In Genesis Rabbah we read:
“Rabbi Chiya Raba said – from the beginning of the creation of the world the Holy One saw the Holy Temple built, destroyed and built. 'In the beginning of G-d's creation…' (Genesis 1:1) refers to it built, this is what it says '…to plant the heavens and to found the earth…' (Isaiah 51:16) “Now the earth was astonishingly empty…' refers to it destroyed, this is what it says 'I saw the earth, and behold, it was void and unformed…' (Jeremiah 4:23) , 'And G-d said, Let there be light…' refers to it built and complete in the future to come, this is what it says 'Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of HaShem has shone upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and a gross darkness the kingdoms, and HaShem shall shine upon you, and His glory shall appear over you.' (Isaiah 60:1-2)”
From the beginning of creation, the Holy Temple was in G-d’s heart. It was in His mind’s eye, the very apple of His eye! It’s glory and its destruction, and its glory again, is woven into the very fabric of creation.
Later in Genesis Rabbah we read:
“Rabbi Shimeon Ben Yehotzadak asked… from where was the light created?
Said Rabbi Berachia in the name of Rabbi Itzchak: The light was created from the place of the Holy Temple, since it is written 'And behold the glory of the God of Israel comes from the way of the East' (Ezekiel 43:2) and there is no His glory except the Holy Temple, as you say: 'A throne of glory, on high from the beginning, the place of our sanctuary' (Jeremiah 17:12)“ (Bereshit Rabbah 3:4)
The Holy Temple, that is, the Place on earth where G-d’s immanent Presence, His Shechinah, resides and fills our world with purity and holiness, is not an afterthought or addendum to creation. It’s not even the cherry on top of creation. The Holy Temple is the center and focal point of creation. It is ground zero from which all creation emanates. It is G-d’s residence among man.
This Shabbat is the 17th day of Tammuz, a fast day, which is “pushed off,” that is, delayed to Sunday, because we don’t fast on Shabbat, a day of joy and happiness.
So on Sunday, the 18th of Tammuz, Jews around the world will observe a dawn to dark fast, commemorating the calamities that have befallen Israel on the 17th of Tammuz. They are
- Moshe broke the tablets upon which were written the Ten Commandments when he came down from Mount Sinai and saw Israel dancing around the Golden Calf.
- In first Temple times, due to an inability to bring sheep into Jerusalem the daily Tamid offering was stopped during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem.
- Apostomos, an unidentified Roman soldier burned a holy Torah in the Holy Temple.
- An idol was placed in the Holy Temple.
- The walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans, in 69 CE. Three weeks later, on the 9th of Av, the Temple would be destroyed.
According to the Jerusalem Talmud the 17th of Tammuz was also the day when the Babylonians breached the walls of Jerusalem before destroying the first Temple.
The fast of the 17th of Tammuz begins a three-week period known as bein hametzarim, after the verse in the book of Lamentations 1:3, “Judah went into exile because of affliction and great servitude; she settled among the nations, and found no rest; all her pursuers overtook her between the narrow straits (bein hametzarim).”
The narrow straits are a metaphor for the pain and constriction we feel at the loss and absence of the Holy Temple in our world. These three weeks of lamentation, in which we take upon ourselves traditional aspects of mourning, such as refraining from public festivities or celebrations and weddings, cutting our hair and trimming our beards, conclude on the fast of the 9th of Av, the day that both the first and second Holy Temples were destroyed.
For 2000 years, since the destruction of the second Holy Temple by the Romans in 70 CE, Jews throughout the exile intensified their longing for the Holy Temple during these three weeks. Intensified, because in truth, longing for and lamenting the destruction of the Holy Temple is written into our daily liturgy.
King David and Samuel the prophet drawing up plans for the Holy Temple.
“You have turned my lament into dancing for me; You loosened my sackcloth and girded me with joy.” (Psalms 30:12)
But something has happened since the reestablishment of the state of Israel in 1948, and the nation of Israel’s return from exile back into history and the era of return and redemption foreseen by our ancient prophets. Passively mourning for the loss of the Holy Temple is no longer viable. In 1967, Israel liberated the Temple Mount, an event that can only be understood as a gift from G-d and the restarting of the Holy Temple timeline.
For how can we simply mourn, when we can be doing so much more to prepare for and work toward the rebuilding of the Holy Temple in our day? How can we lament the days of old and the failings of our ancestors, when we can be directing our efforts to rekindling Israel’s love and need for the Holy Temple? How can we bow our heads and carry on like a better future for all mankind is not in our hands, not in our power to achieve?
No time to mourn
Truly, we have no time to mourn. The clock is ticking, mankind is losing its way and working toward the Holy Temple, not just a building, but a reality within which G-d will dwell and bless all mankind, is the order of the day.
This week the world saw for the first time photographs taken from the Webb telescope from somewhere in deep space, revealing stars and galaxies that have never before been seen, revealing the immense canvas of G-d’s creation, the stunning and sublime beauty of the work of His hand.
But right here on earth, in the heart of the human soul, we have the ability to reveal a beauty unequaled in all G-d’s kingdom.
We have traveled through so much darkness. Isn’t it time to let there be light?
“So says HaShem, "The heavens are My throne, and the earth is My footstool; which is the house that you will build for Me, and which is the place of My rest?” (Isaiah 66:1)
So G-d asks mankind. Isn’t it time to answer?
The Work of the Temple Institute
The Temple Institute is involved, day and night, in making every manner of preparation we can to promote the rebuilding of the Holy Temple.
We have reconstructed the Temple vessels, and they are ready for use in the rebuilt Temple. With the return of tourism to Israel, our exhibit in Jerusalem's old city is filling up again.
Our research department, led by Rabbi Azariah Ariel, is busy writing and publishing scholarly books concerning all topics relevant to the Holy Temple.
We have commissioned architects to draw up plans for the Holy Temple.
In recent years we have established Yeshivat HaMikdash, a learning center for teenage boys, with a focus on Temple related studies, led by the Institute's founder, Yisrael Ariel.
The Temple Institute's Nezer HaKodesh Center for Kohanic Studies teaches interested kohanim how to conduct the various priestly responsibilities in the Holy Temple, and after being interrupted by Covid, public events where the kindling of the menorah, bringing if the bikurim (first fruits) and twin loaves, the nisuch hamayim (water libation ceremony) and korban Pesach (Passover offering) are reenacted, have returned.
The Temple Institute is currently engaged in intense efforts to raise and produce the ashes of the red heifer, a game changer in preparing for the Holy Temple.
And finally, our social media is committed to teaching about the Holy Temple, about preparations being made for its rebuilding here in Israel, and about its importance for all mankind.
Our work is supported by our exhibition, our gift shop and by the generous donations which we receive from around the world.