The Function of the Holy Temple


The Function of the Holy Temple


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The Third Temple

by Chaim Clorfene

The Holy Temple which was the pride and adornment of Jerusalem provided a singular purpose of spiritual dimension and benefit. The sacrifices in the Temple were not merely animals that were burn for a hollow purpose. The Temple provided a channel and a mechanism that interceded on the behalf of the Jewish People and also all of mankind.

The spiritual influx which descends from on high would come down to the Jewish nation and to all of mankind via the Temple. However, often, that which came down would be difficult for those intended recipients. Through the Temple service, however, a change could be brought about in that divine influence.

As an example, the taking of a census is a very risky business. Harmful results have occurred in our nations history due to counting of the population. Let us see what is the relationship between the census and the Temple.

* * * *

Taking a census causes Divine judgment -- gevurah. When a person is counted in a census, he is accorded status, causing him to be judged in heaven. If righteous, he receives a good judgment; if not, he is punished. This is strict justice. The men being counted were righteous -- tzadikim -- so they could stand up to the judgment without a problem. Thirty-eight years earlier another census had been taken, just after the Children of Israel had left Egypt. Then, the people were not all righteous, so instead of counting people, each person contributed a half shekel, and the coins were counted, thus avoiding a judgment they could not withstand.

In King David's time, yet another census was taken, with disastrous results. The last chapter of Samuel II begins, "And again the anger of God was kindled against Israel (II Sam. 24:1)." The Ramban (Nachmanides) states that the anger, and the punishment which followed, came because David alone, and not the Jewish people as a whole, was interested in building the Temple. He derives this from the Midrash based (Psalms 17), "The thousands of Jews who fell in the time of David fell only because they did not demand the building of the Temple."

Now, what ensued here? After we learn that God was angry at the Jews, He put the idea in David's mind to take a census of the Jewish population. And David forgot that counting Jews can cause a calamity. David took the census, then remembering he had committed an error, prayed to God, saying, "I have greatly sinned in what I did, and now, Lord, please forgive the iniquity of your servant, for I was very foolish (II Sam. 24:10)."

In answer, God sent the Prophet Gad to David with a choice of three punishments: seven years of famine, three months of defeat and flight before Israel's enemy, or three days of pestilence. Gad hinted to David that he should choose pestilence, whereupon David said the verse included in the tachanun (supplication) prayer, "And David said to Gad: I am suffering greatly, let us fall into the hand of God for His mercies are many, but let me not fall into the hand of man."

David reasoned that, of the three choices, only disease can be attributed solely to God. Rashi explains that famine can be partly caused by wealthy men who hoard produce, making it inaccessible to the public. So a plague began. God reduced the plague from 36 hours to one hour. But in that one hour, "there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba, seventy thousand men (II Sam. 24:15)."

If we multiply 70,000 by 36, the number of hours the plague was intended to last, we find that 5,040,000 were originally meant to die. Commentaries calculate this as the entire Jewish population of that time! Again, David prayed, "Behold, I have sinned, and I have acted with iniquity, but these sheep, what have they done? Please, may Your hand be against me and my father's house [and not them] (II Sam. 24:17)."

The Prophet Gad came to David and told him to build an altar to God in Jerusalem on the threshing-floor of Aravna the Jebusite. Aravna was a righteous man and some say a convert to Judaism. He offered his threshing-floor to King David as a gift. But David answered, "No, for I will only buy it from you for a price." Rashi explains (Zevachim 116b) that David collected 50 silver shekels from each of the twelve tribes and gave it to Aravna. This, so that the entire Jewish people and their descendants for all time would own the Temple Mount, formerly the threshing floor of Aravna the Jebusite.

On that site, David built an altar and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. God accepted them and the plague ceased. It began through a census and ended by purchasing the Temple Mount where the First and Second Temples stood, and where the Third Temple will be built.

* * * *

"In the visions of God He brought me to the land of Israel, and He placed me on a very high mountain, and upon it was the structure of a city in the south (Ezekiel 40:2)."

The "very high mountain" is the Temple Mount. The "structure of a city" is Jerusalem, situated on the south side of the mountain with the Temple opposite it in the north. In the book Mishkanay Elyon, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto explains that this involves a deep secret. In order for the world to be guided benevolently, Divine judgment and mercy must be unified as one. This is why the Temple is in the north, for north indicates severe judgment and the Temple is where severity is sweetened and permeated with mercy. Once the severities are sweetened by the Temple, Jerusalem is built with mercy.

Now we can understand why it is an established practice to study the design of the Holy Temple during the Three Weeks ending with Tisha B'Av (the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av). Throughout history, many calamities occurred during this period, and specifically on Tisha B'Av when both the First and Second Temples were destroyed.

This is a time characterized by Divine judgment. By studying the design of the Holy Temple during these days, we create it in our minds and in our hearts, as it says in the Midrash, "The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Ezekiel, 'When the Jewish people are learning the design the Temple in the Torah, I will consider it as if they are building it (Tanhuma, Tzav 91).'" Through our learning, we transform Divine judgment into mercy and the city of Jerusalem will emerge accordingly.

May we soon see the Third Temple standing in its place on the Temple Mount as all the nations come to see the Living God in His Holy House. Then Tisha B'Av will once more become a great and festive holiday as it was in the time of the Second Temple.

May the Temple be built, swiftly and speedily in our days!

* * * *

The study of the design of the Third Temple, (found in Chapters 40-45 of the Book of Ezekiel), is difficult. There are, however, several excellent Hebrew and English edition with valuable commentaries to aid the student. There are also works exclusively devoted to explaining the Third Temple.

We would be happy to recommend study texts for people according to their level of learning. Please email us and we will make recommendations where these materials can be purchased.

Chaim Clorfene at
Sha'ar HaMikdash
The Third Temple Institute


from the July 2002 Edition of the Jewish Magazine




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