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Translation not reviewed nor edited by Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh

The answer to the question in the title of this article is that it depends who you ask.

There are those who say that it is obviously us who will build the Temple, sovaldi since “And they shall make Me a Temple”[1] is one of the 613 commandments of the Torah. Indeed, cheap Maimonides rules that “It is a positive commandment to make a house for God.”[2] Just as human beings built the Tabernacle, store and the First and Second Temples, so too, we want to construct the Third Temple ourselves. Of course, there are a number of preconditions that need to be met before we can build the Temple, but once they have been accomplished, it is our responsibility to perform the commandment. If there are legends that state that a miraculous Temple will descend from Heaven, and the like?they cannot be taken literally.

However, there are others who say that the Midrash and the Zohar explicitly state that the Third Temple will not be constructed by humans but it will be the Divine handiwork of God Himself, and this is what will make it unique and ascertain that it will never be destroyed. This is not merely a fictional legend but explicit statements brought by the greatest commentaries as an explanation to the Talmudic discussion of the topic.[3] So, building the Temple is not like the other mitzvot in which we do not rely on miracles. This is because everything that relates to the Temple is for the ultimate purpose of the dwelling of the Divine Presence and not just to perform the technicalities. This is why God Himself chooses to be an active partner in building His House.

Bridging the Opinions

Apparently, there is no need to settle on either one of the opinions because, quite simply, there need not be any contradiction between them. Everyone certainly agrees that from the perspective of halachah (Jewish law) it is our obligation, but the possibility exists that God will decide to do it Himself. This means that if the halachic and practical conditions are ripe to build the Temple everyone will agree that it is a mitzvah to do so, and they will also acknowledge the fact that God has entrusted the task to us. On the other hand, if the Temple is really constructed in a miraculous way, then it will become clear that God has decided to “take things into His own hands” and obviously, no-one will dare oppose it. In this case, God has decided that there is no point in waiting for us…

However, this formula for bridging between the opinions does not suffice. Because, although this is not a halachic dispute, we still need to know how to envision the Temple that we are anticipating. Looking forward to the Temple’s construction is a principle that connects with every facet of our lives, as expressed in particular in the siddur (Jewish prayer book). But what type of a Temple should we expect? Moreover, the Temple is not just an insignificant detail, but the climax of the complete redemption process, as Maimonides describes the process of the revelation of Mashiach, who will eventually build the Temple. From here, the next question is how to describe the redemption itself? Do we want the redemption to stem from our arousal to build the Temple from below, or for Divine revelation from above? Each side has its own advantages, but also a certain disadvantage.

A Human Building

It would be wonderful if we could build the Temple! And how special it would be if we could succeed in rising above all the differences of opinion and unite around one Temple for all, in a flash of creativity and in high spirits, like the Children of Israel who volunteered their donations for the construction of the Tabernacle in the wilderness.

The Tabernacle was designed and built by the artists, all under the guidance of Moses, the faithful shepherd. Or, it could be like in the times of King David, “And the people rejoiced in their donation, because they wholeheartedly volunteered for God.”[4] And even the Second Temple, “And the builders established God’s Hall… and they replied in praise and thanks to God, who is good, forever is His loving-kindness upon [the People of] Israel and all the people sounded a great blast in praise of God for the establishment of God’s House.”[5]

Nonetheless, there is a nagging doubt, because as mere mortals, we are limited by definition, and all our work is transitory, so how can God, who is infinite and unlimited, dwell within our handiwork? And how can we be certain that what we have made with our own ten fingers is truly God’s will? Indeed, we have already lived through that movie and we are well aware of what happened to the First and Second Temples in the end. What would be the essential difference between what transpired then to what will be now? We are not interested in an archeological reconstruction of the past, just as it would never occur to us to throw out all the scientific achievements and revert to the middle ages.

A Divine Building

So let’s try the second option for size. Indeed, if the Temple would appear as a crystal clear Divine revelation, all our doubts would disappear and everything would become as clear as day. Just like the miracles of the Exodus chased away every shadow of doubt and brought with them the light of definite faith. We don’t know exactly how the Temple will be built when it is “Made of its own accord by the hands of Heaven” (as the Midrash phrases it), but it is easy to understand that in this case, the dwelling of the Divine Presence would not be limited by our finite, mortal standards. God would choose how He wants to appear, while we would stand in awe and be nullified by His Divine revelation, as in the description of the fire that descended in the Tabernacle and in the Temple.

However, this advantage is also a disadvantage. Because, if everything is so Divine and sublime, where is our place in it all? God does not need to build a house by Himself for Himself. The goal is that the Divine Presence dwell amongst us, as the verse is interpreted, “‘And they shall make a sanctuary for Me and I will dwell amongst them’; It does not say ‘within it’ (????????) but ‘amongst them’ (????????), i.e., within each and every Jewish individual.”[6] But if we are only spectators to a sublime audio-visual production, would it change anything inside us, or would it only shine a great light on our souls from outside, without the soul participating in the process? The next question is what will happen once we become accustomed to the great light and no longer see anything new about it? Will we then fall from our lofty spiritual level, as the Children of Israel fell into the sin of the Golden Calf after the great lights they saw at the Revelation at Mt. Sinai?

Is there a third option that includes and truly merges the other two possibilities?

Three Types of Consciousness

Yes, there is a third possibility, but in order to reach it we must open a window to view our entire relationship with God.

A fundamental rule of Kabbalah and Chassidut states that every process must pass through three key developmental stages: “pregnancy,” “nursing” and “intellect.” So too in our perception of a. the world at large, b. the “other” who we confront and c. the Almighty, appears in three major setups, or three different types of consciousness.

The fetus in its mother’s womb is not aware of any other being who it can manage a relationship with. Its world is everything for it; it literally lives in the belief that “There is none other beside him.” He is stable and absolutely calm without any changes or events. Even as adults, we can live in this state of consciousness regarding God in the belief that this world is firm, stable ground, nurtured by the womb of mother nature with everything working like clockwork according to the laws of nature and science. And where does God come into the picture? In the worst case, His existence is completely suppressed or He is related to as a distant “Super Power” who we have no contact with (like a distant father who cannot interfere with what goes on inside the womb). But, even believing people can live in such a state of consciousness, when they accept the stability of the natural world and its laws as their standard, and God’s appearance and miracles as something extraordinary when it is imperative to the situation.

The consciousness of “nursing” is the opposite. After having been hurled into a threatening world in which I am no longer alone, “I” form a relationship with “you.” A relationship such as this gives rise to a profusion of emotions, whether they be love and attraction, or repulsion and hatred. In an adult, the “nursing” consciousness is expressed by not looking for safe, stable ground that appears boring and bland, but change, newness and a nostalgic yearning for something beyond. Someone like this might be an artist with a tumultuous soul, who abhors routine and is drawn to the unique and the transient (as opposed to the previous type who might be suited to be a cool-headed scientist). With regards to God, this consciousness is one of dependence and need, and a constant dialogue that searches for the revelation that lies beyond the screen of the natural world. Such an individual thrives on the miraculous and the sublime and expects to see the signs that God distributes along our way in His Divine Providence. At this level, the miraculous plays the key role and nature is its stage.

But, above the “nursing” stage is the consciousness of “intellect,” which is the fully developed consciousness of maturity. In the “nursing” stage there was a great sense of dependence on the other, like an infant who is never far from his mother’s breast. This is a state of immaturity in which one is in need of constant support. But, an adult individual stands on his own two feet and controls his own life. If he is not stupid, he knows very well that there are other people around him but he has a healthy relationship with them in which “I am I” and “you are you” and we can nonetheless identify with one another and reflect one another. A nursing infant cannot leave home, because without a direct connection with their parents, they’re lost. But, an adult has confidence in himself and he also knows that wherever he goes, his parents are with him. This is how it is with reference to God, too. In a state of “nursing,” one feels their existence as separate from God, therefore one needs an “artificial soul”; i.e., Divine revelation that vitalizes him. However, now I understand that God created me with my own separate consciousness and through it specifically I can reveal Him. In truth, everything I do is from Him, because my soul is a spark of Him, “Literally a part of God above.”[7]

The Deeds of the Righteous

Let’s get back to the construction of the Temple. So far we have seen two separate methods, either we build the Temple, or God builds it. But, the Talmud[8] unites these two possibilities in a surprising way:

Bar Kapara taught, greater are the deeds of the righteous than the work of heaven and earth, for regarding the work of heaven and earth it states, “Even My hand has founded the earth and My right [hand] has nurtured heaven,”[9] while regarding the work of the hands of the righteous it states, “Your habitation, You have made, Havayah; the sanctuary of Adni, Your hands have founded.”[10]

The latter verse is from the song that the Children of Israel sang after the splitting of the Red Sea. There, “hands” is in the plural, referring to two hands, while with reference to the creation of heaven and earth, the verse states, “My hand… My right [hand],” referring only to one hand. From here the Talmud learns that the works of the hands of the righteous, i.e., the Temple, is greater and more significant than God’s workings of creation. Yet, how can the Talmud state that the Temple is the work of the righteous, while bringing proof from a verse that explicitly states that God’s “hands” built the Temple?!

The Talmud understands that the Temple is simultaneously the work of God’s hands and the work of the hands of the righteous. The righteous build the Temple with their own hands and this act itself is considered as if the Almighty had built the Temple, “Your hands have founded” via the righteous.

The explanation for this is buried within the “intellect” level of consciousness, as explained above:

While in a “pregnant” state, there is total differentiation between God and man, as expressed in the verse, “The heavens are heavens for God and the earth He gave to humankind.”[11] So, if a Temple will be built, it is all our own work. How can it be that in our realistic world there will be crude interference in the form of a miracle? This approach does offer us the human act, but we are left within our own limits of flesh and blood and a drop of intelligence.

In a state of “nursing” consciousness, we turn to God and wait for Him to relate to reality, without which we are lost an abandoned. However, even in this case, it is not possible to integrate all of the possibilities so, either we do it, or God does it. From this perspective, we hope for a miraculous appearance in building the Temple, something that will break through the limits of nature and announce the dwelling of God’s Presence in the Temple. We have left space for God Himself, when He comes to dwell among us, without taking our human limitations into consideration, however we have not yet reached a complete union, because it is as if we are left out of the picture.

However, if we rise to the consciousness of “intellect” we stand as an independent individual who is nonetheless completely annulled to God’s will, so much so that he even represents it, as if he is His long arm. In this way, God’s domain and the domain of mankind are united?man acts and does what he can, but since he is a “servant of God” all his acts are considered as if they are acts of God. The truly righteous individuals are those who live in this state of perfect consciousness, like Moses who established the Tabernacle, or like King David, who yearned to build the Temple and like Mashiach (of David’s lineage), who has the responsibility to build the Third Temple. However, “all Your people are righteous,”[12] therefore we can all unite to rule that we should build the Temple. Even so, it will be our own handiwork and the Divine Presence will penetrate not only the entire material plane, but also and mainly, it will manifest within our souls, because the handiwork of the righteous is the work of God’s hands.

An excerpt from the article (in Hebrew) entitled “Who will build the Third Temple?” in our book Malchut Yisrael, Part 3

[1] Exodus 25:8.

[2] Hilchot Beit Habechirah 1:1.

[3] Rashi, Tosfot and Chidushei Haritba on Sukah 41a.

[4] I Chronicles 29:9.

[5] Ezra 3:10-11.

[6] See Reishit Chochmah, Sha’ar Ha’ahavah ch. 6 et al.

[7] Tanya ch. 2.

[8] Ketubot 5a.

[9] Isaiah 48:13.

[10] Exodus 15:17.

[11] Psalms 115:16.

[12] Isaiah 60:21.

3 Responses to “Who Will Build the Third Temple?”


    Lo impotante y Lo Revelador es que La Presencia Divina se asentara definitivamente sobre el Pueblo Judio totalmente rectificado.

  2. Rivkah Serach says:

    Dear Rabbi

    Another question could be what will build the Beit HaMikdash?
    The Zohar Berishit 2a says silence will build it. If this is the case it begs the question what silence? When you consider the total phenomenon of those who suffered during the holocaust and went as lambs to the slaughter, even digging their own graves (the hands of the righteous) in utter silence then this totally unnatural state could only have been caused by Hashem. Even to this day their sacrifice of silence goes unrecognised on this earth and even considered a shameful cowerdly thing, this however ultimately adds to the sacrifice these people made.
    I am convinced this silence will accomplish the building of the Beit Hamikdash. I am sure we can contribute ourselves by being silent before Hashem during the Amidah, or when we experience a trail that is difficult, this too only being fully accomplished by Hashem through us.

    That silence is real on this earth and profound, it creates a dwelling place for Hashem in Heaven, but that which was made on the earth yet creates part of heaven, is ultimately destined to return and create on earth that which it was purposed to create. Thus the silent suffering of a human and the overwhelming divinity of Hashem are united in a perfect way to establish here on earth a Temple where all will worship Hashem. This Beit HaMikdash is made in a way we all can understand.

    Before I considered becoming Jewish I had a very profound experience, I was thinking about that silence of those who died in the Holocaust so much because I just could not understand it. I could not rest at all thinking about it. It troubled me a lot, nothing I read or reserched about it, no answers could bring me Shalom. And I just kept thinking what is is about this silence that so troubles my soul, I remember meditating on it, thinking and thinking that only Hashem could have achieved such a thing, and if so why? I remember looking into it as hard as I could to try to comprehend it, until finally Hashem brought the silence down, or uncovered it, it was like a chamber. Then I had Shalom. So many times when I have been troubled on my journey towards Judisam I have heard this word in my soul, ‘silence’ then I would be in that chamber of silence anaesthetised from all worldly concerns. It was a great humilty to be in a place of such honour. I could never understand why Hashem did it except he chooses to be found. It was whislt I was in it, that the thought came into my mind that this silence will build the Beit HaMikdash, only after did I research and find what was written in the Zohar.


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