Written by Rabbi Mendy Hecht for AskMoses.com, this thorough article describes the physical structure of the First and Second Temples, as well as their spiritual significance and centrality to Jewish life and worship during temple times. Toward the end of the article, the author suggests his own explanation for the divine purpose of the destruction of the Temples, and how this has impacted Jewish spirituality in our times.
What Was the Holy Temple?
What was/is the significance of the Temple?
The Confused Temple
The problem with the word “temple” is that Indiana Jones got to it. Today, whenever I say “temple,” I guarantee you’ll picture jungle, torches, hieroglyphics, dark foreboding stone entranceways; jungle, dark foreboding stone entranceways overgrown with jungle, illuminated by torches and inscribed with hieroglyphics; jungle, terrifying supernatural forces; and more jungle. And don’t forget rats, skulls, firepits and the occasional mummy. And jungle.
The Real Temple
With the jungle of pop-culture temple jingoism slashed and burned out of the way, let’s talk G‑d’s take on temples.
You didn’t have to be Jewish to go to the Temple; kings and peasants from every country and culture traveled long distances just to experience it all. The Temple was the single most important structure in society, offering structure to society. Then it was destroyed.
The Final Temple
If the times of the Temple were principally G‑d reaching down to His world, then the times of our exile are us reaching up, from within that world.
This is G‑d’s master plan. First, a sweeping, dramatic outdoor concert of public spirituality, reaching viscerally and tangibly into the everyday, physical reality. Then He exchanges this for an internal, personal, private experience, forcing us to reach up to find Him, bringing the entire Creation along with us. Together, the two experiences lay the groundwork for the third and final Temple—an age that will synthesize both directions of spirituality. An age of where G‑d’s presence inside our hearts and minds and in the physical world is internalized to achieve a whole new reality: the era of Moshiach.
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