Askmoses-A Jews Resource
What happens if someone was cremated against their will?
Browse our archives

The Scholar is ready to answer your question. Click the button below to chat now.


Scholar Online:

Type in your question here:

Perceptions of the Shamir in Three Dimensions - Midrash, History, and Theory

by Professor Pesach Goldstein

  

Library » History » The Holy Temples | Subscribe | What is RSS?


PRINT EMAIL COMMENT

Although by definition miracles do not have to be explained as scientifically observable phenomena, the miraculous shamir which cut the stones for King Solomon's Temple matches the description of alpha radiation. It is the dream of all Jews to assist in building the Third (and final) Temple. To do so, the stones must be carved. But would we be doing this in the same way as King Solomon did, or would we just be building an edifice? An essential element in Solomon's construction of the Temple was the miraculous shamir stonecutter.

In instructing us how to make the permanent altar to G-d, the Torah says, "do not build it out of cut stone" (Exodus 20:22). Rashi comments on this verse that iron, the material of deadly weapons, should not be used to shape the stones of the Temple, the essence of which is peace.

The Nature of the Shamir

The shamir (from shamira in Aramaic, meaning "like a flint stone") was a supernatural organism. The word "shamir" in biblical Hebrew was used in two senses:

  • a penpoint made out of a hard substance (Jeremiah 17:1);
  • sharp thorns (Isaiah 5:6).

Each usage relates to the ability of the shamir to pierce hard surfaces. The "glance" of the supernatural shamir could carve great stones. The Talmud and later great rabbis described how the passage of the shamir along the surface of a stone would cause it to split perfectly into two pieces.

Was the shamir mineral, plant, or animal? In an Abyssinian legend the shamir is supposed to have been a kind of wood or herb. Maimonides, however, and Rashi, considered it to be a living animal. The Talmud says that the "glance" of a living creature caused wood and stone to split. The Testament of Solomon, however, regards the shamir as a green stone perhaps similar to the pitda set in the High Priest's breastplate representing the tribe of Shimon.

Small as a barleycorn (less than one centimeter), the shamir did not have an inspiring physical appearance. Its supernatural essence came from having been created at the twilight of the first Sabbath Eve during the Six Days of Creation.

The shamir was first used at the time of the construction of the Tabernacle to engrave the names of the tribes on the precious jewels of the High Priest's breastplate.

For safekeeping, the shamir could not be put directly into any kind of metal vessel, including iron, which would be split apart. It was kept wrapped in wool, placed in a lead basket filled with barley bran. The choice of these materials was specific, since no other materials were able to resist its penetrative powers.

The rulers of the Canaanites and other nations realized the value of the shamir, but they were never able to locate it. The Midrash recounts that even King Solomon had no idea where to find the shamir, although he knew that he needed it to build the Temple. Solomon went to great lengths to obtain the shamir, even to the point of contacting demons. Also created at the twilight of the Sabbath Eve of the Six Days of Creation, these beings had some relationship with the shamir and the other supernatural phenomena created at this exceptional twilight.


ADD A COMMENT

Please email me when new comments are posted (you must be  logged in).
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Maimonides
Moses son of Maimon, born in Spain in 1135, died in Egypt in 1204. Noted philosopher and authority on Jewish law. Also was an accomplished physician and was the personal doctor for members of the Egyptian royalty. Interred in Tiberius, Israel.
Kosher
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
Rashi
Acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105). Legendary French scholar who authored the fundemental and widely accepted "Rashi commentary" on the entire Bible and Talmud.
Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Abraham
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
Midrash
(Pl. Midrashim). Non-legal material of anecdotal or allegorical nature, designed either to clarify historical material, or to teach a moral point. The Midrashim were compiled by the sages who authored the Mishna and Talmud (200 BCE-500 CE).
Isaac
Second of the three Jewish Patriarchs, son of Abraham and Sarah. Lived in Canaan (Israel); b. 1712 BCE, d. 1532 BCE.
Adam
The first man, created by G-d on the sixth day of creation. He was banished from the Garden of Eden after eating from the forbidden fruit of the forbidden knowledge. Died in 2830 BCE.
David
King of Israel who succeeded Saul, becoming king of Israel in 876 BCE. Originally a shepherd, he became popular after he killed the Philistine strongman, Goliath. He is the progenitor of the Davidic royal dynasty -- which will return to the throne with the arrival of King Messiah.
Solomon
Son of King David, and succeeded him on the throne of Israel in the year 836 BCE. he was the wisest man to ever live. He built the first Holy Temple and authored several books of the Bible.
Isaiah
1. One of the greatest prophets, lived in the 7th century BCE. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, containing the prophecies of Isaiah. The book is filled with prophecies concerning the Messianic redemption.
Jeremiah
1. Jewish prophet who lived in the 5th century BCE. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, containing the prophecies of Jeremiah. The book is replete with prophecies concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple.
Exodus
1. The miraculous departure of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage in 1312 BCE. 2. The second of the Five Books of Moses. This book describes the aforementioned Exodus, the giving of the Torah, and the erection of the Tabernacle.
Tabernacle
Mobile sanctuary which traveled with the Jews in the desert, containing the Ark with the Tablets, and the sacrificial altars. When the Jews entered Israel, it was erected in the city of Shiloh where it remained for more than 300 years. It was buried when the permanent Holy Temple was erected in Jerusalem.
Leviticus
The third of the Five Books of Moses. This book deals with the service (of the Levite Tribe) in the Tabernacle, and contains many of the 613 commandments.
Mishnah
First written rendition of the Oral Law which G-d spoke to Moses. Rabbi Judah the Prince compiled the Mishna in the 2nd century lest the Oral law be forgotten due to the hardships of the Jewish exiles.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.