Pros and Cons for Building the Temple.

Dr. Yitzhak (Isaac) Hayut-Ma'N, Cyber-architect

The Academy of Jerusalem and Hi-Or Inc.


Introduction: Who needs the Temple?
1. The Meaning of the Temple for Observant Jews
2. The Possible Meaning of the Temple for Reform and Conservative Judaism
3. The Possible Meaning of the Temple for Secular Jews
4. The Temple as a National Enterprise
5. The Possible Meaning of the Temple to All Peoples

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Who needs the Temple?

"And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of all the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all the nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Ya'aqov; and he will teach us of his ways, and we shall walk in his paths: for out of Ziyyon shall go forth Torah, and the word of the Lord from Yerushalayim."


The almost identical "Zionist" vision of the prophets Isaiah (2:3) and Micha (4:3) equates the true Zion and the future Temple as a facility for instruction and bringing forth God's word. This is the vision of the aim of the Temple, to bring a blessing to all humankind. Moreover, Isaiah emphasizes that the gentiles will have a real stake in the worship of the Temple: "Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keeps the sabbathand does not profane it, and all that hold fast to my covenant. Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer, their burnt offerings and sacrifices shall be accepted on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples." (Isaiah 56 7-8).

This means that from the beginning the Temple was meant to serve all humankind, all the more so all the House of Israel, and all the more so those Jews who pray every day "and let our eyes see Thy return to Zion."

But when we come to discuss the possibility of the reconstruction of the Temple, we must ask ourselves who, of all these widening circles of Jews, Israelites, and humans for whom the Temple is intended, are actually interested in its restoration.

In all the history of the Zionist movement, the National Home, and the State of Israel, the Temple was included as an integral part only once: in the teachings of Avraham ("Yair") Stern, who saw in it just "a national symbol."

In a personal discussion with me, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel (Steinzaltz) expressed his impression that people are not involved with the building of the Temple because they do not feel its lack. Our generation is a generation of the breaking down of ideals, he maintained, certainly of collective ideals. There is nothing more illustrative of this than the collapse of communism. People want to act for themselves, for their own small and individual world. Even spiritual questions are examined from their individual aspect.

Therefore, claimed Rabbi Even-Israel, even if he himself views the building of the Temple as desirable, without a widespread sense of missing it, there is no chance for building the Temple. The state of Israel was founded through a deep sense of need. Even people who did not define themselves as Zionists or who were anti-Zionists felt compelled to address this problem of need and tried to find various solutions for it. There was a question that required an immediate answer. Without a question - every answer is irrelevant.

Concerning the Temple, Rabbi Even-Israel averred, the question has not yet been asked. He claimed that our generation is the generation that was destined to raise the question. Often the basic terms for the answer lie in the very formulation of the question. Agreement about the proper question may introduce us to a complex conceptual framework. The right construction of the questions today may raise a real need for an answer in the future.

In the spirit of these words of Rabbi Even-Israel, I would like to pose some questions on the subject: Who will build the Temple? For what needs? What kind of Temple will it be?

It is very difficult to predict a potential need. For example, who would have imagined twenty years ago that our social and economic institutions would not be able to exist -- literally -- without computers? Twenty years ago, who felt a desperate need for a personal computer? Where did the hundreds of millions of computer users come from? In the same generation when we in Israel had to wait five or ten years for a telephone, who could have predicted the need to connect to the giant brain called the Internet?

Our role, thus, is "to stir up and awake the love, till it please" (Cant. 2:5) .

The Amoraim, the authors of the Talmud, who lived during and following the destruction of the Temple, knew and told how deformed and tasteless became the world we live in after the Temple was destroyed: "prophecy was taken away" (Bava Batra 12); "counsel (etsah) was taken away" (Megillah 12); and even "the pleasure of coitus was taken away and given to the transgressors." (Sanhedrin 75) This means that the sages point to aspects which are lacking in our lives, even if we are not aware of them because we have never tasted them. These lacks torment and weaken our existence.

Even now there are attempts by researchers of the unconscious (mainly Jung and his students), and of anthropologists who investigate indigenous cultures (such as Eliade and his school), to understand the psychological meaning of ancient shrines and the rituals which took place in them. Even the first doctoral graduate of the Hebrew University, Raphael Patai, dedicated a comprehensive book (in English) to "Man and Temple" according to the Jewish sources. But only obscure scholars, certainly not the champions of building the Temple in our times, have been exposed to these writings.

So whom, and for what purposes, will a Temple serve in our times?


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The Meaning of the Temple for Observant Jews

It seems, initially, that the building of the Temple will serve the need of the people who express this need thrice daily, the public who pray "and return the worship to Thy dwelling house," namely the observant Jews.

There were 613 (TaRYaG) commandments given to Moses at Sinai; according to the Torah, we are commanded to fulfill all the 613 commandments, in practice, at all periods and without exceptions, as is written in Deuteronomy 29:28 "... those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this Torah". But in practice, the majority of the commandements (343) are related to the Temple and the worship in it, and therefore we cannot fulfill today more than 270 out of these 613. The Kaballah points out that the count of 613 parallels the full human stature (248 limbs and 365 sinews); whoever omits one of the commandments misses a certain part in his own self-rectification. The Book of The Hinukh has defined the post-Temple predicament: "The rain (GeSheM, meaning also "corporality," and equaling in gematria 343) has passed away," (Canticles 2:11) leaving "only evil (RA, equaling in gematria 270) all day long" (Gen 6:5).

The realization that for some 1900 years even the most punctilious observant Jew manages only to accomplish "only evil all day long" should cause concern. Moreover, the realization that what the people of Israel lack is the "Geshem," namely the real actualization of the Torah, and this actualization can only be fulfilled when the Temple exists should guide the thinking of the observant, in both their study and practice. As long as the Jewish people were living in exile and without sovereignity over their land, the building of the Temple was impossible. "God excuses the coerced omission." But during the present time, the avoidance is a tacit decision on our part.

The usual excuse of the observant students against those who speak against the willing avoidance of the building of the Temple is that the obligation for the commandments concerned with the Temple can be fulfilled by the study of these commandments. This, in my opinion, is a doubtful excuse, especially because their study is hardly genuine study, which, by definition, brings one to a new, deeper understanding and to drawing conclusions, rather than mere regurgitation.

If we ask a devout observant Jew, who takes the greatest pains in performing each commandment, "What is the Temple needed for?" he will probably answer that the Temple is needed for the performance of animal sacrifices, as are required by the Torah. But if we persist and ask the question of the prophet, "Has the Lord a great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices?" (1 Sam. 15:22), and perhaps recall the categorical assertion of the prophets "For I desired loyal love, and not sacrifice...." (Hosea 6:6), and "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to me? says the Lord: I am sated with the burnt offerings.... and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats" Isaiah (1:11), or the belief of the Psalmist "Thou does not desire sacrifice or meal offering," (Ps. 40:7), he may reveal his own emotional ambivalence to animal sacrifices. In my opinion, it is important to raise this question from the outset, because many in Israel, religious as well as secular, who lack an esoteric understanding of the cosmic implications of the sacrifices, are loath to reinstate what they regard as a primitive rite. Not only do they not want a Temple that will include animal sacrifices, but they will strongly object to its building. Even if the secular Jew is likely to be more resolute in this stance, many religious Jews also have doubts about this issue. Thus, they prefer to suppress the question of the Temple in their minds, and to postpone involvement in it until the coming of the prophet Elijah and the Messiah, who will take the responsibility for it off their hands.

The Kaballah in general, and the Book of the Zohar in particular, treat the question of the sacrifices in a profound and interesting way. The Zohar, for example, explains the concepts of lehaKRiV (to sacrifice) and KoRBan" (a sacrifice) as related to hitKaRVut (getting near), because through the ordained sacrifices the human being gets near to God and his soul cleaves to God. This tradition of the Zohar, and its continuation in the kaballah of the Holy ARI and in Hassidut, allows us to treat the questions of the sacrifices, the questions of "human" (ADaM) and "animal" ( BeHeMaH), as pertaining to questions of the immanent Divine qualities (the expansions of the Holy Name of YHWH as the Name of MaH and the name of BeN) which then can lead back to questions of human rectification and transformation, both individual and social.

The Kaballists in Italy, since the time of the Renaissance, have made an extensive study of the reasons (te'amim ) for the Temple commandments. Thus, for instance, the Kaballist Yo hanan Aliman in his book Heshek Shelomoh ("the Passion of Solomon," extant only in manuscript) discusses the Temple as a facility for drawing down the Divine plenitude (Shefa) and directing it. (Aliman, incidentally, could not refer to the Zohar as a basis, because it was not yet known in Italy in his generation). Later Yeh iel Nisim ben Shmuel of Pisa repeated similar arguments in his book Minhat Kena'ot. Ben Shmuel already bases his argument on the Zohar and quotes it as support. Also the 18th century Kaballist the RaMHaL (Rabbi Moshe Hayim Luzzatto), in his book Mishkane Elyon (the Dwellings of the Supreme), discusses in painstaking detail the structure and functions of the Third Temple. (It is quite interesting that this book, which had been lying for 200 years in hidden manuscript, was published recently in several different editions.) Thus, there arose in the later Kaballah a stream which devoted itself to the "technical" discussion of the Temple as a facility for drawing down the Divine blessing.

In the teachings of HaBaD there are some discussions (such as in the book Derekh Mitzvoteikha of the Tsemah Tsedek) of the reasons for the commandments to build the Temple, emphasizing its function in the reception and internalization of the invisible "surrounding lights" (Orot Makifim). We may explain their meaning by using the familiar contemporary example of the radio and TV waves that surround us; they are invisible, but can be received and rendered usable by appropriate equipment. Likewise, here we speak of the "surrounding lights" of the soul (called Hayah and Ye hidah, the latter being also "the Light of the Messiah"), which are generally unperceived by our senses, but with the "appropriate equipment," i.e. the Temple, would connect us -- the separate individuals -- to the whole complex of Being and to the Divine Singularity.

These and other sources pose a great educational and interpretative challenge to religious scholars and students: to learn the reasons for the sacrifices and the Temple. The Temple and the sacrifices duplicate in tangible form the hidden patterns of the spiritual worlds and the workings of the Divine holy process in its contacts with the human soul. These are the same patterns which lie at the basis of the Torah and of the whole world, and whoever goes deeply into the Torah and painstakingly follows the commandments may presumably reach them, even without the assisting facility of the Temple. But the interpretation and realization of these patterns in the building of the Temple will enable even the common person to observe and participate in the spiritual processes at the core of existence. " Even a maid at the Red Sea saw more than the prophet Ezekiel saw (in his mystical visions)." All the people "saw the voices" at Sinai, the pillar of smoke in the Mishkan (the Tabernacle), and the descent of the Divine cloud in Solomon's Temple. The Third Temple would allow all of us, in our lifetime, to observe the pattern of the heavenly Temple and to become involved with its workings. Just like a telescope allows us to observe the distant stars, which are not visible to us otherwise, the Temple will allow us to observe the higher worlds.


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