What Can We Do to Hasten the
Rebuilding of the Temple?
Rav Yitzchak Levi
We can hope to repair the churban
only if we understand that the Mikdash expresses a spiritual reality. The
Gemara (Sanhedrin 96b) states that when Nevuzaradan became haughty
after destroying the First Temple, a heavenly voice said to him: “You killed a
dead nation, you burned a burnt sanctuary, you milled ground flour.” That is to
say, from the moment that Israel’s spiritual level deteriorated, the Mikdash
was already regarded as destroyed, so that the nations that actually destroyed
it merely “finished the job.”
The Gemara (Yoma 9b) explains the main cause of the destruction of
the Second Temple:
But why was the Second Temple destroyed,
seeing that in its time they were occupying themselves in the Torah, [observance
of] mitzvot, and the practice of loving-kindness? Because therein
prevailed hatred without cause. This teaches you that groundless hatred is
considered as equal in severity to the three sins of idolatry, incest and
The Maharal (Netzach Yisrael, chap. 4) explains
that the superiority of the Second Temple, in which the Shekhina did not
reside, lay in Israel themselves, who were united through the Temple. Once
groundless hatred began to grow and Israel’s unity around God and the Temple
unraveled, there was no longer room for the Mikdash.
What is groundless hatred? The
Lubavitcher Rebbe (Hechaltzu, p. 259) explains:
Because of a person’s being, he does not
make room for the other. For perforce the other diminishes his existence, and
therefore he cannot tolerate him.
The Netziv writes (Ha’amek Davar, introduction to the book of
The people who lived during the Second
Temple period were righteous and pious and they toiled in the Torah, but they
were not upright in their worldly conduct. Therefore, owing to the groundless
hate that they harbored in their hearts one for the other, they suspected anyone
who did not follow their own approach in the fear of God of being a
Sadducee or a heretic. And this brought them to bloodshed…
Rebuilding the Temple – Through Groundless Love
Well-known are the words of Rav Kook:
If we were destroyed and the world was
destroyed with us owing to groundless hate, we will be rebuilt and the world
will be rebuilt with us through groundless love (Orot Ha-kodesh, III, p.
Just as the destruction was based on a corrupt spiritual
reality, so, too, the Temple will be rebuilt through a repair of that spiritual
reality through groundless love.
Here the question arises: Surely we are all bound by the positive
commandment of “And you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord” (Vayikra
19:18). What, then, does “groundless love” add to this mitzva? What
precisely is the added dimension of groundless love in relation to the basic
level of love obligated by Torah law?
The idea of groundless love may be as follows: Love that does not depend
on anything else – love that does not flow from the manner that the other person
appears or conducts himself, but from the very recognition of his goodness, as
he is. We naturally love another person because of his good qualities, his
radiant personality, or his worthy outlook on the world; in this sense, our love
depends on something. However, groundless love is love that is not founded on an
evaluation of the other person based on his personality or qualities, but rather
unconditional love of every creature, of every person, regardless of the traits
that he has or lacks.
A second possibility is that one must love his fellow precisely as we
love ourselves. It is the way of the world that we tend to forgive ourselves for
our weaknesses, providing all kinds of excuses and justifications for our own
behavior, whereas with respect to other people we are inclined to be meticulous
and set more stringent standards. Groundless love may be love that is similar to
self-love. Just as a person does not love himself because of his good looks, his
intelligence, or his skills, and just as he continues to love himself even when
he acts wrongly, he must love every other Jew in the same way. The ability to
see another person’s virtues and not his failings, and not only to act with
forbearance towards him, is what can lead to groundless love.
Another possibility is that groundless love refers to love of a wider
scope – love directed at a community with which one does not have close social
connections. In addition, a higher quality love of one’s more immediate
surroundings is demanded – more refinement, more sensitivity, more attention and
consideration with respect to other people.
The Yerushalmi’s position is well-known:
Any generation during whose days the
Temple is not rebuilt is regarded as if it had destroyed it. (Yoma 1:1)
In every generation, the potential exists to rebuild the
Temple, and each generation’s responsibility for not realizing that potential
equals the responsibility of the generation of the destruction! The primary
mission following from the absence of the Mikdash is spiritual repair.
This repair can express itself in many different ways: on the individual
level and on the community level, in the realms of unity, peace, social justice,
tolerance, help to others, and the like.
I believe that we should establish regional offices of professionals in
various areas – doctors, lawyers, accountants, carpenters, plumbers,
psychologists, social workers, and the like – who are ready to volunteer their
services to help others.
These offices will be called “Offices for the Rebuilding of the Temple.” In this
way, everyone will understand that the rebuilding of the Temple requires a
spiritual rebuilding of the nation, and that the way to rebuild the Temple is
through a full joining together of all sectors of the population –
right and left, secular and religious,
rich and poor. “O Jerusalem, built as a city that is joined together” (Tehillim
122:3) – through our connection to one another, the Jewish people will reconnect
to God, and as a result we will be privileged to have the Temple rebuilt
speedily in our days.
The main way to cope with the absence of
the emotional experience of the Temple is through study. The book of Vayikra
in the Torah, the orders of Kodashim and Taharot in the
Mishna, and the chapters dealing with the Mikdash and the sacrificial
order scattered throughout the Talmud – all these are distant from our
consciousness. They are not sufficiently the subject of study, examination,
knowledge and deep understanding.
The Chafetz Chayyim related to the study
of the Mikdash and the sacrificial order as an integral part of awaiting
the building of the Mikdash.
What will we do if the messianic king arrives tomorrow morning? How will we
know the location of the altar? How will we apply the law of a red heifer? What
about the presumed lineage of the priesthood or the priestly garments?
There are two aspects to this study:
study for the sake of practice, and study that intensifies our relationship with
the Mikdash and magnifies our yearnings. In addition to increasing one’s
knowledge, study enhances one’s emotional connection to the studied material,
brings one closer to its concepts, and leads one to recognize the perfection
that exists in this ideal world.
Prayer and Yearning
Every day we pray: “May it be Your will…
that the Temple be speedily rebuilt in our days.” What do we hope for? What is
missing without the Temple, and what are we asking of God? Do we really mean
what we say, or are we merely parroting words?
In his book Ma’ayanei Ha-yeshua
(chap. 56), Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlop zt”l explains that when a person
sees the full reality of the Mikdash before his eyes and lives and
breathes it, it gains meaning and his waiting turns into reality. “Whoever
mourns over Jerusalem merits to see it in its joy” (Bava Batra 60b) – it
does not say here that he will merit to see it in its joy, but rather
he merits to see it in its joy. When yearnings have substance in the
consciousness, in the will, and in the soul, those yearnings turn into absolute
A person must honestly and seriously ask
himself: Is the Mikdash really missing for me? Does today’s spiritual
reality, on both the individual and collective levels, satisfy my desire for
God’s closeness? What am I prepared to invest in order to draw closer to God and
to repair the world?
There is a famous story at the end of tractate Makkot
(24b) about Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya, Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi
Once again they were coming up to
Jerusalem together, and just as they came to Mount Scopus they saw a fox
emerging from the Holy of Holies. They fell to weeping and Rabbi Akiva seemed
merry. They said to him: Why are you merry? Said he: Why do you weep? They said
to him: A place of which it was once said: “And the common man that draws near
shall be put to death” (Bamidbar 1:51), is now become the haunt of foxes,
and we should not weep? He said to them: Therefore am I merry, for it is
written: “And I will take to Me faithful witnesses to record, Uriya the priest
and Zekharya the son of Yeverakhya” (Yeshayahu 8:2). Now what connection
has this Uriya the priest with Zekharya? Uriya lived during the time of the
First Temple, while Zekharya lived [and prophesied] during the Second Temple.
But Scripture linked the prophecy of Zekharya with the prophecy of Uriya. In the
[earlier] prophecy [in the days] of Uriya, it is written: “Therefore shall Zion
for your sake be plowed as a field” (Mikha 3:12). In Zekharya it is written: “Thus said the Lord of Hosts, There yet shall old
men and old women sit in the broad places of Jerusalem” (Zekharya 8:4).
So long as Uriya’s prophecy had not had its fulfillment, I had misgivings lest
Zekharya’s prophecy might not be fulfilled; now that Uriya’s prophecy has been
fulfilled, it is quite certain that Zekharya’s prophecy is being fulfilled. They
said to him: Akiva, you have comforted us! Akiva, you have comforted us!
Once again, the Gemara does not say “It
is quite certain that Zekharya’s prophecy will be fulfilled,”
but rather “It is quite certain that Zekharya’s prophecy is
being fulfilled.” Rabbi Akiva, who saw before him the enormity of the
destruction of Jerusalem brought about by Emperor Hadrian – its being plowed
over and turned into a pagan city – is capable of seeing in the destruction the
fulfillment of the prophecy of Zekharya in his very day. The vision is
alive, it breathes and beats within him, and even allows him to see salvation
and repair in the depths of the destruction.
We must therefore try to experience
deeply the thirst for God’s nearness, out of hope and striving that we be worthy
of the rebuilding of the Mikdash.
Seeking Out the Place
Before concluding, let us try to
understand the meaning of our connection to the Temple Mount today. The Torah states:
But to the place which the Lord your God
shall choose out of all your tribes to put His name there, there shall you seek
Him, at His dwelling, and there shall you come. (Devarim 12:5)
On this verse, the Sifrei states (ad loc., piska
Seek out the word of a prophet. You
might say you must wait until a prophet tells you. Therefore the verse states:
“There shall you seek Him, at His dwelling, and there shall you come” – seek and
find, and afterwards the prophet will tell you.
In other words, the site of the Mikdash demands seeking. It is not
by chance, therefore, that the Torah does not specify the site of the Temple,
but speaks of “the place that the Lord your God shall choose.”
Seeking the Place Today
Following the miracle of our returning to Yehuda, Shomron, and the Old
City of Jerusalem during the Six Day War, masses of people began to stream to
all the holy places which came back under Israeli control: the Makhpela Cave,
Joseph’s Tomb, Rachel’s Tomb – and also the Temple Mount. In the wake of this
activity, a proclamation signed by many of the generation’s leading Torah
authorities was issued in Elul of 5727 (1967), warning about the sanctity of the
Temple Mount and the prohibition to set foot upon it.
It would have been appropriate to mark off the holiest areas and define
them as “out of bounds” for everybody: Jews and Arabs, Israelis and tourists.
But the Minister of Defense handed over the keys to the Temple Mount to the
Moslem Wakf. Practically speaking, the Temple Mount fell thereby under Moslem
control. At the same time, the Kotel plaza began to assume independent
significance, detached from the Temple Mount, and what is more, replacing it.
This is expressed in the very name “Kotel”
– the western supporting wall of the Temple Mount. When a person goes to visit a
friend and finds that he is out, does he feel that he has visited the wall of
his house? This plaza should rightfully be called: “below the site of our
Temple.” Moreover, most people who come to pray in the Kotel plaza face the
western wall of the Temple Mount, whereas Halakha and common sense dictate that
one should face the site of the Holy of Holies, which the Radbaz and others
identify as below the Dome of the Rock. Attesting to the extent of the
alienation and ignorance is the comprehensive plan drawn up by an architect in
the wake of the Six Day War for the building of the Temple in the Kotel plaza.
These are all expressions of how the “Kotel plaza” was turned into a place of
its own, which is not intimately connected to what lies above it.
Over time, the stream of people leading
to the Temple Mount came to a total halt, the rabbinic proclamation remained in
force, and Moslem control over the mountain grew stronger. This situation was
highlighted by the terrible plunder conducted by Moslems in 1996 in the
southeastern section of the Temple Mount: the flooring was broken with heavy
machinery, in order to connect up at a depth of twelve meters to Solomon’s
Stables and open a northern entrance to the new mosque that was built in that
space. This expresses the weakness of our hold on the place.
Another difficult expression of this
weakness is the way in which the Israeli authorities relate to Jews who wish to
ascend the Temple Mount in a state of ritual purity. The issue of such a visit
is complicated and involves spiritual, halakhic, and conceptual elements, which
we will not deal with here. For our purposes, let us say that the situation
today is that at the world’s holiest site a Jew cannot open his mouth in prayer,
not even in the manner of Channa’s prayer: “Only her lips moved, but her voice
was not heard” (I Shemuel 1:13). Every group is accompanied by uniformed
police, undercover detectives, and Wakf representatives, who watch the mouths of
and anyone who is caught praying is arrested by the Israeli police for the crime
of disrupting the public order.
To sum up, today there is not even a
hint of Jewish presence and control of the Temple Mount, neither flag nor any
other symbol of sovereignty. This situation has created de-facto Moslem control
over the Temple Mount,
and public and worldwide recognition that the Temple Mount belongs to the
Moslems and the Western Wall to the Jews.
The Bottom Line: What Practical
Expression Are We to Give Today to Our Connection to the Temple Mount?
Every person can express his connection to the Temple Mount in various
of the historical sources and the archeological remnants at
the entranceways to the Temple Mount.
along the length of the southern and
western walls of the Temple Mount.
On the eve of every Rosh
Chodesh, a “Sivuv She’arim” is conducted. Participants circle the Temple
Mount and recite the Songs of Ascent (Shirei Ha-ma’alot) at its various
gates. We thereby articulate that the Temple Mount is exceedingly precious and
important to us, and that the reason that we do not proceed further is the
mountain’s sanctity. This persistence with a monthly connection to the holy
place emphasizes its importance to us. When we merit that masses of people will
visit the place every month, the Jewish people’s connections to the place will
Part of seeking out the place
is being familiar with it and visiting it. Going up to the Temple Mount in a
state of holiness and purity, with fear of the Mikdash, magnifies
its holiness in our eyes, in the eyes of the authorities, and in the eyes of the
world. It is very important to emphasize that going up to the Temple Mount does
not substitute for vitally necessary spiritual work. Even someone who does not
go up to the Temple Mount for whatever reason can study its entranceways and
approaches and visit them.
The Absence of the Mikdash
When the Mikdash exists, the Jew visits it at set times – the
three Festivals, when he brings his first fruit to the Temple between Shavuot
and Sukkot (or Chanuka), and in the framework of his service in
the priestly or levitical mishmarot or the Israelite ma’amadot, if
he belongs to one of them. But he also comes on other occasions, which do not
have a fixed time, for example, when he brings a sacrifice (a sin-offering, a
thanksgiving offering, a firstborn, animal tithe, or the like), or when he is
involved in a court case that went up to the great Sanhedrin, which
convenes in Lishkat ha-Gazit. Coming to the Mikdash means
unmediated recognition that it is the center of the nation and of all being: the
center of Divine presence in the world, the source of material blessing in the
entire world, and the place where a person may lift himself up to his Creator.
The entire nation assembled in the Mikdash on various occasions
(the three Pilgrim Festivals, on Yom Kippur, at the hakhel
assembly, and the like). But besides this, the Mikdash had communal
significance by its very existence in that it was clear to all that God has a
place that gives expression to His presence in the world and that He has a
special love for the Jewish people. The Jewish people, in turn, committed
themselves to give constant expression to their connection to the place by
serving God there.
When a person would come to the Mikdash, he would feel the
unmediated nearness of God to a degree altogether different from what can be
felt today. This feeling impacted upon his entire life and directed it to the
worship of God.
With the destruction of the Temple, our connection to God diminished and
our relationship to Him weakened. Through groundless love, yearning, prayer,
study of Temple-related matters, and the renewal of our connection to it – we
hope to merit speedily in our days to be worthy to have the Shekhina rest
once again among us, and to be able to rebuild God’s Temple. “And there we shall
serve You in fear as in ancient days and years of old.”