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Temple Building for Dummies

By Tzvi Fishman
2/24/2011, 12:00 AM

A few days ago, on the 14th of Adar Alef, I went to the Mount of Olives, overlooking the Temple Mount, and recited some Tehillim by the grave of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, of blessed memory, in honor of his yahrtzeit.

Overlooking the Temple Mount

When Rabbi Kook’s students occasionally suggested that the time had come to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash, he would respond in his usual straightforward fashion: “When people approach me with the proposition to build the Beit HaMikdash, I say: What you claim doesn’t come from an abundance of Torah knowledge on your part, but from a paucity of it.”

I will try to explain, blee nader, in the next few blogs, some basic things connected to this question, in as simple a manner as I can, according to the teachings of our Sages.

More than lumber and stones.

The Beit HaMikdash (Holy Jerusalem Temple) is not just a building. Something takes place within the building. The main goal of the Beit HaMikdash is not the courtyard and chambers and walls of the building, but rather the service of G-d which is conducted inside. Yes, we could construct the outer shell of the Beit HaMikdash today, but what would we do there?

Beit HaMikdash means the holy House of G-d. This is the intersection point of G-d’s Divine Presence, known as the Shechinah, with the world. The whole concept of the Beit HaMikdash is the fear and reverence for G-d. This means that a person, and the Jewish Nation as a whole, on ascending to the Beit HaMikdash, are to put the fear and reverence of G-d as the main goal and aspiration of our lives, with an utter commitment to the commandments of the Torah and its Divinely-given laws.

Now I ask you – is the Nation ready for this?

The Beit HaMikdash is the heart and center of the Nation of Israel. While the Kohanim perform the service inside the Temple, on behalf of the pilgrims who come there, it is a house of worship for all people. It isn’t enough that a handful of devout Kohanim are ready to do the L-rd’s bidding - the Nation as a whole must want and be ready to embrace all of the exalted responsibilities that go with it.

Is CNN ready for this? Are you?

Now I ask you – is the Jewish Nation ready to bring animal sacrifices and slaughter them on the Altar in the worship of G-d? Is each and every individual ready to come up to Jerusalem in repentance over his sins and bow down in total submission to the teachings of the Almighty? Are we ready to make the Festivals in Jerusalem our highest joy?

May the day soon come, but it seems to me that we have a little more t’shuva to do before we reach that level.

King David asks: “Who will ascend the mountain of the L-rd, and who will stand in His Holy Place? He who has cleans hands and a pure heart, who has not taken My Name in vain and sworn deceitfully” (Tehillim, 24:3-4). Besides the Zohar’s teaching that “he who has clean hands” means someone who has not spilled his seed in vain, have we reached this exalted level of standing in G-d’s Holy Place?

Without the supreme reverence to G-d and total commitment to His Torah, the Beit HaMikdash is just a building like any other. As long as our inflated egos and passions rule over our lives, we have no place at all on His holy mountain.

In our daily morning prayers, we say: “May it be Your will, L-rd our G-d and G-d of our fathers, that the Temple be speedily rebuilt in our days; and grant us a portion in your Torah. There we will serve You in reverence, as in the days of old and as in former years.”

The people who demand that the Temple be rebuilt now, are they also ready to embrace the commandments of the Torah and to serve G-d with the utter reverence required? Are they ready to beg forgiveness for the past, confess that their errant ways were sinful, and promise never to return to their haughty flouting of the Torah in pursuit of their personal lusts?

It is important to understand that the Redemption of our Nation is a gradual developing process. When the L-rd gathers us to Israel from the far corners of the globe, as He is doing in our time, in a gradual historical process spanning decades, we first must cleanse ourselves and heal our minds from the pollution and trauma of the long exile amongst the nations. There are stages to this process of national healing and returning to our true Israeli selves, first in rebuilding the Land, which slowly leads to rebuilding ourselves into the Holy Nation of G-d, not only in our inner unique holiness as Jews, but also in practice, living in Israel according to all the commandments of the Torah.

I ask once again – is everyone ready for this right now?

As to the question – what does Tzvi Fishman himself do to further the building of the Beit HaMikdash? The answer is not enough. However, to point the way, here are a few things that I do to hopefully bring the day closer:

First, just by giving up the exile and living in Eretz Yisrael, I am adding my share in the rebuilding of the Nation of Israel in our Land, which all of the Prophets proclaimed was a necessary preliminary step to the building of the Temple (Sanhedrin 20B; Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 1:1-2).

By marrying and raising my children in Israel, I am building the Nation in Israel and helping to pave the foundation for the Temple.

In all of our daily prayers, I pray for the rebuilding of the Temple, it being a tenet of our faith that prayer after prayer after prayer will fill up the cup of deliverance.

In accordance with the teaching of our Sages, I dutifully recite the Order of the Sacrifices before Shacharit and Mincha, which is considered like bringing the sacrifices themselves, thus adding to the purification of the Nation.

Following the teaching of the Chofetz Chaim, I study the chapters of Mishna dealing with the Temple service and study the laws of the Beit HaMikdash, in preparation for its building.

I try to rise from sleep several nights a week to recite “Tikun Hatzot,” the Midnight Lament over the exile and destruction of the Temple, a practice which the Sages of the secrets of Torah exceedingly praise as a forerunner to the Temple’s rebuilding.

For years, I have given up other activities on Motzei Shabbat to go to the Kotel and recite Psalms for the ingathering of the exiles and the Temple’s rebuilding.

I have made a film about the Mishkan and its construction that is a required part of the Israel Education Ministry program for high school students.

I have written a novel, “The Discman and the Guru” in which the longing for the Temple Mount plays the central part in the climax of the story.

On Tisha B’Av, I go to the Kotel to mourn over the Destruction and pray for the Temple’s rebuilding.

I often write about the importance of aliyah, which is a prerequisite for the Temple’s rebuilding (Rambam, Laws of Kings 1:1-2).

I write often about Shmirat HaBrit which is a prerequisite to the service in the Temple, for anyone with an impurity of “Keri” is not allowed in its holy premises. In my book, “Secret of the Brit,” based on the teachings of our Sages, I explained why the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem (Malchut) stems largely from sexual transgression, and explained the pathways of repentance which rectify the damage which our misplaced passions cause.

And, believe it or not, behind all of my blogs, is a sincere love for all of the Jewish People, with the hope of leading people who haven’t learned better, out of their errant ways and misguided beliefs, in accordance with the words of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, “Just as the Second Temple was destroyed by gratuitous hate, it will be rebuilt through gratuitous love.”     

As I said, all this is not enough. However, everyone living in Israel who takes part in the rebuilding of the Nation in our Land is working to bring closer the day when the Temple will be rebuilt, may it come soon.

On the other hand, everyone who idles in foreign lands and clings to the exile, prolonging its length and subjugation of our People, hampers in the Temple’s rebuilding and delays that awaited day when the Shechinah shall return in all of its splendor to Zion.