by the tremendous privilege that fell into their hands. Each one of them invested all their energy into this project so that the vessels of the Mikdash would be the best possible.

Weíve written other articles about Machon HaMikdash and its important work in strengthening our anticipation of the Geula, but we have not yet written about any of the artisans who have created the exhibits on display, which, so far, a million people have seen.

* * *

EZRA LANDAU:
"The yearning for the Mikdash and Moshiach was aroused within us"

Ezra Landau arrived in Eretz Yisroel in 5732 (1972) from the Carpathians. His family is observant and descends from the Noda BíYehuda. Ezraís creative talents were discovered at an early age, and he began working professionally in 5737 when he opened a crafts business, which included creating Judaica artwork.

How did you become involved with Machon HaMikdash?

The staff of Machon HaMikdash came to me over a year ago and asked me to finish the construction of the menora they had started building. I devoted myself to it, investing hours around the clock, day and night. I finished the job after a few months. Then we began working on building the table and finished it half a year ago.

What problems face an artisan who sets out to build the vessels of the Mikdash?

First of all, weíre talking about the vessels of the Beis HaMikdash, the holiest place in the world. We feel the weight of the enormous responsibility. Additionally, the vessels must be constructed precisely according to halacha; the dimensions have to be perfect. To accomplish this, we sat down with rabbanim, learned the halachos and clarified the various approaches. We built the vessels according to very precise and well-defined rules. Throughout the work, I was in touch with the rabbanim who guided us. We also wanted the vessels to be aesthetically pleasing, as far as the materials used and the quality of the work, as is fitting for vessels of the Mikdash.

What about the shulchan?

The shulchan was one of the most complicated vessels. There are many views about it and we were constantly in touch with Rabbi Menachem Makover and a group of rabbanim. It took a very long time to complete.

What does a craftsman feel, knowing that he merited to build the vessels of the Mikdash, the menora and shulchan?

I was tremendously moved. Itís not just the merit of making these holy vessels that makes me feel so moved. Just viewing the vessels is inspiring Ė imagine how inspired I felt. I made them!

What do people say when they see the vessels?

People are very excited, and it definitely arouses a yearning for the Beis HaMikdash. I remember that when we finished the menora and displayed it, there was great excitement. [Ed: The menora built by Machon HaMikdash has rounded branches, a view rejected by the Rambam and many of the commentators. The Rebbe MH"M said we should follow the Rambamís view.] People came over to me and said, "You aroused in us a yearning for the Beis HaMikdash and Moshiach." That alone was enough for me.

As strange as it sounds, I thought about this back in Russia. I grew up in a religious home, and I imagined creating Jewish objects and vessels for the Mikdash. Hashem helped me realize my lifeís dream. Itís quite complex and the work involves tremendous responsibility. Itís a great merit to bring people close to the idea of Geula.

How do you think you merited to accomplish this?

Perhaps it is zíchus avos. Back in Russia we spoke a lot about anticipating the building of the Mikdash. You could say that the vessels I created are my pride. For years I dreamed about making the menora, and baruch Hashem, I was actually able to do so.

Itís obvious that you put yourself into your work, and itís not just a job you were hired to do. What is the significance of preparing the vessels of the Mikdash?

This subject is very important to all the Jewish people. We have been waiting for nearly 2,000 years for the building of the Beis HaMikdash and for our redemption. In the meantime, until Moshiach comes, we have to prepare and do all we can so that the vessels will be ready. When the Mikdash is built, theyíll know that at least the vessels are ready and at least at first, they will be able to use them.

What are your plans for the future?

We are working hard on the clothing of the High Priest with the choshen, which had the urim vítumim. May we soon hear the word of Hashem through the urim vítumim of the Kohein Gadol.

Rí AVROHOM AURBACH: "The most thrilling work of my life"

Rí Avrohom Aurbach is an artist whose expertise is primarily in wood carving, which made him the perfect person to construct the golden altar, which is made of wood that is covered with gold.

Rí Avrohom was born in Kishinev 54 years ago. His home was not religious, but his grandfather, his motherís father, was religious and took him to shul to kiss the seifer Torah. In 5736 (1976) he emigrated to Eretz Yisroel. After serving in the army, he got involved in Yiddishkeit through Chabad of Beíer Sheva.

Rí Avrohom moved to Tel Aviv where he continued his artistic endeavors in woodcarving. Two years ago, he was selected to do the intricate work on the golden altar.

How did you get to do this work?

For a while I was doing woodcarvings in various shuls around the country. Years ago, the people at Machon HaMikdash wanted to have a school for various crafts. I sent photographs of my work, but in the end their project didnít happen. Luckily, they kept my address.

Two years ago, Menachem Makover called me and told me about building the vessels. I was asked to make the golden altar. Thatís how I came to construct the altar, the most thrilling work of my life, which has led me on a spiritual journey

How do you go about building an altar for the Beis HaMikdash?

First we sat down to thoroughly discuss it. Since this was the incense altar, I wanted to add Kabbalistic expression to the artistic work involved. I thought the carvings of the golden altar ought to express a deep spiritual dimension.

Meaning?

The woodcarvings I did for the golden altar were illustrations and pictures expressing the seider hishtalshelus of the worlds and sífiros, as is explained in Kabbala. The carvings express the G-dly abundance that flows down to the Jewish people. The incense gave prosperity and wealth to the one who offered it. Even reading the section about the ketores is said to protect one from harm. I wanted to put all this into the woodcarvings.

What are the dimensions of the golden altar?

112 centimeters by 48 centimeters. The altar stood not far from the golden menora, and the Kohen would place a fire pan of coals on it every day. That was one of the services in the Mikdash.

When you imagine the entire process of the offering of the incense, how does that affect your artistic work?

It definitely adds an emotional component, and goes even beyond that. Throughout the work, I had a tremendous spiritual elevation. Hashem helped me do a good job, although it was very complicated work in light of the halachic problems and various technical issues, not to mention the great responsibility inherent in a project like this.

Did you ever think you would be involved in a project like this?

I once did work in the Yisraelov Shul in Tel Aviv, and on the balcony of the womenís section I carved the image of the Beis HaMikdash. I told one of the gabbaim, "Iím making this, and I pray that, with Hashemís help, I will be able to make the vessels of the Mikdash." And two years ago I was given theis privilege!

Have you considered whether your altar will actually be used in the Beis HaMikdash?

I donít know whether my altar will be used in the Beis HaMikdash, but I had to construct it according to all the rules so that if they need it, theyíll be able to use it. This entails tremendous responsibility, so you constantly ask yourself whether youíre really doing it right. Am I making it good enough for the House of G-d?

Did you consult with rabbanim about your work?

Of course. Aside from the rabbanim at Machon HaMikdash with whom I was in touch regularly, I spoke to other rabbanim, and read a lot about the vessels.

How long did it take to build the Mizbeiach?

It took nearly a year. Throughout that time, I was involved only in this project, and dedicated all my strength and energy towards it. Throughout this time, I conducted myself with a special measure of holiness. When I read about the holiness of the golden altar and about the great holiness of the Beis HaMikdash, it certainly affected the nefesh and ruach.

What do you think is the contribution of the vessels you made?

Thereís no question that this work contributes towards a yearning and belief in the coming of Moshiach. When the vessels are there in front of your eyes, itís much more tangible and clear. I see it as part of the preparations for the Geula that a Jew ought to make.

What else would you like to do for the Beis HaMikdash?

I really want to make the doors for the Beis HaMikdash and carve them. This desire kept coming to me as I worked on the altar. I also thought about decorating the interior of the Mikdash. Perhaps I would have something to contribute towards that.

Even though it says that the Beis HaMikdash will come down complete from Heaven?

It says that Hashem will leave us something to do.

Rí Avrohom Aurbach added that the images he carved were not just whatever he felt like doing. "Everything must have inner content. Every symbol and illustration has meaning." He expressed his hope that everything he made gives Hashem nachas, "and in the merit of this, may we all merit to build the Beis HaMikdash and dedicate its vessels and the golden altar."

BORUCH BLUMIN: "Working on the vessels of the Mikdash ignited a fire within me."

"Klei haízahav" (the golden vessels) Ė the phrase rings with emotion. The gold itself sparkles and shines and imbues the vessels with a special sense of value and beauty.

Boruch Blumin of Kochav Yaíir is the man who worked on expertly plating the vessels of the Mikdash with gold. He plated the menora with 43 kilograms of gold using special techniques. He also plated the table and the other vessels of the table.

Blumin was born in Argentina and moved to Eretz Yisroel in 5723 (1963). He served in the army as a parachutist in Israelís wars. After his term of army service was over, he began working for the Albit company, a high-tech Israeli firm which manufactures weapons and advanced medical equipment. Blumin worked as a senior member of development. He received the Israeli security prize for his unique development that is used in F16s. After leaving Albit, he started the Golan Meleches Machsheves company which produces gold jewelry. He retired after his lungs became affected.

His company began making Judaica for shuls around the country, in addition to jewelry. He decorates large shuls, and just recently dedicated a "Shivisi Hashem LíNegdi Samid" in the beautiful Belzer beis midrash.

Blumin has, in recent years, become involved in Judaism, and his work with Machon HaMikdash in plating the vessels of the Mikdash just accelerated the process. "The work ignited a fire within me," he says. He sees his work for Machon HaMikdash as the pinnacle of his life, and as a holy mission. As such he did it solely on a volunteer basis.

How did you get to Machon HaMikdash?

Menachem Makover asked Amnon Weiss for help in finding someone who knew how to plate with gold. Weiss came to me and thatís how it came about. Since then we have had a strong connection, and I do it all as my lifeís mission.

Iíve had the privilege of doing one of the greatest and significant things of the Jewish nation of all time. I feel that Iím doing great and authentic things. When you remember that we had the Beis HaMikdash 2000 years ago, and now we are making the vessels to prepare for its rebuilding, itís absolutely thrilling. It moves the heart of any Jew. I hope and anticipate that all this work will become reality yet this year.

What does your family think?

They are all excited by this unique work. Itís no simple matter to work with these holy things, and the reactions are of admiration. It makes no difference if youíre religious or not; itís holy for all of us.

How do you look at the work from a professional standpoint?

The work on the vessels of the Mikdash is magnificent, both from an artistic as well as a historic point of view. Goldplating the altar was extremely complicated. I think if I knew how difficult it would be, I would have thought twice about it... But, baruch Hashem, I was successful. For me, helping build the vessels and goldplating them, was a tremendous experience. Every layer I placed was an additional experience.

* * *

A few months ago the Vatican asked Blumin to plate a large statue with gold, "which would make me one of the greatest and most famous artists in the world." But Blumin turned the offer down. "I just couldnít make holy objects for the Beis HaMikdash and chalila, líhavdil for the Vatican.

In this work, he feels a sense of completion, closure. When the I.D.F. forces burst into the Old City in the liberation of Yerushalayim, he was with Rabbi Yisroel Ariel. One day, Rav Ariel wrote a moving dedication for him: "The one who liberated Yerushalayim should merit to build the vessels of the Mikdash and to bring the menora to the Beis HaMikdash." Almost prophetic! Theyíve since met again and Blumin has plated the vessels of the Mikdash in gold.

What do you see as the most important aspect of building the vessels of the Mikdash?

In addition to the fact that we all anticipate the Beis HaMikdash and working on constructing the vessels of the Mikdash is part of our anticipation, these vessels have great educational value. The vessels get even those who are not religious involved in Judaism and the Mikdash. The children today donít know anything about this because they are not taught about it.

I suggested to Menachem Makover that he take a traveling exhibit around the country. These vessels can ignite the Jewish spark in everyone. I myself became more involved in Judaism thanks to this amazing work.

GADI NATAF
"the majesty and glory of the Geula as opposed to the darkness of Galus"

The Nataf family of Yerushalayim is well known as a family involved in producing Judaica. The craft is passed along from one generation to the next, and they use their talents in the Natafim company which is located in Givat Shaul in Yerushalayim. All the Nataf brothers: Eliyahu, Chaim, Daniel, Efraim, and Gadi are partners in the company.

Machon HaMikdash asked them to make the trumpets for the Beis HaMikdash. The mitzva of blowing the trumpets is mentioned in the Torah a number of times. The trumpets were used regularly, by the Leviim, at war, Yovel, Hakhel, and on Yomim Tovim.

The Nataf brothers worked hard before beginning to make the trumpets. "We sat and learned exactly how they are supposed to look, and all the halachic details involved. After strenuous work we produced silver trumpets over a meter long."

They also made the fire pans for the gold and copper altars, and the censers for the incense, the vessels for the blood, vessels for wine and water libations, and the various vessels for the menora such as the tongs and the pans. They are all made of pure silver, and some of them are coated with gold.

When did you begin work?

Over ten years ago

What do you think about making vessels for the Mikdash?

There was a special feeling of kedusha. Everybody got involved. Whoever came to our place could either see us working on a vessel or poring over a book about it. The learning and the artistry went hand in hand. We in the family feel this came from G-d. Itís amazing and exciting work.

Did the work require special skills?

The trumpets had to be made from one solid piece, which was extremely difficult to do. The level of knowledge when it comes to the craft of a silversmith is not what it once was. Unfortunately thereís a descent in the generations in this area, too. But when we finished the work we felt a tremendous spiritual satisfaction. It was the majesty and glory of the Geula as opposed to the darkness of Galus. It strengthened the feeling and prayer of, "renew our days as of old."

Do you think that the vessels of the Nataf brothers will be used in the Beis HaMikdash?

I donít know, but the vessels are ready and they can be used. In the meantime, many Jews come and see them and feel and live with the great anticipation of the Geula.

But if youíre asking me... I have a feeling that the vessels will be used. We pray to Hashem, "Show us its construction and make us rejoice in its repair," and this means that the Beis HaMikdash will come down from Heaven, but "make us rejoice in its repair," i.e., we too will merit to fix something in the third Beis HaMikdash, which will be built speedily in our days.

I think you once received a bracha from the Rebbe?

In 5751 we passed by the Rebbe and brought the Rebbe a mitzva train with each compartment presenting one mitzva, all made of silver. The Rebbe blessed us, "that you merit to illuminate the darkness of Galus with the light of the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu." This bracha accompanies us throughout. When we made the vessels for the Mikdash, we thought to ourselves that this is a partial fulfillment of the bracha Ė to illuminate the darkness of Galus with the light of the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu.

May we do all we need to do to bring the Geula. This merit of being part of making the vessels of the Mikdash is a great zíchus which became our lot. May we merit having the Rebbeís bracha fulfilled in us, to illuminate the darkness of Galus with the light of Moshiach Tzidkeinu.

CHAIM ODEM
"The vessels of the Mikdash give one the sense that we are in the midst of Geula"

Chaim Odem, resident of Ofra, has been working on building the vessels of the Beis HaMikdash for some years now. He was born in 1948 in Georgia in the U.S.S.R. As a young man in 1967, he heard the news about the Six-Day War and the conquering of Yerushalayim. "They told us that now they would be taking down the mosques from the Temple Mt.," he remembers nostalgically, "and we were certain that the Beis HaMikdash would be built and Moshiach would be arriving imminently."

During the Yom Kippur War his family received permission to leave for Eretz Yisroel, and by warís end they were already there. Odem began getting involved in Judaism after his army service, and then he settled in Ofra. Heís been working in art since 5740 (1980), when he began designing and creating Pesach plates, menoros, and numerous items associated with Jewish art.

"At the beginning of 5750 (1990), Rabbi Yisroel Ariel came to me to discuss the possibility of constructing the menora. My first reaction was, ĎAll my life, Iíve dreamed of doing just that...í Rabbi Ariel brought me 400 pages of research about the golden menora. For an entire year we worked on the design of the menora.

You know the menora was constructed out of a solid piece of gold. After a lot of complicated work, I fashioned a mold of the menora out of wax and we poured the golden menora using that mold.

After finishing it, I worked on the aron and the keruvim, as you can see in the book on the Mikdash. The aron is only an exhibit and is not built according to the dimensions of the Beis HaMikdash. I also made vessels for the wine and water libations out of gold and silver.

What other aspects are there to work of this kind?

This work has infinite dimensions. You start learning them and donít finish. Since I began working on the menora and vessels of the Mikdash, I became aware of layers of meaning based on Kabbala and Chassidus. I learned a great deal from the Rebbe.

For example, I learned about the significance of the menora and why it has three steps. The Rebbe explains that the menora illuminates a dark world, and the three steps symbolize the three things upon which the world stands Ė Torah, avoda, and gmilus chasadim. This teaching amazed me and gave me a deep understanding.

What significance is there to the fact that specifically in the darkness of Galus, we begin building the vessels of the Mikdash?

Thereís no question that making the vessels intensifies the anticipation for Geula. Every Jew who sees the vessels on exhibition is affected, and realizes how much we lack, and that the time has come to use these vessels!

And your personal feelings?

Constructing the vessels gave me an unusual hisromemus ruach (uplifted spirit). When I parted from the menora after completing it, I made a huge party for all the residents of Ofra. I feel that we are in Yemos HaMoshiach and that Geula is imminent, though unfortunately we still get constant reminders that we are still in Galus.

What else would you want to construct?

Iíve thought a great deal about preparing the harps which the Levites will play in the Beis HaMikdash. Chazal say how important the harps were in bringing joy and ruach haíkodesh to the Beis HaMikdash, and I hope I can do it.

The Beis HaMikdash is the beauty of the world, and the vessels are some of the most beautiful things in the world, as Chazal themselves say. Itís a pity we donít internalize this enough.

How should we do so?

The work of Machon HaMikdash is very important and uplifting. The impact of the vessels is greater than I imagined it would be. Iíve seen Jews far from Yiddishkeit become closer to Judaism as a result of seeing the holy vessels. The power they have comes from the fact that they transform the abstract into something tangible, and they give one the sense that we are in the midst of Geula.

   

Whoever came to our place could either see us working on a vessel or poring over a book about it. The learning and the artistry went hand in hand.
 


YECHI ADONEINU MOREINU V'RABBEINU MELECH HA'MOSHIACH L'OLAM VA'ED!

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