Av 8, 5769, 29 July 09
by Yehudah Lev Kay
The Temple Institute will begin building the sacrificial altar on Thursday, Tisha B’av, a fast day when Jews mourn the destruction of the Temple some 2,000 years ago.
The sacrificial altar was located in the center of the Temple, and upon it the Kohanim (priests) offered the numerous voluntary and obligatory sacrifices commanded in the Bible.
The Temple Institute, which has already built many of the vessels for the Holy Temple, such as the ark and the menorah, has now embarked on a project to build the altar. Construction begins Thursday in Mitzpe Yericho (east of Jerusalem) at 5:30 p.m.
“Unfortunately, we cannot currently build the altar in its proper place, on the Temple Mount,” Temple Institute director Yehudah Glick said. “We are building an altar of the minimum possible size so that we will be able to transport it to the Temple when it is rebuilt."
Even a minimum size altar will work out to be approximately 2 meters tall, 1 meter long, and 1 meter wide. Workers have collected around 10 cubic meters of rocks weighing several tons already.
The rocks were gathered from the Dead Sea area and wrapped individually to assure they remain whole and are not touched by metal, as the Bible requires.
“The Torah says that no iron tools should be used on the altar’s stones,” Glick explained. “The altar represents a connection to life and to the creation of the world. Iron is the opposite – it is used to build tools of war, death, and destruction.”
The stones will be cemented together with a mixture of sand, clay, tar, and asphalt. Researchers from the Temple Institute visited the Finish glass factory near Yerucham to learn how to create a mixture which would remain as cool as possible under the altar’s unremitting fires and protect the Kohanim, who always worked in the Temple barefoot.
Glick said that Tisha B’av, a day associated with mourning, is really the ideal time to begin to build the Temple. “People mistakenly think Tisha B’av is only a day to cry,” he explained. “It also has to be a day of action. We have the ability in our era to begin the construction of the Temple."
“There are many positive developments recently with regard to the Temple,” Glick added. “Hundreds of Jews visited the Temple Mount this week, and more and more continue to come, after undergoing the requisite ritual immersion.”
The Temple Institute is searching for donations to help build the altar, which will cost around NIS 100,000 (approximately $26,000).