At the Temple, people could bring money, vessels, brass, gems, silver and gold and it was put into the Temple treasury. You could do it where you are acknowledged for the gift, and you could also give anonymously by going to a certain room in the treasury and leaving the gift inside the room. The priests would separate out what was needed for the Temple, like cups, bowls and other vessels. Whatever was left over is sold and the money was put in the treasury, to be used for upkeep and the poor. The leaves of this vine in the Ulam were such gifts, and if a priest was in need they could be used to help them. Yeshua may have had this golden vine in mind when he talked about the vine and the branches in John 15.
So, a person going to Jerusalem would try to bring “dedicated gifts” for the Temple. Also, you would try to set aside some money to give to the poor and needy in Jerusalem when you came. This was seen as an opportunity, bot an obligation. Part of the observance of a festival involved alms. Now, back to the facade of the Temple.
Once you went through the Ulam, you came to the front of the Temple itself. It was very ornate and you had four windows above the doorway. These windows were not designed to let light in, they were already inside the Ulam, which is basically a building in and of itself. They were designed to “let the light out.” The true light of the world was seen as being inside the Sanctuary, going out to the rest of the world.
When you came through the Ulam to the Sanctuary door, there was a parochet, or curtain. This curtain had four colors: scarlet, or “tolat shanni.” Both words mean scarlet or crimson but they are made from two different worms which produced a color that looks like blood. Both are used in this curtain. Isa 1.18 uses this to allude to our sins being as “scarlet” (shanni) and “red like crimson” (tola). The next color was “shesh” which was a light brown, linen color. Techelet is blue made from a snail and the last color was argamon, which was purple, also made from a snail. The scarlet also symbolized “fire and the shesh represented the earth that produced the fiber for linen. Techelet symbolized the “air” or the “heavens.” The argamon symbolized the “sea.”
This curtain is described in Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 5, Chapter 5, Paragraph 4 where it says, “As to the holy house itself, which was placed in the midst of the inmost court, that most sacred part of the temple, it was ascended to by twelve steps (he is talking about the Sanctuary); and in front of its height and breadth were equal, and each a 100 cubits (172.25 feet), though it was behind 40 cubits (68.9 feet) narrower; for on its front it had what may be styled shoulders on each side, that passed 20 cubits farther. It first gate was 70 cubits (120.575 feet) high and 25 cubits (43 feet) broad; but this gate had no doors; for it represented the universal visibility of heaven, and that it cannot be excluded from any place. Its front was covered with gold all over, and through it the first part of the house, that was more inward did all of it appear; which, as it was very large, so did all the parts about the more inward gate appear to shine to those that saw them; but then, as the entire house was divided into two parts within, it was only the first part of it that was open to our view. Its height extended all along to 90 cubits (155.02 feet) in height, and its length was 50 cubits (86.1 feet), and its breadth 20 cubits (34.45 feet); but that gate which was at this end of the first part of the house was, as we have already observed, all over covered with gold, as was its whole wall about it; it had also golden vines above it, from which clusters of grapes hung as tall as a man’s height; but then this house, as it was divided into two parts, the inner part was lower than the appearance of the outer, and it had golden doors of 55 cubits (94.7 feet) altitude, and 16 cubits (27.6) in breadth; but before these doors there was a veil of equal largeness with the doors. It was a Babylonian curtain, embroidered with blue (techelet), and fine linen (shesh), and scarlet (tolat shanni), and purple (argamon), and of a contexture that was truly wonderful. Nor was this mixture of colors without its mystical interpretation, but it was a kind of image of the universe, for by the scarlet there seemed to be enigmatically signified by fire, by the fine flax the earth, by the blue the air, and by the purple the sea; two of them having their colors the foundation of this resemblance; but the fine flax and the purple have their own origin for that foundation, the earth producing the one, and the sea the other. This curtain had also embroidered upon it all that was mystical in the heavens, excepting that of the 12 signs, representing living creatures.” We will have more on these “12 signs” later.
Now, the term “the heavens were opened” is an idiom for a “deeper revelation is being revealed and will now be understood” and it alludes to this veil in the Temple. It was this veil that was torn when Yeshua was crucified. In turn, to be a “doorman in the house of the Lord” is a term and idiom meaning that he is the one who can open up to the people the deeper things of God.
As you come to the door of the Heichal, the first thing you encounter is this curtain. Then there was the paneled doors called the Great Gate, half folding to your right and the other folding to the left. They were big doors, and when they were opened in the morning they made a loud sound, and this was the signal for the priests to slaughter the Tamid lamb. In the Hellenistic period, before Herod, this veil hung on a long golden rod concealed in a wooden beam. In 53 BC, this beam was given to the priest responsible for the veils (an appointed office) and that priest gave the rod to the Roman Crassus, the governor of Syria. He was the one who put down the Spartacus rebellion. He was Consul of the Roman Republic with Pompey the Great, who joined with Julius Caesar to form an unofficial political alliance called a “triumvirate.” Crassus disliked Pompey, and Pompey grew jealous of Julius Caesar’s victories in Gaul. Crassus used Syria as a launching pad to come against Parthia, but was killed in battle. His death unraveled the triumvirate, and Caesar came after Pompey in a civil war, where Caesar emerged victorious. This beam was given to Crassus to keep him from looting the Temple.
In front of the veil, there was a golden lamp hanging down. This lamp was a gift from Queen Helena of Adiabene, which is somewhere in northern Iraq, who converted to Judaism and built a palace in Jerusalem. She made several donations to the Temple. There were two tables as you entered the Great Gate. ON the right there was a marble table and on the left there was a golden table. These were used when changing the 12 Lechem ha Pannim on the Sabbath. So, you came to the two tables, then the huge veil with the heavens on it, then you came to the Great Gate, with folding doors.
In Part 3, we are going to begin with going back to the windows over the Great Gate and the veil being open, and pick up some additional information. Then we will be going into the Heichal itself.