The Holy Temple
It saves and protects them from all trouble – commentary on Samuel, ch. 2.
From the day the Temple was destroyed, the springs of wisdom have been blocked, and we have remained as a body without a soul – Yahel Ohr, selections at the end of the book, p. 74.
The main part of a person’s vitality (his livelihood) he receives from the Temple – commentary on Isaiah 1:7.
An oath is upon us (3 oaths, “bahoma”) not to rebuild the Temple – Tikkunei Zohar, p. 157 (note: but this does not contradict the fact that it is possible for us to offer up a sacrifice on an altar, even without the Temple being rebuilt (we offer sacrifices even though there is no Temple – M’gillah 10.). And the Gaon, R. Chaim of Volozhin has said, in the name of the Gaon R. Eliyahu: “If we ascend the Temple Mount and offer up a tamid offering even a single time – this will be the `Redemption'” – Ha-Gaon He-Hasid p. 247.
Comment by Mr. Shlomo Moshe Scheinman
I asked Rabbi Tzuriel, author of this anthology, to explain in greater detail the Gaon’s view of what can be done to bring about the rebuilding of the Temple in our days.
Rabbi Tzuriel’s opinion can be summed up as the following:
There are at least two ways to escape the restriction of rebuilding the Temple without permission from the world’s current Superpower.
1) If 600,000 (see Kol HaTor 6:1) would take active steps towards the rebuilding of the Temple, in the manner spelled out by Rabbi Tzuriel.
2) According to Rabbi Yisrael of Shklov, author of Pe’at HaShulchan and student of the Gaon, the three oaths have already been nullified. As explained by professor, Arie Morgenstern (he is religious), Ge’ula B’Derekh HaTeva, pp. 8 and 9,
Rabbi Yisrael of Shklov “suggested another reason for the abrogation of the prohibition. His claim is that `the three oaths’ are a kind of `package deal’ that the Creator drew up between Israel and the nations of the world. The Creator forbade Israel to hurry the time of redemption or to climb up altogether, like a wall, and at the same time He forbade the nations of the world to oppress Israel too harshly, lest they be compelled – having no choice – to work for their own redemption. When the nations of the world transgress their prohibition, Israel, too, is exempted from the obligations of their oaths”.
[Morgenstern cites as his source: Igrote Eretz Yisrael, 352] Solid support for R. Yisrael of Shklov’s viewpoint can be found in the very words of the Gaon in his second commentary to Song of Songs 2:7.
Now here are the words of Rabbi Tzuriel:
Bs”d, 6th Tevet 5758
My dear Rabbi Shlomo Scheinman Shlit”a:
You asked me if, in the Gaon’s opinion, the subject of rebuilding the Temple in our time should be raised. I shall go into your question in some detail. In The Gaon’s Prayerbook on the Level of Sod, in his commentary on Song of Songs 2:7, hishba`ti ethkhem, the compiler, Rabbi Naftali Herz HaLevi of blessed memory adduced something the Gaon had written in his commentary to Tikkunei Zohar 26, the section beginning uvameh etc. biyameina “in our days”: “…but they are forsworn not to initiate the rebuilding of the Temple, a rose of the Upper Realm, until the advent (of the Messiah)”. This would mean that this is the restriction known as “that they should not go up as a wall” (Kettuvot111a). If so, this would seem to mean that we have to wait for the Temple to descend, “ready built and completed, from heaven”, as Rashi says on Sukkah 41a – though Rashi’s statement was made in accordance with the initial assumption of the Gemara, for according to the conclusion of the discussion where R. Yehuda and R. Yohanan ben Zakkai are saying the same thing, there is no need for Rashi’s construction, especially since it contradicts the understanding of Maimonides and of Tosefot Yom Tov concerning the usefulness of learning mishna Middot and Maimonides’ Hilkhot Beit HaB’hira.
Nevertheless, when learning the Gaon’s opinion of this matter, it is startling to find that the book The Pious Gaon of Vilna (p. ccxlvii) adduces a tradition from R Chaim of Volozhin, in the name of the Gaon, “that if we take the initiative and go up to the Temple Mount and there offer up the Tamid sacrifice, even once, this will already be a posteriori,” i.e., the Redemption will already be under way. His statement is based on an explicit midrash: “If Israel does not offer up a burnt offering before the Holy One, Blessed be He, Zion and Jerusalem will not be rebuilt, for they will be rebuilt only because of a burnt offering” (Tanhuma, Tsav, xiv).
Similarly, we find, regarding the beginning of the building of the Second Temple, that Zerubbavel began by offering up sacrifices in the year 3393 (Ezra 2-3, 6), but the foundations of the heikhal were only laid in 3408 and the building itself dedicated in 3412 (Ezra 6, 15).
This means that they were two separate events. And the sages have stated explicitly: “Sacrifices are offered up though there is no temple” (Zevahim 62a). And so, even if we rule that we need not hurry at present to rebuild the Temple, how is this related to the actual offering up of sacrifices, where we are obligated every single day, on condition that Israel is stronger than its enemies?
We have not forgotten Kaftor va’Ferah (ch. VI, p. 15a), who adduces a tradition that “the late Rabbeinu Hananel of Paris declared it was time to come to Jerusalem, in the year 5017, and offer up sacrifices at the present time”. See also Responsa Sh’ilat Ya’abetz, I, 135 and also Responsa Hatam Sofer, Yoreh De`ah 236.
Neither have we not overlooked the words of R. Hayyim Vital, in the name of the Ari (in his Introduction to `Etz Hayyim, I, 8), that the oath was valid only until the end of the fifth millennium (1240 C.E.), and that ever since then the threat of the oaths has been removed. Thus, the opinion of the Gaon was stated on the basis of the oath prohibitions lasting until the end the millennium, and here we are – after the period of the prohibitions.
Now, this opinion of the Gaon’s, in his commentary on Tikkunei Zohar, must be expounded upon at length. The sages state there that there is a lower rose and an upper rose, the first being awe and the second – love.
Love (the upper rose) cannot be aroused unless the ra`aya m’heimna, faithful companion, the soul of Moshe Rabbeinu, has come to arouse the generation to Torah and, more especially, to the inner meanings of Torah (Ibn Shlomo, 11/3, and also Kol HaTor, VI, end paragraph 1, “in the light of HaShem, i.e., the inner meaning of the soul of the Holy Torah”).
It is also written in Tikkunei Zohar, there, “and the spirit of the L-rd is hovering – means the spirit of the Messiah, in this spirit that guest is ill and is healed”. The Gaon explains there: “that at first Torah is needed, whereupon the Messiah will come, but we have been warned not to hasten the time of the Redemption, and this is what is meant by in our days, that now He has turned our days back (Lamentations 2:3), as we find in the Gemara (Hagiga 2b): Since Israel went into Exile, there has been no greater obliteration of Torah, and as we find in a number of places, in what way will they be aroused for the Messiah? By means of Torah.” (end of the Gaon’s explanation).
In other words, there are three stages. There is the stage at which the children of Israel are worthy of being G-d-fearing (the lower rose), and then they become worthy of Torah, for awe serves as the gateway to understanding the Torah (Zohar II/69a). And after they are worthy of Torah, they become worthy of achieving the love of HaShem, at which point He dwells amongst us in the Temple. In other words, we have to engage more and more in the study of the inner meaning of the Torah (just as the generation has become worthy at the present time, thank G-d).
Yet it must be appreciated that HaShem does not grant Man an abundance of goodness and of blessing unless Man makes himself into a vessel to receive it. The book Sefer Ha-Kuzari ends by saying: “Jerusalem will not be rebuilt until the children of Israel long for Jerusalem fiercely, until they see beauty in her stones and in her dust”. This idea appears in `Ein Ya`akov in the same wording as in Hullin 133a: “He who does good to someone who is not aware of it is like someone throwing a stone to Markulis (= worships idols)”, i.e., HaShem will not give of His goodness to a person who is unaware of this goodness.
Regarding the verse l’shikhno tidr’shu uvatha shamma “you shall seek out His House and come there” (Deut. 12:5), our Sages said in Sifri: “Can it be that you will wait until a prophet tells you? – the Torah tells us: l’shikhno tidr’shu uvatha shamma – seek it out and find it, and then a prophet will tell you”.
The Malbim wrote of this: “He taught them that HaShem would not reveal His secret by means of His prophets to inform them of the chosen spot, unless they make their own efforts to seek it out, and then He will pour out upon them a spirit from Heaven after proper preparation”.
This is like `azov ta`azov `immo – that HaShem helps those who do not drop out and sit by the wayside. “If the owner goes and sits at the side and says `Since the mitzvah involves you – if you want to unload, go and unload’ – you are exempt, for the verse stipulates `with him'” (Bava Meitzi`a 32a).
Therefore, in order to be worthy of these wonders that HaShem will build us a Temple, we have to arouse the yearning and the desire for this, on our part.
It is a fact that when King Dovid faltered and counted the Israelites, seventy thousand people died (II Sam 24:15), and Dovid cried out: “Behold, it is I who have sinned, it is I who have done wrong, and as for these sheep – what have they done? May Your arm punish me and my father’s house!” (II Sam 24:17), but our Sages reply: “All those people who have fallen – it is because they did not demand the building of the Temple” (Yalqut Shimoni, II Sam 24, section beginning And Gad came).
In other words, the fact that they were all so calm and quiet about King Dovid’s inability to build (“You have spilt much blood and waged great wars – you will not build a House for My name” – I Chronicles 22:8) and did not demand that Dovid step down from the throne in favor of his son Shlomo so that he could build the House, it was for this that they were brought to trial and all those thousands died!
The MahaRal teaches us the importance of the Temple. “Just as the Temple represents perfection for the entire world, and when the Temple was destroyed the lower beings were distinguished from the upper beings, for by virtue of the Temple the upper beings were down below, and accordingly the lower beings enjoyed the blessing of the Temple” (Hiddushei Aggadot II, p. 88).
And so the Sages told us, “all the talk of living creatures (nations of the world) concerns the land – `avudath ar`a – and all the prayer of the peoples only concern the land – `mare ta`avid ar`a – the Holy One, blessed be He, will build the land, `mare tatsliah `ar`a – He will cause the land to prosper.
All the prayers of Israel concern only the Temple: Mare, yithb’nei beit hamikdash, O Lord, may the Temple be rebuilt! Mare, mattai yithb’nei beit mikdasha? O Lord, when will the Temple be rebuilt? (B’reishith Rabba 13, 2). From this we learn that the major occupation of our ancestors was to pray for the Temple.
Thus, when people do not beg of HaShem to build the Temple, this is a failing which itself delays and even obstructs the construction of the Temple. In the words of M’sillath Y’sharim (end of Ch. II), “if he doesn’t watch out for his own good, it is sure that the Holy One, Blessed be He, will not watch out for him. For if he is not worried, who should be worried about him?” – and all the Mussaf prayers recited on Sabbaths and Jewish festivals for the reintroduction of sacrificial offerings appear, G-d forbid, to be no more than lip service, as the Kuzari says (II/24): “For divine goodness applies to a person only in accordance with that person’s preparation, if but a little – then only a little, and if a great deal – then a great deal.”
And in the book HaMaspik l’Ov’dei HaShem by R. Avraham, son of Maimonides, printed by Bar Ilan University (5749 ), the following is written on rahem-na in the benediction recited after meals: the prayer for the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem, the supreme purpose of the Land of Israel, is vital because its existence is a precondition for its fulfillment, and its absence would lead to an elimination of its meaning and to our abandoning it.
The conclusion to be drawn from all the above: according to the Gaon, we are certainly not to use physical force to arouse people to establish our Temple as long as we are given a positive sign by HaShem – such as the nations of the world agreeing to the rebuilding of the Temple and desiring it, as soon as they appreciate “that My House will be called a House of Prayer for all nations”.
Nevertheless, we are not to acquiesce by any means in a political situation where the uncircumcised and the impure enter the site of the Heikhal (a violation of halakha, see Maimonides, Hilkhot Beit HaBechira 7/16), and are supposed to have applied all kinds of political pressure to have the Temple Mount sealed off to human entry, until the advent of the Messiah, and well known rabbis should have been demanding this from every public platform possible.
Furthermore, we should have lodged protests with the Israeli Police who, in accordance with the orders of their superiors, do not permit Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount even in those areas an impure Jew (one who has not been purified with the ashes of the heifer) can enter. For we know that the sanctified area of the Temple Mount is a mere 500 cubits by 500 cubits, but the area controlled by the Ishmaelites at the present time is far greater. There is thus a large amount of territory which poses no
halakhic problem at all. Our silence in face of this religious coercion raises serious doubts about the quality of our faith in the sanctity of prayer on the Temple Mount , and this involves a certain amount of flattery for the wicked and the heretics who, to our view, unfortunately lead the Jewish people today.
One of the signs revealing the intention of Eliyahu (who is to come before Messiah) is a brave and daring spirit. R. Avraham ben Dovid writes at the end of his commentary on the mishnayot of `Eduyot: “Behold, I am dispatching for you Eliyahu the Prophet… i.e., the heart of the fathers and the sons which had fallen because of their distress would be restored that day to its bravery”. This was explained even further by R. Zadok of Lublin, that Eliyahu “will come before the coming of the Messiah, i.e., his strength will be revealed in the hearts of all the children of Israel… to make use of the virtue of rage and revenge against the idolaters with a bold hand, that in their hearts a reawakening should take place, this being called `the advent of Eliyahu'” (Tzidhkat HaTzaddik, 218). It is self-evident that this is not referring to individuals taking vengeance, but rather – it is an obligation of the government of Israel to avenge the honor of Israel, for it represents K’nesset Yisrael, when the government is no longer in the hands of the evildoers, those who have thrown off the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, and all of Israel must be aroused to the spirit of Eliyahu.
In addition, we must wake up and beg, in prayer and supplication, the Holy One, Blessed be He, that we be given the ability to offer up, at very least, those offerings we can offer up even without the Temple being built. The Tosaphot (to M’gillah 3, section beginning emesh “last night”) read: “for the sacrifices which protect us against our foes”. Similarly, we recite in the prayer at the New Moon: “while they offer up before You voluntary sacrifices and sin offerings to make atonement for them. A remembrance they all became and their soul’s salvation from the enemies’ hand”.
The Ba`al HaTurim (to Exodus 29:14) wrote of the tradition tissaref: “When the sacrifices ceased at the time that they were besieging Jerusalem, the city was destroyed”. This is explicit in the Gemara (Bava Kama 82b): So long as they are engaged in sacrifice, they will not be handed over to you. And this may be the reason why, in our day, we see how all the nations of the world violate our sovereignty and spoil it on the Temple Mount, as if “He is not seen, their force of destiny(mazal) is seen”.
May it be His will that we wake up and do all we can, by study and by prayer, until HaShem redeems us. “The way one wants to go, one is led” (Makkot 10b).
Writing in honor of Torah and Torah scholars,
Author of Beth Yehezk’el, Ozarot HaTorah etc.
Rabbi Tzuriel added further: “Besides, there is also reason to say that, according to the Gaon as well, it is permissible to go up as a wall to build the Temple, for it is brought down in the name of his disciple, R. Israel of Shklov, that the actions of the gentiles have freed us from the restriction of the three oaths. In Yoreh De`ah 236:6 we find the following halakha: `If there were two who swore to do a certain task, and one of the two violated his oath, the second is exempt and needs no special permission.’ Rabbi Shlomo Kluger used this halachic principle in relating to the three oaths (see HaT’qufa HaG’dola, pp. 176, 570).”
And so, too, did Rabbi Hillel Kolmahyer, a disciple of the Hatam Sofer, say (see HaT’qufa HaG’dola, p. 570): “Since the gentiles did not observe their part, we are exempt from the oath not to go up as a wall. And since the Gaon explains the content of not going up as a wall as referring to the Temple, this means that we are exempt from the obligation of adhering to our oath, because the gentiles violated their part, as we find in that passage from the Shulkhan `Arukh, Yoreh De`ah.
And so, too, was this idea (that the actions of the gentiles have nullified the restrictions of the two oaths that were upon Israel) brought down in the name of (the Gaon’s disciple), Rabbi Yisrael of Shklov, in the book Geula b’Derekh HaTeva`, p. 9, by Professor Arie Morgenstern.
There is support for this in the writings of the Gaon himself – in his commentary on Song of Songs(commentary [b])… “And the matter as described by the sages: three oaths the Holy One Blessed by He etc…. that they not hasten the time of redemption by torturing Israel… From the Gaon’s explanation, we see that if the torture was too strong, this itself would mean hastening the time of redemption, and so there was no longer any need to wait for the love, to desire to wake up (see ibid.).
Links to some of the other articles on this web site that portray the Gaon’s views:
* Monotheism Vs. The Outlook That Everything is G-d, by Mr. S. M. Scheinman which provides some background to the Gaon’s monotheistic beliefs.
* Divine Assistance