Pop quiz. Who wrote the following opinion regarding the Temple, a Jew or a Christian? “The Beit Hamikdash is made by G-d Himself of living stone. This Temple will descend as a bride/bridegroom from Heaven adorned with the things of G-d, not of man.”
The answer could easily be both, as both Jewish and Christian concepts are included in the quote. The answer, though, is a Christian. Which begs the next question, “When did so many Jews start thinking like Christians?”
Lately, Rabbi Richman of the Temple Institute has spent much of his time trying to challenge the belief that the third Temple is going to literally descend from Heaven. Perhaps Jews believe the Temple will drop out of the sky due to the “Blame it on Rashi” syndrome. After all, Rashi wrote that the longed for Temple is ready and perfected and will descend from Heaven. Or maybe it’s Zoharitis. After all several pages in the Zohar refer to the third Temple being built by none other than Hashem’s hands and descending from Heaven. Or perhaps the Chicken Little cry, “The Temple is falling from the sky!” is most of all a symptom of the galut. Sadly, if Jews are separated from the physical Land of Israel, they most likely are going to be mentally and spiritually separated from the concept of a physical Temple.
Whatever the reasons are though, honestly, I just don’t get it. Yes, Rashi and the Zohar refer to a spiritual Temple built by Hashem that will descend from Heaven. But how does the reference to a spiritual Temple in Heaven negate the belief and the commandment for Jews to physically build G-d a Temple? Elementary kabbalah teaches about the interwoven nature of the spiritual with the physical. Our physical “reality” is a microcosm of the spiritual. Yet, I really don’t need to be a student of kabbalah to understand the dualism of the spiritual with the physical. Why? Because I’m a mother.
B’H, I’ve had the privilege of giving birth to two beautiful children. For women who have experienced childbirth, no doubt they have a vivid memory of bringing their children into this world. There is no shadow of a doubt how their children got here! Yet, moms who are spiritually in tune know that they really had nothing to do with bringing their children into the world and that Hashem had everything to do with it.
Hashem the Creator allows us the illusion of being co-creators with Him. (After all, when we really catch glimpses of His Oneness we realize we don’t even exist outside of Him, much less our actions.) Yet none-the-less, in the physical realm he designed a man and woman’s union to create life. The woman carries the seed of life and incubates its growth for nine months then has the incredible experience of being the portal for a spiritual entity to enter the physical world.
Even after giving birth and aiding my children’s physical growth everyday, I know that ultimately I had and have nothing to do with their existence. I didn’t really create their lives. I don’t really cause them to grow. I don’t sustain their every breath. Hashem gave me the blessing of being a conduit of His creation. Yet, literally, my children were built by Hashem’s hands. They were made and perfected in Heaven. Then at the appointed time, they descended into this world when I gave birth to them.
Are you starting to see my point? Hopefully, soon, in our lifetime, the Temple will be built. Think about it; construction workers are going to pour concrete for the foundation, raise beams for the infrastructure, wire for electricity, install the plumbing, lay the marble, etc. More than anyone, these men could pat each other on the back once the Temple is completed and say, “Look at what we did!” Along with them, the rabbis and staff of the Temple Institute could smile at each other in joy and satisfaction and say, “We finally did it!” Yet, ultimately, just as a mother knows deep inside that she really had nothing to do with creating her children, those who build the Temple will know that they really had nothing to do with it, even though it seemed that they had everything to do with it. It’s akin to the blessing, “Blessed are you, O L-rd our G-d, King of the Universe Who brings forth bread from the earth.” What about the farmer? He readied the field, planted the seed, worried about the weather, pulled the weeds, and harvested the crop. Yet, it is Hashem Who gets the credit and the thanksgiving for bringing forth the bread.
“If Hashem will not build the house, in vain do its builders labor on it; if Hashem will not guard the city, in vain is the watchman vigilant.” I think of this verse whenever I lock my doors at night. I know that it is my responsibility to lock the doors. But I also know that doors and locks that cost mere dollars are not what really keeps my family and I safe. Ultimately, we are safe because Hashem watches over us.
Just as it is my responsibility to lock my doors at night, it is the responsibility of every Jew to build the Temple. Really. Perhaps the 21st century or the galut has clouded Jews’ understanding of their original mission. Psalms 104 and 105 are vivid reminders that Hashem is in control of everything, down to the smallest detail. From allowing a lion to catch its prey, to bringing His people out of Egypt, the Psalmists reminds us that Hashem orchestrates everything. Why? Psalms 105 ends with the reason: So that Jews will safeguard and keep the Torah.
And what is the ultimate goal of the Torah, as Rabbi Richman so passionately teaches? To make Hashem a Sanctuary, so that He may dwell among us. That’s it. Hashem needs, wants, demands, however you want to put it, a physical point on earth for the fullness of His essence to dwell with us. That is what we are so sorely missing; Hashem’s Oneness. “Behold, He stands behind our wall, observing from the windows, peering from the lattices.”
The Shechinah has been knocked down into the dust. But the spiritual plan for man to experience the reunion of Hashem’s Oneness is ready. The spiritual Temple that Rashi and the Zohar so beautifully describe is ready and waiting, just as my children’s souls were ready and waiting to have a physical conduit to enter. But the physical meeting place on earth, the place where Heaven will kiss earth, the place where Hashem has a date with Himself so to speak, the place where His name will be One; that place is missing.
What is the reason for the 613 commandments and the 7 Noahide laws? They are ways in which one attaches himself spiritually to Hashem and ways to create a dwelling place for Hashem in this world. I’m not Jewish, but I light the Shabbat candles. I realize that my physical action is a magnet of the spiritual. “Hashem,” I pray, “You see me lighting these candles. May they bring more of Your Light into our home and into our lives.” I do all that I can to physically to bring Hashem’s presence into my life and into this world. But I can only do so much. Even the greatest Tzadik can only do so much. The prophets tell us where the whole world will line-up to experience Hashem’s presence. They won’t be lining up at a Tzadik’s house, and certainly not at my house. The line will form at Hashem’s house. That is where “Hashem will be One and His Name will be One.” Yet, with so many Jews waiting for the Temple to fall out of the sky, Hashem remains without a physical portal for His Oneness.
Believing the Temple will fall out of the sky? Perhaps one can believe that if he still believes storks deliver babies from the sky. It’s time for Jews to mentally and spiritually grow up. It’s time to break free from the galut mentality and realize the world is waiting. And more than that, Hashem is waiting. He’s already delivered all He’s going to deliver from the sky. He delivered it at a mountain. All Jews were there and agreed at that moment to build the Temple. “We will DO and we will obey.” That sounds like a contract to me.
If you are a Jew, look down at your hands. Those are what will build the Temple. And after those hands build, that will be the time to look up to Heaven in thanksgiving for the gift of the Temple that came down from above.