Yearning to rebuild the Temple

Hark, my Beloved knocks.

Professor Gerald Aranoff,

Judaism Prof. G. Aranoff
Prof. G. Aranoff

The law of the central sanctuary

Throughout Devarim,  Moses continues in his farewell speeches. He tells the people that when they enter Israel they must destroy all places of idol worshipping: “You must destroy all the sites at which the nations you are to dispossess worshiped their gods, whether on lofty mountains and on hills or under any luxuriant tree”(Deuteronomy 12:2).

Then Moses teaches the law of the central sanctuary: that when the people become settled in Israel, they must offer sacrifices only in the place God will choose. God promises to come and to bless us when we bring sacrifices: “Make for Me an altar of earth and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your sacrifices of well-being your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you and bless you” (Exodus 20:21).

Moses tells the people that private altars are to be prohibited:  

You shall not act at all as we now act here, every man as he pleases, because you have not yet come to the allotted haven that the Lord your God is giving you. When you cross the Jordan and settle in the land that the Lord your God is allotting to you, and He grants you safety from all your enemies around you and you live in security, then you must bring everything that I command you to the site where the Lord your God will choose to establish His name: your burnt offerings and other sacrifices, your tithes and contributions, and all the choice votive offerings that you vow to the Lord. And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God with your sons and daughters and with your male and female slaves, along with the Levite in your settlements, for he has no territorial allotment among you. Take care not to sacrifice your burnt offerings in any place you like, but only in the place that the Lord will choose in one of your tribal territories. There you shall sacrifice your burnt offerings and there you shall observe all that I enjoin upon you.” (Deuteronomy 12:8-14).

Building the central sanctuary in a fixed abode “where the Lord your God will choose to establish His name” is one of three commandments given to Israel when they enter Israel. 

Sanhedrin 20b:

It has been taught: R. Jose  said: Three commandments were given to Israel when they entered the land; to appoint a king; to cut off the seed of Amalek; and to build themselves the chosen house [i.e. the Temple] and I do not know which of them has priority. But, when it is said: “He said, It means, Hand upon the throne of the Lord! The Lord will be at war with Amalek throughout the ages” (Exodus 17:16). We must infer that they had first to set up a king, for “throne” implies a king, as it is written, “Solomon successfully took over the throne of the Lord as king instead of his father David, and all went well with him. All Israel accepted him;” (1 Chronicles 29:23). Yet I still do not know which [of the other two] comes first, the building of the chosen Temple or the cutting off of the seed of Amalek. Hence, when it is written, “When you cross the Jordan and settle in the land that the Lord your God is allotting to you, and He grants you safety from all your enemies around you and you live in security,” (Deuteronomy 12:10). It is to be inferred that the extermination of Amalek is first. And so it is written of David, “When the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had granted him safety from all the enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan: Here I am dwelling in a house of cedar, while the Ark of the Lord abides in a tent!” (2 Samuel 7:1-2).”

Moses built the Tabernacle within 1 year of the Exodus

The Israelites observed the first Passover in Egypt on the 15th of Nissan. On the first of Nissan, 2 weeks less than a year later, Moses, with help of angels, set up the Tabernacle: “In the first month of the second year, on the first of the month, the Tabernacle was set up. Moses set up the Tabernacle, placing its sockets, setting up its planks, inserting its bars, and erecting its posts” (Exodus 40:17-18).

The Tabernacle radiated the Divine Presence

God was truly dwelling among them because of the Tabernacle, with its details, as promised: “And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them. Exactly as I show you—the pattern of the Tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings—so shall you make it” (Exodus 25:8).

In the desert the Israelites had the Tabernacle.  They ate manna.  The only meat they ate would be from sacrifices they brought to the Tabernacle. Moses told the people that in Israel they could eat meat without a sacrifice:  “But whenever you desire, you may slaughter and eat meat in any of your settlements, according to the blessing that the Lord your God has granted you. The unclean and the clean alike may partake of it, as of the gazelle and the deer” (Deuteronomy 12:15).

Hark, my beloved knocks: On Mount Sinai God spoke

At Mount Sinai, when God spoke, our souls went to Heaven and returned. I call this experiencing Divine Presence. The gamara applies the words “I was faint because of what he said [נפשי יצאה בדברו].”

Shabbath 88b:

“R. Joshua b. Levi also said: At every word which went forth from the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He, the souls of Israel departed, for it is said, “I opened the door for my beloved, But my beloved had turned and gone. I was faint because of what he said [נפשי יצאה בדברו]. I sought, but found him not; I called, but he did not answer” (The Song of Songs 5:6). But since their souls departed at the first word, how could they receive the second word? He brought down the dew with which He will resurrect the dead and revived them, as it is said, “You released a bountiful rain, O God; when Your own land languished, You sustained it” (Psalms 68:10).  R. Joshua b. Levi also said: At every single word which went forth from the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He, the Israelites retreated twelve mil, but the ministering angels led them back [medaddin], as it is said, “The kings and their armies [מלכי צבאות] are in headlong flight [ידדון ידדון]; housewives are sharing in the spoils” (Ib. 13). The hosts of angels march, they march: read not yiddodun but yedaddun [they lead]. [The word denotes to lead step by step, like one leads a child who can hardly walk.]”

We intensely yearn, today, for the rebuilding of the Temple, for the return of God’s Divine Presence to Jerusalem, God’s chosen spot. Then God’s Divine Presence will radiate to the whole world. Our rabbis interpret the words of King Solomon “Hark, my beloved knocks!” to the rebuilding of the Temple.

In the desert the people experienced God speaking on Mount Sinai. Divine Presence radiated with a central sanctuary, the Tabernacle, for 39 years. There the people brought their sacrifices and received God’s blessings.

We pray, may it be God’s will, that we can rebuild the Beit Hamikdash, speedily in our lifetime, and fulfill His laws and commandments: “These are the laws and rules that you must carefully observe in the land that the Lord, God of your fathers, is giving you to possess, as long as you live on earth” (Deuteronomy 12:1).