The Torah teaches that the positive commandment to build the Temple was given by G-d to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai, the day following Yom Kippur. It is counted as one of the 613 mitzvot, the commandments that Israel is perpetually obligated to fulfill.
In his classic work The Book of the Commandments, the great authority Maimonides explains the details of each one of the Torah's commandments. Here, he explains G-d's instructions to build the Temple as follows:
"The Creator commanded us to erect a chosen House for His service, where the sacrificial offerings will be brought for all time. And the processionals and festive pilgrimages will be conducted there three times a year."
The verse states: "And they shall make for Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell amongst them" (Exodus 25:8). We have explained that this commandment is general and includes many details: the menorah, the table, the altar, etc. These are all intrinsic parts of the Temple and all of the detailed ordinances of this commandment including the construction and its design are all explained in the tractate that was compiled for this purpose, Tractate Middot.
There are three major points that Maimonides teaches us here:
- The purpose of the commandment of building the Temple is in order to offer the sacrifices, and it is a perpetual commandment that is binding upon every successive generation.
- The vessels of the Temple are an intrinsic part of the commandment and constitute a portion of the Temple structure, and all the units, separately and together, are considered as one precept.
- The accepted design of the Holy Temple is that which is described in Tractate Middot of the Babylonian Talmud.
These principals are universally accepted as legally binding by the great Torah scholars throughout the generations.