Monday, May 31, 2010

Longing for Beit HaMikdash (the Temple)


When you walk through Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter in the Old City today, you will mostly find antique sites from the Second Temple period. Here and there are some remains of the city wall from the period of the First Temple, however, everything else concentrates on the Second Temple. The Kotel HaMa'aravi - West(ern) Wall or the nearby Ophel. You can join tours taking you 30 meters below where the original market street in front of the Temple used to be. Where we stand today is about 30 meters on top of the original site where Rabbi Akivah or Rabbi Gamliel used to walk.

It is very emotional walking through the tunnel system underneath the Kotel as well as seeing the stones (from the top of the wall) thrown down by the Romans during the Second Temple destruction. On some of those stones you can still see black spots from the fire when the Temple was burning.

In the Ophel, right next to the Kotel Plaza, you can walk along the ancient shopping mall in front of the Second Temple. Where the Jews used to buy their sacrifices for the Temple. You can sit there and imagine how it used to be in those days. Busy streets, Jews buying sacrifices and walking up to the Temple. Going to the Mikweh (ritual bath) and then handing in the animal to be sacrificed.

What a great feeling must this have been and how could the people 2000 years be so ignorant of all the Shechinah (G - d's presence) surrounding the Temple. At least in those early days of the Second Temple when corruption among the Cohanim did not yet take place.
How could the Jews start fighting when they had a Temple ? When the Prophet Jeremiah (Yirmeyahu) was warning them.

The question is if we today would be so much better. We may think so but when it comes to fights, arguments and priorities we are probably not so much better than our ancient ancestors. Is it of any use sitting in the Ophel and dreaming about the good old days with the 
Second Temple ? Of course all those ancient sites and stones provide the visitor with a certain emotional feeling but how about concentrating on the future ? As we know from the Talmud, the Second Temple didn't include such a high level of the Shechinah as the First Temple did. There was no more Aron HaKodesh (ark with the tablets), all the great prophets were gone, the Shamir (a kind of small animal King Salomon used for cutting the stones of the First Temple) had vanished and all the other visible miracles were gone.
The Talmud Tractate Yoma explains us that only a bit more than 40,000 Jews came back to Israel from the Babylonian Diaspora. Hundreds of thousands of other Jews preferred staying in Babylon where they had built up their businesses. Why returning to Jerusalem where there are only ruins ? The result was that the Second Temple has never reached the level of Kedusha (holiness) as the First Temple did.

Instead of dreaming about a glorious past we should concentrate on the future; meaning on Meshiach and the Third Temple. Not looking back in history but imagining us sitting in the Third Temple and we should all do something that we get there very soon.


  1. Amen.

    Also I think you meant "the ark with the tablets"

  2. B"H

    Yes, I did and I corrected the mistake.:-)