דגם בית המקדש השני
דגם בית המקדש השניiStock

In Parshas Terumah, Hashem commands Bnei Yisrael “ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם”, “They shall make a Mikdash for me and I will dwell amongst you.”

The use of the term “Mikdash” in the commandment raises an intriguing question, given that this section of the Torah primarily discusses the “Mishkan.” Rav Yosef Caro, in his Kesef Mishnah, argues that the specific choice of words substantiates the Rambam's view: the mitzvah encompasses a broader obligation to construct a Mikdash—as the Rambam writes:

“מצות עשה לעשות בית לה' מוכן להיות מקריבים בו הקרבנות, וחוגגין אליו שלש פעמים בשנה שנאמר ועשו לי מקדש”


"It is a positive commandment to make a house for Hashem that is prepared to offer the korbanos and to celebrate there three times a year, as it is written “They shall make a Mikdash for Me.”

Likewise, the Ohr Hachaim cites the pasuk’s wording to support the Rambam's viewpoint, noting:

“ועשו לי מקדש היא מצות עשה כוללת כל הזמנים . . . וצריכין היו ישראל לעשות כן אפילו בגליות אלא שמצינו שאסר ה' כל המקומות מעת שנבנה בית המקדש”


“They shall make a Mikdash for Me” is a positive commandment that encompasses all times . . . Am Yisrael should have done so in the exiles, but Hashem prohibited (building a Mikdash in) all other places, once the Beis Hamikdash was built . . .”

The Rambam is not alone in his opinion; Rav Saadia Gaon, the Semag, and the Sefer Hachinuch likewise count building a Mikdash as one of the 613 mitzvos. The Sefer Hachinuch concludes:

“ונוהגת מצוה זו בזמן שרוב ישראל על אדמתן. וזו מן המצוות שאינן מוטלות על היחיד כי אם על הצבור כולן, כשיבנה הבית במהרה בימינו יתקיים מצות עשה.”


“This commandment is practiced at the time that most of Israel are upon their land. And this is from the commandments that are not applicable to the individual but to all of the community. When the Beis Hamikdash is built, speedily in our days, a positive commandment will be fulfilled.”

The basis for the assertion that the mitzvah of building the Mikdash is contingent on the majority of Am Yisrael residing in Eretz Yisrael is unclear. Contrastingly, the Minchas Chinuch posits:

“וגם היום אפשר שאם יתנו המלכיות רשות לבנות בית המקדש מצוה לבנות כמבואר במדרש בימי ריב"ח דנתנו רשות והתחילו לבנות.”


“Even today it is possible that if the nations would give permission to build a Beis Hamikdash, there would be a mitzvah to build, as is evident from the Midrash that in the days of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya permission was given and they started building.”

In his seminal work, Em Habanim Smeicha, Rav Teichtal writes that the Tosefta clearly indicates that the Beis Hamikdash can be built whenever the opportunity presents itself, stating: “if permission were given to Am Yisrael to build the Beis Habechirah . . .”

The Sfas Emes also asserts that the construction of the Beis Hamikdash is always within reach, contingent only upon our genuine desire:

"הוא מצוה לדורות שמצווין לבנות בית הבחירה. ולכן אמרו חז"ל 'דור שאין ביהמ"ק נבנה בימיו כאלו נחרב'. והטעם, כי בכל עת שיתנדבו בנ"י בלב שלם, להשתוקק לבנות לו בית, יכולין למצוא מבוקשם"


"It is a mitzvah for all generations that we are commanded to build the Beis Hamikdash. Therefore, the Chazal said, 'A generation in which the Beis Hamikdash is not built during its time is as if it were destroyed in its days.' The reason is that whenever Bnei Yisrael will contribute wholeheartedly, yearning to build Him a house, they will be able to attain their aspirations."

The Beis Hamikdash descending from heaven

The mitzvah to build the Beis Hamikdash is often overlooked due to the belief that the future Mikdash will not be built by man but will instead descend from heaven, ready-made. But where does this belief originate?

This idea traces back to an interpretation by Rashi, who writes:

“מקדש העתיד שאנו מצפין, בנוי ומשוכלל הוא יגלה ויבא משמים, שנאמר (שמות טו) מקדש ה' כוננו ידיך.”


"The future Mikdash that we await is built and completed, and it will be revealed and come from heaven, as it is written: “The Mikdash, Hashem, your hands have established.”

Tosafos echo Rashi’s sentiment, referencing the Midrash Tanchuma. However, the interpretation that the Beis Hamikdash will descend from heaven, as posited by Rashi, isn't so cut-and-dried. Rashi's commentary is based on a Gemara that also presents an alternate approach. Additionally, the Gemara's discussion involves a rabbinic decree established for the scenario where the Beis Hamikdash is built on Yom Tov.

According to Rashi, this would necessitate a miracle. Thus, Rashi is not necessarily asserting that the Beis Hamikdash will definitely be constructed miraculously; rather, he is stating that the decree was established to address the possibility of such an occurrence. Indeed, the Meiri understood Rashi precisely this way. (The Meiri himself proposes alternative explanations for the possibility of building the Beis Hamikdash on Yom Tov, challenging the exclusivity of Rashi’s viewpoint.)

The spiritual Beis Hamikdash will descend from heaven

The Aruch Laner points out that Rashi elsewhere seems to indicate that the Mikdash will be man-made. He further poses several questions regarding the notion of the Beis Hamikdash descending from heaven, ultimately concluding:

“ודאי ביהמ"ק לעתיד לבא יבנה בנין ממש בידי אדם, ומה שנאמר מקדש ד' כוננו ידיך שנדרש בתנחומא שירד למטה, הוא ביהמ"ק רוחני שיבא לתוך ביהמ"ק הנבנה גשמי כנשמה בתוך הגוף.”


"Certainly, the future Beis Hamikdash will be built literally by humans. That which is written, “The Mikdash, Hashem, your hands established,” which is expounded upon in the Tanchuma that it will descend below, is talking about the spiritual Beis Hamikdash that will enter the physical already-built Beis Hamikdash, like the soul in the body.”

Rav Teichtal also offers this explanation, citing sources from the Tikunei Zohar, Sefer Aspaklaria, and the Malbim.

The Beis Hamikdash will be built with miraculous assistance

The Tiferes Yisrael notes that Rashi on Yechezkel explains the prophecy that describes the structure of the Beis Hamikdash as a blueprint intended for guiding its future construction. Clearly, the Beis Hamikdash will be built by human effort. He therefore deduces that the Midrash's depiction of the Beis Hamikdash being built by heaven actually means that it will be constructed with Hashem's miraculous assistance. The Shoshanim L'David similarly posits that the construction of the Beis Hamikdash will occur through human effort, yet at a miraculously rapid pace:

ומה שכתוב במדרש שייבנה מאליו, רוצה לומר, שתהיה המלאכה מתברכת ביד הבונים, וכמעט רגע יבנה וישתכלל בסיוע ה' וכו', אך לעולם צריך שיהיה באמצעות יד אדם, תדע שהרי היא אחד ממנין מצות עשה, לבנות בית הבחירה.


"What is written in the Midrash that it will be built on its own, means that the work will be blessed in the hands of the builders, and in almost an instant, it will be built and completed with the help of Hashem etc. However, it must ultimately be through human means. Know [that this is true] because it is counted among the positive commandments, to build the Beis Hamikdash.”

It depends on our merits

The Gemara famously states that the nature of the final redemption varies according to Am Yisrael's merit (בעתה אחישנה). Accordingly, some propose that perhaps the building of the Beis Hamikdash is similarly contingent.

The Maharam Shick suggests that a hastened redemption earned through merit would result in the Beis Hamikdash descending from heaven. Conversely, if redemption unfolds in its predestined time without accelerated merit, the Beis Hamikdash will be built by human hands.

Contrastingly, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, in Taamah Dikra, presents an opposite perspective: the privilege of building the Beis Hamikdash by ourselves is seen as a reward for our merit. Indeed, what greater privilege could there be than participating in the construction of the Beis Hamikdash? If we fall short, the Beis Hamikdash would instead be gifted from heaven.

In truth, fully embracing the belief that the Beis Hamikdash will ultimately descend from heaven would not absolve us of our responsibility to construct it ourselves. Our duty is to follow Hashem's commandments regardless of what the future holds.

Building the Beis Hamikdash before Mashiach

Contrary to the belief held by some that Mashiach’s arrival is necessary to start building the Beis Hamikdash, the Yerushalmi unequivocally contradicts this, stating:

“בית המקדש עתיד להיבנות קודם למלכות בית דוד”


"The Beis Hamikdash will be built before [the establishment of] the kingdom of the House of David."

Similarly, the Tosefta, as mentioned earlier, implies a scenario where Am Yisrael is granted permission to build the Beis Hamikdash, a situation undeniably envisaged to occur before Mashiach's reign.

Additionally, Rashi in Megillah explains the pasuk in Hoshea, “אַחַר יָשׁוּבוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וּבִקְשׁוּ אֶת ה' אֱלֹקיהֶם וְאֵת דָּוִד מַלְכָּם” to mean:


"After [Am Yisrael] returns to the Beis Hamikdash and they seek Hakadosh Baruch Hu and David their king.”

Clearly he understood that the Beis Hamikdash will be built and Am Yisrael will still be awaiting Mashiach's arrival.

Furthermore, the Pesikta Rabasi paints a vivid image of Mashiach standing atop the already built Beis Hamikdash, proclaiming the advent of redemption to the people of Israel. This portrayal strongly supports the view that the Beis Hamikdash will be constructed as a precursor to, and not a consequence of, Mashiach's arrival.

Rav Yehuda Alkalai in Minchas Yehuda delivers a vigorous condemnation against the claim that Mashiach will precede the building of the Beis Hamikdash:

בית המקדש וירושלים ייבנה על ידי צדיקים לפני משיח… והאומר שראשית הגאולה תהיה על ידי משיח בן דוד כמו שמקוים דלת עמי הארץ, הרי הוא כמי שאומר שקודם אור הבקר יזרח השמש שהם בטלים ומבוטלים, והרעה הגדולה הזאת הנמשכת מן הדעת הנפסדת הזאת הוא דבר מורגש והנסיון יוכיח, והדבר הזה מצוה לאומרו בפני עמי הארץ וברוך המקדש שמו ברבים. ולפי דעתי המסתיר את הדבר הזה הוא מחלל שם שמים בסתר.


“The Beis Hamikdash and Yerushalayim will be built by the righteous before Mashiach . . . And he who says that the beginning of redemption will be through Mashiach ben David, is like one who says that the sun will shine before the morning light—they are null and void. The great harm stemming from this corrupted belief is perceptible and proven by experience. It is a mitzvah to declare this matter before the unlearned, and blessed is he who sanctifies His name among the masses. In my opinion, someone who conceals this matter is profaning the name of Heaven in secret."


Thus, we have seen that according to numerous Rishonim, the construction of the Beis Hamikdash is indeed a mitzvah. The notion expressed by Rashi, that the Mikdash might descend from heaven, does not preclude the possibility that it is within our purview to build the Beis Hamikdash with human effort, nor does it exempt us from our obligation to do so. Additionally, the arrival of Mashiach is not a prerequisite to undertake this crucial task.

The purpose of this article is not to delineate the exact methods by which we can practically construct the Beis Hamikdash; rather, it is to highlight that building the Beis Hamikdash is something we can—and indeed, are obligated—to pursue. Ever since its destruction, the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash has remained our national aspiration.

Yet, too often, this ambition is treated more like a distant dream than an achievable reality. It will only happen if we acknowledge our own role in its realization. Now, with Har Habayis under Jewish sovereignty, the prospect of bringing this dream to fruition is more tangible than ever before. May we all merit to take part in the extraordinary mitzvah of building the Beis Hamikdash!

Yosef Meir Weinstock has spent years learning in well known yeshivas, including the Yeshiva of South Fallsburg, the Brisker Kollel, and the Mir Yeshiva. He is a contributor to beishashem.org (which you might want to check out), and resides in Ramat Beit Shemesh.