Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • The 17th of Tamuz
To dedicate this lesson
Translated by Hillel Fendel

What Do We Lack With No Temple?

Our prayers place a special emphasis on the Beit HaMikdash and our anticipation of its rebuilding. Why is it that only regarding the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash do we ask that it happen speedily?

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Tammuz 10 5781
Our prayers place a special emphasis on the Beit HaMikdash and our anticipation of its rebuilding. For instance, every day in the Amidah prayer we say: To Your city of Jerusalem, return with mercy… And build it soon, in our times, an everlasting building… O G-d, Source of all blessing, Builder of Jerusalem." nd then again right after the Amidah: "May it be Your Will, o Hashem, our G-d and G-d of our Fathers, that the Holy Temple shall be rebuilt quickly in our times…"

So too in the Grace After Meals: "And build up Jerusalem, city of sanctity, quickly in our times…"

And in the blessings over the Haftarah that we read from the Prophets, following the public Torah reading on the Sabbath: "Have mercy on Zion, for it is the source of our life, and to the wretched of soul bring salvation quickly in our times."

Similarly in our holiday and New Moon prayers: "O merciful King, may You again have mercy on us and on Your Holy Temple, in your great mercies, and build it speedily and enhance its honor."

There are of course many other examples as well, too numerous to list here.

What we see clearly is that we are not praying merely for the rebuilding of the Temple and Jerusalem, but also that it should be "quickly in our times." This raises an interesting question: Our prayers are filled with requests, but we do not add that they should happen quickly! Why is it that only regarding the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash do we ask that it happen speedily?

Many sources in the writings of HaRav Kook zt"l show that the Beit HaMikdash symbolizes the path to rich and varied national life in sanctity. He writes that the Holy Temple includes within it "nobility of intellect and education and prophecy, and, on the other hand, the purity of flesh and blood [of the sacrifices], and imagination and emotion" (Orot HaTchiyah 35). In the Temple's current state of destruction and absence, something in the manifestation of our lives is missing as well, which is why the blessing refers to us as "wretched of soul."

Still elsewhere he writes that the Temple stands for our national aspiration for "complete beauty, for complete imagination in all its strength." He explains that part of life is simply missing and is desecrated by the absence of the Temple. In this connection he notes that Talmud relates allegorically G-d's terrible cry, 'Woe is Me that I have destroyed My house and burnt My sanctuary.'"

Let us go even further in understanding the depths of what the world is missing because of the absence of the Beit HaMikdash. Rav Kook explains that the Temple's destruction is the source of everything that is wrong and defective. Every attempt to repair what is broken without taking into account the absence of the Beit HaMikdash will simply be a "local" fix, and certainly not a complete one. The true solution to the world's problems is the construction of the Holy Temple – and this is why we want it to be built speedily!

In his commentary to the Siddur, Rav Kook writes that all the individual things that are not complete in this world stem from the lack of that which illuminates all of life: "The destruction is precisely the reason for the darkening of our world, and souls suffer…" He says that the "Israelite soul" must seek a rectification at its very root: the return of G-d's honor to its place, and the revelation of the splendor and shine of sanctity in the world – leading to the restoration of everything as it once was. "May the Temple be rebuilt, speedily in our days! Our drive for a speedy rebuilding gives momentum of sanctity that shines in our soul - and the desire that this happen in our own days links all of our life essence, even in its temporal form, to the foundation of the Supreme sanctity – from which the entire world will be illuminated, and from which the Temple will be built quickly, in our days."

Sanctifying Thought A concrete example of what we are missing without the Beit haMikdash is "the holiness of thought." Rav Kook writes:
"Outside the Holy Land, we experience the value of deeds alone; inside the Land, we experience the value of speech; and in the Holy Temple, we experience the value of thought… Even nowadays, a trace of this remains, because the holiness remains even in its desolation… And the more one awaits and hopes for salvation, the more the value of speech and thought is revealed to him, adorning his deeds."

The Talmud tells us that one can barely, if at all, control his thoughts, and "we are not spared even one day of thoughts of sin." Still, however, in the Beit HaMikdash, things are different: We are required to control our thoughts, and if the Priest has the wrong thought when bringing a sacrifice, it is disqualified. He who eagerly awaits the building of the Temple thus purifies his thoughts within him.

May the Temple be rebuilt speedily in our times!
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