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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, viagra since “And they shall make Me a Temple”[1] is one of the 613 commandments of the Torah. Indeed, Maimonides rules that “It is a positive commandment to make a house for God.”[2] Just as human beings built the Tabernacle, 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.

How much attention should men pay to their clothing? The standard reply is probably: a little, sildenafil case but not too much. Maimonides writes, medical “The clothing of a Torah scholar should be clean and good-looking and it is forbidden that a stain or an oil mark be found on his garment, etc. Neither should he wear royal garments, such as gold or scarlet clothing, which attract everyone’s attention, nor a pauper’s clothing that degrades the one who wears it, but normal, good-looking clothes.”[1] By all means, jewelry and fashion generally belong only to a woman’s world, while men are also limited by the prohibition, “A man shall not wear a woman’s dress.”[2] Yet, the High Priest is an exception to this rule. He does wear, “gold or scarlet clothing, which attract everyone’s attention” and some of his garments, such as the breast-plate and the head-plate, are quite clearly jewelry.

Moses and Aaron

The priestly garments are not just an added extra for the kohanim (priests), but an integral, essential part of their priesthood. The service of a kohen who serves in the Temple wearing everyday clothing and not the priestly garments is invalid. Similarly, the High Priest is ordained as such by wearing the High Priest’s garments.[3]

In order to glean some insight into the mysteries of the priestly garments, we will compare between two brothers.

Aaron the High Priest is obviously the one who plays the main role in the Torah portion of Tetzaveh. In the first part of the Torah portion a complete wardrobe of magnificent clothing is sewn for him, “And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, as honor and for beauty.” In the second half of the portion appears the commandment relating to the seven days of “filling-in” when Moses served in the Tabernacle, offered up sacrifices, and inaugurated Aaron and his sons into their service.

By contrast, Moses appears in the portion as Aaron’s assistant, and is even commanded to dress him, “And you shall dress Aharon…” Moreover, this is the only Torah portion since Moses’ birth that does not explicitly mention his name, although he is mentioned in the second person, as in, “And you shall command.” It’s as if Moses has cleared the stage for his older brother, and wishes neither to compete with him nor to offend him.

Whereas Aaron has eight magnificent, colored and tailored garments, the verses make no explicit mention of Moses’ clothing. However, the sages ask, “What did Moses wear during the seven days of ‘filling-in’? A white robe.” So now, if we include the basic priestly outfit of the lay kohanim (priests), which is comprised of four garments?a tunic, pants, a cap and a belt?referred to as “white clothes,” we now have three sets of clothing: Moses’ one garment, Aaron’s eight garments and the lay kohanim’s four garments.

The division into 1, 8 and 4 is a clear allusion to the three letters of the word “one” (???) which have numerical values of 1 (?), 8 (?) and 4 (?), respectively. Let us use this allusion to assist us in our quest to reach a more profound dimension.

God is One

Every day, twice a day, we say the word “one” out loud with special intentions, “Hear o’ Israel, Havayah is our God, Havayah is one.”[4] When saying the word “one” we should have in mind the numerical value of each of the letters of the word in Hebrew, with the intention that the alef (?), with a numerical value of 1 alludes to the Almighty; the letter chet (?), with a numerical value of 8, alludes to the 7 heavens together with the 1 earth; and the letter dalet (?), with a numerical value of 4, alludes to the four spatial directions.[5] This means that we have no perception of the alef because God Himself is a singular unity, above any definition or limitation and we have no comprehension of Him whatsoever (“No thought grasps Him at all”). Nonetheless, His unity penetrates the world and is apparent in it as it descends from heaven to heaven until it reaches the earth (the letter chet) and diffuses throughout the spatial directions (the letter dalet), which is how we know Him as “King of the Universe.” Between the letter chet and the letter dalet, the greater novelty is that of the chet, which succeeds in descending and evolving from a higher world to a lower world, as opposed to the dalet, which represents diffusion on one plane (the difference between two-dimensions and three-dimensions).

Now let’s get back to clothing. Our clothes are our ability to appear outside. However, during this appearance, there is a danger that our clothes might betray us. Indeed, the letters of the word “betray” (??????) are identical to the letters of the word “garment” (??????) and the sages make this connection in their explanation of the phrase, “The scent of his garments?the scent of his betrayers.”[6] However, in a more positive scenario, our clothing represents our inner truth, and through the garments that we wear to cover our bodies, others can receive a distant sense of our soul, hidden deep within. Our clothing is like our PR campaign, and we need to take care that it is a genuine expression of our inner essence and does not turn into a glittering, but hollow shell.

Moses does not participate in this PR campaign. He is the last one suited to do so, because he stutters, “Of heavy mouth and heavy tongue.” We might say that he is not particularly “photogenic.” Moses clings to the Divine truth, and he knows God better than anyone else. That’s why he wears a white robe – because he integrates God’s brightest light, as He is in simple unity, above and beyond all the different colors and their shades. This is exactly like the letter alef (?) of the word “one” (?????), which alludes to God’s unity.

The four garments of the lay kohen succeed in making white light tangible and perceptible to the human eye. They wear not only one simple white robe, but a detailed outfit of white clothing that includes the belt of the lay kohen in which there is a combination of different colored threads.[7] This is the first stage of our PR campaign?like the letter dalet (?) of the word “one” (?????), which alludes to the four spatial directions.

The eight garments of the High Priest are the climax of our campaign. Here we have a beautifully colored array, which includes a variety of shades, from the vegetable (linen), animal (wool) and mineral (gold and precious gemstones) kingdoms. They even incorporate bells that draw our attraction through our sense of hearing. Everyone is impressed and praise the High Priest, “True, how magnificent was the sight of the Kohen Gadol [High Priest]!”[8] This is the letter chet (?) of the word “one” (?????), which successfully illustrates God’s unity within the myriad changing shades of this world.

Father and Mother

We began with the differences between men and women regarding clothing. Indeed, we can perceive Moses and Aaron as “father” and “mother” figures. The father wears a white robe, “A clean and good-looking” garment, while the mother wears layers of beautiful garments (like the three layers of Aaron’s clothing: a tunic, above which is a coat, above which are the apron and the breastplate.) The father represents the abstract essence, the unity that precedes multiplicity, so he suffices with one simple, modest garment, without jewelry or flair. By contrast, the mother knows how to work well with the myriad shades of reality, which is why her wardrobe holds far more than her husband’s shelf; one dress for today and another one for tomorrow, in a variety of colors and styles.

The Tabernacle and the Temple are a home, and the home is run by the woman, the housewife. This is the task of the kohanim, above all Aaron the High Priest runs the show?like a devoted mother who takes care of the cooking, the laundry and the cleaning. Moses, on the other hand, does not regularly serve in the Tabernacle, he concerns himself with Torah study and he comes into the Tabernacle to hear God’s word, the Torah. When he nonetheless has a task to do, as in the seven days of “filling-in,” he retains his loyalty to his unique task and adds nothing to his one simple garment.

Truth and Peace

Here is what the sages have to say about the difference between Moses and Aaron:[9]

Moses would say that justice must prevail. But Aaron loved peace and pursued peace and promoted peace between man and his fellowman, as it says, “True teaching was in his mouth, and injustice was not found on his lips. In peace and equity he went with Me, and he brought back many from iniquity.”

Truth makes no compromise; it therefore suits a man of truth to wear a white robe, as if he sees everything in black or white, with no shades of grey in between. But, truth alone cannot succeed in creating positive communication between people in our world, which is why together with the man of truth there needs to be a man of peace who is suited to wear beautiful, colorful clothing. That is why Aaron carries the names of all the tribes on his shoulders and upon his heart, because he promotes peace amongst them.

A man of peace is prepared to make a detour from the absolute truth for peace’s sake, since, “It is permitted [and even a mitzvah] to modify [one’s words] for peace.” But, Moses states the unprejudiced truth without embellishments:

Moses would verbally rebuke them, but Aaron never told a man ‘you acted corruptly’ or a woman, ‘you acted corruptly’… Two people who were in dispute went to Aaron. He sat with one of them and said to him, ‘See what your friend is saying, “My heart is in turmoil… I am pulling my hair out, how can I look up and look at my friend? I am so embarrassed that I sinned against him.”’ He would sit with him until he eliminated all the jealousy from his heart. Then he would go to the other friend and speak to him similarly, and when they met, they would hug and kiss each other.[10]

However, Aaron needs Moses by his side, to dress him and inaugurate him into his service, so that the peace he achieves represents the innermost truth, and so that his multiple garments will not “betray” him. As mentioned above, the letters of the word “garment” are the same as “betray” (???) and they are consecutive letters in the order of the alef-bet. But, before these three letters comes the first letter, alef (?), which is represented by Moses, as above. The alef (?) must enter the garment (???) as is alluded to in the verse, “And Leah said bagad (???)” in which the word is read as if it is two words with an additional alef (???? ???), meaning that within the garment is an alef, which is reminiscent of the One and unique God who is the source of all varieties of color and clothing.

Adapted and translated from our book (in Hebrew), “Earth, Heaven and Abyss,” p. 161

[1] Hilchot Dei’ot 5:9.

[2] Deuteronomy 22:5.

[3] Maimonides, Hilchot Klei Hamikdash 10:4.

[4] Deuteronomy 6:4.

[5] Shulchan Aruch Harav 61:6.

[6] Sanhedrin 37a.

[7] Hilchot Klei Hamikdash 8:1.

[8] From the Yom Kippur prayers.

[9] Sanhedrin 6b.

[10] Yalkut Shimoni, Parashat Chukat 764.

One Response to “The Torah Portion of Tetzaveh: Aaron’s Priestly Garments”

  1. shervin says:

    So wise ! Well done ! Metzoyan Rabbi