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Beit Midrash Jewish Laws and Thoughts Foundations of Faith

Chapter 31

31. Regarding the Holy Temple in Jerusalem

The Sages liken the Holy Temple to the heart: just as the heart is the center of all of the bodily organs, the center of life from which all of the life-forces flow to the rest of the body, so the Temple is the spiritual heart of the entire nation.
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We have discussed the preeminence of the land of Israel, the Holy Land, the Land of Prophecy, the only place in the world where the Jewish people can attach themselves to Divinity. Presently, we shall discuss the importance of the Holy Temple.
Foundations of Faith (50)
Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed
30 - 30. The Preeminence of the Holy Land (Continued)
31 - 31. Regarding the Holy Temple in Jerusalem
32 - 32. Israel's Plight in the Exile
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The Sages liken the Holy Temple to the heart: just as the heart is the center of all of the bodily organs whereto the soul is attached, the center of life from which all of the life-forces flow to the rest of the body, so the Holy Temple is the spiritual heart of the entire nation. The national body of the Jewish people cannot live without this heart. The people cannot exist without a central place towards which all turn, around which all unite and which serves to bond all of existence.

Divine worship is not the obligation of individual persons. The truest form of worship is communal. Most of the Torah's commandments are directed at the consummation of the nation: being in the Land of Israel with the Holy Temple. Just as the head and heart serve as a "sanctuaries" for man's spiritual faculties - wisdom and will, the inner life forces – so the Holy Temple is a sanctuary for the nation's spiritual faculties, the place where the national spirit receives expression, the place where the Divine Presence reveals itself, as according to the verse, "They shall make a sanctuary for Me and I will dwell amongst them."

The entire order of service carried out in the Holy Temple is directed towards this goal. Via the Divinely guided service in the Holy Temple, God's Divinity rests. The spiritual heart, which is attached to the living God, supplies life to all of the limbs and brings vitality to the entire nation. Just as the heart draws blood from the rest of the body, filters it of all waste, and sends out clean blood which rejuvenates all of the organs, so the Holy Temple expiates all of the transgressions, does away with the spiritual waste, and brings a spirit of purity to the entire nation.

This being the case, without the Hoy Temple we are today like a body without a mind and heart. Even worse, for if the entire nation was in the Land of Israel with no Temple we might compare our plight to that of a body without a heart, but when the Jewish people are dispersed amongst the nations and most have not made their home in Israel, even the body is lacking.

This is how Ezekiel saw the Jewish people in his vision – dry scattered bones. These bones, however, possess an inkling of life. These bones are capable of uniting into a full body and returning to life. In the meantime, however, they are scattered bones. Ezekiel's vision was at the outset of the exile. As the generations passed, though, the situation worsened. The bones disintegrated.

This is how the Vilna Gaon described the plight of the Jewish people in exile: "From the moment that the Holy Temple was destroyed, our spirit departed, our crowning glory. We were left with nothing but ourselves, a body with no spirit. Being among the nations is like being in a grave...we have not the ability to save ourselves. Idolaters consume our flesh. All the same, large study halls continued to exist and function until the flesh rotted and the bones were again and again scattered. All the same, some bones manages to subsist – Torah scholars. Finally, even they rotted away and nothing was left but our own decayed remains...and we now hope for the Resurrection."

We cannot help but note the fact that today, thank God, the bones are beginning to gather together, but we still lack the essence, the mind and the heart, Divine life – the Holy Temple.


Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed
Rosh Yeshiva of the Bet El Yeshiva, was the head of the Yesha rabbis board and rabbi of Bet-El, founder and head of Arutz 7.
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