Rebuilding the Beis HaMikdash
“צום הרביעי וצום החמישי וצום השביעי וצום העשירי יהיה לבית יהודה לששון ולשמחה ולמעדים טובים והאמת והשלום אהבו.”
“The fast of the fourth month (17th of Tammuz), the fast of the fifth month (Tisha B’Av), the fast of the seventh month (Tzom Gedalia), and the fast of the tenth month (10th of Teves), will become days of joy and gladness for the House of Israel, and festive occasions. Truth and peace you shall love.”
We find here a curious juxtaposition of two different themes. The first part of this possuk expresses our hopes and prayers, in light of Hashem’s assurance that the days of sorrow we currently endure will one day be transformed into days of joy. The second part of the possuk seems entirely unrelated: an admonition to pursue truth and peace. What is the connection between these two themes?
The Talmud Yerushalmi states that each generation in which the Beis HaMikdash is not rebuilt, is considered as if they had witnessed the Beis HaMikdash destroyed in their own times. This is a shocking accusation, which cuts into the depths of our souls. We are truly responsible for the “destruction of the Beis HaMikdash” which recurs in every generation, as a result of our sins. Had we been worthy to have the Shechina dwell among us, a new Beis HaMikdash made of fire would instantly descend from the Heavens. This has not yet occurred, only because we have proven ourselves unworthy.
This realization places a heavy burden upon each community, and each individual, in every generation, to examine his deeds, improve himself, and do what must be done to hasten the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash. Special notice must be taken of the flaws that led to the destruction of the first and second Batei HaMikdash. These same flaws still exist today, and prevent the rebuilding of the third Beis HaMikdash.
The possuk therefore highlights the two most important tasks, incumbent on us all: truth and peace. “Truth” refers to the Torah, as we say in the beracha for Torah study, “Blessed are You, Hashem… Who has chosen us from among all the nations, and granted us a Torah of truth.”
The Gemara states:
“מי האיש החכם ויבן את זאת [… על מה אבדה הארץ].” דבר זה נשאל לחכמים ולנביאים ולא פירשוהו עד שפירשו הקב”ה בעצמו דכתיב “ויאמר ה’ על עזבם את תורתי [אשר נתתי לפניהם ולא שמעו בקולי].” היינו לא שמעו בקולי היינו לא הלכו בה. אמר רב יהודה אמר רב שאין מברכין בתורה תחלה.
“Who is the wise man that can understand this? […Why has the land been destroyed?]” This question was asked to the Sages and the Prophets, but they could not answer it, until HaKadosh Baruch Hu Himself explained, as the possuk states, “And Hashem said, ‘Since they abandoned My Torah [that I placed before them, and they did not heed My voice].’” Abandoning the Torah and not heeding Hashem’s voice seem to be one and the same? Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav (abandoning the Torah means) that they did not recite a beracha before studying Torah.
The Ran explains that simply failing to recite a beracha could not have been cause enough to warrant the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. Rather, their failure to recite the beracha demonstrated that the Torah was not important to them, and therefore they did not feel it worthwhile to recite a beracha.
From here we learn an important message. It is not enough just to study Torah by rote. We must cherish the Torah, and hold it in the highest esteem. We must internalize the fact that “it is our lives and the length of our days.” As the Rambam says, “For those who have wisdom, and those who pursue it, life without Torah study is akin to death.” We will not be worthy to have the Shechina dwell among us again, until we truly rejoice with the Torah, and view it as our most valuable asset.
The Degel Machaneh Ephraim cites in the name of his grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov zt”l, that this Gemara refers to the middle of the three birkos HaTorah, והערב נא, in which we pray that Hashem make the words of Torah sweet in our mouths. It was the failure to recite this beracha that led to the Churban.
Why is this so? From a halachic standpoint, the middle beracha is the least important of the three. The third beracha, אשר בחר בנו, is the most important; the first beracha, אשר קדשנו, is necessary as a beracha over the mitzva of Torah study; but the middle beracha does not even merit an entire beracha unto itself. It is attached to the second beracha, and therefore does not even begin with ברוך אתה ה’. Why then did the Baal Shem Tov specify the lack of this beracha, as the cause for the Churban?
From here we see how important it is to taste the sweetness of the Torah. By applying ourselves to the Torah with the dedication necessary to taste its sweetness, we merit the conclusion of this beracha, “May we and our children… recognize Your Name, and learn your Torah l’shma.” Only when Torah is studied with joy, does it continue on to the next generation.
A proof for this can be found in Parshas Ha’azinu, “And this song shall testify… that (the Torah) shall not be forgotten from his descendants.” When the Torah becomes an enjoyable, melodious song, it will not be forgotten by our children.
The Baal Shem Tov put special emphasis on the beracha of והערב נא, in order to correct the lack of appreciation for Torah, which led to the destruction of the first Beis HaMikdash.
The second Beis HaMikdash was destroyed by the senseless hatred that raged among us, as the Gemara states:
מקדש שני שהיו עוסקין בתורה ובמצות וגמילות חסדים מפני מה חרב, מפני שהיתה בו שנאת חנם, ללמדך ששקולה שנאת חנם כנגד שלש עבירות עבודה זרה גלוי עריות ושפיכות דמים.
Before the destruction of the second Beis HaMikdash, they studied Torah and performed acts of kindness. Why then was the Beis HaMikdash destroyed? Because of the senseless hatred among them. From here we learn that senseless hatred is equivalent to the three worst sins: idolatry, illicit relations, and bloodshed.
In order to correct this flaw, and merit the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash, we must pursue peace in our homes and our communities. The Chafetz Chaim zt”l writes in Shemiras HaLashon:
הנה כתבו הספרים בשם הזהר הקדוש, דבי כנישתא חדא, אם היו שומרים מדת השלום כדבעי, יכולים לזכות לביאת המשיח. אם כן ביאת המשיח תלויה בידינו. וידוע, שבמדת השלום אין אנו יכולים לזכות בה, רק אם נהיה זהירים מתחלה מעון שנאת חנם ולשון הרע, וכל אחד שיתחזק לתקן החטא הזה, יהיה לו חלק בבית הבנוי לעתיד, דבלתם היה הבית חרב לעולם, חס ושלום. והנה אם היתה לנו רשות לבנות בית המקדש, והיה צריך כסף לזה, ידוע דכל אחד מישראל היה מנדב בנפש חפצה כל מה שבכחו לזה, כדי שיהיה לו גם כן חלק בבית המקדש, ובעניננו אין צריך כסף כלל, רק להתחזק להתרחק מן החטא החמור של לשון הרע ושנאת חנם, ולאחז במדת השלום, ועל ידי זה יתקן החטא ונזכה לביאת המשיח ולבנין המקדש.
The sacred texts cite from the Zohar that if even one shul would properly preserve the attribute of peace, their merit would bring Moshiach. If so, we see that Moshiach’s arrival depends on us. Peace can only be achieved if we are careful to avoid senseless hatred and lashon hara. Therefore, each one of us must make an effort to correct this sin, in order to do our share in the building of the future Beis HaMikdash. If not, the Beis HaMikdash will forever remain in ruins, chas v’shalom.
If the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash would require monetary donations, any Jew would gladly give everything he could, to have a portion in the Beis HaMikdash. Yet the truth is that the Beis HaMikdash does not require money. It requires only the avoidance of the terrible sins of lashon hara and senseless hatred, and that we grasp hold of the attribute to peace. Thereby, the flaws that led to the Churban will be corrected, and we will merit the coming of Moshiach, and the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash.
We can now understand the possuk with which we began our discussion. When will our days of mourning and sorrow be transformed into gladness and light? When we pursue truth and peace. Thereby the sins that led to the Churban will be rectified, and we will merit the coming of Moshiach, may it be soon and in our days, Amen.