By: Rav David Milston
LeShana Haba’a BiYerushalayim HaBenuya
We have begun the parshiot extensively covering the subject of Mishkan, and much of Sefer Vayikra will also deal with matters directly related to the Mishkan. Furthermore, from the moment Am Yisrael enters Eretz Yisrael there is one long-term objective – the building of the Beit HaMikdash.
So much of our heritage centers on our Mikdash; to this day we wait with eager anticipation for the coming of Mashiach, and the rebuilding of the third Beit HaMikdash. It therefore seems only natural we dedicate a sicha to the importance and centrality of the
This issue is complicated by the knowledge that Am Yisrael needs no medium in their relationship with the Almighty. We have been taught to turn to God directly, ‘reveal’ our innermost thoughts, and pour out our hearts. A Jew can always turn to the Almighty, wherever he or she is, whatever he or she may be doing.
In light of this fundamental principle, why do we need a Mikdash? And if the Mikdash is so essential, how have we managed to survive without it for two millennia? What does exile represent?
The Ramban, in his introduction to Sefer Shemot, seems to understand the Mishkan as an ongoing Har Sinai experience. The Revelation was not meant to be a one-off encounter; it was just the beginning of a continuing relationship with the Almighty.
The structure of the Tabernacle is not dissimilar in its boundaries to the layout of
We experience similar divisions in the Beit HaMikdash: areas any pure Jew can enter, areas solely accessible to the Priests, and areas limited uniquely to the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest. The Holy of Holies appears to run parallel to the top of the mount; just as the Torah emanates from Har Sinai, ongoing revelation stems from the Holy of Holies.
As mentioned earlier, this beautiful idea establishes the understanding that the Torah is a living Torah, an unending revelation. The ideal scenario is that this revelation last forever. This form of dialogue between the Almighty and Am Yisrael should retain its spiritual level, slowly but surely spreading God’s message throughout the world.
That said, how are we to understand the destruction of the
The truth is we cannot survive without the Torah. Not only is there no Am Yisrael without Torah, there is also no purpose to the world. The Torah is the engine of this world, and without it there is no meaning, no direction, and no objective.
The Mikdash is the extension of Har Sinai with one essential distinction. The Torah had not yet been given at Har Sinai, but once we received it, it became ours for eternity – Torat Hashem… Torat Yisrael.
Clearly, the highest and most ideal form of Torah relationship with the Almighty would initially be reflected by the enduring revelation through the Mishkan, and later on through the Mikdash. However, if Am Yisrael were no longer spiritually worthy of such a revelation, all would not be lost. The Torah would accompany us wherever we were sent; it would retain our spiritual status and nurture us until we were once again worthy of direct revelation.
The Mishkan/Mikdash develops an already existing phenomenon, introduced at Har Sinai. The world could never exist without the initiation of the latter, but it can continue to develop, albeit at a slower pace and at a lower level, without the former, through continuing Torah observance and study.
According to the Ramban, we suggest that man can speak to God whenever he wants, but the Revelation at Har Sinai can only be extended through Mikdash.
How have we been able to survive the terrible years of exile? Only through the Torah; strict observance and continuous study. Why do we yearn for the third Mikdash if we have managed for so long without it? Because indeed we have only ‘managed.’ We can never fulfill our greatest spiritual potential in a society that exists without Mikdash. We are limited in what we can achieve; our potential is stunted.
We should not be misled by the growth of Torah learning in our generation. It is indeed an incredible feat, especially in the light of the tragedies of the not-so-distant past, yet the further we are from our idyllic scenario, the less we really comprehend, and things become more superficial.
The Mikdash cannot be replaced, just as Yerushalayim cannot be replaced. To merit the revelations of Yerushalayim we have to deserve it. The exilic Torah sustains us, keeps us alive, even elevates us, but the Torah of Mikdash takes us to the Heavens, revealing spiritual realities we never knew existed.
If we are to merit the Mikdash, we must repeat the acts of our forefathers all those years ago. In just seven weeks, Bnei Yisrael managed to transform themselves from an almost unidentifiable mass being dragged out of
As we have said on so many occasions, the Mikdash is not a building. It is a spiritual reality. When we reach that reality we will have a Mikdash once again, de-facto.
The Abarbanel suggests a theme that adds to the Ramban. The Abrahamic idea of monotheism saw the Almighty God as being an active God, totally involved in this world. Har Sinai only comes to publicly confirm the lessons taught in
A generation worthy of the
The base level of fearing God is the constant awareness that we will be held responsible for all of our actions; He is watching all we do; He is everywhere, and we need to be aware we always stand before Him.
But is this really so easy? Is it so simple to walk the streets with a full awareness of the Holy Presence? Even in Mikdash times, when the level of spiritual awareness is formidably higher than exilic standards, there is still a need to periodically make one’s way to Yerushalayim for a strong reminder before whom we stand.
For the Abarbanel, the idea of Mikdash is not simply a continued revelation, but a symbolic statement. The people are of a spiritual caliber that makes them fully conscious of God’s direct involvement in the world. If we ever become complacent of such a fundamental principle; if we begin to forget that God is the active center of this world, then the consequence is the removal of Mikdash.
With this understanding, there is no suggestion that exile is the end. On the contrary, we are sent into exile with the ultimate challenge. You have forgotten who rules the world; God will now ‘hide’ Himself, and you will prove yourselves worthy by finding Him again. Those of us who are worthy will find him everywhere, even in the darkest areas of exile.
In his sichot to Chanukah, the Netivot Shalom repeatedly emphasizes that Chanukah occurs during the darkest time of the month (the end of Kislev and the start of Tevet.) This is the darkest month of the year, and if that were not enough, we are told to light the candles at a height of 10 tefachim (handbreadths) – a height ‘devoid of Divine Presence!’ Despite these ‘limitations,’ we are told to light the Chanukah lights.
We can find God in the darkest of realities. In the winter, with desolation – bare trees and uprooted plants – all around us, we are told we can and must light lights. The mission of the exile is to find God once again, and to bring Him back into our lives. As soon as we have done this we will once again merit Mikdash. That Mikdash will reflect our achievement; a public declaration that man has crowned God as the Ruler of the Universe.
The Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 95) suggests the purpose of the Mikdash was to be a single place representing the ideal for humankind. A place to go for inspiration, a place to realign, redefine oneself, to gain strength and move forward.
This Mikdash is for sure not the only place man can speak to God. On the contrary, every individual lives in their own respective areas, attends their own shul, and speaks to God wherever he may be.
With this in mind, we can clearly see the Mikdash is not the only place man can converse with God. It is worth noting that in Shlomo Hamelech’s consecration of the
So the Mikdash reflects a central focus for spiritual inspiration. To be inspired, one needs to value the Mikdash. If we are to be influenced by the holiness of the holy city, we must surely value that holiness. Exile comes when we no longer see Yerushalayim as our central objective; when we create alternative ‘Jerusalems,’ or alternative ‘Batei Mikdash.’
We cannot be inspired if we do not value the source of the inspiration. We were sent into exile because we no longer valued the truth the Beit Mikdash represented. Perhaps we valued the building and its external symbolism, but we had replaced the important central themes with peripheral ones.
Our role in exile is to reassess our value system; regain our perspectives and once again yearn for Yerushalayim and Mikdash. To yearn for Mikdash is not to yearn for escapism from an oppressor. To yearn for Mikdash is not to pray that our financial burdens be lightened.
Unfortunately, today’s reality is that the majority of Jews who have made aliya to
If we were really mourning on Tisha B’Av, feeling empty because we really feel the lack of Mikdash, then Mikdash would come…
Why do we start Ma’ariv immediately after Neilah with a request to be forgiven for our sins? A colleague told me it’s because we could have committed the one possible sin between the end of Neilah and the beginning of Ma’ariv: singing ‘Next Year in
The exact same principle is true for the Beit HaMikdash. To merit it, we must pray with a real yearning to have it for its own sake, and not to escape the problems of exile. When we really feel we are missing something crucial; when we internalize the fact that the Mikdash is our supreme inspirational source, our actions will reflect a shift in perspective, and the Almighty will return it to us.
The only one of the Rambam’s 13 principles of faith demanding a constant daily yearning is the coming of Mashiach. When we sing of ‘Next Year in
In conclusion, perhaps we could add a fourth facet to Mikdash. Mikdash represents the united people of
Today, Pesach virtually centers round the destroying of chametz and the Seder Night. Each family is in their own home reliving the events of the Exodus. During Mikdash times, Pesach is a unique gathering of the entire people of
Each festival, even the High Holidays, becomes a national celebration; a conglomeration of Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael, and Torat Yisrael. In times of Mikdash our existence is a national one, but if we cannot live without inner strife and selfishness then the Mikdash can no longer unite us.
We are exiled; we are no longer worthy of our extended revelation because we no longer behave like a people. We must be exiled, regroup, reunite, and only then return to our ideal of the three pillars – Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael, and Torat Yisrael.