A sacred place for divine service. There were six sanctuaries: (1) the Tabernacle in the wilderness, built by Moses in the second year of the Exodus; (2) the Tabernacle at Shiloh, built by Joshua after the conquest of Palestine (Josh. xviii. 1), and which stood 369 years, till the death of Eli the high priest; (3) the Tabernacle at Nob, the city of priests, which stood thirteen years, till the reign of Saul (Seder 'Olam R. xiii.); (4) the Tabernacle at Gibeon (II Chron. i. 3), which stood fifty years, till Solomon finished the building of the Temple (Seder 'Olam R. xi., xiv.; Zeb. 61b); (5) the First Temple, destroyed in 422
The Tabernacle, like the Temple, was called the sanctuary because it contained the holy Ark with the tablets of the covenant (Deut. ix. 9, 15), and because only sanctified priests were permitted to enter the inner chambers. The offering of sacrifices was confined to the sanctuary and forbidden elsewhere, especially in the "bamot" = "high places" (I Kings iii. 3; II Chron. xxxiii. 17). The sanctuary could not, however, be used as an asylum for a murderer or other criminal, nor even for a political offender (Ex. xxi. 14; I Kings ii. 30, 31).
The object of the sanctuary was defined by the injunction, "And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them" (Ex. xxv. 8). God declared, "And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory" (ib. xxix. 43). The sacrifices were the medium of communion with God. A central place for the sanctuary served also to unify the political interests of the Israelites and to solidify the twelve tribes into one nation. The subsequent severance of the ten tribes from the political ties of Judah and Benjamin could be effected only by erecting duplicate sanctuaries at Beth-el and Dan (I Kings xii. 26, 27). See Pilgrimage.Sanctuary and Shekinah.
The Temple at Jerusalem was known as "Bet 'Olamim" (Everlasting Temple), Solomon describing it as "an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in for ever" (ib. viii. 13). Solomon declared that the sanctuary was really for the convenience of the people in congregating for the worship of God, and was not a dwelling-place for God, whom "the heaven and the heaven of heavens can not contain" (ib. verse 27). "Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord" (Jer. xxiii. 24). The Midrash declares the sanctuary was like a cave which the ocean overflowed and filled with water without affecting its own volume; similarly the glory of the Shekinah, though it filled the Tabernacle, was not thereby diminished (Pesiḳ. v.). The cabalists explain the presence of the Shekinah in the sanctuary by the "mystery of concentration" (= "sod ha-ẓimẓum") or the secret of revelation of God at a certain designated point. "The sanctuary was the pledge of the Holy One to dwell with us and not to abhor or forsake us" (Zohar iii. 114a, referring to Lev. xxvi. 11).
The sanctuary below corresponds to the sanctuary above (Ta'an. 5a). The ladder which Jacob saw in a dream reached to the gate of heaven, where the celestial sanctuary was erected opposite the altar that Jacob set up in Beth-el (Gen. R. xlix. 5).
Symbolically the sanctuary represents the universe, and is called "'olam ḳaṭan" (= "little world"). This microcosm teaches that God is the Creator of all matter, and guides His creatures through all destinies (Moses Isserles, "Torat ha-'Olah," i., § 1; and Israel Jaffe, introduction to same, § 15, ed. Prague, 1833). After the destruction of the Temple the synagogue replaced it as the sanctuary for Prayer. See also Asylum; High Place; Shiloh; Tabernacle; Temple.