It has been an impression of many Christians that within the Temple of Solomon the only curtain was a large curtain that separated the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. In fact though, in the Wilderness Sanctuary, we have mention of several places in which curtains, veils or screens were used in the Tabernacle.
The Curtains that Covered the Tabernacle
Ten curtains made of fine linen, which were twenty-eight cubits long and four cubits wide covered the tabernacle. Also there were eleven curtain coverings that were made of goat’s hair. Using the ancient computation of 21.888 inches for the sacred cubit, would put the length of the cherubim embroidered curtains as 51.1 feet long and 72.9 feet wide.
Yet in some ancient calculations, the cubits were 18 inches. This would make the covering 42 feet by 30 feet.
The Coverings of the Tabernacle by J. Rouw
Exodus 26:1-13 - “Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine woven linen and blue, purple, and scarlet thread; with artistic designs of cherubim you shall weave them. The length of each curtain shall be twenty-eight cubits, and the width of each curtain four cubits. And every one of the curtains shall have the same measurements.
“Five curtains shall be coupled to one another and the other five curtains shall be coupled to one another. And you shall make loops of blue yarn on the edge of the curtain on the selvedge of one set, and likewise you shall do on the outer edge of the other curtain of the second set.
“Fifty loops you shall make in the one curtain and fifty loops you shall make on the edge of the curtain that is on the end of the second set, that the loops may be clasped to one another. And you shall make fifty clasps of gold, and couple the curtains together with the clasps, so that it may be one tabernacle.
“You shall also make curtains of goat’s hair, to be at tent over the tabernacle. You shall make eleven curtains. The length of each curtain shall be thirty cubits, and the width of each curtain four cubits; and the eleven curtains shall all have the same measurements.
“And you shall couple five curtains by themselves and six curtains by themselves, and you shall double over the sixth curtain at the forefront of the tent.
“You shall make fifty loops on the edge of the curtain that is outermost in one set, and fifty loops on the edge of the curtains of the second set. And you shall make fifty bronze clasps, put the clasps into the loops, and couple the tent together, that it may be one.
“The remnant that remains of the curtains of the tent, the half curtain that remains, shall hang over the back of the tabernacle. And a cubit on one side and a cubit on the other side, of what remains of the length of the curtains of the tent, shall hang over the sided of the tabernacle on this side and on that side, to cover it.
“You shall also make a covering of ram skins dyed red for the tent, and a covering of badger skins above that.”
On the outside, the Sanctuary of the Dwelling did not have the appearance of a glorious canopied temple. It was plain, simple and drab. The layers over the Tabernacle had literal and the literal then opened up the mystical meanings of this canopied temples. The outer layer, tachash is translated in the NKJV as badger skin but in the NEB as porpoise skin. It was to be used as a protective and weather proof covering and hid the real beauty of the Tabernacle within. In the New Covenant, Jesus is the representation of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. Contrary to modern artistic renderings of Yeshua as young, handsome, muscular, long hair and with a perfect physique, we have to closely reevaluate the prophetic literal image given by Isaiah six hundred years earlier.
Isaiah 53:2 - “For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.”
As the monotonous covering on the Tabernacle with a non-descript exterior, so the literal Jesus was probably not attractive on his physical exterior being.
The second layer on the Tabernacle was a Ram’s skin dyed as the red color of blood. As noted in Shemot 29:1 and B’resheet 22:13, the blood of the sacrificial ram at the Day of Atonement was all centered around the atonement of man and his redemption back to his Heavenly Father.
The third layer of curtains over the Mishkhan (Sanctuary) was a woven ram’s skin called the Ohel. This ram that was slain on the Day of Atonement was a shadow picture of the future Pesach (Passover) Lamb of God. With the ministry of Jesus as our High Priest in the Heavenly Tabernacle at the time of the end, we can see fully that He now covers us with His righteousness and with his blood we are saved.
We now reach the fourth dimension. Over the ceiling of the Tabernacle was the inner and fourth layer of the Wilderness Tabernacle. The literal imagery was also a guide to the mystical as our spiritual eyes would be opened to the other-dimensional world of the ministering angels that protect, guard and minister to the saints and the chosen ones of Israel. The curtains of the tabernacle were representative of the heavens in their multi-dimensional sphere from the Throne of God to the literal and physical earth on our planet. This covering was richly embroidered with angelic scenes of cherubim, those majestic beings that transported the Lord of hosts as a mysterious living transport vehicle.
The ten strips of cloths also had mystical meanings as they represented the ten emanations of the Creator God, who is the Keter (King) or the Crown of the World of the Divine. Here is the Sefirot (Image) of the Divine, the archetype of the Image of God in which Adam was created. Here is the portrayal of the angelic hosts ministering in the heavenly tabernacle before the Throne of God which sat upon four cherubim.
The Sacred Veil or Curtain that separated the Holy of Holiest
This curtain was called the sacred curtain or peroketh in Hebrew. This large veil, representing the Daat (Veil) in the Sefirot of the World of the Divine, which was a inter-dimensional veil that shielded the Unseen, Unfathomable Lord of hosts from the rest of His creation. In the Torah, it was described as a “veil of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work” which separated the Holy of Holiest, the Kodesh Hakadashim, from the rest of the Temple. Here we see the veil that was hung on four pillars like the Throne of God which rested on four cherubim.
Exodus 26:31 - “You shall make a veil woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen. It shall be woven with an artistic design of cherubim. You shall hang it upon the four pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold. Their hooks shall be gold, upon four sockets of silver. And you shall hang the veil from the clasps.
“Then you shall bring the ark of the Testimony in there, behind the veil. The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place the Most Holy. You shall put the mercy seat upon the ark of the Testimony in the Most Holy.”
It took some trial and error to begin to comprehend the seriousness of what it meant to come before the presence of the Lord. There is God’s way and then there is also man’s way. The Lord of hosts had made it clear that He was the only one that could dictate how He was to be worshipped. His instructions were clear, specific, and meticulous for these instructions were also a pathway to illumination and insight of the universal reality beyond the three dimensions of man.
Numbers 18:7 - “Therefore you and your sons with you shall attend to your priesthood for everything at the altar and behind the veil you (the high priest) shall serve.”
Yet, Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron each took their censer, put fire in it and offered this profane fire before the Lord. Directly against the commands of the Lord, they also entered the veil into the Holy of Holiest and a bolt of fire came ‘out from the Lord’ and they were incinerated. (Leviticus 10:1-9)
What was profane fire? According to rabbinic sources, the fire of the Lord that was used in the sanctuary and temple service was an interdimensional, cosmic or sacred fire. It was not provided to High Priest from common and ordinary sources.
What is of interest is right after this episode of violating the commands of the Lord, the Lord of hosts again spoke to Aaron:
Leviticus 10:8-10 - “Do not drink
wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into
the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever
throughout your generations, that you may distinguish between holy and
unholy, and between unclean and clean, and that you may teach the children
of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken to them by the hand
Nadab and Abihu sought to change the temple services according to their own desires. Maybe it was easier and more efficient, to obtain ordinary from a local campfire than wait for the Lord to provide. Maybe though it was a direct assault upon the prerogative of the Lord of hosts to dictate the minute details of the rituals. What scientists within the camp of the Israelites would know the difference between ordinary or profane fire and sacred fire? They looked the same and had the same combustible power.
Even more so, the priests and eventually all Israel who were in training to also be priests unto the Lord had to learn between clean and unclean, holy and unholy, sacred and profane. Wine or intoxicating drink came under this injunction and also clean and unclean meats plus the prohibitions of the contamination and use of blood with the whole discourse on gourmet kosher cooking. From every appearance, Nadab and Abihu were also intoxicated when they offered this profane. Their judgment was clouded, their capacity to use their God-given power of choice, the power to think and to do, was corrupted.
The Lord of hosts then gave this message to Aaron:
Leviticus 10:3 - “By those who come near Me, I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people, I must be glorified.”
This pattern of instruction and rebellion, doing something according to the way of Jehovah or according to our own personal reasoning and desires began at Eden at the foot of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This pattern was repeated with Cain and Abel to disastrous consequences. We see it in the HaSatan wooing a third of the angelic hosts away from the Throne of God in his subtle yet rebellious spirit against Yahweh Himself. This was a direct revolt against the sovereign Power of the Lord of hosts. We see it at the Tower of Babel and we will soon see it in tribulation and at Armageddon. When the Lord of hosts commanded, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me”, He was saying “Trust Me, I come from Eternity and I know what I am doing.”
This spirit of rebellion usually comes in such innocent terms in our bid to ‘help’ God out. Maybe God’s directives appeared to be a little old fashion and not fresh for the needs of our society. We sometimes seem to make God appear to be so pitiful, He doesn’t ‘get it’. Surely we would think, I am just coming out of a recent certification for spiritual worship enhancement and now I can really help the Lord. There is a bit of Nadab and Abihu in most of us. Yet there is no such thing as innocent rebellion. Rebellion means death, literally and physically plus also spiritual death.
With this profound event fresh in their minds the Lord again spoke.
Leviticus 16:2 - “Now the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered profane fire before the Lord, and died: and the Lord said to Moses: “Tell Aaron you brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.”’
“Thus Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with the blood of a young bull as a sin offering, and of a ram as a burnt offering. He shall put the holy linen tunic and the linen trouser on his body; he shall be girded with a linen sash, and with the linen turban he shall be attired. These are holy garments. Therefore he shall wash his body in water, and put them on…”
After this the High Priest returned to the Holy Place for the blood of the ram that was selected by lot, or in essence with the use of the Urim and the Thummim. The High Priest then returned into the Holy of Holiest with the blood of the ram to be used as atonement for all the congregation of Israel.
Note first that the High Priest has to offer the sin offering of the young bullock, not for Israel, but for himself and for his family. As intercessors to the Lord of hosts for the children of Israel, they were to be holy, blameless and sinless. Yet they also were human, so the blood of the young bullock would have been a substitution sin offering so the High Priest could later return before the presence of the Lord of hosts as an intercessor for his people.
The Sacred Veil that was made for the Temple of Solomon, according to rabbinic sources was actually made by using layering many sheets of linen until there was a curtain thickness of over three feet. On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest, when he entered the Most Holy Place, he had to blindly navigate through this maze with the censor with smoking incense in one hand and the blood in the bowl in the other hand. As his world became darker and darker, he soon found himself standing in the presence of the Lord in complete darkness. Without any sensory sight to help him, standing in the presence of the Lord would have been very disorientating. He had to lean on faith and trust explicitly on the Lord to shield and protect him, for to touch the ark of the Lord would mean instant death. This was very much like the spiritual maze of the mystic whose mind ascends mentally to the throne of the Lord.
This is also the pathway of the saint, beseeching the Lord of hosts every moment of his life to guide and direct in his life, his actions, his conduct with his family and his conduct in his work. Then the Lord of hosts said, “I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat”
On the Day of Atonement, the services conducted in both the Holy and the Most Holy Place were to be done by the High Priest alone. No other priests were to be within the sacred premises. First the High Priest had to offer sacrifices of atonement for himself and his family. This was the sin offering of the bullock. With the blood of the young bullock, the High Priest would then enter the Holy of Holiest sprinkle the blood upon the mercy seat and then seven times before the ark of the testimony.
There is one legend that the high priest had a rope placed around his leg and if he were to die in the Holy or the Most Holy Place, his body could be dragged out with the rope. Yet, if the priest died while in the HOLY of HOLIES, having a rope to pull the high priest out would be impossible, according to some scholars. You could only drag out the priest if he died in the Holy place. To our best understanding, the way the curtains of the temple were designed, the priest could not have been dragged out of the HOLY of HOLIES, or at best it would have been very difficult.
Part of this legend comes from the text in Exodus which discusses the use of the bells with the colored pomegranates on the hem of the High Priest’s blue tunic during his ministry in the temple.
Exodus 28:33-35 - “And upon its hem you shall make pomegranate of blue, purple and scarlet, all around its hem and bells of gold between them all around: a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe all around.”
And it (bells) shall be upon Aaron when he ministers, and its sound will be heard when he goes into the holy place before the Lord and when he comes out, that he may not die.”
The High Priest worked alone in the ministry in the temple during the Day of Atonement at Yom Kippur. The ministering priests could not be in the House of the Lord when the High Priest first made atonement for himself and his family and then made atonement for all of Israel. Within the enclosed Sanctuary, only the bell on the hem of his robe would testify to the movement of the High Priest and that to that moment, his ministry was acceptable to the Lord of hosts. That this day is representative the Final Judgment at the Great and Awe-full Day of the Lord before Jesus’ return is remarkably clear.
The Screen-Curtain at the Entrance to the Sanctuary
Exodus 26:36 - “You shall make a screen for the door of the tabernacle, woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, made by a weaver.
And you shall make for the screen five pillars of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold; their hooks shall be gold, and you shall cast five sockets of bronze for them.”
Then at the entrance of the tabernacle was to be placed a screened entrance with a delicate and colorful weaving of woolen thread through the semi-shear fine woven linen screen. This was not to be a veil. It was not to hide anything but to denote a barrier of sanctity and mystery. As the ‘veil’ on the interior that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place was to hang on four gold covered acacia pillars, the screen would hang on five gold covered acacia wood pillars at the entrance to the Sanctuary.
The Cosmic Curtain that covered the Sanctuary
Within all of scriptures are layers of symbolism woven upon layers of literal facts and objects. The Cosmic Curtain is possibly one of the best representations of such facts.
The Wilderness Sanctuary was covered by a curtain beautifully woven with angelic beings called cherubim in blue, purple and red colors. This Sanctuary was symbolic of this planet earth in which the heavens and the universe beyond are spread out like a curtain throughout the outer reaches of space. Only in the modern space era and the Hubble Telescope can we begin to comprehend the literal accuracy of this text and the blend of its literalism with its symbolism in the Wilderness Tabernacle.
Isaiah 40:22 - “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers. Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.”
On top of the Sacred Curtain, the symbolism in the Bible as depicted by the ancient prophets, the heavens of the Lord were spread over our heads like an awning, very much like the sun screens that were used over the Oriental courts. According to the cosmologist prophet Isaiah, the Lord “stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain.”, yet according to Job, this heaven is the habitations of the stars, galaxies and other solar systems in the universe.
Job 9:8 - “He alone spreads out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea; He made the Bear (Big Dipper), Orion and the Pleiades, and the chambers of the south; He does great things past finding out, yes, wonders without number. If he goes by me, I do not see Him; If He moves past, I do not perceive Him; If He takes away, who can hinder Him? Who can say to Him, “What are you doing?”
For those who wonder about the nature of the Image of God that radiated and glorified the body of Adam and Eve, might consider the Image of God by the psalmist. While the garments of the Lord of hosts might be the Glory of the Lord as a garment of light, so also it is He who as the Creator God stretched out the universe like a curtain.
Psalms 104:1-2 - “Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, You are very great; You are clothed with honor and majesty, Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain.
He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters, Who make the clouds His chariot, Who walks on the wings of the wind, Who make His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire.”
Though this clue is not direct and specific, the lack of information on the ceilings of the temple has led some to speculate that the Temple was open at the top. Even in a dry climate, which Jerusalem today is not totally dry, the Mishkhan or the Wilderness of the Congregation was not open at the top, but was covered by multi-layered layers of curtains and skins. This would suggest that the ceiling of the Temple of Solomon was covered and enclosed with multi-layers of curtains and it was these curtains that ‘stretcheth out the heavens’. Maybe this curtained ceiling of the Temple of Solomon was seven golden curtains with 12 talents or 900 pounds of gold.
There has been a renewed interest in the death of Jesus (Yeshua) and the increased evidence that this death occurred on the top of the Mount of Olives in exact fulfillment of the sacrifice of the Red Heifer at the Miphkad Altar. The evidence for such a location is that the visibility of Herod’s Temple from a spectators viewpoint like on top of an outdoor amphitheater on the side of the Mount of Olives, is that the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place would have been visible looking down upon the Temple.
Understanding that from the base of the Temple Wall that surrounding the Temple at the base of the Kidron Valley to the top of the temple was like an imposing twenty story skyscraper. Even so from this advantage point from the Mount of Olives, the witnesses who witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus (Yeshua) as the crossbeam which held his arms was wrapped and hoisted on a tree at the summit, so also these witnesses a few hours later observed as his spirit gave up the ‘ghost’, a mighty earthquake occurred and rent the sacred veil or the peroketh that shielded the entrance to the Most Holy Place. The empty chamber was exposed for the world to witness. The Lord of hosts had left His Holy Chamber.
Here in the Mishnah we have seven golden curtains made from twelve talents, or 900 pounds of gold woven in the curtains.
In ancient times the process of going deep into oneself during ritual, meditation or contemplation was called ‘going down in the Chariot’. This action simultaneously precipitated the rising up out of the three dimensional physical world mentally and through what were called the seven lower or lesser Halls of the psyche.
The Ten Emanations of the Sefirot of the Creation of God
These steps comprised an awareness of the body. In the creation that was called the World of Formation, was the life of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Here they were ‘light-beings’ reflecting the Glory of God. This world of creation was called Yezirah.
As the Shekhinah was grounded in the angelic and the world of Adam, so also the “image” of Adam was grounded in the three dimensional world of the animals, birds and trees around him, yet he was not limited to their three dimensional perspective.
The Lord of hosts when He enters this three dimensional world is recognized as the Shekinah Glory and the Pillar of Fire. This is the last of the emanations of the Lord of hosts as it is called the Kingdom or the Malkhut. So Adam with his physical body with all of its sensory organs was grounded also in the Kingdom, also called Malkhut, of the three dimensional animal world around him.
Yet when the mystic begins to rise into the consciousness of the Divine, he must first be intimately aware his body as a sensory being. True awareness of the Lord of hosts does not deny or abrogate that we have physical bodies. Unlike Plato and the Greek philosophy that the body is the prison of the soul that permeates most of the churches of Christendom today, the Hebrew believed that the body was a vessel that houses a ‘spark of the Divine’.
The Image of God (Tree of Life) as spiritually seen in man as part of the Creations of God.
The ascent of the mystic begins in the base or beginning of the Yeziratic World of Formation, the creation of Adam. This is the ‘Kingdom of God’ and is known as Malkhut. The world of creation that Adam met the animals in the Garden of Eden is where man today begins his spiritual ascent to understand the Glory of God. Then the spiritual saint whose mind is ascending to spiritual realms must first conquer and pass over the physical and sensory state of the ordinary ego of man which in Hebrew is called Yesod (Subconscious), Hod (Feelings), and Nezah (Thoughts), then through the Tiferet which was a condition state of spiritual awakening
The mystic then entered the consciousness of the soul triad, the Tiferet (Heart), Din (Will) and Hesed (Love). He then entered into the spiritual and Divine triads at the Crown of the Yeziratic Tree, the Binah (Understanding or Spiritual Love or Awareness), Hokhmah (Wisdom or Spiritual Will and Purpose) and Keter (Kingship or the Crown of the Human Psychic).
This then prepared the mystic to enter into the seven greater Halls of the Beriatic World, the world of the spirit angelic beings. In these ordered and disciplined progressive stages, mystical sages entered and experienced the World of Creation while still living in a human body. He could witness the panorama of the Heavens and their inhabitants just like Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. Such an inner journey, however, is fraught with hazard for the immature, the emotionally unbalanced and those wrongly motivated.
The Human Dimensions of the Image of God
There is an ancient account of four rabbis who entered the World of pure spirit and is often given as a warning against unprepared excursions into the realms of Heaven. The first died, the second went mad, and the third became a disbeliever. Only the fourth, Rabbi Akiba, came back safely to tell of what he saw. What follows is a précis of this experience.
In the first Hall or the First Heaven, which corresponds to the Kingdom of Creation or the spiritual aspect of the self, Akiba said that he was in a state of hasid (pure) devotion. Here, where what is called the Vilon, the Veil of Heaven, it rolled away, he entered the World of pure spirit. This is not unlike John the Revelator when he sees the windows of heaven open and he is carried into another dimension.
From this place where angels and humans may converse he rose in Tahor, a state of purity, to the second Heavenly Hall, called Rakiyah or the Firmament, where the great archangel Gabriel is said to reside. Here in the Yesod, the Foundation of Creation, in the World of the Spirit Beings, the Archangels and the Heavenly hosts. This is the level where the signs of Heaven are revealed to the prophets. It is also the place of the Holy Spirit in man and corresponds to Daat, the non-sefirah of Knowledge in his psyche.
The third Hall or the Third Heaven is called Shehakim, the Skies, and here in a condition of Yashar, sincerity, Akiba entered into the Third Heaven , where it is stated that ‘the millstones of the Universe slowly turn to grind out Time.’
Rabbi Akiba then raised to the fourth Hall or the Fourth Heaven, where he came in direct contact with the Divine in a situation of Tamim or wholeness. This is the place where the three upper Worlds meet, as the Tiferets of Beriah, the World of the Spirit Beings and the Malkhut of Azilut, the Kingdom of the Divine, touch the Keter of Yezirah, the Crown of the human psyche. At this level, occupied by the great archangel Michael is the Heavenly Jerusalem and its Temple. This heaven is called Zebel. When John saw again the heavens open and he envisions the Temple in heaven, he was witnessing the fourth heaven. It is here where Michael the archangel stands up to fight the dragon, because this is where Michael resides. These spiritual battles are being fought at the very entrance to the Temple of heaven.
Passing beyond the normal limits of the human psyche, because he had developed a stable spiritual vehicle, Rabbi Akiba entered the fifth Hall or the Fifth Heaven, called Maon, or Dwelling, where he encountered the great archangelic guardians Samael and Zadkiel, in front of whom he had to speak the Kedushah prayer of sanctification, Holy! Holy! Holy! (Kedush, Kedush, Kedush) To demonstrate his holiness before he could pass on to the sixth Hall or the Sixth Heaven of Makom or the Omnipresent, where he came into the company of the highest created beings before the celestial Throne, the very Throne Room of the Almighty.
Here he sang with the heavenly choir the praises of God, into Whose Presence he came when he ascended into the Seventh Heaven the Great Hall of the Arabot. Here Rabbi Akiba stood ‘erect, holding his balance with all his might’ as he trembled before his Creator.
Akiba then descended safely out of the Presence of the Divine, down through the seven states of the spirit into the seven lesser Halls or levels of the psyche, and back into the body, because he was well-grounded in ordinary life. (Taken from Z’es ben Shimon Halevi, Kabbalah, Tradition of hidden knowledge, Thames and Hudson, 1979, p. 26-27)
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