(1) You shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits wide — the altar is to be square — and three cubits high.
(2) Make its horns on the four corners, the horns to be of one piece with it; and overlay it with copper.
(3) Make the pails for removing its ashes, as well as its scrapers, basins, flesh hooks, and fire pans — make all its utensils of copper.
(4) Make for it a grating of meshwork in copper; and on the mesh make four copper rings at its four corners.
(5) Set the mesh below, under the ledge of the altar, so that it extends to the middle of the altar.
(6) And make poles for the altar, poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with copper.
(7) The poles shall be inserted into the rings, so that the poles remain on the two sides of the altar when it is carried.
(8) Make it hollow, of boards. As you were shown on the mountain, so shall they be made.
(1) You shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits wide — the altar is to be square — and three cubits high: This is the outer altar that stood in the courtyard of the temple, and was used for performing and burning the sacrifices (the inner altar, the altar of incense, is described not in this weekly portion, but only in the following one, at 30:1 ff.).
(2) Make its horns on the four corners, the horns to be of one piece with it: The horns of the altar are a symbol of power and grandeur (as they are on horned animals), and also of directing one’s thoughts and emotions upward, toward Heaven. Moreover, Hebrew keren means not only “horn,” but also “beam” or “ray” (of light, e.g.). The verbal form, karan, is the word the Torah uses (34:29) to describe the radiance of Moses’ face when he descended from Mount Sinai. Thus, the horns of the altar incorporate all of the above associations.
(2-3) And overlay it with copper … make all its utensils of copper: The altar and its utensils are made of copper, because their purpose is preparation – viz., to prepare a person for advancing toward holiness.
(4) Make for it a grating of meshwork in copper: The grating facilitates the proper burning of the sacrifices.
(7-8) The poles shall be inserted into the rings, so that the poles remain on the two sides of the altar when it is carried. Make it hollow, of boards: The walls of the altar were wooden planks sheathed with copper on the outside. Inside it was hollow, which made it light enough to be carried on poles. When at each encampment in the wilderness the Tabernacle was reassembled for use, the altar was filled with earth, in accordance with the commandment “Make for Me an altar of earth” (20:21).