Having just completed masechet Tamid, we move on to masechet Midot. The masechet opens in a similar manner to Tamid by discussing the shemira (guarding) performed by the kohenim and the levi’im in the Beit HaMikdash. We have discussed that nature of the shemira before – see volume 5, issue 37. The issue that needs to be addressed is why it is discussed in this masechet. Its study makes sense in masechet Tamid as it describes the order of the day. Masechet Midot however focuses on the design and layout of the (second) Beit HaMikdash and not the tasks performed.
The Tifferet Yisrael addresses the question, explaining that that the opening is connected to why we are studying about the structure of the Beit HaMikdash at all. He explains, based on the Rambam’s introduction to the masechet, that its study is necessary so that we will know how the future Beit HaMikdash will look. The masechet opens with describing the shemira in order to stress the importance of the guarding those details in our hearts. The Tifferet Yisrael points to the following pasuk from Yechezkel (43:11) that discusses the Beit HaMikdash’s design, as support: “…so that they may safeguard its entire form and all its rules and fulfill them.”
Why however is important to know how it will look? The Tifferet Yisrael cites Rashi who explains that the third Beit HaMikdash will be built in shamayim without human input; so why is our understanding now necessary? One explanation is that the Rambam disagrees. The Rambam understands that the Midrash on which Rashi bases his comments is agada that is not to be understood literally. Instead the intention of the Midrash is that the divine assistance for the future human construction will be miraculous.
The Tifferet Yisrael however suggest that even according to Rashi, who understands the midrash literally, studying the structure is necessary. Having a clear knowledge of all the details will reaffirm the truth of the two thousand year old prophecy when it plays out it exactly as foretold. It will be proof that the spirit of Hashem was with the prophet and those that ignored him “will be ashamed from their iniquities” (Yechzkel 43:10).
A question remaining is that each of the Batei Mikdash were different from one another. The first is described in sefer Melachim, the second in our masechet and the future Beit HaMikdash is described in sefer Yechezkel. Given the differences, one might once again question the necessity of studying our masechet.
The Tosfot Yom Tov cites the Rambam (Hilchot Beit HaBechira 1:4) who explains that even though the third Beit HaMikdash is described in Yechezkel it is not clear or explained. The Rambam continues that at the time of Ezra when they built the second, it was based on the first and included some of the explicit things detailed in Yechezkel.
The Tosfot Yom Tov explains based on a midrash cited by Rashi (Yechezkel 43) that when Bnei Yisrael returned in the time of Ezra it should have been in the same fashion as the time of Yehoshua. However their sins caused their return to be on a lower level. The Tosfot Yom Tov continues that a consequence of this is that the structure of the second Beit HaMikdash could not have all the ideal details of Yechezkel. That is because such a Beit HaMikdash is only for an eternal redemption. Nevertheless they did merit having some of the facets reflected in that Beit HaMikdash.
The Tosfot Yom Tov therefore continues that the study of our masechet is therefore necessary. The design was communicated to David HaMelech,“All [the structure], said he, is put in writing by the hand of Hashem who instructs me, all the works of this pattern” (Divrei HaYamim I 28:19). Nevertheless we find instances in the Gemara when deviations are questioned (e.g. the platforms in the ezrat nashim, the larger mizbeach during bayit sheini, etc.) The Gemara justifies the actions explaining that those that acted did so based on exposition from pesukim.
Similarly, he explains, that when we merit to build the future Beit HaMikdash, we will be granted the wisdom to understand the concealed parts of Yechezel. Most of the fundamentals will be based on the form that Hashem described to David. Yet much of the details will be derived and expounded from Yechezkel in conjunction with our understanding of this masechet. Without our study however, we would be at loss in this endeavor and would not know where to start.
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