A Tale of Two Temples

RABBI WAGENSBERG ON PARSHAS TERUMAH
“A Tale of Two Temples”

Although Parshas Terumah deals with the commandment of building the Mishkan (sanctuary) and its Keilim (vessels), it also instructs us to build the Beis Hamikdash, (Temple), as it says, “And they must make a Mikdash for Me so that I may dwell among them” (Parshas Terumah, 25:8). This verse does not say, “And they must make a Mishkan for Me,” which refers to the temporary Tabernacle that the Jewish people had with them in the wilderness, but rather it says that they must make a Mikdash, which indicates that we must build a Beis Hamikdash.

Not only does the verse instruct us to build a Beis Hamikdash, but the pasuk says to make it, “Li,” (for Me; Hashem). The Sifri in Parshas Beha’alosecha teaches us that whenever the Torah uses the word “Li,” it means that the subject matter of that verse is something which will last forever. For example, the verse uses the word “Li” with respect to Kohanim (Parshas Tetzaveh, 28:41), Leviim (Parshas Bamidbar, 3:12), Yisraelim (Parshas Behar, 25:55), Bechoros (Parshas Beha’alosecha, 8:17), and the Beis Hamikdash (Parshas Terumah, 25:8).

This Sifri seems to be a bit problematic because although Kohanim, Leviim, Yisraelim, and Bechoros have stood the test of time because they are still in existence today, the Beis Hamikdash has not withstood the test of time because it has been destroyed, twice. Therefore, how could the verse use the word “Li” concerning the Beis Hamikdash?

Moreover, Chaggai the Prophet said, “The glory of this latter Temple (the Second Beis Hamikdash) will be greater than that of the first [Temple]” (Chaggai, 2:9). The Gemara in Meseches Baba Basra (chap. 1, “Hashutfin”, pg. 3a) offers two reasons as to how the Second Beis HaMikdash was greater than the first. The first reason is because the actual structure of the Second Beis Hamikdash was taller than the structure of the first. The Second Beis Hamikdash stood at 100 cubits tall whereas the First Beis Hamikdash stood only at 30 cubits tall.

The second reason is because the Second Beis Hamikdash lasted longer than the first. The Second Beis Hamikdash lasted for 420 years, whereas the First Beis Hamikdash only lasted for 410 years.

This too seems a bit difficult to understand because the Gemara in Meseches Yoma chap. 1, “Shivas Yamim”, pg. 21b) quotes Rav Shmuel bar Inya who said (based on Chaggai, 1:8) that the Second Beis Hamikdash was missing five important items which were present during the First Beis Hamikdash. Those five items were:

1) The Aron Hakodesh (Holy Ark), with its cover and Keruvim.

2) The fire which descended upon the Altar from heaven.

3) The Shechina (Divine Presence).

4) Ruach Hakodesh (there were no Prophets during the Second Temple Era because they did not have Ruach Hakodesh).

5) Urim v’Tumim (the Name of God on parchment which was placed inside the flap of the Choshen Mishpat (Breastplate).

Therefore, how could Chaggai claim that the Second Temple was greater than the first on account of its height and length of years if apparently the First Temple was greater than the second due to the fact that it had those five precious items? It would seem logical that the advantage of the five items would outweigh the height and years advantage.

In order to begin addressing these issues, the Shvilei Pinchas introduces a teaching from the Berditchiver Rebbe and from Reb Tzadok Hakohen from Lublin.

The Kedushas Levi (Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, 1740-1809, Ukraine; Channukah) says that the First Beis Hamikdash corresponded to Torah Shebichtav (the Written Law), whereas the Second Beis Hamikdash corresponded to Torah Sheba’al Peh (the Oral Tradition). The Third Beis Hamikdash will be a combination of both.

In his Pri Tzaddik on Parshas Bechukosai (#11), Reb Tzadok Hakohen from Lublin (Poland, 1823-1900) explains how the First Beis Hamikdash was connected to Torah Shebichtav, and how the Second Beis Hamikdash was connected to Torah Sheba’al Peh. He says that all of the books of the Neviim (Prophets) and Kesuvim (Writings) were composed during the First Temple Era, and all of the books of the Neviim and Kesuvim were considered to be part of Torah Shebichtav.

One support to this notion (that the books of the Neviim and Kesuvim are part of Torah Shebichtav) is found in Meseches Shabbos (chap. 9, “Amar Rebbi Akiva”, pg. 88a) where a certain Galilean said before Rav Chisda, “Blessed is the Merciful One (Hashem) who gave us a three-fold Torah.” Rashi (ibid) says that it is called a three-fold Torah because it contains Torah (the Five Books of Moshe), Neviim, and Kesuvim. We see from here that Neviim and Kesuvim are part of Torah Shebichtav which the Merciful One gave to us. Since the works of Neviim and Kesuvim were written during the First Temple Era, the First Beis Hamikdash was connected to Torah Shebichtav.

However, during the Second Beis Hamikdash, prophecy stopped (Yoma ibid). Instead of Prophets, we had an institution called the Anshei Knesses Hagedola (Men of the Great Assembly) who were comprised of Torah scholars who illuminated the eyes of the Jewish people with Torah Sheba’al Peh. It was the Anshei Knesses Hagedola who were responsible for many of the decrees and fences that were made to protect Jewish Law. Since Torah Sheba’al Peh flourished during the Second Temple Era, the Second Beis Hamikdash was connected to Torah Sheba’al Peh.

The Shvilei Pinchas points out that this does not mean to say that during the First Temple Era the Jewish people did not learn the Oral Tradition. Rather, it just means to say that during ths e First Beis Hamikdash, the Jewish people did not have to toil in Torah Sheba’al Peh as much to know the will of God because they had the Neviim to rely upon for that. Therefore, the emphasis during Bayis Rishon was on Torah Shebichtav.

This also does not mean to say that during the Second Temple Era the Jewish people did not learn Written Law. Rather, it just means to say that during the Second Beis Hamikdash, the Jewish people had to depend more heavily upon Torah Sheba’al Peh in order to understand the will of God which was concealed within the words of Torah Shebichtav. Therefore, the emphasis during Bayis Sheini was on Torah Sheba’al Peh.

At this point we must add a teaching from the Alshich Hakadosh (Rabbi Moshe Alshich, 1508 Turkey-1593 Tzfas). In his Toras Moshe (Parshas Terumah, 25:8), the Alshich points to a grammatical inconsistency within the verse, “And they must make a sanctuary for Me so that I may dwell among them” (Parshas Terumah, 25:8). This verse mentions a “sanctuary” which is written in the singular form. But then the verse goes on to say, “So that I may dwell among them,” which is in the plural form. Apparently, the verse should have concluded by saying, “So that I may dwell in it (in the sanctuary),” which is the singular form. Why did the pasuk conclude with the words, “among them” in the plural?

The Alshich’s approach to explain the grammatical shift within this verse is a famous one. He says that the words, “among them” come to teach us that the goal of having a sanctuary was not so that the Shechina should rest upon the sanctuary, but rather, the purpose of having a sanctuary was so that the people would learn from the lessons contained within the sanctuary and thereby be worthy of having the Shechina rest upon themselves. Therefore, the words, “among them” emphasize that the end-game was to have the Shechina rest on them, the people.

Unfortunately, during the First Beis Hamikdash, the people thought that the purpose of the Temple was in order that the Shechina would rest upon the Temple. The Jews made this mistake because the First Beis Hamikdash was extremely holy and spiritually powerful. This is because it contained the Aron Hakodesh, magical fire, Shechina, Ruach Hakodesh, and the Urim v’Tumim. Since the First Temple was so spiritually energized, the people thought that the point of having a Beis Hamikdash was to create an environment fitting for the Shechina to rest upon. That environment, they thought, was the Beis Hamikdash.

This was precisely why Hashem destroyed the First Beis Hamikdash. It was because the Jews were missing the point. With the churban (destruction) of the First Beis Hamikdash, Hashem conveyed to the people that He was not so much interested in a Temple. Rather, Hashem’s interests lie with us, His people.

This is why Hashem orchestrated that five precious items were absent when they built the Second Beis Hamikdash. This “crippled” Beis Hamikdash caused the Jews not to make such a fuss over the Temple. Now they would understand that the Temple was a great place to gather together and farbrengen in order to receive chizuk (encouragement) so that they themselves would improve to the point that they would be worthy receptacles for receiving the Divine Presence which would rest upon them.

One of the greatest ways of becoming eligible for Shechina is through the study of Torah. In fact, the Gemara in Meseches Berachos (chap. 1, “M’eimasai”, pg. 8a) cites Rebbi Chiya bar Ami who said in the name of Ulah that from the day that the Temple was destroyed, the Holy One Blessed Be He can only be found only within the four cubits of people who study Torah.

This means to say that the very Shechina which lifted off of the Beis Hamikdash when it was destroyed, would rest upon those who engage in the study of Torah. Therefore, Rebbi Chalafta ben Dosa said that even if one person sits alone and involves himself in Torah study, the Divine Presence is with him (Pirkei Avos, chap. 3, “Akavia”, Mishna 6 or 7 depending on the version of Pirkei Avos). The Shechina will most certainly be with two people, three people, or ten people who gather together to study the Torah. The degrees of Shechina may increase with more people, but the point is that the Shechina will dwell upon them.

The Shvilei Pinchas says that this explains how the Second Beis Hamikdash was greater than the First Beis Hamikdash. During the First Beis Hamikdash, the Temple was so powerfully strong that the people were convinced that the purpose of the Temple was to have a place for the Shechina to rest upon; and that place was upon the Temple. This prevented the people from working on themselves.

Therefore, Hashem destroyed the First Beis Hamikdash and orchestrated that the building of the Second Beis Hamikdash would be deficient of five important items. In this way the people would realize that the goal of the Temple was not so that the Shechina would rest upon the Temple, because it was a “crippled” Temple. This weakened Temple got the people thinking in the right direction. Now they understood that the tachlis (purpose) of the Temple was to gather there to receive chizuk which would help the people improve upon themselves to the point that they would be worthy of having the Shechina rest upon them.
This was the advantage of the Second Beis Hamikdash over the First Beis Hamikdash. It was that the focus was no longer on the Temple, but rather it was on the people. When things were going well during the Second Beis Hamikdash, the Shechina rested upon the people as never before. This aspect made the Second Temple Era greater than the First Temple Era.

Once again, we must reiterate that one of the greatest ways for us to become worthy recipients of Shechina is to engage in the study of Torah. However, we must modify that statement by specifying that it is the study of Torah Sheba’al Peh which grants us this advantage (See Meseches Gittin, chap. 5, “Hanizkin”, pg. 60b, Rebbi Yochanan).

In a number of sources, it says that the words of the Scribes (Torah Sheba’al Peh) are more beloved to God than the words of His own Torah (Torah Shebichtav; Shir Hashirim Rabba, 1:18 on Shir Hashirim 1:2). Moreover, it says that a Chacham (Torah Scholar) is greater than a Navi (Meseches Baba Basra, chap. 1, “Hashutfin”, pg. 12a, Rebbi Avdimi of Yafo).

One might wonder, “How could a Chacham be greater than a Navi if a Navi is obviously on a higher spiritual level?” The answer is that although it is true that a Navi is on a higher spiritual level; nevertheless, a Chacham is more beloved to God because he does not have prophecy to rely upon to know what the will of God is. A Chacham has to work very hard to crystalize what the Ratzon Hashem is. It is the effort which a Chacham has to invest which makes him more beloved to God than even a Navi.

The Shvilei Pinchas goes on to say that now we can understand why Hashem removed the Aron Hakodesh from the Second Beis Hamikdash, but yet allowed the Menorah to remain in the Second Beis Hamikdash. This will be understood based on the teachings of the Chasam Sofer (Rabbi Moshe Sofer, 1762-1839, Pressburg; Parshas Terumah) and the Netziv (Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, 1816 Russia-1893 Belarus, Rosh Yeshiva of the Volozhiner Yeshiva).

They point out that there were two Keilim in the Beis Hamikdash which represented Torah: 1) the Aron Hakodesh which contained the Luchos (Tablets), and 2) the Menorah whose light represented the light of Torah wisdom (see Baba Basra, chap. 2, “Lo Yachpor”, Rebbi Yitzchak). One might ask, “Why was it necessary for there to be two vessels representing Torah? Why did it not suffice for there to be just one vessel which represented Torah?”

They answer this question by saying that these two Keilim represented two different aspects of Torah. The Aron Hakodesh represented Torah Shebichtav because it housed the Luchos upon which the Ten Commandments were engraved; literally, “written in stone.” However, the Menora represented Torah Sheba’al Peh because it had the light of Torah even though there were no letters engraved on the Menorah. By definition this represents Oral Law which was not committed to writing.

In fact, whenever anybody would come up with a novel Torah idea and mention it to Rebbi Tarfon, if he liked what he heard, Rebbi Tarfon would compliment the person’s Chiddush by saying, “Kaftor Vaferach” (button and flower). How was this a compliment? The answer is that the Menorah was made with buttons and flowers engraved upon it (Parshas Terumah, 25:31). Therefore, Rebbi Tarfon told those scholars who shared with him their Chiddushei Torah that their Chiddushim were authentic because it flowed to them through the spiritual energy of the Menorah. This supports the notion that the Menorah represented Torah Sheba’al Peh.

This is why Hashem did not allow the Second Beis Hamikdash to have an Aron Hakodesh, but He did allow the Second Beis Hamikdash to have a Menorah. It is because the Aron Hakodesh was so holy that the Shechina rested upon it. The Aron Hakodesh would have misled the Jews of the Second Temple Era to think that the purpose of the Temple was so that the Shechina would rest upon the Temple. This would cause the Jews to forget the real purpose of the Beis Hamikdash which was so that the Shechina would eventually rest upon the Jews themselves.

Therefore, Hashem hid the Aron Hakodesh from the Jews of the Second Temple Era. In this way they would understand that the tachlis of the Temple was so that the Shechina would rest upon them. This is why Hashem allowed them to have a Menorah. It was to teach them the way in which they would deserve to have the Shechina rest upon them. That is, through the study of Torah Sheba’al Peh which the Menorah represented.

The Shvilei Pinchas says that now we can understand how the Torah could use the word “Li” (which indicates that the subject matter of that verse is talking about something that lasts forever) regarding the first two Batei Mikdash if the first two Batei Mikdash were destroyed. The answer is that although the structures of the first two Temples were destroyed; nevertheless, that which the first two Temples stood for [Torah Shebichtav and Torah Sheba’al Peh] has lasted, and will last, until the end of time. Therefore, the use of the word “Li” is fitting.

One practical takeaway message from this teaching would be to increase our commitment to the study of Written Law and Oral Tradition. In this way, the Shechina will rest upon us even more so, and then we will be zocheh (merit) to receive the Third Beis Hamikdash.

So, may we all be blessed with the strength to engage in the study of Torah Shebichtav and Torah Sheba’al Peh, even more so, in order to become the receptacles worthy of having the Shechina rest upon, and thus witness the building of the Third Beis Hamikdash, which will be a combination of the previous two, which will contain all of its Keilim, in which we will serve Hashem together with the Neviim, Chachamim, Kohanim, Leviim, Yisraelim, and Bechoros; Bimheira Biyameinu, Amen!