When visitors to the Ner Yisroel neighborhood now walk by the site of the yeshivah's annual Lag Ba'omer bonfire, they will see more than just scattered wood and charred logs. Some volunteers used a little imagination and a lot of hard work to transform those "spent firebrands" into a hands-on learning experience.
Local resident Moshe Miller had the idea to use these logs and assemble them into a model of the ma'arachah - the fire pile of the Mizbeyach. This would pique the curiosity of visitors passing by the site (directions are below) and get them to think about the Mikdash — both the Second which is currently absent and the Third which is yet to come. However, cutting and moving dozens of large logs turned out to be a great deal of work. He enlisted the help of neighbor Levi Grier and together they assembled the logs into a half-size replica of the ma'arachah.
|Model ma'arachah on display at the Ner Yisroel bonfire area.|
To give the ma'arachah model some context, Moshe included a model of the entire Second Beis Hamikdash in this display. The plastic model is built at a scale of 1/180 (1 inch = 10 amos, or about 15 feet). It shows the main features of the structure, including the courtyards, Heychal Building, and Mizbeyach. The model was assembled by Levi Grier.
|Model of the Second Beis Hamikdash by Levi Grier.|
The model itself did not come with a Mizbeyach so I made a 3D printed version (the biggest my printer could muster) complete with the various ma'arachos [fires] that burned there each day as well as the pile of ashes in its center (thank you to my daughter, Tovah, for providing the brown and black nail polish I used to color these elements).
|3D printed Mizbeyach with three ma'arachos and pile of ashes. The scale is slightly exaggerated to provide better viewing.|
To protect the model from the elements, Moshe constructed an elaborate housing which, as you can see in the photo, is reminiscent of a certain First Temple item flanked by carrying poles and topped by winged cherubs.
|Mikdash model under its protective canopy. Ma'arachah model is seen just to its right.|
To offer visitors more information about the display, I helped put together a number of panels of explanatory text and photos. Moshe mounted these along the railing in front of the model. In addition, Moshe made life-size keranos [the horns that protrude at the top corners of the Mizbeyach] and placed them around the ma'arachah model to help the viewer imagine standing atop the Mizbeyach. As a nice artistic touch, these keranos glow at night.
|Information panels along the railing.|
It is our hope that this project inspires an interest in, and yearning for, the return of the actual ma'arachah in the Third Beis Hamikdash speedily in our days!
The address is 8904 Greylock Rd, Pikesville MD 21208. Walk to the left of house on a path that leads down to the bottom of the hill.
The property owner has graciously offered public access for those wishing to visit the ma'arachah display.