When studying aspects of the Beis Hamikdash, I have been intrigued by the differences between the Beis Hamikdash in Jerusalem, either first or second, and the Mishkan mentioned in the Torah. On one level, the differences were only a matter of scale; the Beis Hamikdash was a much larger structure. But both the Mishkan and the Mikdash had an outer Mizbeach (Altar); a Kodesh room that had a Bread Table, a Menorah and an incense altar; a Kodesh HaKodoshim (Holy of Holies) that the Cohen Gadol entered on Yom Kippur.
There was one big difference between the two, and that is a room called the Ulam, in Hebrew, really just a large Hall, that precedes the entrance into the Kodesh. Functionally it added nothing. Instead of the Torah’s Mishkan building which had two chambers, the Beis Hamikdash had three chambers; the previous two, and the Ulam, the Entrance Hall, with huge doors leading from the outside, and huge doors opening into the Kodesh.
The Ulam is considered such an integral part of the Mikdash structure that the Rambam lists it as a part of the Mitzvah to build a Beis Hamikdash. Also, there is a prohibition against building a structure with the same dimensions as the Beis Hamikdash, and those dimensions include a Kodesh Hakodoshim, a Kodesh, and an Ulam. It is a fascinating that there is this addition which is considered the essential component though it was absent in the original prototype.
I have researched this and found no sources that address my fascination. However, I have drawn my own tentative conclusions about the meaning to be gleaned from this added feature. I share them with you.
The core difference between the Mishkan and the Mikdash is this: The Mishkan was in its very purpose a temporary and movable structure; while the Mikdash possessed by definition the grandeur of permanence and fixed location. The Mishkan has Hashem going with us on the road. The Mikdash has us approaching Hashem in His Palace. The Mikdash has a holiness of Location that exists even without the presence of the Aron.
That higher Kedusha of the Permanent Mikdash requires a greater measure of Hachana, preparation. And when dealing with location, preparation requires a preparatory space. In the numerous levels of Kedusha that existed in the Mikdash, the Ulam didn’t even have its own distinct level of kedusha separate from the Kodesh. Yet it existed a separate space that in its grandeur prepared one to enter the Sanctum.
The relevance of this setup to the Holiness in our own lives is that we contemplate adding a layer of that Ulam to our holy endeavors. We can do this on Friday afternoons, on Erev YomTov, before we see our children in the afternoons, before we see our spouses for the first time of the day since the morning…