Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Building the Third Holy Temple

On the surface, there is a halachik argument between two great Torah sages over one of the most important tenets of Judaism: The Third Holy Temple. Rashi[1] understands[2] that the Third Holy Temple is already completed in its construction and is waiting in Heaven for HaShem to allow it to descend to the Earth. However, Maimonides ruled that the Third Holy Temple will be built by the Jewish people because he describes[3] the exact measurements and dimensions to be used in building the Third Holy Temple. Although seemingly these two great sages are indeed disputing an issue which is very essential to the doctrine of the Jewish theology, others go to great lengths to prove that Rashi and Maimonides are not at all arguing with each other.

In attempting to understand the view of Rashi, Rabbi Yerucham Fishel Perlow tries[4] to find Rashi's source for his assertion that HaShem Himself already built the Third Holy Temple in the Heavens. Within the Talmud's list[5] of things which HaShem created before the world was created, the Talmud includes the Holy Temple. One must assume that this refers to the Third Holy Temple, for the first two Holy Temples were clearly built by human hands[6]. However, this cannot be the source of Rashi's assumption that HaShem has already built the Holy Temple, because Rabbeinu Nissim[7] explains that the Talmud does not mean that HaShem actually created all those things before the creation of the world, rather from that time, He planned on creating them later. Furthermore, Rabbi Eliezer ben Samuel of Metz (d. 1175)[8] explains that the Talmud does not mean that HaShem actually created the Holy Temple before the creation of the world, rather the Talmud means that HaShem prepared the site upon which the Holy Temple will eventually stand before the creation of the world. Additionally, the Midrash[9] understands that the Holy Temple in the Heavens was created before the creation of the world, but not the Earthly Holy Temple[10].

Rabbi Perlow says that when the Midrash[11] says that HaShem will build the Third Holy Temple with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge—the same components used by Betzalel to build the Tabernacle[12]—this does not necessarily refer to the actual building of the Temple. Rather, he understands that this Midrash refers to the fact that at a certain time, HaShem will grant His nation the Divine permission needed to rebuild the Temple. Thus, Rabbi Perlow concludes that this is not the source of Rashi; rather his source is another: The Midrash[13] explains that when the Psalmist[14] praised HaShem by saying[15], "Through the works of Your hand, I shall sing", he was referring to the Holy Temple. This implies that HaShem Himself will build the Holy Temple, for the Psalmist refers to the Holy Temple as "the works of Your [HaShem's] hand." This Midrash is the source for Rashi's assertion that the Holy Temple will be build by HaShem Himself.

The Midrash relates[16] that in the days of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chanina, the Roman government gave the Jews permission to rebuild the Holy Temple. The Jews then began to build the Temple, but when the slanders slandered the Jewish nation and the permission was rescinded, the Jews had to stop the reconstruction of the Temple. This Midrash explicitly writes that the Third Holy Temple will be built through a physical construction by people, not divinely by HaShem. Rabbi Perlow uses this Midrash to question the validity of Rashi's stance.

Rabbi Yaakov Ettlinger (1798-1871) infers[17] from the daily prayers in which one beseeches, "It should be the will of HaShem, our G-d and the G-d of our forefathers, that He should build the Holy Temple speedily and in our days"[18] that the Holy Temple will actually have a physical construction. He arrived at this conclusion because of the usage of the expression "He should build" instead of "He should reveal". Based on this assumption, Rabbi Ettlinger asks on Rashi's understanding that if the Third Holy Temple is already built by HaShem and is awaiting in the Heavens for its descent into the Earth, then why do we ask for Him to build the Holy Temple. Despite this question, one can argue that the expression used in the daily prayers implies that HaShem Himself will build the Temple, which is actually a proof to the view of Rashi.

Rabbi Yoelish Teitelbaum (1887-1979) offers[19] a proof to the opinion of Rashi: the Psalmist writes[20], "HaShem builds Jerusalem". One can argue that this verse is a proof to the opinion of Rashi that He Himself will rebuild of Jerusalem. Indeed the Zohar teaches[21] that the first two Holy Temples were able to be destroyed because they were man-made, but the third Holy Temple will be made by HaShem and will last forever. The Zohar then quotes this verse from Psalms to support the idea that HaShem will build the Third Holy Temple. However, it is not necessarily a proof to Rashi because Rabbi Dovid Kimchi (1160-1235) seems[22] to disagree with the proof cited in the Zohar from the verse in Psalms and understands that the verse only teaches that HaShem will build Jerusalem, but does not imply the He will actually build the Holy Temple. Thus, the meaning of this verse is not clearly and does not necessarily serve as a proof to Rashi.

After discussing the dispute between Rashi and Maimonides, Rabbi Perlow concludes that there is no definitive implication either way in the words of Rabbi Saadiah Gaon in his enumeration of the six-hundred and thirteen commandments. However, Rabbi Perlow proves from elsewhere[23] that Rabbi Saadiah Gaon understands like Maimonides because Rabbi Saadiah Gaon wrote "the masses will build the walls of the Third Temple". From here, Rabbi Perlow infers that people will build the Temple, not HaShem. Despite Rabbi Perlow's implication from the words of Rabbi Saadiah Gaon that he subscribed to Maimonides' opinion, one can infer the opposite from the words of Rabbi Saadiah Gaon. That is, that Rabbi Saadiah Gaon is saying that the masses will only build the walls of the Holy Temple, but they will not build the entire edifice, rather the rest will be built by HaShem. So perhaps Rabbi Saadiah Gaon understood in a sense like Rashi, not necessarily like Maimonides.

Rabbi Dovid Rappaport (a colleague of Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman with whom he was murdered in the Holocaust) writes[24] that even according to the opinion of Rashi that the Holy Temple will be built by HaShem, the altar in the temple must be built by people. This is because[25] there is a Halacha that the altar must be erected specifically with intent for the mitzvah of offering sacrifices to HaShem. If the altar is assembled at the Temple's site, then it does not require specific intention in its assembly because it is apparent from the action of erecting an altar and from the location of the erection that the altar is done with the proper intentions. However, if it is not being created on the Temple Mount, it requires specific declaration of motives and a divine creation does not qualify as halachikly done with the correct intentions. So, even if the Temple would be created in Heaven like Rashi understood, the altar would have to be erected by humans. However, Rabbi Dovid Kessler points out that in the Mussaf prayers of Rosh Chodesh one says, "And a new altar You should arrange in Zion." In this, one requests that HaShem should create the altar on Mount Zion, so that He can not only build the Holy Temple, but the altar as well.

Maimonides writes[26] that the Messiah will rebuild the Holy Temple. (This is also a Midrash.[27]) In his introduction to Tractate Middos which details the structure of the Second Holy Temple, Maimonides writes that one should learn Tractate Middos in order to know how to build the Third Holy Temple. In this, Maimonides remains consistent with his opinion above that the Third Holy Temple will be built by people, not by HaShem Himself. It is therefore difficult to understand why Rashi[28] also stresses the importance of learning about the structure of the Holy Temple in order to be able to build it properly, if Rashi himself subscribed to the opinion that the Third Holy Temple will not be man-made but actually be built by HaShem. It seems from this Rashi that perhaps Rashi retracted his original opinion that HaShem will build the Temple and agreed to the view Maimonides that the masses will build it.

Some latter-day Rabbis reconcile the differences between Rashi and Maimonides in attempting to explain how they do not actually argue. A famous explanation is cited[29] in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin (1818-1898) to reconcile the dispute between Rashi and Maimonides. He explains that both Rashi and Maimonides that the Holy Temple will arrive from Heaven already built by HaShem. However, it will not have doors; rather the people will have to find the doors of the First Temple, which have been hidden in the ground[30]. This explains why in the Mussaf services on Yom Tov, the liturgy states, "And He shall show us its building, and we will rejoice in its fixing". The "showing of the building" refers to HaShem revealing the already-built Temple and the "rejoicing in the fixing" refers to those who are going to erect the doors and gates to the Temple from Above.

Similarly, Rabbi Yisroel Lipschutz (1782-1860) explains[31] that people will actually build the Third Holy Temple, but HaShem will somehow assist it in a miraculous fashion, so that the great construction can justifiably be attributed to both the physical builders and HaShem. Reb Moshe Yisrael explains[32] that this is like the words of Rabbi Azariah Mi'Panu (1548-1620) who said[33] that all the components of the First Holy Temple were not destroyed, but rather were hidden and will be revealed later. Accordingly, the miraculous intervention in which HaShem will help build the Third Holy Temple will be through revealing the components of the original Holy Temple in order that the Jews could use those materials to build the future Temple. Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (1475-1550) also says[34] that the prayer recited before removing the Torah Scroll from the Ark on the Sabbath and Holidays, "Father of Mercy, do good in Your favor unto Zion, build the walls of Jerusalem" means that HaShem should reveal the location of the Temple which still exists, but is currently hidden. Nonetheless, Rabbi Teitelbaum says[35] that the explanation of Rabbi Lipschutz is to be considered a strained explanation.

Instead, Rabbi Ettlinger explains that humans will build the physical construction of the Third Holy Temple and HaShem will construct a Temple which is to serve as the "soul" of the Temple. He understands that the human-made Temple would serve as a "physical body" of some kind for the Temple, while the Temple that will be made in Heaven will serve as a "spiritual soul" for the Temple. However, Rabbi Teitelbaum objects to the existence of two co-existing Holy Temples on different planes of existence, instead he offers a comparable explanation. He says that first the Jews will actually build the Holy Temple in order to fulfill the positive precept of building a Temple[36], and then a spiritual Temple from Above will absorb this physical construction into itself so that only the spiritual Temple built by HaShem will eventually exist. Rabbi Teitelbaum offers another explanation, which is similar to the reasoning offered by Rabbi Moshe Shick (1807-1879)[37]. He says that if the Temple is built before the Messiah arrives, then it will be built by human hands, but if it is built after the arrival of the Messiah, then it will be divinely artichetured. Whether the Temple is built first or the Messiah arrives first is dependent on the cause for the eventual arrival of the Messiah, that is, whether he is coming because the Jewish Nation rightfully deserves the Ultimate Redemption or because the time for the redemption has been reached, even if the Jews are not deserving of it.

The Talmud says[38] that just as HaShem destroyed the Holy Temple through fire[39], so too will He rebuilt it through fire. In a special prayer added to Mincha on Tisha B'Av, one begs HaShem to rebuild the Holy Temple with fire, but when concluding this prayer, one quotes a verse which states that fire will surround the New Temple, but will not necessarily be part of making the Temple. The Rosh Yeshiva explains[40] that this contradiction is actually the answer to the seeming contradiction between Rashi and Maimonides. Really, the Temple will be built by man, as Maimonides rules in practical Halacha, but after the physical construction is finished, the presence of HaShem will come in the form of a fire to conclude the sanctification of the process.

Perhaps one can explain the argument between Rashi and Maimonides in another fashion. In mentioning that HaShem will build the Holy Temple, Elijah the Prophet writes[41] "'as if it is possible', HaShem will build the Holy Temple." The term "as if it is possible", as used in Talmudic and Midrashic literature, is left ambiguous. On one hand, it can mean that what is about to be said is not meant to be taken literally, but rather "as if it was possible", but it is actually impossible to occur. On the other hand, the phrase could mean that what is about to be said is meant to be taken literally "as if it was possible" to understand the exact way that such a thing could be true despite the fact that it might seem impossible to mere mortals. According to Rashi, the fact that HaShem built the future Holy Temple is supposed to be taken literally and "as if it was possible" means "as if it was possible to fully comprehend". While, according to Maimonides, man is destined to build the Holy Temple, and "as if it was possible" means that it is impossible that HaShem would build it, for if the Elijah meant that HaShem would truly build the Temple, he would not have used the phrase "as if it was possible".

Another possible method[42] of reconciling the differences between Maimonides' opinion and the view of Rashi is that Maimonides does not necessarily mean literally that human hands will build the Third Beis HaMikdash. Instead, one can explain that although, the Third Holy Temple will be completely built by HaShem, like Rashi said, the Jews will still learn the laws concerning the building of the Holy Temple and its physical parameters and construction. By learning these laws, especially the tractates Middos and Tamid, it is as if one engaged in the actual building of the Temple, as the Midrash says[43] that learning about the physical measurements and dimensions of the Holy Temple is tantamount to actually building the Holy Temple.

In comparing the first Holy Temple to the second Holy Temple, the Talmud refers[44] to the latter as "the last Temple." This is difficult to understand because the Second Temple was not the last Temple, but was only the middle, for one more is destined to be built/arrive. Some authorities understand based on this passage that the phrase "last" when used in the Torah and Talmud could sometimes not refer to the ultimate but to the penultimate[45]. However, the expression "last" certainly seems to denote the final, not the semi-final. Rather, Rabbi Moshe Sofer (1762-1838) understands[46] that the Second Holy Temple is referred to the last Temple because it is the last in which the actual physical construction of the Temple is the central focus of the sanctuary, for in the Third Holy Temple, the focus will be the Holy Presence of HaShem. Similarly, Rabbi Meir Leibush ben Yechiel Michel Weiser (1809-1879) understands[47] that the heart of the Temple will not be its walls, lintels, or doors; rather it will be the dwelling of the Presence of HaShem. However, according to the explanations of the Sforno, Rema Mi'Panu, and Maharil Diskin that the Third Holy Temple will use the components from the First Holy Temple, the Talmud is justified in calling the Second Holy Temple the last, for the next one after it would merely be re-using the old paraphernalia from the First Holy Temple.

The Targum Onkelos translates[48] "This is my G-d and I shall glorify Him" as "This is my G-d and I shall build for Him a Sanctuary". The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan (1838-1933), says[49] based on this that every morning when a Jew recites the Song of the Sea, he is accepting upon himself the commandment of building a Temple. How is a person supposed to fulfill this commandment when there is no Temple being built, and furthermore, how was this commandment done even when the Temple was already built, if the Temple was already built? Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv explains[50] that one donated money to the upkeep of the Holy Temple in order to fulfill the commandment of building the Holy Temple. Nowadays, he explains, even though there is no Holy Temple, donating money to a synagogue achieves the same effect because a synagogue in considered a mini-Sanctuary of the Holy Temple[51]. So, by donating money to a synagogue, one fulfills his obligation to "build a sanctuary for HaShem". However, this explanation is difficult to understand, because if the Chofetz Chaim believes that the commandment to "build a sanctuary" applies nowadays in the form of an obligation to donate money to a synagogue, why then did the Chofetz Chaim not list this commandment in his Sefer HaMitzvos HaKatzur, if there he lists all commandments which apply in contemporary times including the commandment of "fearing the sanctuary"[52] which he says[53] applies nowadays in the form of having awe for a synagogue?

Rather one must understand that the commandment to build the Holy Temple in present times exists in a different form. Rabbi Sofer explains[54] that the suffering and pain which the mourners of Zion go through is the actual building of the Third Holy Temple. He writes that during the time between Tammuz and Av when Jews gather to publicly mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple, they are preparing the already-being-built city of Jerusalem for its descent onto Earth, and when the building will be completed, HaShem will send it down. This explanation of Rabbi Sofer can be used to understand the famous rabbinic dictum which states, "He who mourns over Jerusalem shall merit to see her [Jerusalem's] happiness"[55]. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994) explains that every Mitzvah that one does is another brick, which is added to the building of the Holy Temple above, and so each Mitzvah brings nearer the arrival of the Messiah. May we all merit to do more Mitzvahs and see the coming of the Messiah, speedily and in our days: Amen.

[1] Although many other Rishonim concur with the opinion of Rashi on this issue, the opinion expressed first by Rashi will be referred to as "Rashi's" understanding throughout this discussion. Others who agree with Rashi's understanding include Tosafos (Sukkah 41a), Tosafos (Shevuos 15b), Tosafos HaRosh (Sukkah 41a), Ritva (Sukkah 41a), and Rabbeinu Avrohom Min HaHar (Sukkah 41a).
[2] To Rosh HaShannah 30a and Sukkah 41a
[3] Throughout his Laws of the Beis HaBechirah
[4] Sefer HaMitzvos of Rabbi Saadiah Gaon, Positive Commandment #13
[5] Pesachim 54a
[6] The first Holy Temple was built by King Solomon (and remodeled by King Joash), while the second Holy Temple was built by the returnees from the Babylonian exile (and later remolded by King Herod the Great).
[7] Ran to Nedarim 39b
[8] The author of Sefer Yereim, as quoted by the Shittah Mekubetzes to Nedarim 39b
[9] Midrash Tanchuma to Parshas Nasso §11
[10] According to Kabbalah, there is a Holy Temple in the Heavens which corresponds to the Holy Temple in the Earth. The angel Michael is described as its High Priest. This deep Kabbalistic concept is beyond the scope of understanding of the author of this essay.
[11] Exodus Rabbah, Chapter 48
[12] Exodus 35:31
[13] Midrash Tanchuma to Parshas Pekudei §11
[14] The Midrash actually attributes this Psalm to King David, but other Midrashic sources assume that Adam wrote this Psalms in honor of the first Sabbath.
[15] Psalms 92:5
[16] Genesis Rabbah, Chapter 64
[17] Aruch L'Ner to Sukkah 41a
[18] This prayer is recited after each time the Eighteen Benedictions are recited and is recited after the recitation of the description of the sacrifices in the Holy Temple.
[19] VaYoel Moshe, Essay on the Three Oaths (mentioned in Kesubos 111a), §62
[20] Psalms 147:2
[21] Pinchas 221a
[22] Radak to Psalms 147:2
[23] Sefer Emunos V'Deos, Chapter 8
[24] Mikdash Dovid, §1:1
[25] As the Shemous Chaim there explains
[26] Laws of Kings 11:1
[27] Pesikta Zutrisa to Numbers 24:17
[28] To Ezekiel 43:11
[29] See Siach Yitzchok to Siddur HaGra
[30] See Lamentations 2:9
[31] Tiferes Yisroel, Boaz §1 to Tractate Middos
[32] See introduction to responsa Maharsham, Volume 5
[33] Asara Ma'amaros, Ma'amar Chikur Din, Part 1 Chapter 26
[34] Sforno to Psalms 51:20
[35] VaYoel Moshe, Essay on the Three Oaths (mentioned in Kesubos 111a), §61
[36] See Exodus 25:8
[37] Responsa Maharam Shick
[38] Bava Kamma 60b
[39] Kings 2 25:9
[40] Shabbos Parshas Terumah, 5767
[41] Tanna Devei Eliyahu Rabbah, end of Chapter 30
[42] This method is based on a similarly thought shared with my by Alexander Yehuda Schiro on the night of Shavuos, 5767
[43] Midrash Tanchuma, Tzav §14
[44] Bava Basra 3a
[45] For example, see Genesis 33:2 where Jacob puts "Leah and her sons last, and Rachel and Joseph last."
[46] Chasam Sofer to Bava Basra 3a
[47] Malbim to Psalms 51:20
[48] See Exodus 15:2 and Targum Onkelos ad loc.
[49] Chomas HaDas, Chapter 8
[50] Divrei Aggadah to Exodus 15:2
[51] See Megillah 29a
[52] Leviticus 19:30
[53] Sefer HaMitzvos HaKatzur #18
[54] "Drashas/Homilies of the Chasam Sofer" volume 2, page 339b
[55] Bava Basra 60b


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Tzvee Zahavy said...

There are instances in this post where you refer to the Holy Temple as the Temple without the descriptive "Holy". Can you explain this inconsistency?

Anonymous said...

also see likutei sichos chelek yud ches page 418, where the Lubavitcher Rebbe ZTL explains it as well.

Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

You could have asked a better question, why did I start off using the phrase "Third Holy Temple" and then eventually simplify the phrase to "Holy Temple" and then even shorter to "Temple". The answer is clearly obvious that I was trying to write as efficiently as possible and so after having established that I am discussing the Third Holy Temple, I eventually dropped the "Third", and eventually I also dropped the "Holy" because it is evident from the rest of the paper to which Temple I am referring. Nonetheless, I understand your point. A contributing factor to the fact that I shortened my phrases in this paper was because I wrote it on Erev Shavous (as notes for a lecture that I delivered that night) and was trying to finish writing it as quickly as possible (it still took me apporximately 4 hours to write). Basically, I was tired to so I left things that had already been established. What you are trying to tell me is that just as I left out things because they were already established and did not necessarily have to be written straight out, you did the same in not using your news report about the Toruo scandal to explicitly launch another attack against Orthodox Judaism because you have already established yourself as a self-hating Jew who jumps at any chance to bash religion. So you felt that in this instance merely reporting the news suffices for defaming religious Jews, you did not have to explicitly go ahead and start destructively criticizing religious Jews. Your point is well-taken.

(I have figured out the mind of a Professor.)

Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

by the way, I don't have the sefer likutei sichos, could you please tell me what he says there?

aheppenh said...

In Likkutei Sichos there the Rebbe offers this explanation:

The Rambam says (in Hil. Beis HaBechirah 1:4) that the form of the third Beis HaMikdash, as described by Yechezkel, is not completely clear. So the idea would be that human beings will build the parts of the Beis HaMikdash that are clearly explicated, and Hashem will add the parts whose form is unclear to us.

(He also goes on to associate this with the idea of the Aruch LaNer that you cited, that the human construction will be the "body" to which Hashem will add the "soul.")

Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

Interesting. Thank you.

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