This reflection is part of the ongoing Forest Hills Haftorah Series. The rest of the content can be found here: .

For thousands of years now, we have known that we had something incredibly special when the Temple was standing. While it's true that none of us have ever had the privilege of witnessing it in all its majesty and glory, this doesn't mean that we have not been able to get at least a tiny fraction of a taste.

This is thanks to our many talented writers of yore.

When I read the recollections and poetries of Israelites and Judeans who lived during its time, I cannot help but feel such a burning desire within me to experience the kind of closeness with the Almighty that our ancestors were once able to feel.

When YHWH-Almighty dwelled amongst us.

Here is an example of one passage I have in mind:

Even the sparrow...!
(א) לַמְנַצֵּ֥חַ עַֽל־הַגִּתִּ֑ית לִבְנֵי־קֹ֥רַח מִזְמֽוֹר׃ (ב) מַה־יְּדִיד֥וֹת מִשְׁכְּנוֹתֶ֗יךָ יְהוָ֥ה צְבָאֽוֹת׃ (ג) נִכְסְפָ֬ה וְגַם־כָּלְתָ֨ה ׀ נַפְשִׁי֮ לְחַצְר֪וֹת יְה֫וָ֥ה לִבִּ֥י וּבְשָׂרִ֑י יְ֝רַנְּנ֗וּ אֶ֣ל אֵֽל־חָֽי׃ (ד) גַּם־צִפּ֨וֹר ׀ מָ֪צְאָה בַ֡יִת וּדְר֤וֹר ׀ קֵ֥ן לָהּ֮ אֲשֶׁר־שָׁ֪תָה אֶפְרֹ֫חֶ֥יהָ אֶֽת־מִ֭זְבְּחוֹתֶיךָ יְהוָ֣ה צְבָא֑וֹת מַ֝לְכִּ֗י וֵאלֹהָֽי׃ (ה) אַ֭שְׁרֵי יוֹשְׁבֵ֣י בֵיתֶ֑ךָ ע֝֗וֹד יְֽהַלְל֥וּךָ סֶּֽלָה׃ (ו) אַשְׁרֵ֣י אָ֭דָם עֽוֹז־ל֥וֹ בָ֑ךְ מְ֝סִלּ֗וֹת בִּלְבָבָֽם׃ (ז) עֹבְרֵ֤י ׀ בְּעֵ֣מֶק הַ֭בָּכָא מַעְיָ֣ן יְשִׁית֑וּהוּ גַּם־בְּ֝רָכ֗וֹת יַעְטֶ֥ה מוֹרֶֽה׃ (ח) יֵ֭לְכוּ מֵחַ֣יִל אֶל־חָ֑יִל יֵרָאֶ֖ה אֶל־אֱלֹהִ֣ים בְּצִיּֽוֹן׃ (ט) יְה֘וָ֤ה אֱלֹהִ֣ים צְ֭בָאוֹת שִׁמְעָ֣ה תְפִלָּתִ֑י הַאֲזִ֨ינָה אֱלֹהֵ֖י יַעֲקֹ֣ב סֶֽלָה׃ (י) מָ֭גִנֵּנוּ רְאֵ֣ה אֱלֹהִ֑ים וְ֝הַבֵּ֗ט פְּנֵ֣י מְשִׁיחֶֽךָ׃ (יא) כִּ֤י טֽוֹב־י֥וֹם בַּחֲצֵרֶ֗יךָ מֵ֫אָ֥לֶף בָּחַ֗רְתִּי הִ֭סְתּוֹפֵף בְּבֵ֣ית אֱלֹהַ֑י מִ֝דּ֗וּר בְּאָהֳלֵי־רֶֽשַׁע׃ (יב) כִּ֤י שֶׁ֨מֶשׁ ׀ וּמָגֵן֮ יְהוָ֪ה אֱלֹ֫הִ֥ים חֵ֣ן וְ֭כָבוֹד יִתֵּ֣ן יְהוָ֑ה לֹ֥א יִמְנַע־ט֝֗וֹב לַֽהֹלְכִ֥ים בְּתָמִֽים׃ (יג) יְהוָ֥ה צְבָא֑וֹת אַֽשְׁרֵ֥י אָ֝דָ֗ם בֹּטֵ֥חַ בָּֽךְ׃

(3) With my very breath I pine, I faint for the courtyards of YHWH.

My heart and my flesh sing joyously to the


(4) Even the sparrow has found a home; and a swallow a nest for herself, in which she places her fledglings by your altar, YHWH-of-Legions, my king and my eloha!

(5) How fortunate are those who [get to] dwell in your home! They will yet praise you!


(9) YHWH, elohim-of-legions, hear my prayer! Direct your ear , O Elohei-Yaakov selah !

(10) Our shield, see, O Elohim! And look to the face of your anointed!

(11) For better is one day in your courtyards than a thousand [anywhere else]!

I would rather linger at the threshold of the house of my eloha than to dwell in the tents (ohalei) of the wicked.

This prayer-poem gets me every time.

I imagine the poet standing in the courtyard, full of wonder and love, chills running down his spine as he sees the Sanctuary before him, in which a golden incense altar stands before a curtain, which in turn sections off the dwelling-room of the Almighty, seated contentedly on his throne as his dutiful and loyal and dedicated custodian-priests ensure that everything is in perfect order for his comfort amongst his beloved Israel.

The poet then hears a chirping noise, and turning to the sound, notices that a sparrow has made for herself a nest just by the bronze altar, in a corner where no one and nothing would bother them. The sparrow and her young will merit to live their whole lives basking in the presence of the Almighty; when for our poet, this might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, his home a perilous 2-week's journey away.

Better one day here than thousands anywhere else!

Here is another prayer-poem which moves me similarly:

A city knit-together
(א) שִׁ֥יר הַֽמַּעֲל֗וֹת לְדָ֫וִ֥ד שָׂ֭מַחְתִּי בְּאֹמְרִ֣ים לִ֑י בֵּ֖ית יְהוָ֣ה נֵלֵֽךְ׃ (ב) עֹ֭מְדוֹת הָי֣וּ רַגְלֵ֑ינוּ בִּ֝שְׁעָרַ֗יִךְ יְרוּשָׁלִָֽם׃ (ג) יְרוּשָׁלִַ֥ם הַבְּנוּיָ֑ה כְּ֝עִ֗יר שֶׁחֻבְּרָה־לָּ֥הּ יַחְדָּֽו׃ (ד) שֶׁשָּׁ֨ם עָל֪וּ שְׁבָטִ֡ים שִׁבְטֵי־יָ֭הּ עֵד֣וּת לְיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל לְ֝הֹד֗וֹת לְשֵׁ֣ם יְהוָֽה׃ (ה) כִּ֤י שָׁ֨מָּה ׀ יָשְׁב֣וּ כִסְא֣וֹת לְמִשְׁפָּ֑ט כִּ֝סְא֗וֹת לְבֵ֣ית דָּוִֽיד׃ (ו) שַׁ֭אֲלוּ שְׁל֣וֹם יְרוּשָׁלִָ֑ם יִ֝שְׁלָ֗יוּ אֹהֲבָֽיִךְ׃ (ז) יְהִֽי־שָׁל֥וֹם בְּחֵילֵ֑ךְ שַׁ֝לְוָ֗ה בְּאַרְמְנוֹתָֽיִךְ׃ (ח) לְ֭מַעַן אַחַ֣י וְרֵעָ֑י אֲדַבְּרָה־נָּ֖א שָׁל֣וֹם בָּֽךְ׃ (ט) לְ֭מַעַן בֵּית־יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵ֑ינוּ אֲבַקְשָׁ֖ה ט֣וֹב לָֽךְ׃

I rejoiced when they said to me:

We are going to the House of YHWH!”

Our feet stood inside your gates, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem built up! A city knit together, to which tribes would make pilgrimage, the tribes of YHWH, —as was enjoined upon Israel— to praise the name of YHWH.

There the thrones of judgment stood, thrones of the house of David.

Another beauty.

What I personally think is emphasized here is Jerusalem and the Temple as a place of unity; A place where Israelites of all tribes and backgrounds and beliefs were welcome. Anyone who has a desire to sing out to YHWH, to praise him and celebrate him, would recognize the opportunity to make a Temple-pilgrimage as being an occasion for rejoicing!

I rejoiced when they said, Let's go to the House of YHWH!

Can you imagine living in a time and a place where this was a possibility? Approaching the very house - or better, Palace - of YHWH???

There's a prayer-poem that many of you probably know, as it very well might be one of the most popular passages in all of the TanaKh. It is worth quoting here, for it speaks to the very same idea:

Like oil; Like dew
(א) שִׁ֥יר הַֽמַּעֲל֗וֹת לְדָ֫וִ֥ד הִנֵּ֣ה מַה־טּ֭וֹב וּמַה־נָּעִ֑ים שֶׁ֖בֶת אַחִ֣ים גַּם־יָֽחַד׃ (ב) כַּשֶּׁ֤מֶן הַטּ֨וֹב ׀ עַל־הָרֹ֗אשׁ יֹרֵ֗ד עַֽל־הַזָּקָ֥ן זְקַֽן־אַהֲרֹ֑ן שֶׁ֝יֹּרֵ֗ד עַל־פִּ֥י מִדּוֹתָֽיו׃ (ג) כְּטַל־חֶרְמ֗וֹן שֶׁיֹּרֵד֮ עַל־הַרְרֵ֪י צִ֫יּ֥וֹן כִּ֤י שָׁ֨ם ׀ צִוָּ֣ה יְ֭הוָה אֶת־הַבְּרָכָ֑ה חַ֝יִּ֗ים עַד־הָעוֹלָֽם׃


How good, how pleasant is the sitting of brethren in unity!

It is like... good oil on the head, dripping down onto the beard; The beard of Aharon, which drips onto the opening of his robe.

It is like... the dew of Hermon, dripping onto the mountains of Zion. For that is where YHWH commanded the blessing of life, forever and ever!

(below: Mount Hermon, a long way north of Jerusalem!)

On first read, sounds pretty weird, right? The dwelling of brethren is like oil on the head dripping into the beard???

But this poem would be in the running on my list of most brilliantly poetic verses in the whole of the TaNaKh, and is all the more powerful in its reverberating brevity.

Here is a comment from Great Texts of the Bible, edited by Reverend James Hastings and published in 1916:

Nowhere has the nature of true unity—that unity which binds men together, not by artificial restraints, but as brethren of one heart—been more faithfully described, nowhere so gracefully illustrated, as in this short ode. True concord, we are here taught, is a holy thing, a sacred oil, a rich perfume, which, flowing down from the head to the beard, from the beard to the garment, sanctifies the whole body. It is a sweet morning dew, which falls not only on the lofty mountain-peaks but on the lesser hills, embracing all and refreshing all with its influence.

The preservation of this unity was the object of the selection of one place to which the tribes should go up on pilgrimage three times a year. And the intercommunion with each other which the pilgrimages fostered was certainly one of the chief means by which the unity of feeling and sentiment was kept up among the scattered members of the nation century after century.

So as important as the Temple was to foster communion between the Almighty and Israel, it was also of huge importance for the unity and brotherhood of Israelites with each other.

Here is another lovely comment, from the College Press Study Bible Textbook Series:

The stay in the sacred city was not long, but it was an abiding while it lasted: it brought brethren face to face who had never before seen each other; and, sweeping away prejudices and misunderstandings, cementing holy friendships by sacred service and song and by the giving and receiving of domestic courtesies, made the participants realise how truly they were brethren.

All you have to do is open up to any random section in the prayer-poem collection of a TaNaKh and start reading, and before long, you are bound to encounter passages as such as those above. While those are some of my personal favorites, there are so many more where they came from to discvoer.

But this week's Haftorah takes us back-in-time even further; To the dawn of the Temple itself; Its completion, its inauguration, and its celebration.

Imagine this moment!!! For centuries, including the reigns of David and Saul, and the hundreds of years of the era of the Chieftains, YHWH's throne - the Ark of the Holy - was without its own permanent place. A remnant of Israel's nomadic years, the Ark had been housed in a portable system called the Tabernacle which hearkened back to the days of Moses the Liberator.

(Can you imagine the state it must have been in?)

Finally, King Solomon realizes that the time has arrived.

The Israelites have long, long since settled; A divinely-ordained royal line-of-lineage has been established and stabilized; A capital has been chosen. And just as the Davidic King - a king of flesh-and-blood - has a house of a king worthy to be called a Palace; The King of Kings, the Sovereign of the Cosmos, is surely deserving, all-the-more-so.

While our Haftorah (1 Kings 8:54-66) begins only at verse 54, the whole chapter is worth reading.

The Temple and all of the vessels are completed at the end of chapter 7.

Here is how our chapter begins:

At long last

(א) אָ֣ז יַקְהֵ֣ל שְׁלֹמֹ֣ה אֶת־זִקְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֡ל אֶת־כָּל־רָאשֵׁ֣י הַמַּטּוֹת֩ נְשִׂיאֵ֨י הָאָב֜וֹת לִבְנֵ֧י יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל אֶל־הַמֶּ֥לֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹ֖ה יְרוּשָׁלִָ֑ם לְֽהַעֲל֞וֹת אֶת־אֲר֧וֹן בְּרִית־יְהוָ֛ה מֵעִ֥יר דָּוִ֖ד הִ֥יא צִיּֽוֹן׃ (ב) וַיִּקָּ֨הֲל֜וּ אֶל־הַמֶּ֤לֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹה֙ כָּל־אִ֣ישׁ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל בְּיֶ֥רַח הָאֵֽתָנִ֖ים בֶּחָ֑ג ה֖וּא הַחֹ֥דֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִֽי׃ (ג) וַיָּבֹ֕אוּ כֹּ֖ל זִקְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיִּשְׂא֥וּ הַכֹּהֲנִ֖ים אֶת־הָאָרֽוֹן׃ (ד) וַֽיַּעֲל֞וּ אֶת־אֲר֤וֹן יְהוָה֙ וְאֶת־אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֔ד וְאֶֽת־כָּל־כְּלֵ֥י הַקֹּ֖דֶשׁ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בָּאֹ֑הֶל וַיַּעֲל֣וּ אֹתָ֔ם הַכֹּהֲנִ֖ים וְהַלְוִיִּֽם׃ (ה) וְהַמֶּ֣לֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹ֗ה וְכָל־עֲדַ֤ת יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ הַנּוֹעָדִ֣ים עָלָ֔יו אִתּ֖וֹ לִפְנֵ֣י הָֽאָר֑וֹן מְזַבְּחִים֙ צֹ֣אן וּבָקָ֔ר אֲשֶׁ֧ר לֹֽא־יִסָּפְר֛וּ וְלֹ֥א יִמָּנ֖וּ מֵרֹֽב׃ (ו) וַיָּבִ֣אוּ הַ֠כֹּהֲנִים אֶת־אֲר֨וֹן בְּרִית־יְהוָ֧ה אֶל־מְקוֹמ֛וֹ אֶל־דְּבִ֥יר הַבַּ֖יִת אֶל־קֹ֣דֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִׁ֑ים אֶל־תַּ֖חַת כַּנְפֵ֥י הַכְּרוּבִֽים׃ (ז) כִּ֤י הַכְּרוּבִים֙ פֹּרְשִׂ֣ים כְּנָפַ֔יִם אֶל־מְק֖וֹם הָֽאָר֑וֹן וַיָּסֹ֧כּוּ הַכְּרֻבִ֛ים עַל־הָאָר֥וֹן וְעַל־בַּדָּ֖יו מִלְמָֽעְלָה׃


Then Solomon convoked the elders of Israel—all the heads of the tribes and the ancestral chieftains of the Israelites—before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH from the City of David, that is, Zion. All the men of Israel gathered before King Solomon at the Feast, in the month of Ethanim—that is, the seventh month.

When all the elders of Israel had come, the priests lifted the Ark and carried up the Ark of YHWH. Then the priests and the Levites brought the Tent of Meeting and all the holy vessels that were in the Tent.

Meanwhile, King Solomon and the whole community of Israel, who were assembled with him before the Ark, were sacrificing sheep and oxen in such abundance that they could not be numbered or counted!

The priests brought the Ark of YHWH's Covenant to its place underneath the wings of the cherubim, in the Shrine of the House, in the Holy of Holies; For the cherubim had their wings spread out over the place of the Ark, so that the cherubim shielded the Ark and its poles from above.

For me, this hearkens all the way back to the creation narrative for a few reasons. Just like in Genesis 1, humankind was the climax of creation, such that the Almighty put everything else in order first to be ready for the arrival of humankind - so too here, the Ark's arrival on the scene at Zion is the climax of all of the work and preparation that began several chapters back.

Also, note that it is cherubs who shelter the Ark from above. In Genesis there were cherubs who played a guardian role there as well!


(כג) וַֽיְשַׁלְּחֵ֛הוּ יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים מִגַּן־עֵ֑דֶן לַֽעֲבֹד֙ אֶת־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֻקַּ֖ח מִשָּֽׁם׃ (כד) וַיְגָ֖רֶשׁ אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֑ם וַיַּשְׁכֵּן֩ מִקֶּ֨דֶם לְגַן־עֵ֜דֶן אֶת־הַכְּרֻבִ֗ים וְאֵ֨ת לַ֤הַט הַחֶ֙רֶב֙ הַמִּתְהַפֶּ֔כֶת לִשְׁמֹ֕ר אֶת־דֶּ֖רֶךְ עֵ֥ץ הַֽחַיִּֽים׃ (ס)


So YHWH-elohim banished him from the garden of Eden, to till the soil from which he was taken.

He drove the man out, and stationed east of the garden of Eden the cherubim and the fiery ever-turning sword, to guard the way to the tree of life.

I won't get into this here, but it is worth at least noting that the Temple might have been seen by many Israelites as a rectification to the ancient fall from Eden. Just as Eden represented a place, or a situation in which humankind and YHWH were able to dwell harmoniously together, so too, this is the norm as long as YHWH deigns to limit himself to dwelling with humankind in particular location, be it the portable Tabernacle or the Palace-Temple.

This reappearance of the cherubs is but one in a long list of shared motifs or symbols; YHWH-willing, we will explore this further in the future.

The rest of our chapter in 1 Kings is made up of four more parts;

  • A speech (12-21);
  • A prayer of dedication (22-53);
  • A benediction (54-61);
  • A celebration (62-66).

In the prayer-passage, there is one concept that King Solomon speaks about which has oftentimes been quite misunderstood, which I'd like to look into:

The primacy of prayer (?)

(מו) כִּ֣י יֶֽחֶטְאוּ־לָ֗ךְ כִּ֣י אֵ֤ין אָדָם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר לֹא־יֶחֱטָ֔א וְאָנַפְתָּ֣ בָ֔ם וּנְתַתָּ֖ם לִפְנֵ֣י אוֹיֵ֑ב וְשָׁב֤וּם שֹֽׁבֵיהֶם֙ אֶל־אֶ֣רֶץ הָאוֹיֵ֔ב רְחוֹקָ֖ה א֥וֹ קְרוֹבָֽה׃ (מז) וְהֵשִׁ֙יבוּ֙ אֶל־לִבָּ֔ם בָּאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֣ר נִשְׁבּוּ־שָׁ֑ם וְשָׁ֣בוּ ׀ וְהִֽתְחַנְּנ֣וּ אֵלֶ֗יךָ בְּאֶ֤רֶץ שֹֽׁבֵיהֶם֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר חָטָ֥אנוּ וְהֶעֱוִ֖ינוּ רָשָֽׁעְנוּ׃ (מח) וְשָׁ֣בוּ אֵלֶ֗יךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבָם֙ וּבְכָל־נַפְשָׁ֔ם בְּאֶ֥רֶץ אֹיְבֵיהֶ֖ם אֲשֶׁר־שָׁב֣וּ אֹתָ֑ם וְהִֽתְפַּֽלְל֣וּ אֵלֶ֗יךָ דֶּ֤רֶךְ אַרְצָם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר נָתַ֣תָּה לַאֲבוֹתָ֔ם הָעִיר֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בָּחַ֔רְתָּ וְהַבַּ֖יִת אֲשֶׁר־בנית [בָּנִ֥יתִי] לִשְׁמֶֽךָ׃ (מט) וְשָׁמַעְתָּ֤ הַשָּׁמַ֙יִם֙ מְכ֣וֹן שִׁבְתְּךָ֔ אֶת־תְּפִלָּתָ֖ם וְאֶת־תְּחִנָּתָ֑ם וְעָשִׂ֖יתָ מִשְׁפָּטָֽם׃ (נ) וְסָלַחְתָּ֤ לְעַמְּךָ֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר חָֽטְאוּ־לָ֔ךְ וּלְכָל־פִּשְׁעֵיהֶ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֣ר פָּשְׁעוּ־בָ֑ךְ וּנְתַתָּ֧ם לְרַחֲמִ֛ים לִפְנֵ֥י שֹׁבֵיהֶ֖ם וְרִֽחֲמֽוּם׃

(46) “When they sin against you—for there is no man who does not sin—and you are angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and their captors carry them off to an enemy land, near or far; (47) and then they take it to heart in the land to which they have been carried off, and they repent and make supplication to you in the land of their captors, saying:

‘We have sinned, we have acted perversely, we have acted wickedly!’

(48) and they turn back to you with all their heart and soul, in the land of the enemies who have carried them off, and they pray to you in the direction of their land which you gave to their fathers, of the city which you have chosen, and of the House which I have built to your name—

(49) oh, give heed in your heavenly abode to their prayer and supplication!

Uphold their cause!

Pardon your people who have sinned against you for all the transgressions that they have committed against you!

Grant them mercy in the sight of their captors that they may be merciful to them!

It is in large part because of this passage that I have myself heard many people, scholars included, say that we have precedent from the prophets that prayer has the power to replace sacrifice.

I'll limit myself to one contemporary example. Here are the words of Rabbi Tovia Singer:

The prophets loudly declared to the Jewish people that the contrite prayer of the penitent sinner replaces the sacrificial system. Therefore, atonement for unintentional sins today is expiated through devotional supplication to God, the Merciful One.

(from Outreach Judaism: )

(Let's assume that Rabbi Singer uses the term "the Jewish people," which is startlingly anachronistic, to refer to the Israelite and Judean people, which are different things altogether.)

Now as for his main point here, 1 Kings 8 is but one passage he quotes for proof of his claim.

Here is another, and I'll use Rabbi Singer's own translation:

Instead of bulls

(ב) שׁ֚וּבָה יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל עַ֖ד יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ כִּ֥י כָשַׁ֖לְתָּ בַּעֲוֺנֶֽךָ׃ (ג) קְח֤וּ עִמָּכֶם֙ דְּבָרִ֔ים וְשׁ֖וּבוּ אֶל־יְהוָ֑ה אִמְר֣וּ אֵלָ֗יו כָּל־תִּשָּׂ֤א עָוֺן֙ וְקַח־ט֔וֹב וּֽנְשַׁלְּמָ֥ה פָרִ֖ים שְׂפָתֵֽינוּ׃

Take words with you, and return to the Lord. Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity; receive us graciously, for we will render for bulls the offering of our lips.”

There are other examples, but this is enough for us I think. The point will be that when you look at each example carefully and in its full context, none of these attempted proofs hold up, to support the claim that there is an authentic prophetic view that we have in our TaNaKh-collection which states that prayer can fulfill, or replace, the role of sacrifice.

Without getting into the intricacies and difficulties of what's really going on in the Hebrew here (I'll leave that to the pros; for example, Robert Gordis in his The Text and Meaning of Hosea XIV, 1955) - it is safe to say that a much better translation which gets at what Hosea is most likely truly expressing is the following:

We shall pay the fruit of our lips.

Or, more idiomatically,

We shall fulfill our vows to YHWH .

Nothing about bulls, nothing about one's words replacing anything. Rather, Hosea encourages his listeners to make a pledge to dedicate something to YHWH, and to then fulfill that pledge.

But what about the prayer of King Solomon above? That seems like a pretty strong case, right?

Well... let's see about that.

If you read through his verses carefully, you'll see that there is an ongoing assumption that the Temple is standing throughout this exiled period - for it is not a complete exile. And perhaps the Temple is not only still standing, but is even still a place of priestly worship and ritual, still fulfilling its sacrificial function. For nowhere here does King Solomon even hint that there will be a time when the Temple itself will be destroyed. That would indeed be a strange possibility to entertain when celebrating its inauguration!!!

Note, also the heavy emphasis in verse 48 of the Judean exiles praying towards the Temple.

And sure enough, what is the highlight of this passage?

It is when the Israelites extend an inviting hand to YHWH and invite him to participate with them in the 7th-month feasts.

The numbers of offerings are beyond astounding - but this should surprise no one. For as King Solomon himself here declares:

(כז) כִּ֚י הַֽאֻמְנָ֔ם יֵשֵׁ֥ב אֱלֹהִ֖ים עַל־הָאָ֑רֶץ הִ֠נֵּה הַשָּׁמַ֜יִם וּשְׁמֵ֤י הַשָּׁמַ֙יִם֙ לֹ֣א יְכַלְכְּל֔וּךָ אַ֕ף כִּֽי־הַבַּ֥יִת הַזֶּ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר בָּנִֽיתִי׃

(27) “But will Elohim really dwell on earth? Even the heavens to their uttermost reaches cannot contain you! How much less this House that I have built!

YHWH-Almigty-of-Legions is a being more vast than the expanse of the cosmos!

Or, in the Almighty's own words according to the eloquent Herald of Zion:

The cosmic throne-room

(א) כֹּ֚ה אָמַ֣ר יְהוָ֔ה הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם כִּסְאִ֔י וְהָאָ֖רֶץ הֲדֹ֣ם רַגְלָ֑י אֵי־זֶ֥ה בַ֙יִת֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּבְנוּ־לִ֔י וְאֵי־זֶ֥ה מָק֖וֹם מְנוּחָתִֽי׃

(1) Thus said YHWH:

The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool!: Where could you build a house for me, What place could serve as my abode?

Truly vast beyond our human comprehension. And so if you were to invite such a being to a feast, how much extra food should you take into account?

Well, the totality of what the sky, land and sea has to offer still probably won't make the cut.

But what did the Israelites do?

The Feast-of-Feasts

(סב) וְֽהַמֶּ֔לֶךְ וְכָל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל עִמּ֑וֹ זֹבְחִ֥ים זֶ֖בַח לִפְנֵ֥י יְהוָֽה׃ (סג) וַיִּזְבַּ֣ח שְׁלֹמֹ֗ה אֵ֣ת זֶ֣בַח הַשְּׁלָמִים֮ אֲשֶׁ֣ר זָבַ֣ח לַיהוָה֒ בָּקָ֗ר עֶשְׂרִ֤ים וּשְׁנַ֙יִם֙ אֶ֔לֶף וְצֹ֕אן מֵאָ֥ה וְעֶשְׂרִ֖ים אָ֑לֶף וַֽיַּחְנְכוּ֙ אֶת־בֵּ֣ית יְהוָ֔ה הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ וְכָל־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ (סד) בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֗וּא קִדַּ֨שׁ הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ אֶת־תּ֣וֹךְ הֶחָצֵ֗ר אֲשֶׁר֙ לִפְנֵ֣י בֵית־יְהוָ֔ה כִּי־עָ֣שָׂה שָׁ֗ם אֶת־הָֽעֹלָה֙ וְאֶת־הַמִּנְחָ֔ה וְאֵ֖ת חֶלְבֵ֣י הַשְּׁלָמִ֑ים כִּֽי־מִזְבַּ֤ח הַנְּחֹ֙שֶׁת֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֔ה קָטֹ֗ן מֵֽהָכִיל֙ אֶת־הָעֹלָ֣ה וְאֶת־הַמִּנְחָ֔ה וְאֵ֖ת חֶלְבֵ֥י הַשְּׁלָמִֽים׃ (סה) וַיַּ֣עַשׂ שְׁלֹמֹ֣ה בָֽעֵת־הַהִ֣יא ׀ אֶת־הֶחָ֡ג וְכָל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֣ל עִמּוֹ֩ קָהָ֨ל גָּד֜וֹל מִלְּב֥וֹא חֲמָ֣ת ׀ עַד־נַ֣חַל מִצְרַ֗יִם לִפְנֵי֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵ֔ינוּ שִׁבְעַ֥ת יָמִ֖ים וְשִׁבְעַ֣ת יָמִ֑ים אַרְבָּעָ֥ה עָשָׂ֖ר יֽוֹם׃ (סו) בַּיּ֤וֹם הַשְּׁמִינִי֙ שִׁלַּ֣ח אֶת־הָעָ֔ם וַֽיְבָרֲכ֖וּ אֶת־הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ וַיֵּלְכ֣וּ לְאָהֳלֵיהֶ֗ם שְׂמֵחִים֙ וְט֣וֹבֵי לֵ֔ב עַ֣ל כָּל־הַטּוֹבָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר עָשָׂ֤ה יְהוָה֙ לְדָוִ֣ד עַבְדּ֔וֹ וּלְיִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל עַמּֽוֹ׃

Then the king and all of Israel with him offered a sacrifice in the presence of YHWH.

Solomon sacrificed the fellowship offerings which he offered to YHWH:

22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep!

And the king and all of the Israelites dedicated the house of YHWH.

On that day the king consecrated the middle of the courtyard before the house of YHWH because he offered there the burnt offerings, the grain offerings, and the fat of the fellowship offerings because the bronze altar that was in the presence of YHWH was too small to hold the burnt offerings and the grain offerings and the fat of the fellowship offerings.

Okay... wowza.

This is most definitely a gross exaggeration, but I get the point; both the Israelites, and YHWH alike, were feasting. (And anyway, even if it weren't an exaggeration, for the Almighty himself I would think that this would still amount to no more than a mere appetizer.)

One take away here is that, despite how some people would like to read King Solomon's prayer, it cannot be demonstrated from anywhere in this chapter that he thought that sacrifice can be replaced by anything at all. The Temple was meant to serve as the meeting place between YHWH and Israel, and for some reasons that maybe we can get into at another time, sacrifices played not "a role," but "the" pivotal role.

Whether it was to keep the Almighty satiated, to affect an atonement for wrongdoing, to express gratitude, to accompany a petition, to demonstrate Israelite love or submission, or all of the above and then some, there was no way, in Israelite and Judean mindset, to have a healthy relationship with one's deity without a sacrifice-system, and to read King Solomon otherwise is to take contemporary notions of spirituality and try to force them somewhere where they don't belong.

There's one more thing in this chapter I'd like to draw your attention to, and this is back in the "benediction" section:

Ever faithful

(נד) וַיְהִ֣י ׀ כְּכַלּ֣וֹת שְׁלֹמֹ֗ה לְהִתְפַּלֵּל֙ אֶל־יְהוָ֔ה אֵ֛ת כָּל־הַתְּפִלָּ֥ה וְהַתְּחִנָּ֖ה הַזֹּ֑את קָ֞ם מִלִּפְנֵ֨י מִזְבַּ֤ח יְהוָה֙ מִכְּרֹ֣עַ עַל־בִּרְכָּ֔יו וְכַפָּ֖יו פְּרֻשׂ֥וֹת הַשָּׁמָֽיִם׃ (נה) וַֽיַּעְמֹ֕ד וַיְבָ֕רֶךְ אֵ֖ת כָּל־קְהַ֣ל יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל ק֥וֹל גָּד֖וֹל לֵאמֹֽר׃ (נו) בָּר֣וּךְ יְהוָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר נָתַ֤ן מְנוּחָה֙ לְעַמּ֣וֹ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל כְּכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֣ר דִּבֵּ֑ר לֹֽא־נָפַ֞ל דָּבָ֣ר אֶחָ֗ד מִכֹּל֙ דְּבָר֣וֹ הַטּ֔וֹב אֲשֶׁ֣ר דִּבֶּ֔ר בְּיַ֖ד מֹשֶׁ֥ה עַבְדּֽוֹ׃ (נז) יְהִ֨י יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹהֵ֙ינוּ֙ עִמָּ֔נוּ כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר הָיָ֖ה עִם־אֲבֹתֵ֑ינוּ אַל־יַעַזְבֵ֖נוּ וְאַֽל־יִטְּשֵֽׁנוּ׃ (נח) לְהַטּ֥וֹת לְבָבֵ֖נוּ אֵלָ֑יו לָלֶ֣כֶת בְּכָל־דְּרָכָ֗יו וְלִשְׁמֹ֨ר מִצְוֺתָ֤יו וְחֻקָּיו֙ וּמִשְׁפָּטָ֔יו אֲשֶׁ֥ר צִוָּ֖ה אֶת־אֲבֹתֵֽינוּ׃ (נט) וְיִֽהְי֨וּ דְבָרַ֜י אֵ֗לֶּה אֲשֶׁ֤ר הִתְחַנַּ֙נְתִּי֙ לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֔ה קְרֹבִ֛ים אֶל־יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יוֹמָ֣ם וָלָ֑יְלָה לַעֲשׂ֣וֹת ׀ מִשְׁפַּ֣ט עַבְדּ֗וֹ וּמִשְׁפַּ֛ט עַמּ֥וֹ יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל דְּבַר־י֥וֹם בְּיוֹמֽוֹ׃ (ס) לְמַ֗עַן דַּ֚עַת כָּל־עַמֵּ֣י הָאָ֔רֶץ כִּ֥י יְהוָ֖ה ה֣וּא הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֖ין עֽוֹד׃ (סא) וְהָיָ֤ה לְבַבְכֶם֙ שָׁלֵ֔ם עִ֖ם יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵ֑ינוּ לָלֶ֧כֶת בְּחֻקָּ֛יו וְלִשְׁמֹ֥ר מִצְוֺתָ֖יו כַּיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה׃


"Blessed be YHWH, who has granted a haven to his people Israel, just as he promised!; Not a single word has failed of all the gracious promises that he made through his servant Moses!

May YHWH-our-elohim be with us, as he was with our fathers!

May He never abandon or forsake us!

May he incline our hearts to him, that we may walk in all his ways and keep the commandments, the laws, and the rules, which he enjoined upon our fathers!

And may these words of mine, which I have offered in supplication before YHWH, be close to YHWH-our-god day and night, that he may provide for his servant and for his people Israel, according to each day’s needs— to the end that all the peoples of the earth may know that YHWH alone is elohim! That there is no other!

And may you be wholehearted with YHWH-our-elohim, to walk in his ways and keep his commandments, even as now!"

Let me ask you, now that you've read this; What is the reason that King Solomon asks the Almighty to regularly provide Israel with all of her needs? King Solomon expresses that this is for a very specific purpose;

So that all peoples know that YHWH alone is elohim.

This raises an eyebrow from me, for here is the progression:

May YHWH be with us ---> So that we can walk in his ways and keep his commandments ---> So that the whole world will know YHWH, uniquely, is Elohim.

How, exactly, does the final stage follow from the first two?

In this case, there are most definitely numerous lovely possible explanations here. I'll share one way that this speaks to me, and I'll invite you to give it further thought.

First off, consider this prayer-poem opening:

(ב) הַשָּׁמַ֗יִם מְֽסַפְּרִ֥ים כְּבֽוֹד־אֵ֑ל וּֽמַעֲשֵׂ֥ה יָ֝דָ֗יו מַגִּ֥יד הָרָקִֽיעַ׃

The heavens declare the glory of El; The firmament tells of the deeds of his hands!

As I read the works of the TaNaKh, I see that YHWH wants, so desperately, to be known, to be familiar to his creations. The very natural world around us knows this, and here we have one of our ancient poets imagining that the very heavens are declaring to all who care to hear of the glory of the Almighty!

YHWH chose the people of Israel to live our their lives in a certain way in which Israel, too, in adhering to the covenant, is declaring the Almighty-glory to the whole world! When we rest on the sabbath, we hearken back to YHWH's role in creation; When we aid an orphan or a widow, we acknowledge YHWH's desire to see all of the vulnerable cared for; When we live in booths, we celebrate the fact that a collectively oppressed people has a potential savior who watches, listens, and cares, in that he led our ancestors out of slavery...

The TaNaKh is packed with rules and guidelines for Israelite behavior, and I would bet that every single one of them, somehow, contributes towards participating in this cosmic orchestra declaring and celebrating the glory of YHWH.

And that's King Solomon's prayer - that YHWH should help us to fulfill this sacred mission that has been entrusted to us, bringing not only ourselves, but all peoples and all things into ever-closer communion with YHWH-Almighty.