It is written:
כל דור שאינו נבנה בימיו מעלין עליו כאילו הוא החריבו
Any generation in which [the Temple] was not built in their days,
They consider it upon them as if they destroyed it
(Yerushalmi, Yoma 5a).
In other words, the very same lack of merit the led to the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash has not only resulted in its not being built, but has somehow destroyed it anew in every subsequent generation. And, every one of those generations is held accountable for this “destruction.”
But what does this all really mean?
How are we supposed to relate to this idea, today? If previous generations were unsuccessful in rebuilding the Temple, then how exactly are we going to do it– especially as a generation and especially given the intense distractions, obstacles, and stumbling blocks (both internally and externally ) that we face on a daily basis?
And, what exactly would we be building? Even after learning all we could about the Beis HaMikdash, we still would have no idea what the experience was really like. Is there anyone among us today who can say with any confidence that he or she truly knows what it is that we lost all those years ago… let alone how we can go about rebuilding it?
It would seem hopeless.
Except it isn’t.
We can understand the above gemara a bit differently, and this difference can change everything this Tisha B’Av and beyond.
The Other Beis HaMikdash
Let’s consider how things were supposed to be…
וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם
And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.
Our sages point out that “I will dwell among them” can also be translated as “in them.”
They explain that each individual Jew is meant to be a Sanctuary for the Shechinah, Hashem’s Presence in the world. In fact, the Jew (and by extension his home, shul and community) is the real Beis HaMikdash on which the physical building was modeled.
When the Beis HaMikdash stood, Yidden from all walks of life basked in the Presence of the Shechinah the instant they walked through its gates. Even from afar one was greeted by the Holy Light emanating from its windows. Every nuance of the structure, including those who did the avoda within it, were there by Divine design for the Jewish pilgrims who came throughout the year, to stir up feelings of awe and an intense inner yearing to return to God.
Just as anyone who came to the Beis HaMikdash immediately became aware of Hashem’s Presence and was motivated to do teshuva, so too there is a Divine light within every Jew, the inner Chelek Elokah Mima’al, that can shine out, inspiring those around them to return to their Creator.
To be in touch with this Light is to be alive in the fullest sense– in this world and in the next one. Even simple people can get this holy “glow.”
But how can we reach such a level?
This revelation comes about when we use Torah and mitzvos to seek out, find and eventually come to know aspects of Hashem and how He runs the world. This knowledge in turn affects how we serve Him as well as how we relate to ourselves and those around us. The more we seek Hashem in the situations and experiences we find ourselves in, the closer He gets and the greater our knowledge of Him.
Not surprisingly, striving to reach such an understanding of Hashem, say our Sages, is like building the Beis HaMikdash:
ואמר ר‘ אלעזר כל אדם שיש בו דעה כאילו נבנה בית המקדש בימיו
And Rabbi Elazar says: Any person in whom there is
knowledge [of Hashem], it is as though
the Temple was built in his days
So, every single Jew has the potential to reveal a unique Divine Light and a personal awareness of Hashem in the world. Furthermore, the greater the effort we make towards this goal, the more Divine Assistence we receive to get there:
תנו רבנן והתקדשתם והייתם קדושים אדם
מקדש עצמו מעט מקדשין אותו הרבה
The Sages taught [regarding the verse:]
“Sanctify yourselves and you will be sanctified” (Vayikra 11:44);
a person who sanctifies himself a bit,
they sanctify him and assist him greatly
And, when we sincerely and consistently make that effort, we can trust that Hashem will fill in the places where we are falling short. As it says,
You are not obligated to complete the work,
but neither are you free to desist from it.
Pirkei Avos 2:21
But, should even one Jew not try to connect to the innate Godliness within and thus never reflect such a Light to others, then no one else can come and reveal that light, either. It is lost to us and the world…
This is significant because our Sages say that the phrase “I may dwell in them” can also be translated as within the Jewish people as a nation.
The Jewish people are really one entity, when one Jew becomes a miniature Sanctuary for Hashem’s Presence, then he or she simultaneously rebuilds a section of the national Sanctuary. When there is enough critical material for a structure to be built, then Hashem Himself may “fill in” the missing pieces to complete it.
In light of this we can understand the following differently:
There are two ideas of how the Third Beis HaMikdash will be constructed. The Rambam states that the Beis HaMikdash will be built by man. Another view, however, explains that the Beis HaMikdash has already been constructed by Hashem and exists in the heavenly realms, waiting for the time when it will be able to descend to the earth.
This is not a contradiction.
When regular Jews are seeking a personal relationship with Hashem through their teshuva, tefilla, and mitzvos, then they are simultaneously contributing their portion to the building of the Beis HaMikdash in this world.
And if a critical number of Jews are making such an effort, then they can initiate the flow of Divine Assistance that will ultimately “cause” Hashem so to speak to complete the structure of the Beis HaMikdash here on earth by uniting it with it’s Heavenly form.
When too few Jews are going in this direction, then the opportunity for such Divine Assistance is lost since there is no vessel to hold it. It’s as if the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed anew.
In fact, the Midrash states, “All the communities that fell, it is only because they didn’t inquire after and demand the Beis HaMikdash” (Midrash Socher Tov, Shmuel 31).
In the context of our article this means they just went through the motions of their Yiddishkeit and in the process “forgot” Hashem. They stayed within their comfort zones… never really looking at themselves nor those around them with the “truth perspective” as Rav Dessler calls it… keeping themselves oblivious to Hashem’s constant attempts to get their attention…
All of this can change, however, with just a little bit of yearning because the biggest change can come from the smallest of movements:
אמר הקב“ה לישראל: בני! פתחו לי פתח אחד של תשובה,
כחודה של מחט, ואני פותח לכם פתחים שיהיו עגלות וקרניות נכנסות בו
The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Israel,
“My sons, open for Me an opening of teshuva like the eye of a needle,
and I will open for you openings
big enough for wagons and carriages to pass through
Midrash Rabbah Shir HaShirim 5:2
So, for all the talk about building the Beis HaMikdash and how it will come about, the truth is:
כִּֽי־קָר֥וֹב אֵלֶ֛יךָ הַדָּבָ֖ר מְאֹ֑ד
This thing is very close to you
The real Beis HaMikdash will be built within each of us– from the inside out.