Holiness empowers the world

​​​​​​​Some think that connecting to holiness implies a distancing from the world, and that when the Holy Temple is built, the insignificance of this world will be exposed. But the Mikdash is meant to make the world pleasant and blessed.

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed

Judaism Har Bracha yeshiva
Har Bracha yeshiva
פלאש 90

The Torah goes to great length in describing the Mishkan (Tabernacle), its vessels, and the priestly garments. Thus, it turns out that every year we study four Torah portions concerning the mitzvot of the construction of the Mikdash and its vessels. By studying the Mikdash, we connect to the totality of Divine values, and the more we study and delve deeper into them – the brighter they will shine the hearts of Jews, and draw light and blessing to all walks of life. And so, we will merit to build the Temple speedily in our days.

Holiness Adds Blessing to the World

Kedusha (holiness) adds life and blessing to the world. Therefore, in the Kodesh HaKodashim (Holy of Holies), above the Aron (the Holy Ark) were the Keruvim (cherubs) resembling a male and female lover, which were intended to express the connection of love and life between God and Israel His nation, as written: “As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5).

In contrast, there are those who mistakenly think that the call to holiness means distancing oneself from the world, and the more of a tzadik (righteous person) one is, the less important all the world’s affairs are. As far as they are concerned, the more “holy” people there are, and upon the building of the Beit HaMikdash, everyone will realize the world’s insignificance – its emptiness of meaning and kedusha. However, their outlook is contrary to emunat ha’yichud (the belief that Hashem is One).

God created the heavens and the earth, and over all of creation said “tov me’od” (it is very good). After all, God did not create the world in order to cause man to fail, or to put him to the test, rather, so that he could reveal the image of God within himself, and partner with God in building the world by developing and perfecting it, both practically and morally, until the time when the Shekinah (Divine Presence) dwells in a focused and visible manner in the Mikdash, and from there, the its inspiration emanates to the entire world, as it is written: “And may the pleasantness (‘noam’ in Heb.) of the Lord our God be upon us, and the work of our hands establish for us (in the Mishkan), and the work of our hands establish it (that blessing dwell in all of the work of our hands – Rashi)” (Psalms 90:17)

In other words, a world that has a Mikdash in it, is filled with Divine values, is sanctified, and comes to be pleasurable and blessed, similar to the way Talmedei Chachamim (Torah scholars) of Eretz Yisrael are called “noam.” The study of the purpose of ​​the Mikdash and the values ​​revealed in it as well, generates enlightenment and blessing.

Kodesh HaKodashim

The Mikdash was divided into two parts: the inner third was the Kodesh HaKodashim (Holy of Holies), and the remaining two-thirds was the Kodesh (Inner Sanctuary). The Kodesh HaKodashim was intended to the reveal the brit (covenant) between God and Israel, and therefore, in its center was the Aron (Ark) containing the Tablets of the Covenant.

This brit between God and His Chosen Nation Israel is fulfilled by means of the Divine instruction to the world – the Torah – and therefore, the Torah was also placed in the Kodesh HaKodashim. As previously mentioned, on top of the Aron were the two Keruvim, expressing the sanctity of marriage whose foundation is in the Kodesh HaKodashim – namely, that the love and joy between husband and wife, through whom life abounds in the world, reveal on a small-scale the idea of emunat ha’yichud in this world.

We find, therefore, that the two basic values ​​revealed in the Kodesh HaKodashim are the sanctity of emunah (faith), and the sanctity of Israel, which are expressed through the Torah and marriage.

The Three Vessels in the Kodesh

There were three vessels in the Kodesh (Inner Sanctuary): the Shulchan (Golden Table), the Menorah (lamp), and the Mizbe’ach HaKetoret (The Altar of Incense). The Shulchan expressed all types of work and matters of livelihood; the Menorah represented all types of wisdom in the world; and the Mizbe’ach HaKetoret, on which the incense was burned every morning and evening, expressed worship of the heart in prayer. A curtain was placed between the Kodesh and the Kodesh HaKodashim, in order to differentiate between the levels of holiness, for of the holiness of the Kodesh is derived from the Kodesh HaKodashim. In other words, the sanctity of work, science, and prayer stems from the sanctity of the brit between God and Israel.

The table on which the bread was sacrificed expressed the value of work and livelihood, for by means of man’s work, he partners with God in the world’s existence and development.

The Golden Menorah expressed the value of all of the world’s secular wisdoms and arts; it had seven branches, alluding to all the different types of wisdoms, all of which are Divine.

The Mizbe’ach Ha’Pe’nimi (The Golden Inner Altar) on which the ketoret (incense) was burned, expressed worship of the heart in prayer. The ketoret was made from eleven incenses, relating to the ten levels of sanctity upon which the world was created. The eleventh incense alluded to the sinners of Israel, who, as long as they still remain connected to the Clal (general public), join in with the kedusha (holiness), and their foul smell even becomes pleasant.

The Great Outer Altar and Sacrifice

The prerequisite for the existence of all these values ​​is willingness to commit oneself to them, to sacrifice for them. This was expressed by the Mizbe’ach Ha’Chitzon (The Great Outer Altar). It is impossible to attain Torah without willingness to sacrifice leisure time in order to study diligently. It is impossible to maintain the covenant of marriage without the willingness of husband and wife to devote themselves to one another, and readiness to compromise and sacrifice. It is impossible to succeed at a job without dedication and a willingness to make an effort, and occasionally, work overtime. Likewise, a scientist would never be able to discover the secrets of nature without devoting himself to his research.

Above all, Am Yisrael, whose roots stem from the Kodesh HaKodashim, cannot exist without the holy soldiers willing to sacrifice themselves for the sanctity of the Nation and the Land. And in every place where the soldiers of Israel stand on guard to protect their Nation and Land, spreads the sanctity of the Mizbe’ach, whose roots are in founded the brit between God and His Nation in the Kodesh HaKodashim.

When we are worthy, the mesirut is expressed in the offering of korbanot (sacrifices) – giving ma’aser kesafim (money tithe), readiness to sacrifice and help family and friends, and by studying Torah, even when difficult. However, from time to time difficult circumstances arise, when, if one wants to remain connected to eternal values, he must be prepared to sacrifice life itself. Without the Mizbe’ach, the Beit HaMikdash cannot exist, as well as all the sacred values ​​in the world.

The Centrality of the Mikdash to the World

Thus we find, the pattern of the Mikdash we picture is not intended to minimize the value of the world, rather, to enhance all the values ​​revealed in it, and to make it pleasant, and blessed. The Beit HaMikdash is the life force of the world, and consequently, it was erected on the “ev’en ha’she’tiyah” (the stone from which the world was founded). Our Sages said that the heavens and earth were created from Zion, as it is written: “From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth” (Psalms 50:2) – i.e., from it, the beauty of the world was perfected (Yoma 54b). Heaven express the ideas, and earth, the deeds, and it all stems from Zion.

Therefore, all worshipers are required to direct themselves towards Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash, so that their prayers will be for the purpose of tikkun olam (perfecting the world), and its blessing. As our Sages said: “If one is standing in Chutz le’Aretz, he should turn mentally towards Eretz Yisrael, as it says, ‘And pray to you toward the Land you gave their ancestors’.

If he stands in Eretz Israel, he should turn mentally towards Jerusalem, as it says, ‘And when they pray to the Lord toward the city which you have chosen.’

If he is standing in Jerusalem, he should turn mentally towards the Beit HaMikdash, as it says, ‘And when they pray toward this house.’

If he is standing in the Beit HaMikdash, he should turn mentally towards the Kodesh HaKodashim, as it says, ‘When they pray toward this place.’ If he was standing in the Kodesh HaKodashim, he should turn mentally towards the Beit Ha’Kapporet.

If he was standing behind the Beit Ha’Kapporet, he should imagine himself to be in front of the Kapporet… in this way, all of Israel will be turning their hearts towards one place” (Berachot 30a).

Drawing Kedusha from the Mikdash to the Land

The study of Torah in Eretz Yisrael is also different for the better than abroad, for Talmedei Chachamim in Eretz Yisrael are called “noam” (pleasant) – “because they treat each other graciously [man’imim] when engaged in halachic debates,” whereas Talmedei Chachamim in Chutz le’Aretz are called “chovlim” (injurers) – “for they hurt each other’s feelings [mechablim] when discussing halakha”(Sanhedrin 24a).

In Eretz Yisraelemunat ha’yichud is revealed, whereby kedusha is revealed in all walks of life. Therefore, Talmedei Chachamim Eretz Yisrael’im are called “noam“, for they see the value of their friends’ words, and try to find ways to unite and join all values ​​and explanations. Not only that, but they are also gracious to all those engaged in work and the sciences, because anyone engaged in the building and prosperity of Eretz Yisrael, fulfills the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (settlement of the Land of Israel), which is the mitzvah by which the Shechina dwells in the Land (Chatam Sofer, Sukkah 36a).

In contrast, Talmedei Chachamim in Chutz le’Aretz are called “chovlim” because in order to survive, they are forced to oppose all the evil reality of galut (exile), which subjugates and humiliates Jews, and as a result, they develop a trait of anger against the nations who act in this manner; otherwise, the only remaining option is to assimilate and disappear. In other words, opposition and negation of the surrounding reality maintains independence, which is the fine-line that connects Jews to the hope of Geulah (Redemption).

This position also influences the study of Torah, which, in order to guard the remote tie that connects each group to holiness, feels it must clash with other views. Consequently, it is also difficult for Talmedei Chachamim in Chutz le’Aretz to see the sacred, self-value in work and in secular wisdom, because it blurs the fine-line that remotely maintains connection to holiness.

About the Angry and the Accusers

As long as this style of Talmedei Chachamim in Chutz le’Aretz is designed for survival, for necessities sake, it cannot be condemned. However, when such a position carries on to Eretz Yisrael, and is expressed in anger at other various values, even if they intone passionately about the exaltedness of holy purity, in truth, they are empty of Torah and holiness. Or, as Maran Ha’Rav Kook wrote: “We must hate anger in all the depths of our being. With great anger, but moderately and with a level-head, we must hate hot-headed anger, which jumbles and disrupts da’at (wisdom), and disqualifies all the great benefits of man – the individual, and the public. When we see a group or party always speaking angrily, it is an unmistakable sign that they possess no da’at or substance to fill their emptiness, and they are really angry with themselves, except that egoism comes and forces them to impose the venom of their anger on others. The supreme Torah scholars, who have reached the threshold of justice and kindness, are always full of desire, and grace and truth adorn them all day long” (Orot HaKodesh, Part III, p. 244).

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew.