Yesterday we explained that Rabbi Yahacob Yehuda Leon was born in Portugal and lived in Amsterdam. We mentioned that among his many works are: the vocalization, Spanish translation and illustration of the Mishna (the latter two texts are lost) and the translation into Spanish, with commentary of the book of Tehillim.
We also mentioned that his name has many variations. He called himself “Leon Hebreo” but most authors of his day called him “Leon or Yehuda Templo”. Why “Templo”? Rabbi Leon was also a great artist and designer, specialized in heraldry, the designing of coats of arms.
Rabbi Leon used his artistic talents to build a miniature model of the Bet haMiqdash, the great Temple of Jerusalem.
To build his Temple Rabbi Leon used all available Jewish sources: biblical sources, the Talmudic treaty of Middot, the writings of Josephus Flavius and the detailed description of Maimonides in his Mishne Tora.
In 1641 Rabbi Leon finished his elaborate model of the Temple on a scale of 1: 300. The model measured in meters 1,30 x 1,20 x 0,60.
Together with this miniature Bet haMiqdash Rabbi Leon also wrote an explanatory book that guides the reader, and those who visited his exhibition, inside the Bet haMiqdash, describing each of its enclosures, vessels, utensils, etc. This book was called “Portrait of the Temple of Solomon”.
The book was originally published in Spanish, but aroused much interest among the Yehudim of the world and even among Gentiles. It was soon translated into Hebrew, Dutch, French, English, German and Latin.
Rabbi Leon exhibited the model of the Bet haMiqdash in his own house. And the exhibition got a lot of attention.
In 1642 the Jewish community in Amsterdam had an illustrious visitor. Henrietta Maria of France (1609-1666), Queen consort of England, wife of Charles I, who accompanied by Prince William of Orange and his fiancee Mary Stuart, came to the house of Rabbi Leon to visit his miniature Bet haMiqdash.
According to some historians in 1671 Rabbi Leon took the model of Bet haMiqdash to London. We have a beautiful letter of recommendation written by Constantijn Huygens addressed to King Charles II, See here . (Some historians say that while in London Rabbi Leon designed the first coat of arms used by the British Freemasons). The model of the Bet haMiqdash remained in London for nearly 100 years, and was exhibited by the descendants of Rabbi Leon, including Isaac de Leon and Moshe Isaac de Castro.
One such exhibition was held in London in 1729. In the journal of the court he put a sign that read: “You can see every day in the Royal Exchange, the model of the Temple of Solomon in all halls, walls, Gates , Chambers and holy vessels, the great Altar of Sacrifice, the bronze sea, the laundry and the Holy of Holies with the Ark of the Covenant, the chair of Mercy and the golden cherubs, the altar of incense, the candlesticks, the tables, and the two famous columns Yakin and Boaz. “
Rabbi Leon also published the book “Treaty of the Ark of Testament” written in Dutch in 1647. This book describes in detail and draws the Aron haBerit, the ark of the covenant.
He also wrote in Latin “Treaty of cherubim”, where eh explains, describes and illustrates the cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant.
And finally he wrote the book “Portrait of the Tabernacle of Moseh”, in Spanish, published in Amsterdam in 1654.
Here is this beautiful book, which describes what we are reading in the parashiyot of these weeks. I recommended to see in the first pages the original artwork of Rabbi León, in full color, of the Mishkan and all its details. Click here
Rabbi Yahacob Yehuda Leon Hebreo “Templo” died in 1675.