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Who Will Build the Third Beit HaMikdash,
Man or G-d?
From the talks of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
Recorded live on Facebook
The precise details of how Melech HaMashiach ben David will arise and begin his reign has always been debated, both by our sages and by the thinkers of other religions. Directly associated with this issue is the erection of the Third Temple or Beit HaMikdash (House of the Holy). This issue, as we will see, is also directed with the prophecies regarding the coming of the two Messiahs, Mashiachs ben Yosef and ben David. I discuss these prophecies HereAdapted from Likkutei Sichot, Vol. 11, p. 98; vol. 18, pp. 418–419; Vol. 27, p. 205
The following is based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.
A Building of the Heavens or of the Earth
There is a classic difference of opinion between our rabbis regarding the construction of the Third Beit HaMikdash. Rambam states1 that the Beit HaMikdash will be built by man—more specifically, by Moshiach. Indeed, its construction will be one of the signs of Moshiach’s advent.
Rashi,2 by contrast, explains that the Beit HaMikdash has already been constructed by G‑d and exists in the heavenly realms, waiting for the time when it will descend to the earth. For the Third Beis HaMikdash will be “the Sanctuary of G‑d, established by Your hands.”3 When the setting within the world is appropriate, this heavenly structure will descend and become an actual reality within our material world.
Each of these views is based upon sources in the works of our sages.4 There is, however, a unique historical point which supports Rambam’s position. Our sages relate5 that in the era of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananiah, the Romans granted the Jews permission to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash Joyous at the opportunity they were granted, our people rushed to begin the preparations for building, only to have the project thwarted by the intervention of the Samaritans. What is significant, however, is that they planned to build the Beit HaMikdash through their own efforts; they did not wait for it to descend from the heavens.
Will We Be Worthy?
This account can, however, be reconciled with Rashi’s view. To explain: Our sages6 note the apparent contradiction between two verses describing the coming of Moshiach. One verse states:7 “Behold, one like a son of man came on the clouds of heaven.” It is, however, also written:8 “Your king will come . . . a poor man riding on a donkey.” In resolution, our sages explain that if the Jews are found worthy, Moshiach will come “on the clouds of heaven”; if they do not merit, he will come as “a poor man riding on a donkey.” Similarly, in other contexts, our sages describe one course for the Redemption if the Jews’ conduct is meritorious, and another if, heaven forbid, such merits are lacking.9
In the present context as well, it can be explained that the ultimate conception of the Beit HaMikdash is a heavenly structure to descend from above. If, however, the Jews are not worthy of such a sanctuary, the Beit HaMikdash will still return in the Era of the Redemption. It will, however, be a structure built by man, and not by G‑d.
On this basis, we can also resolve the difficulty cited above. When the Romans granted the Jews the opportunity to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash, the people must have been somewhat disappointed that the Beit HaMikdash did not descend from heaven. Nevertheless, the realization that they had not been found worthy of a heavenly structure did not dampen their enthusiasm for building a sanctuary to the fullest extent of their human potential.10
Concrete Elucidation of Yechezkel’s Prophecies
Another possible resolution can be offered based on Rambam’s statements near the beginning of his Hilchot Beit Habechirah11
The structure which Shlomo built is already described in the [book of] Melachim. Similarly, the structure which will be constructed in the future era [is described in the book of] Yechezkel. Nevertheless, the description there is not explained or elucidated.
[Therefore,] the people who constructed the Second [Beit HaMikdash] in the time of Ezra built it according to the [basic] design [employed by] Shlomo, incorporating the elements which were explicitly detailed by Yechezkel.
It can be explained that Moshiach will lead the people in the construction of those dimensions of the Beit HaMikdash which can be grasped by human intellect. Afterwards, since the dimensions of Yechezkel’s prophecies which we cannot comprehend will be left incomplete, they will be revealed from heaven by G‑d.
When That Which is Hidden Will Emerge
Another approach to reconcile Rashi’s view and that of Rambam is based on our sages’ interpretation of the verse “Her gates sank in the earth.”12 Our sages relate13 that the gates of the Beit HaMikdash were fashioned by order of King David. This endowed them with an eternal invulnerability.14 When the Babylonians laid waste to the Beit HaMikdash, the gates were not destroyed. Instead, they were swallowed by the earth.
In the era of the Redemption, the entire Beit HaMikdash will descend from the heavens, with the exception of the gates, which will ascend from the earth. Moshiach will then connect the gates to the Beit HaMikdash Our sages explain15 that connecting the gates to a building is considered as equivalent to the construction of the entire edifice.
Adding Divine Perfection to Human Effort
Moreover, it can be explained that these two conceptions are in no way contradictory. Building the Beit HaMikdash is a mitzvah incumbent on the Jewish people.16 In the era of the Redemption, when it will become possible to fulfill all the mitzvot, we will also be obligated to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash Within that structure which man will erect, however, there will descend and be enclothed “the Sanctuary of G‑d,” which is waiting in the heavens.
Mankind is obligated to create a Sanctuary for G‑d within the context of our material world. After that is completed to the fullest extent of our human potential, the inner essence of the Beit HaMikdash will be revealed—that it is “the Sanctuary of G‑d,” possessing a dimension of perfection which utterly surpasses any possible work of mortal man.
May we witness the actual resolution of this issue in the immediate future, with the coming of the Redemption and the rebuilding—or the descent—of the Beit HaMikdash “And then, the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to G‑d, as in the days of old and as in bygone years.”17
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Source of this biblical text and traslation: http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/15942Isaiah 11:1 And a shoot shall spring forth from the stem of Jesse, and a twig shall sprout from his roots.
אוְיָצָא חֹטֶר מִגֶּזַע יִשָׁי וְנֵצֶר מִשָּׁרָשָׁיו יִפְרֶה:My Comments: Much of Isaiah's prophecy (such as chapter 7) is concerned with consolations to the besieged king Hezekiah that HaShem will intervene and defend His people. Here however the prophet looks farther into the future and receives word that HaMashiach ben David will eventually be anointed and sent to redeem our people. He will be a physical Jewish descendant of Jesse and King David according to this text.2 And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and heroism, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.
Thousands of Jews have been and are physical descendants of Melech David. This is one of the Messianic requirements, a starting place so to speak. HaMashiach ben David must meet all of the requirements.
And a shoot shall spring forth from the stem of Jesse: And if you say, 'Here are consolations for Hezekiah and his people, that they shall not fall into his hands. Now what will be with the exile that was exiled to Halah and Habor, is their hope lost?' It is not lost! Eventually, the King Messiah shall come and redeem them.
a shoot: [This is symbolic of] the royal scepter [i.e. of King David and his lineage].
and a twig: an expression of a sapling [i.e. David and Shlomo HaMelech].
and a twig shall sprout from its roots: and the entire section, and at the end (verse 11), "And it shall come to pass, that on that day, the Lord shall apply His hand again…[from Assyria]… Hence, [it is obvious] that this prophecy was said to console those exiled to Assyria.
בוְנָחָה עָלָיו רוּחַ יְהֹוָה רוּחַ חָכְמָה וּבִינָה רוּחַ עֵצָה וּגְבוּרָה רוּחַ דַּעַת וְיִרְאַת יְהֹוָה:
3 And he shall be animated by the fear of the Lord, and neither with the sight of his eyes shall he judge, nor with the hearing of his ears shall he chastise.
גוַהֲרִיחוֹ בְּיִרְאַת יְהֹוָה וְלֹא לְמַרְאֵה עֵינָיו יִשְׁפּוֹט וְלֹא לְמִשְׁמַע אָזְנָיו יוֹכִיחַ:My Comments: Since 'the spirit and awe (fear) of the Lord shall be upon him' it is evident that the Messiah will not be the Lord (may HaShem protect us from even the thought). Messiah will be "anointed" by the Lord for his task. No text of Scripture speaks of an incarnation of the Holy One. Every reference to the Messiah speaks of his humility and service to HaShem.4 And he shall judge the poor justly, and he shall chastise with equity the humble of the earth, and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth and with the breath of his lips he shall put the wicked to death.
And he shall be animated by the fear of the Lord: He shall be filled with the fear of the Lord. [ed enos mera il luy in O.F., and He shall be enlivened.]
and neither with the sight of his eyes shall he judge: For, with the wisdom of the Holy One, blessed be He, which is within him, will he know and understand who is innocent and who is guilty.
דוְשָׁפַט בְּצֶדֶק דַּלִּים וְהוֹכִיחַ בְּמִישׁוֹר לְעַנְוֵי אָרֶץ וְהִכָּה אֶרֶץ בְּשֵׁבֶט פִּיו וּבְרוּחַ שְׂפָתָיו יָמִית רָשָׁע:
My Comments:5 And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faith the girdle of his loins.
Mashiach ben David will rule over Israel as a sitting judge and unchallenged political leader. Thus far Israel has not had such a leader.
with equity: This is an expression of mildness and tenderness.
and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth: As the Targum states: And he shall smite the sinful of the earth.
and with the breath of his lips: Jonathan [renders:] And with the speech of his lips.
הוְהָיָה צֶדֶק אֵזוֹר מָתְנָיו וְהָאֱמוּנָה אֵזוֹר חֲלָצָיו:
Rashi Notes:6 And a wolf shall live with a lamb, and a leopard shall lie with a kid; and a calf and a lion cub and a fatling [shall lie] together, and a small child shall lead them.
And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins: Jonathan [renders:] And the righteous shall surround him; i.e., they will cleave to him like a girdle.
ווְגָר זְאֵב עִם כֶּבֶשׂ וְנָמֵר עִם גְּדִי יִרְבָּץ וְעֵגֶל וּכְפִיר וּמְרִיא יַחְדָּו וְנַעַר קָטֹן נֹהֵג בָּם:
7 And a cow and a bear shall graze together, their children shall lie; and a lion, like cattle, shall eat straw.
זוּפָרָה וָדֹב תִּרְעֶינָה יַחְדָּו יִרְבְּצוּ יַלְדֵיהֶן וְאַרְיֵה כַּבָּקָר יֹאכַל תֶּבֶן:
8 And an infant shall play over the hole of an old snake and over the eyeball of an adder, a weaned child shall stretch forth his hand.
חוְשִׁעֲשַׁע יוֹנֵק עַל חֻר פָּתֶן וְעַל מְאוּרַת צִפְעוֹנִי גָּמוּל יָדוֹ הָדָה:
My Comments: One traditional understanding is that the various animals mentioned here represent the various earthly powers that will cease from violence. The text has also traditionally been taken literally. Prior to the global deluge of Noah's day there was peace among the earth's inhabitants. "Fear" was instilled in the animals following the flood: "The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea... (Bereshit 9:2). Another of the Messianic indicators will be the removal of this defensive fear and dread. Chabad notes of this period of peace, known as the Olam Haba:9 They shall neither harm nor destroy on all My holy mount, for the land shall be full of knowledge of the Lord as water covers the sea bed.The world after the messiah comes is often referred to in Jewish literature as Olam Ha-Ba (oh-LAHM hah-BAH), the World to Come. This term can cause some confusion, because it is also used to refer to a spiritual afterlife. In English, we commonly use the term "messianic age" to refer specifically to the time of the messiah.Rashi Notes:
Olam Ha-Ba will be characterized by the peaceful co-existence of all people. (Isaiah 2:4) Hatred, intolerance and war will cease to exist. Some authorities suggest that the laws of nature will change, so that predatory beasts will no longer seek prey and agriculture will bring forth supernatural abundance (Isaiah 11:6-11:9). Others, however, say that these statements are merely an allegory for peace and prosperity.
All of the Jewish people will return from their exile among the nations to their home in Israel (Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 23:8; 30:3; Hosea 3:4-5). The law of the Jubilee will be reinstated.
In the Olam Ha-Ba, the whole world will recognize the Jewish G-d as the only true G-d, and the Jewish religion as the only true religion (Isaiah 2:3; 11:10; Micah 4:2-3; Zechariah 14:9). There will be no murder, robbery, competition or jealousy. There will be no sin (Zephaniah 3:13). Sacrifices will continue to be brought in the Temple, but these will be limited to thanksgiving offerings, because there will be no further need for expiatory offerings (Source).
shall play: Heb. וְשִׁעֲשַׁע, shall play.
over the hole of an old snake: over a hole in the ground in which the snake makes its nest [krot in O.F.], a cave.
an old snake: פֶּתֶן. A snake, when it ages, becomes deaf and is called פֶּתֶן. From then on, it cannot be charmed; as it is said (Psalms 58:6): "Who will not hearken to the voice of charmers."
and over the eyeball of a venomous snake: Jonathan renders: the eyeballs of venomous snakes [מְאוּרַת from אוֹר, light]. Menahem (Machbereth Menachem p. 32) interpreted it as an expression of a hole, namely holes in the ground. Comp. (Gen. 11:28) "The valley of the Chaldees (אוּר)" ; (infra 24:15) "In the valleys (בָּאוּרִים) honor the Lord."
a weaned child: a child weaned from his mother's breasts.
shall stretch forth his hand: Heb. הָדָה. Jonathan renders: shall stretch forth his hands (sic). Comp. (Ezekiel 7:7) "The joyful call (הֵד) of the mountains, also (infra 16:9)" The cry (הֵידָד)," which is an expression of raising the voice. This, too, is an expression of raising, and the final [letter] 'heh' appears in it as a radical which sometimes falls out, like עָשָׂה (made), בָּנָה (built), קָנָה (acquired).
טלֹא יָרֵעוּ וְלֹא יַשְׁחִיתוּ בְּכָל הַר קָדְשִׁי כִּי מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ דֵּעָה אֶת יְהֹוָה כַּמַּיִם לַיָּם מְכַסִּים:My Comments:10 And it shall come to pass on that day, that the root of Jesse, which stands as a banner for peoples, to him shall the nations inquire, and his peace shall be [with] honor.
Knowledge of the Lord means to know the Lord personally. HaShem is knowable by His people.
knowledge of the Lord: [lit.] to know the Lord.
יוְהָיָה בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא שֹׁרֶשׁ יִשַׁי אֲשֶׁר עֹמֵד לְנֵס עַמִּים אֵלָיו גּוֹיִם יִדְרֹשׁוּ וְהָיְתָה מְנֻחָתוֹ כָּבוֹד:My Comments:11 And it shall come to pass that on that day, the Lord shall continue to apply His hand a second time to acquire the rest of His people, that will remain from Assyria and from Egypt and from Pathros and from Cush and from Elam and from Sumeria and from Hamath and from the islands of the sea.
Mashiach must unite the people, both the Jews and the non-Jews.
as a banner for peoples: that peoples should raise a banner to gather to him.
יאוְהָיָה | בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא יוֹסִיף אֲדֹנָי | שֵׁנִית יָדוֹ לִקְנוֹת אֶת שְׁאָר עַמּוֹ אֲשֶׁר יִשָּׁאֵר מֵאַשּׁוּר וּמִמִּצְרַיִם וּמִפַּתְרוֹס וּמִכּוּשׁ וּמֵעֵילָם וּמִשִּׁנְעָר וּמֵחֲמָת וּמֵאִיֵּי הַיָּם:My Comments:12 And He shall raise a banner to the nations, and He shall gather the lost of Israel, and the scattered ones of Judah He shall gather from the four corners of the earth.
In the past HaShem gathered the Israelites and those of the other nations who chose to come out with us from Egypt under the leadership of Moshe Rabeinu. In the future HaShem will gather together all of the Jews of the Galut (aka the Diaspora( according to Deuteronomy 30:3, Isaiah 11:11,12, Jeremiah 30:3, 32:37, Ezekiel 11:17, 36:24 and other verses, will restore the Ten Divorced Houses of Israel (Jeremiah 3:6-18; Hosea 1-3; Amos 9:8-10; Obadia 15-21; Micah 2:12-13; 5:3-15; Zechariah 8:13; 9 & 10; Ezekiel 34-37 etc), and those of the other nations who choose to accompany us (Zechariah 8:23, Isaiah 56:7). The secular nation of Israel will then be redeemed from the current secular government and be fully restored to its Halachic foundation throughout all of the Land granted us by HaShem (II Chronicles 7:14). The previous in-gathering during the days of Moshe was partial since we again went into slavery. Note that nowhere are the Americas referenced in Holy Writ. We can assume that these lands and their inhabitants will be included among the "islands." The future in-gathering under the reign of Mashiach HaMelech will be absolute. We continue to await this event.
a second time: Just as he acquired them from Egypt, when their redemption was absolute, without subjugation, but the redemption preceding the building of the Second Temple is not counted, since they were subjugated to Cyrus.
and from the islands of the sea: the islands of the Kittim, the Romans, the descendants of Esau.
יבוְנָשָֹא נֵס לַגּוֹיִם וְאָסַף נִדְחֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וּנְפֻצוֹת יְהוּדָה יְקַבֵּץ מֵאַרְבַּע כַּנְפוֹת הָאָרֶץ:Rashi Notes:13 And the envy of Ephraim shall cease, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, nor shall Judah vex Ephraim.
And he shall raise a banner: Perka, perche in O.F. [i.e., the verse is literally referring to the pole upon which the banner is attached.] And it shall be for a sign to gather to him and to bring the exiles of Israel to Him as a present.
יגוְסָרָה קִנְאַת אֶפְרַיִם וְצֹרְרֵי יְהוּדָה יִכָּרֵתוּ אֶפְרַיִם לֹא יְקַנֵּא אֶת יְהוּדָה וִיהוּדָה לֹא יָצֹר אֶת אֶפְרָיִם:My Comments:14 And they shall fly of one accord against the Philistines in the west, together they shall plunder the children of the East; upon Edom and Moab shall they stretch forth their hand, and the children of Ammon shall obey them.
For information on the two foretold Messiahs, Mashiach ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David, see my study HERE
Ephraim shall not envy Judah: The Messiah, the son of David, and the Messiah, the son of Joseph, shall not envy each other.
ידוְעָפוּ בְכָתֵף פְּלִשְׁתִּים יָמָּה יַחְדָּו יָבֹזּוּ אֶת בְּנֵי קֶדֶם אֱדוֹם וּמוֹאָב מִשְׁלוֹחַ יָדָם וּבְנֵי עַמּוֹן מִשְׁמַעְתָּם:My Comments:15 And the Lord shall dry up the tongue of the Egyptian Sea, and He shall lift His hand over the river with the strength of His wind, and He shall beat it into seven streams, and He shall lead [the exiles] with shoes.
This is referencing the Greeks and other European powers. The "Philistines" were Greek seafarers who had settled in Cyprus. The current people group commonly known as the "Palestinians" have no connection whatsoever to the biblical Philistines. The so-called Palestinians are Arabs and have no other historic existence nor significance. The Jews are the true Palestinians.
R. Joshua in the Talmud offers a serious warning that probably refers to these "Philistines" west of Eretz Israel:
Sanhedrin Folio 97a: ...Thus hath R. Johanan said: in the generation when the son of David [i.e. Mashiach ben David] will come, scholars will be few in number, and as for the rest, their eyes will fail through sorrow and grief. Multitudes of trouble and evil decrees will be promulgated anew, each new evil coming with haste before the other has ended.'Rashi Notes:
Sanhedrin 97b: ... Rab said: All the predestined dates [for redemption] have passed, and the matter [now] depends only on repentance and good deeds...
R. Eliezer said: if Israel repent, they will be redeemed; if not, they will not be redeemed.
R. Joshua said to him, if they do not repent, will they not be redeemed! [i.e. not so] But the Holy One, blessed be He, will set up a king over them, whose decrees shall be as cruel as Haman's, whereby Israel shall engage in repentance, and he will thus bring them back to the right path.
And they shall fly of one accord against the Philistines in the west: Heb. בְכָתֵף. Israel will fly and run of one accord against the Philistines who are in the west of Eretz Israel and conquer their land. [כָּתֵף, lit. a shoulder, is used in this case to denote unity. The word שֶׁכֶם, also lit. a shoulder, is used in a similar sense.] Comp. (Hoshea 6:9) "They murder on the way in unison (שֶׁכְמָה)" ; (Zeph. 3:9) "One accord (שְׁכֶם אֶחָד)." And so did Jonathan render it: And they shall join in one accord to smite the Philistines who are in the west.
and the children of Ammon shall obey them: As the Targum states: Will hearken to them. They will accept their commandments over them.
טווְהֶחֱרִים יְהֹוָה אֵת לְשׁוֹן יָם מִצְרַיִם וְהֵנִיף יָדוֹ עַל הַנָּהָר בַּעְיָם רוּחוֹ וְהִכָּהוּ לְשִׁבְעָה נְחָלִים וְהִדְרִיךְ בַּנְּעָלִים:
16 And there shall be a highway for the remnant of His people who remain from Assyria, as there was for Israel on the day they went up from the land of Egypt.
טזוְהָיְתָה מְסִלָּה לִשְׁאָר עַמּוֹ אֲשֶׁר יִשָּׁאֵר מֵאַשּׁוּר כַּאֲשֶׁר הָיְתָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל בְּיוֹם עֲלֹתוֹ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם:My Comments:
Even as HaShem dried up the Sea of Reeds enabling Israel to pass through safely, so too the Jews living outside of Eretz Israel will find safe passage, as though a highway were built for our use, to return Home (verse 15). Likewise the scattered Ten Houses that were enslaved by the ancient Assyrian empire and scattered across the globe will be restored. They will humble themselves and embrace the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, Mashiach ben David. As is stated:When your [i.e. David's] days are finished and you shall lie with your forefathers, then I will raise up your seed that shall proceed from your body after you, and I will establish his kingdom.
He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
I will be to him a father, and he shall be to Me a son; so that when he goes astray I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the sons of Adam.
But My mercy shall not depart from him as I withdrew it from Saul, whom I removed from before you.
And your house and your kingdom shall be confirmed forever before you; your throne shall be established forever."
According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak to David.
And the king David went in and sat before the Lord; and he said: "Who am I, O' Lord God, and what is my house, that You have brought me thus far? -- Shmuel II (II Samuel) 7:12 - 18).
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