This text was prepared by William Gross:
The first edition of R. Yom Tov Lipmann Heller’s description of the third Beit ha-Mikdash according to the book of Ezekiel (chapters 40-48) and I Kings 6-7. Best known for his Tosefot Yom Tov on the Mishnah (Prague, 1614-1617), Heller was born in Wallerstein, Bavaria in 1579, and became one of the greatest scholars of his generation. He studied under R. Jacob Gunzburg, R. Judah Loew ben Bezalel (Maharal), and R. Solomon Ephraim Luntshits. At the young age of 19 he was appointed a dayan in Prague; he served briefly as a rabbi in Nikolsburg, as av bet din in Vienna, and after the Thirty Years War in several locations in Poland (he was the head of the community in Cracow during the time of the terrible Chmilenicki massacres of 1648-49, and then until his passing in 1654).
While in Vienna, Heller was slandered to Emperor Ferdinand II, imprisoned on June 25, 1629, and sentenced to death by the Catholic clergy for disparaging Christianity. He was released after spending forty days in prison.
Heller’s complex work on the Beit ha-Mikdash was written when he was only 23 years old. In it, he describes the Temple in the order of its structure rather than the order of the verses, and generally follows Maimonides’ description in contrast to that of Rashi. As explained in his introduction, Heller hopes with this book to help prepare the way for the rebuilding of the Temple, the coming of the Messiah, and the establishment of the Kingdom of David. In addition, according to the Midrash, one who studies the form of the Temple is credited as if he had worked on it. The book was republished in Frankfurt a.M. (1714), with enhanced illustrations by Moses Ivier in Grodno (1789) and in London (1956).
Title page with architectural framework. Two pages of diagrams and a large folding plate with the Temple plan. This page has been excised from the current volume, but a copy of it is in the GFC as 061.011.001. It was found folded in a copy of the second edition of the book (Frankfurt a.M., 1714). This large printed sheet is perhaps the earliest large printed sheet in Hebrew printing and is of extreme rarity.
The Schedel press was established in 1602, the year this volume was issued, by Abraham, Ezriel, and Judah Leib, sons of the preacher R. Moses Schedel. This was done in the home of Hayyim b. Jacob ha-Cohen, whom Friedberg reports was also a partner. These presses would publish a large variety of works, providing the Jewish community with biblical and liturgical books, reprints of older works, as well as significant new titles in Hebrew and Yiddish.