Second Temple

The historical importance and practical history of rebuilding ancient Judaism's sacred center.

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The returnees constructed their altar on the site of the altar of the First Temple. The Temple building was of hewn stone, with wooden beams reinforcing the walls from within. The Temple itself was 60 cubits (approximately 90 feet) high. The Holy of Holies was empty, as there was no ark and no cherubim.

The construction was completed in 515 B.C.E., and the rede­dication was celebrated amidst great pomp and ceremony. After twenty years of effort, sacrificial worship could now take place in accordance with the rules laid down by the codes of the Torah. The Temple would stand as rebuilt by Zerubbabel until the Hasmonean period. While substantial refurbishing was under­taken by Simon ben Yohanan (Simon the Just) c. 200 B.C.E., he did not modify the basic structure. (Herod the Great would substantially refurbish the Temple starting in 20/19 B.C. E.) The returnees to Zion had fulfilled their dream; God's house had been rebuilt and He would continue to dwell in their midst.

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Lawrence H. Schiffman

Lawrence H. Schiffman is the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Yeshiva University.