Who will build the Third Temple?
Since the theme of this blog is the Final Redemption (Geulah shalaimah), the time has come to discuss building the Third Temple, the pinnacle and completion of the Redemption. But first, we need some historical background.
Three structures have borne the name Mikdash (Sanctuary). The first was the Tabernacle built by Moses at the foot of Mount Sinai, as it says (Ex. 25:8), “Make for Me a Mikdash and I will dwell among them.” It was also called the Mishkan (Dwelling Place) and the Ohel Moed (Tent of Meeting). It was called a Tent because it was portable, traveling with the Children of Israel in the wilderness, and accompanying them into the Holy Land.
The primary purpose of the Tabernacle was to provide a house for the Ark of the Covenant, which held the Tablets of the Ten Commandments. Above the Ark Cover, between the wings of the golden cherubim, dwelled the Divine Revelation of G-d (Shechina).
The Tabernacle stood for 480 years, and then was replaced by the First Temple, built on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. The First Temple was built by King Solomon on foundations laid by Solomon’s father, King David. Like the Tabernacle, the primary purpose of the Temple was to serve as a house for the Ark of the Covenant.
Solomon’s Temple was intended to be the permanent home of the Shechina in this world. It was meant to last forever. But the people turned to evil, and after standing for 410 years, Solomon’s Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon. The year was 586 BCE. The destruction of Solomon’s Temple and the devastation of Jerusalem led to the first Babylonian Exile.
The Babylonian Exile was relatively brief, only seventy years, after which the Second Temple was built by Zerubavel, a descendant of King David, with the support of King Darius of Persia.
The Second Temple stood in the exactly same place as Solomon’s Temple, on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, as the Rambam writes in the Laws of the Holy Temple (2:1), “The Altar is to be placed in a very precise location which may never be changed.”
Compared to Solomon’s glorious Temple, the Second Temple was a humble little edifice.
The Ramchal teaches that the Second Temple did not represent a true redemption. It was a consolation for the suffering the Jewish people had endured. The Talmud (Yoma 10b) tells us that the Shechina did not dwell in the Second Temple because the Ark of the Covenant was not there. In effect, the Second Temple was a flashlight without a battery. It was G-d’s House, but G-d was not there, meaning to say He was hidden, not revealed.
Zerubavel’s Temple stood for 332 years. By then, King Herod sat on the throne of Judea. Herod completely rebuilt Zerubavel’s Temple, making it larger and far more beautiful. The saying on the streets of Jerusalem was that one who has not seen Herod’s Temple never saw a beautiful building. But as beautiful as it was externally, that is how ugly it was within. Herod’s Temple was a place of appalling corruption, The High Priesthood was bought and sold by the Roman masters and in the last years of the Temple, a gang of murderous thieves made its hideout in the Sanctuary. Herod’s Temple stood for only 80 years and was destroyed by Rome in the year 70 CE. The two Second Temples lasted a total of 420 years.
The exile following the destruction of Herod’s Temple came in stages. By the year 350 CE, the land was practically empty. But the truth is that some Jewish settlements remained throughout the exile, particularly around Hebron in the south and in the Galilee in the north.
Although the Shechina did not reside in the Second Temple, the Temple service was performed. The Menorah was lit, the Showbread was brought, and the holy Temple incense (ketoret), was offered, as were all the sacrifices. But the Jewish people lived with the heavy boot of Rome on its neck.
After years of brutal taxation and merciless punishments, the Jews rebelled. For a time, they were victorious against Rome, but eventually the Roman legions squashed the rebellion and annihilated every soul in Jerusalem.
With the destruction of Herod’s Temple, the Jewish people entered a long and bitter exile, yearning for the day when the people would be redeemed and the Third Temple would be built.
Whether the world realizes it or not, when the Holy Temple is in ruins, all of mankind suffers in material and spiritual darkness that grows darker every day. It was not just the Jews who were exiled; all mankind was exiled spiritually.
Therefore, we pray for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple five times a day and fast to mourn its destruction three times a year.
Since the establishment of the State of Israel and the ingathering of millions of Jewish exiles, many people argue that we should shift our focus from destruction and mourning and replace it with construction and celebration. This, to show our gratitude for the great kindness that G-d has done for us by rebuilding Jerusalem as a great and thriving Jewish city.
They assert that mourning a corrupt Temple, which has been in ruins for 2000 years is counterproductive. It causes us to completely ignore Ezekiel’s prophesied Third Temple that could be built today or, at the very latest, tomorrow.
The critics point to a rabbinic establishment which prefers to perpetually worry about Rebbe Yose meeting a woman in some ruins in the 1st Century (Berachot 2b), even though those ruins are now a modern apartment complex, and we have it all on camera.
This apathy of the rabbinic leadership towards the future Temple is not only humiliating; it is dangerous. A similar apathy towards building the Temple caused a massive plague in times of King David, as recorded in the last chapter of the Second Book of Samuel.
The Scripture states that King David ordered a census of his people, having forgotten that taking a census can bring harsh judgment. And if the people are found lacking, the results can be catastrophic. In the case of King David’s census, it caused a plague that lasted one hour and killed 70,000 men.
The Ramban writes that the people were punished because King David was the only one who cared about building the Temple.
Shockingly, an organization in Jerusalem that claims to be in the business of building the Third Temple has the delusional idea of rebuilding Herod’s House of Horrors instead of Ezekiel’s divinely prophesied Third Temple. The amount of time and money they have squandered on this worthless plan boggles the imagination. There is no source for this, and no support from Gedolei Yisrael, the Torah leaders. And what is worse, they have publicly expressed their willingness to build the Temple by the Gihon Springs, over 100 meters from the Temple Mount, rendering every sacrifice posul (invalid) and bringing down severe judgment, chas v’shalom. And the only reason that there is not a public outcry over this is that no one gives a fig about the Holy Temple. Well, practically no one. Maybe Mashiach ben David. This reveals just how low this generation really is. May Hashem have mercy on the foolish.
To be continued…
The Messianic Temple
The Messianic Temple presents the original Hebrew text of the last nine chapters of the Book of Ezekiel, with a new English translation and digest of commentaries, and more than 200 illustrations and 3D architectural drawings. Learn More...