If you're planning a visit to Jerusalem, it's a must to visit the model of the Second Temple at the Holyland Hotel in Bayit Vegan. Occupying one-quarter of an acre and at a scale of 1:50, the model is an impressive sight.
But if you can't make it to the Holy Land anytime soon, then the Scottish Rite Auditorium in Midtown Los Angeles offers the next best thing. Tucked away on the second floor in a self-contained room stands a replica of the Second Temple, painstakingly built on a 1:100 scale by Jerusalem artist Rabbi Shalom Ifergan.
The model has been on exhibit at the auditorium since May 2004, following an extended display at various synagogues in New York. To date, it's the only portable model of its kind and has been viewed by thousands throughout Israel and the United States.
Constructed according to King Herod's renovations of the Second Temple, Ifergan's miniature masterpiece is built out of marble, and ceramic tiles -- the same materials used to build the Temple.
Prior to viewing the model, there is a 20-minute video outlining the history of the Israelites exodus from Egypt through the construction and destruction of both the First and Second Temples.
The model of the Temple is marked with 15 numbers, and an audio guide explains each of the 15 sections, including the women's section -- a raised separate area of 270 square feet entered by external stairs.
Other interesting details of the model include the 15 steps representing the 15 Shir Hama'alot ("Song of Ascension") psalms, and the chamber used to prepare the oil to light the menorah. It also doubled as the chamber used for treading the grapes to make wine. There was also a separate "bread chamber," where the 12 ceremonial challot were placed.
Because the Western Wall was not a part of the actual Temple, but a wall surrounding it, Ifergan did not attempt to build a model of it. Instead, he placed the Temple model on a podium, approximately simulating the perimeter of the wall.
Not content with simply reconstructing the Temple itself, Ifergan designed a separate display situated on tables along the walls of the room. Among them is a miniature model of the Holy of Holies, housing a represtation of the nearly 23-foot-tall cherubim, whom the high priest would consult for any signs of prophetic messages.
Also on display are the robes worn by the kohen gadol, vessels used in the temple, a Noah's ark model and perhaps the most impressive part of the exhibit -- the opulent throne of King Solomon. Built more than a yard square, it displays golden lions on either side of King Solomon's throne and a golden eagle towering above.
Situated as it is in a vast room at the Scottish Rite Auditorium, the model appears somewhat dwarfed by its surroundings. As such, it doesn't inspire the sense of awe one would expect in seeing such an exhibit.
The 10-minute audio guide provides little more than basic information, which is somewhat disappointing if you're looking for more in-depth details about life in the Temple, which was both the religious and social nexus of Jewish life at the time. The additional side displays also provide little information beyond a simple tag stating what the particular object is.
Nonetheless, the intricate detail of the model and Ifergan's painstaking work is a sight to behold and definitely worth the $5 entrance price.
Viewing of the model is available Sunday-Friday at 10 a.m. and 12, 2 and 4 p.m. For bookings, call the Scottish Rite Auditorium, 4357 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, (323) 930-9806.