Beit Midrash

  • Family and Society
  • The Holy Temple - Beit Hamikdash
To dedicate this lesson

Will Life With the Temple Rebuilt Still Be...Fun?

I'm quite afraid of what life will be like when the Temple is rebuilt. Does it mean that we won't be able to go to the beach anymore? Will we just learn and bring sacrifices all day?


Rabbi Refael Wassertheil

Adar I 24 5782
Translated by Hillel Fendel

Question: I was talking with a Yeshiva friend about the Holy Temple (Beit HaMikdash), and I began sensing that, despite my daily prayers, I'm not really sure how much I really want it. I guess what I mean is that I'm quite afraid of what life will be like when the Temple is rebuilt. Does it mean that we won't be able to go to the beach anymore? Will we just learn and bring sacrifices all day? What kind of life will we have? Thank you and sorry for the way I expressed myself.

Answer: You have asked a very important question, and even formulated it very well. It touches upon our deepest hopes, and should therefore receive a lengthy answer. But I'll try to provide at least a short answer…

We have to distinguish between two types of enjoyments in our lives: physical pleasure and spiritual delights. The former includes, of course, the pleasures of eating, receiving prestige, having wealth, and other bodily enjoyments. These are permitted, both when the Beit HaMikdash is extant and nowadays, as long as they are governed by the rules of Jewish Law. They are even praiseworthy to the extent that they are filled with spiritual content and meaning, and connected in some way with Divine service. For instance, the ideal way for a person to go on a nature hike is in order to be healthy in body and spirit to serve G-d more fully.

But when a person engages in bodily pleasures simply for the low-grade enjoyment they provide, the multiplicity of such pleasures in the world will simply drag him down to coarse physicality. Such pleasures chiefly benefit the body and nefesh, i.e., the spiritual aspects that drive the physical, whereas the spiritual pleasures in the world benefit the neshama, that which drives one's spiritual urges.

Another important difference between these two types of pleasure is in the enjoyment they provide: Physical enjoyments last for a short time, only as long as the pleasure lasts; they decrease in intensity as they happen more often; and they can even become not pleasurable after a while. As we read in Proverbs (25,16): "If you find honey, eat [only] your fill, lest you become over-sated with it and vomit it up." Spiritual pleasures, on the other hand, last much longer than the pleasure itself, and are also much more powerful and qualitative than physical enjoyments.

This difference stems from the happiness and enjoyment the neshama receives when the person is able to fulfill his purpose on earth. The person senses great gratification, fulfillment, and true and ongoing inner joy, accompanied by inner serenity and calm. The neshama does not participate in the physical enjoyments, and therefore these pleasures bring happiness that is external and short-lived; when a person concentrates on these, his neshama is unhappy, because he is being distanced from fulfilling his true goal.

Yet another difference is that a spiritual pleasure begins even before it actually starts. The moment one decides to do a good deed, the pleasure starts – and it ends way after the actual deed is done. Physical enjoyment, however, occurs only when it actually happens, even if possibly a bit afterwards as well.

Our task, as servants of G-d, is to focus on the spiritual enjoyments of our lives – good deeds, good thoughts, good traits – and allow them to lead us and pour light and goodness into our lives.

With this introduction, we can better understand the secret of our centuries-long yearning, as a nation and as individuals, for the construction of the Holy Temple. The striving and hope, the prayer and longing for the speedy building of the Beit HaMikdash, is primarily an aspiration for the spiritual tier that it will grant us. We have no first-hand experience with the Holy Temple, and it is understandably hard for us to grasp what it really means and what great influence the dwelling of the Holy Presence in our midst will have on our hearts.

When the Mikdash was extant in the center of the Jewish capital, we were able to attain supreme spiritual exultation via the holy Divine service there of the Kohanim and Levi'im – whose descendants are known and amongst us even today. The crescendo was reached on Yom Kippur, when the High Priest would uplift the spirit of the entire nation with his successful performance of that day's special Mikdash service. Even those who did not merit to actually be present there were able to feel the force of the holiness.

No Meat, No Wine – and No Water?
Our goal today, without the Beit HaMikdash, is to try to merit the sensation of even a small fraction of that exultation and closeness to G-d that we felt on a daily basis when we did have the Temple. The Gemara (Bava Batra 60b) recounts the terrible upheaval that took place with the destruction of the Mikdash. People stopped eating meat, feeling that there was no purpose or significance to doing so when they could not offer up meat sacrifices in the Temple. They also stopped drinking wine, which was also a major part of the Temple service. There was even a thought to stop eating all fruits (brought to the Priests as bikkurim, first-fruits) and drinking water (festively drawn on Sukkot for pouring in the Mikdash), but it was quickly realized that this would be impossible. Life must go on, and the Sages did not consent to have the terrible mourning for the destruction bring depression and suffering that the people would not be able to withstand.

We Want to See!
The above should suffice for us to understand a little of the terrible lack in our lives caused by the destruction of the Holy Temple. Everyone alive then understood it at the time – but we, in our spiritual poverty, have become accustomed to this situation to the point that we can't even picture or describe the true and complete reality. It is like a blind person who has learned Braille, developed his other senses beyond the norm, and is accompanied everywhere by a seeing-eye dog – would it not be frightful if he grows so "comfortable" that, even if a new procedure is discovered that can restore his sight, he would refuse the treatment, choosing instead to remain blind?! The parallel, of course, is the reticence we sometimes feel, instead of looking eagerly forward to seeing the Beit Mikdash.

We pray that we merit the return of the "light of our eyes" in the form of our Beit Mikdash, and through it, may we merit to enjoy the splendor of the Divine Presence. At that point, even the physical pleasures of life will have true value and meaning on their highest levels.

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