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How to Connect to the Beit Hamikdash, Part 2.
How to Connect to the Beit Hamikdash, Part 2.
Even though the real challenge of the day of the 9th of Av is to stop being so complacent with the way things are, to understand that we can change this day from a day of mourning to a day of rejoicing, and to do whatever is necessary to make that happen (for more on this, check out my blog here), we cannot ignore that part of the reason we don’t is that we don’t know the way things are supposed to be. The fact that we don’t know what to cry about, in and of itself, should give us something to cry about (again, see that blog). But! That should inspire us to stop being ignorant and to get a clue as to what we are missing. What was the Beit Hamikdash, and why do I need it?
The Mishna in tractate Avos (1:2) says
“Simon, the Tzaddik was among the last (surviving members) of Anshei Knesset HaGedolah (the men of the Great Assembly), he would say “On three things does the world stand: on the Torah, on the Avodah (the daily work in the temple, i.e. the korbanos (sacrifices)), and on gemilut chassadim (acts of free-will charity)”.
Simon, the Tzaddik, who was also the Kohein Gadol, wanted to give us perspective on what things are fundamental to the existence of the world. One of the big three, he says, is the worship performed in the Beit Hamikdash. Yet, it would appear that he was incorrect. After all, it has been almost 2000 years since the Temple’s destruction, yet… here we are today! So, it would seem that Shimon ha’Tzaddik didn’t know what he was talking about… yet it’s clear that he did.
We are told that the world during the times of the Mikdash, was a different world than it is today. Concerning this, the Mishna (Tractate Sotah chapter 9, on page 48a in the Talmud) states:
…From the time of the destruction of the (first), Beit Hamikdash the Shamir and the nofet tzufim were negated, and men of Emunah stopped from Israel, as the verse says (Tehillim (Psalms) 12:2) save us HaShem, for there are no more Chassidim, [for Emunim stopped from the sons of man]. RASHBA”G (Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel) said Rabbi Yehoshua testified that from the day of the destruction of the (second) Beit Hamikdash there is no day that doesn’t have kelalah (cursed) and the dew doesn’t fall for a blessing, and the flavor of fruits was taken away. Rabbi Yossi says “the fat of the fruits was also taken away”. Rabbi Shimon, son of Elazar says “the (lack of) Purity (taharah) took away the smell (of the fruits) and the ma’asrot took away the fat of the grains”
No matter how we slice it, the fact remains that our sages, ob”m, who lived through those destructions, sensed that the world before the destruction, was integrally different than the world was afterward. There was an abundance of blessing that was no longer there. It was a lesser, blander world.
Despite this, even though one of the pillars of the world was burned down, the world still remains, because there is a replacement for this pillar. Granted, it is a powerful, sublime replacement, yet it is NOT a substitute for the real thing.
Prayer, the Fill-in For Sacrifices
The replacement is, of course, prayer. As the prophet writes (Hoshea 14:3)
“…and our lips should be as a replacement for the (offerings of) cows”.
It’s also NOT the topic of this blog, so for now, we’ll leave it aside. However, one more thing about prayer before we move on.
Our sage, ob”m, in Tractate Berachos 6b, say as follows:
אֲמַר לֵיהּ הָהוּא מֵרַבָּנַן לְרַב בִּיבִי בַּר אַבָּיֵי, וְאָמְרִי לַהּ רַב בִּיבִי לְרַב נַחְמָן בַּר יִצְחָק: מַאי ״כְּרֻם זֻלּוּת לִבְנֵי אָדָם״?
Rav Huna already explained the beginning of the verse, “The wicked walk roundabout.” The Gemara explains the end of the verse: “When vileness is exalted among the sons of men.” One of the Sages said to Rav Beivai bar Abaye, and some say Rav Beivai said to Rav Naḥman bar Yitzḥak: What is the meaning of: “When vileness is exalted among the sons of men”?
אֲמַר לֵיהּ: אֵלּוּ דְּבָרִים שֶׁעוֹמְדִים בְּרוּמוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, וּבְנֵי אָדָם מְזַלְזְלִין בָּהֶן
He said to him: These are matters which stand at the heights of the heavens (of utmost importance), exalted, which people nonetheless treat with contempt, vileness among the sons of men.
Upon which Rashi comments “Which stand at the heights of the heavens, for example, tefillah, (prayer) which climbs upwards (to the loftiest parts of the heavens)”.
That is the power of tefillah, of prayer, yet, as the Gemara clearly states, people don’t give it the proper regard, we treat it with contempt because we don’t understand the power of real prayer.
Prayer is both powerful and incredibly important, but it doesn’t quite take the place of the Mikdash.
What Makes the Mikdash Different?
The reason why the Mikdash was and still is, so important, is that it has one fundamental job in this world: to be a “dwelling place” for the Shechinah to be in. This is obviously not meant to be taken literally, for no matter how we slice it, it doesn’t make sense, yet it is most certainly serious. The reason for this is because the single Mikdash is meant to be a “meeting place” between the world of the physical and that of the spiritual. It utilized the most mundane of things, animal flesh and blood, to bring closer, the Children of Israel to their Father in Heaven. Regardless of which offering was brought, they all have one thing in common: they are called korbanos, (sacrifices) because their purpose is l’karev (the root word is k-r-v) which means “close”. This is because two things are sacrificed on the altar, the physical body of the animal that was brought, and the intentions of the person or people who brought them.
For as long as the people of Israel brought the sacrifices for the right reason, to do the will of HaShem, then all of the sacrifices hit their mark and were “a sweet .an pleasant smell” (reyach ni’choyach) to HaShem.
None of the services of the Temple was because the God of Israel was hungry, or that He was lacking in any shape, way, or form. It was all about forging a bond with our Father in Heaven, or fixing it if needed such. For what is it that a person does when they want to make a connection with someone else? They invite them over to sit down and have a meal together!
For as long as the service of the Temple was done for the right reasons, there was a tangible sense that HaShem dwelled among us, and that presence brought with it a multitude of blessings to the land and the people. There were obvious miracles that occurred daily in the Mikdash (see Avos 5:5), and the Mikdash was a source of harmony and unity for the people.
Why Did We Lose the Temple?
It was our innate selfishness, laziness, and lack of humility that brought all of that tumbling down around our heads.
It is the lack of HaShem’s tangible presence among us, and the ability to come together as a unified people that we are mourning to this day when we arrive at the awful, lowly day of the 9th of Av; the day we commemorate the destruction of both of our holy Temples, in Jerusalem.
Maybe This Will Help
Look around at the world we live in today.
I say this for effect, and I certainly don’t want to be mekatreg (act as a prosecutor) against Am Yisroel, but I’ll be harsh to drive this point home.
There is rampant kefirah (apostatism) everywhere. Most of us daven (pray), learn, and do mitzvos, but it doesn’t move us in any tangible way. Even in the holy Yeshivos, our young generation is disconnected from the learning of HaShem’s holy Torah; there are leaders whose emunah is only skin deep, and so very few people who make it their goal in life to do what they can for the sake of k’vod shomayim (the honor of Heaven). We need a Mikdash, to help us get back in touch with HaShem tangibly.
The people are more divided than ever before. Lines are being drawn in the sand between the religious and the irreligious; there is a rift between the National religious and the Haredi communities, and in both communities, there is a broad spectrum of connection and religious observance.
All of this would be solvable, if only we had a Mikdash, with a Sanhedrin in it, who would help to unify the people of G-d’s holy Torah, into one holy people.
But we still don’t have it, because we still haven’t gotten the message.
Throughout history, the people of Israel have always never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. If we want that trend to stop there is only one thing for me to understand: אין הדבר תלוי אלא בי “the thing (in its entirety) is only dependent upon me.”
If every one of us would first and foremost worry about our own fulfillment of the Torah; if each of us would do htheir best to make their own observance of mitzvos their priority in life, we would live in a different world today.
IF the reality of today’s world doesn’t inspire me (and you!) to comprehend what we are missing without a Beis Hamikdash, then I don’t know what else will.
 The reason the Mishna mentions this is because in mishna 1:1 the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah (AK”H from here on) are listed as next in line in the procession of Torah authority as handed down from Moshe (Moses) at Sinai. The AK”H were an aberration in the Torah. Even though the Torah states that the largest judicial body is supposed to have a maximum of 71 members, called the Sanhedrin, the AK”H had 120 members. No real reason is brought as to why they did this. It was clearly a one-time thing, as evidenced by the fact that as members died off, they didn’t replace them until they got back down to the 71 member Sanhedrin sanctioned by the Torah. I remember hearing once that the reason for this was in order to re-establish Jerusalem as the center of Torah in the Jewish world again, but this is only a partial answer. In any case, the above is why Shimon haTzaddik is called “among the last of the AK”H”.
 The Gemara there explains that nofet tzufim was a tremendous blessing that happened to the dough, see there 48b.
 I know that the Midrash states this somewhere, but I couldn’t recall and I couldn’t find it. That Avraham avinu asked HKB”H what should a sinner do, and HaShem answered “He should bring a sacrifice, and it will be forgiven of him”. He then asked, “That’s true when there is a Mikdash, but when there is no Mikdash, then what?” To which, HaShem answered v’neshalmah parim sefaseinu, and our lips shall replace (those) cows (which were offered on the altar).
 After all, if HaShem has no physicality, how can He dwell in a specific place? If He is physically immense, m’lo kol ha’aretz kevodo (He fills the world with His Honor), (Isaiah 6:3) then there isn’t enough space in the Mikdash to contain Him. This is actually addressed in the Midrash (Shemos Rabbah 34:1), which states that when Moshe Rabbenu (Moses, our Teacher) was told to build for HaShem the Mishkan, he asked exactly this question. HKB”H responded to him that it’s understanding is not according to human understanding, just do what you are capable of, (what He specified) and it will work,
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