Return to Zion and the Construction of the Second Temple (II): Why Didn't the Shekhina Rest in the Second Temple?

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Jerusalem in the Bible
Yeshivat Har Etzion

This shiur is dedicated in celebration of
Ahavya and Hillel's successful completion of shana rishona.



THe return to Zion

 and the construction of the second Temple (II)

Why didn't the Shekhina rest in the second Temple?

Rav Yitzchak Levi



I.                   The Shekhina does not appear at the dedication of the Second Temple


Let us first demonstrate that the Shekhina did not reside in the second Temple. Regarding the dedication of the Mishkan, it says:


Then a cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Shemot 40:34)


And there came a fire from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which, when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces. (Vayikra 9:24)


            And regarding the dedication of the first Temple, it says:


And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord. (I Melakhim 8:10-11; and parallel in II Divrei ha-Yamim 5:13-14)


Now when Shelomo had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices: and the glory of the Lord filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord's house. (II Divrei ha-Yamim 7:1-2)


            At the dedication of the second Temple, however, there is no mention of fire, cloud, the glory of God, or any other revelation of the Shekhina.[1]


            Chazal describe the absence of the Shekhina as follows:


These are the five differences between the first Temple and the second Temple, namely: The aron, kaporet, and the keruvim [Rashi: these are all one thing, the Shekhina not residing there]; fire; the Shekhina; the holy spirit [Rashi: the holy spirit did not fall upon the prophets from the second year of Daryavesh on], and the urim ve-tumim. (Yoma 21b)[2]


            Let us note also the position of the Ramban, who finds an allusion to this in Moshe's blessing to Binyamin (Devarim 33:12):


What is correct is that these three "dwellings" allude to the three Temples. Regarding the first Temple, he says: "He shall dwell in safety by him" (Devarim 33:12), as it is stated: "And the glory of the Lord filled the house" (II Divrei ha-Yamim 7:1). And regarding the second Temple, he says: "He shall cover him all day long" (Devarim, ibid.), for the Shekhina did not rest in it, but merely covered and protected it…. "And he shall dwell between his shoulders" (ibid.) – [this refers] to the days of the Messiah, for on that day, "they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord" (Yirmiyahu 3:17). This is the way the verse is interpreted in the Sifrei (Ve-zot ha-Berakhha 352).  


II.                Because they did not all go up as a wall


The Gemara in Yoma states:


Resh Lakish was bathing in the Jordan. Rabba bar Bar Chana came and extended a hand to him. [Resh Lakish] said to him: By God, I hate you. As it is written: "If she be a wall, we will build upon her a battlement of silver; and if she be a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar" (Shir ha-Shirim 8:9): "Had you made yourselves as a wall and all gone up in the days of Ezra, you would have been likened to silver, which is not subject to decay; now that you went up like doors, you are likened to a cedar, which is subject to decay. What is meant by cedar? Ulla said: Sasmagor. What is Sasmagor? Rabbi Abba said: A heavenly voice. As it was taught: After the last prophets, Chaggai, Zekharya and Malakhi, died, the holy spirit was removed from Israel, but they still made use of a heavenly voice. (Yoma 9b)[3]


According to Resh Lakish, the resting of the Shekhina depends on the entire people of Israel living as a nation in the land of Israel. The Temple is built by the community, it serves the community, and it represents the community, and therefore a condition for the Shekhina's resting therein is that the entire people of Israel be found there. If Israel is not there in its entirety, then those who are there do not constitute a people or a community in the full sense of these terms, and the Shekhina will not reside there.[4] Resh Lakish might also be arguing that one of the conditions for the resting of the Shekhina is national unity, for if the majority of the people is not living in its land, the people are divided.


Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, in his Kuzari, accepts the position of Resh Lakish:


This is a severe reproach, O king of the Khazars. It is the sin which kept the Divine promise with regard to the second Temple, viz.: "Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of you" (Zekharya 2:14) from being fulfilled. Divine providence was ready to restore everything as it had been at first, if they had all willingly consented to return. But only a part was ready to do so, while the majority and the aristocracy remained in Bavel, preferring dependence and slavery, and unwilling to leave their houses and their affairs. An allusion to this might be found in the enigmatic words of Shelomo: "I sleep, but my heart wakes, etc." (Shir ha-Shirim 5:2 and on). He designates the exile by sleep, and the continuance of prophecy among them by the wakefulness of the heart. "It is the voice of my beloved that knocks" means God's call to return; "My head is filled with dew" alludes to the Shekhina which emerged from the shadow of the Temple. The words, "I have put off my coat," refer to the people's slothfulness in consenting to return. The sentence: "My beloved stretches forth his hand through the opening," may be interpreted as the urgent call of Ezra, Nechemya, and the Prophets, until a portion of the people grudgingly responded to their invitation. In accordance with their mean mind they did not receive full measure. Divine providence only gives man as much as he is prepared to receive; if his receptive capacity is small, he obtains little, and much if it is great. (Kuzari, II, 24)


            Rabbi Yehuda Halevi emphasizes the reciprocity in the relationship between God and the people of Israel: the resting of the Shekhina (what the Kuzari calls "Divine providence") is conditioned on the stirrings of the people of Israel. The degree to which the Shekhina rests on Israel will vary according to the measure of these stirrings.


            The Maharsha understands the words of Resh Lakish in a slightly different manner:


That which he said: "Had you made yourselves as a wall" – namely, had you all gone up so that you would not have needed a wall, they you would have been likened to silver, which is not subject to decay, that is to say, prophecy would have remained among you. Now that you did not all go up, and you need a wall to protect yourselves from the enemy, and the minority that went up made themselves as doors, that is, they guard only the city gates, you are likened to a cedar, prophecy having been removed from you. About this it is stated in chapter Chelek (Sanhedrin 98b) and in chapter Elu ne'emarim (Sota 36a): "'Till your people pass over, O Lord' (Shemot 15:16)- this refers to the first arrival; 'till the people pass over, whom you have acquired' (ibid.) – this refers to the second arrival. From here [we see] that Israel was worthy of a miracle being performed for them in the days of Ezra, but sin was the cause. That is to say, a miracle – that they would be protected without a wall; but sin was the cause – that is, that not everybody went up. (Chiddushei Maharsha, Yoma 9b, s.v. ke-choma)


            The Maharsha understands that Resh Lakish refers not to the absence of the Shekhina in the Temple (as we saw in Scripture and in Yoma 21b), but rather to the cessation of prophecy. At the beginning of the period of the return to Zion, Chaggai and Zekharya prophesy, but with Malakhi – a contemporary of Ezra and Nechemya – prophecy ceases. According to the Maharsha, prophecy came to an end because the people of Israel did not go up in its entirety like a wall. Had they done so, the Shekhina would have continued to be revealed in this manner.


            The Malbim proposes yet another interpretation of the words of Resh Lakish:


Now, even though that time was not yet the time of the future redemption, and Daniyel saw the four kingdoms that would rule over Israel, and so too several prophets saw and informed us that the time of the wondrous end was exceedingly far off, nevertheless the possibility existed that the redemption would take place then, had they fully repented and all gone up as a wall. As Chazal have said: Israel was worthy of having a miracle performed for them during the days of Ezra, etc. but sin caused [otherwise]. There are also other midrashim of Chazal that indicate this. And when the Temple was built, the possibility still existed. Had they engaged in repentance, Zerubavel would have been the messianic king, and the Temple would have been the foundation of His seat forever. And therefore He once again shined the light of prophesy by way of the latter prophets, Chaggai, Zekharya, and Mal'achi, who lived at that time and stirred the people up regarding the construction and regarding repentance, revealing to them the secret that the matter was in their hands. Since they did not merit, the second Temple was only a temporary Temple which was eventually destroyed by the Romans. (Malbim, Chaggai 1:1)


            The Malbim emphasizes that the very return to Eretz Israel – going up as a wall – constitutes repentance, and the resting of the Shekhina referred to by Resh Lakish is an eternal resting of the Shekhina. Had all of Israel returned, the second Temple would have stood forever, and Zerubavel would have been the messianic king. Moreover, according to the Malbim, the light of prophecy shined again at the beginning of the period of the return to Zion in order to inform Israel of this: that the key to the everlasting resting of the Shekhina rested in their hands.


            Rabbenu Bachya, in his commentary to the Torah, also tries to reach a more precise understanding of the idea that the Shekhina did not rest in the second Temple:


And from the day that the Shekhina rested on Mount Sinai at the time of the giving of the Torah, it did not depart from Israel until the first Temple was destroyed. And from the day that the first Temple was destroyed, the Shekhina no longer rested in Israel, for the Shekhina did not rest in the second Temple. Now, this does not mean that the Shekhina did not rest in the second Temple at all, for we find that the Shekhina rests over twenty-thousand people, from that which it says: "Return, Lord to the ten thousands of Israel" (Bamidbar 10:37), and it is written: "The chariots of God are twice ten thousand, thousands upon thousands; the Lord is among them" (Tehilim 68:18). And needless to say the Shekhina rests upon forty thousand. And furthermore, Scripture attests: "I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified" (Chaggai 1:8), in other words, I will rest [My] glory in it, i.e., the Shekhina. Rather, [this means that the Shekhina] did not fully rest in it, as in the first Temple, because six hundred thousand people were not there, only forty thousand having come up from Bavel, as it is written: "The whole congregation together was forty two thousand…" (Ezra 2:64). This is what Chazal expounded: "I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified" – [even though it is read as va-ekavda] it is written "va'ekaved," – without a he, because it was missing five things: the ark, the anointing oil, the fire, the Shekhina, and the urim ve-tumim. And therefore it says "va-ekaved," to teach that the glory will be there, i.e., the Shekhina, but without the magnificence. This is va'ekaved, to the exclusion of the magnificence. The absence of the he, which is the last letter in the word, because the Shekhina was missing there, for it is one of the five things missing [during the second Temple period]. But how is it missing; surely it says "va-ekavda"!? Rather it did not fully rest there as in the first Temple, but rather it "hovered." But in the future, Israel will be so many that they will not have a number. This is the meaning of: "Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea" (Hoshe'a 2:1). It does not say: "The seed of Israel will be like the sand of the sea," but rather, "the number." In other words, those who are counted, from twenty years old and up, will be like the sand of the sea. Then the magnificence and the glory will return. And Yeshayahu likewise promised: "Arise, shine, for your light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you" (Yeshayahu 60:1). (Commentary of Rabbenu Bachya, Bereishit 46:27)


            Rabbenu Bachya says that the Shekhina did not fully rest in the second Temple; the continuation of his words implies that he does not mean to say that the Shekhina did not rest there all the time, but rather that it rested there in a partial manner. According to him, the full resting of the Shekhina depends upon a certain number – six hundred thousand members of the people of Israel – and since only forty thousand went up during the return to Zion, they merited only partial resting of the Shekhina.


            Rabbi Kook proposes a revolutionary understanding of the absence of the resting of the Shekhina in the second Temple in the chapter entitled "The Course of Ideas" in his Orot. Rabbi Kook describes there the course of the separation of the "Divine idea" – namely, man's relationship to the Divine essence – from the "national idea" – namely, man's relationship to the social order. In a full and perfect spiritual world, these two ideas comprise one complete whole, but over the course of time they became separated. During the first Temple period, the nation itself rose up, but owing to the fall in its religious state, it was forced out into exile, the purpose of which was to purify the nation of all the dross that had clung to it. However, even after returning from the exile, the people were still not ready to rebuild the nation in its full sense, and the Divine aspect was revealed only among individuals, what Rabbi Kook refers to as the "religious idea". The social, cultural and governmental problems that revealed themselves during the first Temple period were so deep that seventy years of exile did not suffice to overcome them, and the primary function of the second Temple – including the appearance of the religious idea at that time – was to prepare the people for a much longer exile, which was meant to repair all the defects and allow the nation to return to its fullness, i.e., to a full integration of the Divine and national ideas. Since the entire purpose of the second Temple period was to prepare the nation for exile, and the spiritual life of the nation bore the character of that of individuals, the Shekhina did not rest there.


            According to Rabbi Kook, the constriction of the resting of the Shekhina referred to by Resh Lakish was not merely quantitative, but rather qualitative. During the second Temple period the strength of the nation became the strength of individuals: private service of God, private performance of mitzvot, personal ethics and worrying about one's own eternal life – these are all characteristics of the religious idea. There might of course be a connection between the small number of people who returned from the exile and the personal character of the service of God during that period. In any event, the strength of individuals constitutes only a very partial appearance of the Divine idea, and therefore it does not suffice for the resting of the Shekhina.


III.              THe Shekhina rests only in the tents of SHem


Thus far we have discussed the viewpoint of Resh Lakish cited in tractate Yoma. The Gemara, however, continues and tells us that Rav Yochanan disagreed with him:


When Resh Lakish came before Rabbi Yochanan, Rabbi Yochanan said to him: This is not the reason. Even had they all gone up during the days of Ezra, the Shekhina would not have rested in the second Temple, as it is written: "God shall enlarge Yefet, and He shall dwell in the tents of Shem" (Bereishit 9:27): Even if God enlarges Yefet, the Shekhina will only dwell in the tents of Shem. (Yoma 9b-10a)[5]


            According to Rabbi Yochanan, the Shekhina did not dwell in the second Temple because it was built under the patronage of the Persian authorities. The Temple must represent the people of Israel, and therefore its construction under Persian sponsorship did not allow for the resting of the Shekhina. As Rabbenu Ovadya Seforno explains:


[The Torah] tells us the virtues of this Mishkan, by which reason it was worthy to be everlasting and not to fall into the hands of the enemy. First, because it was the "Tabernacle of Testimony," where the tablets of testimony were [deposited]; second, "as they were rendered according to the commandment of Moshe"; third, because it was through "the service of the Levites by the hand of Itamar,' for indeed the charge of all the parts of the Mishkan were in the hands of Itamar; fourth, "And Betzalel the son of Uri, the son of Chur, of the tribe of Yehuda made" - the leaders of the craftsmen of the Mishkan's work and its vessels were noblemen and the righteous ones of the generation, and therefore the Shekhina rested on the work of their hands, and it did not fall into the hands of their enemies. But the Temple of Shelomo [was built by] workers of the nations of the world, and although the Shekhina did rest there its sections deteriorated and it was necessary to repair the breaches of the house, and eventually it all fell into the hands of the enemy. But the second Temple, which did not meet even one of these conditions (and) the Shekhina did not come to rest in it at all, fell into the hand of the enemy for indeed the second Temple was not "the Mishkan of the testimony" since there were no tablets of testimony in it (at all) and it was Koresh who charged it (that it be built), and (also) there were no sons of Levi there, as Ezra attested when he said: "And I inspected the people and the priests but found there none of the sons of Levi" (Ezra 8:15), and among those who occupied themselves with the building were Tzidonites and Tzorites, as is explained in the book of Ezra (3:7). (Seforno, Commentary to Shemot 38:21-22)


            The significance of foreign sponsorship is much more far-reaching than the dependency itself upon the Persian authorities and the use of materials and utensils donated by non-Jews. The sponsorship of a foreign king implies subordination to him:


When they came up from Shushan the capital city… the king ordered them to draw a figure of the city of Shushan in the Temple so that the fear of the king would be upon them, and they would remember the time that they dwelt there and not rebel against the king. Accordingly, they drew [the figure] on the eastern gate of the gates of the Temple Mount. (Rambam, commentary to the Mishna, Middot 1:3)[6]


            The fear of a foreign kingdom and the subjugation to that kingdom stand in total contradiction to the essence of the Mikdash as God's palace that gives expression to his exclusive and absolute sovereignty over the entire world, and therefore they prevent the resting of the Shekhina.


IV.              Because There is No Ark


The author of the Sefer Ikkarim, Rabbi Yosef Albo, proposes a very novel idea regarding the relationship between prophecy - and the resting of the Shekhina in general – and the presence of the ark:


It seems to me that this is the reason that prophecy is found in the nation of Israel from among the nations and in Eretz Israel from among the countries. This is because owing to the ark and the tablets [therein] upon which the Shekhina rested, … the prophetic spirit would rest on a man who had prepared himself in such a manner that he is similar to what is in the ark, namely a man in whom is found the opinions of the Torah written on the tablets of the covenant. As it happened with the prophecy of Shemuel, who would lie down in his room, and the voice of prophecy would reach him from on top of the kaporet which was on the ark which was then in Shilo. And he himself did not know who was calling him, for he did not view himself as worthy of prophecy, that he would hear a voice while awake in a prophetic vision, and therefore he would rise from his bed to go to Eli, until Eli understood on his own. As it is stated: "And Eli understood that the Lord had called the child" (I Shemu'el 3:8).

However, this profusion which comes in this manner without the prophet being an intermediary requires preparation on the part of the receiver, that is, that he on his own be slightly prepared. For the Divine abundance will only rest on a receiver who has reached a certain level of preparation, and the level of the profusion resting upon him will vary in accordance with his preparation. But prophecy arriving by way of a prophet will reach even one who is not fit for prophecy, as it reached Israel at the time of the giving of the Torah, or on one who is not prepared for it, as it reached Aharon and Miryam by way of Moshe… Now you should know that prophecy found among one who is unfit or unprepared will not suffice to flow from the receiver to another person unless the ark and the tablets are found in the nation. After the ark was lost it was no longer possible for prophecy to be found even by way of a prophet on one who was unprepared. Therefore, prophecy did not reach Barukh ben Neriya by way of Yirmiyahu, because he was not prepared for it, and the ark had already been concealed. But it reached Chaggai, Zekharya and Mal'achi, because they had seen Yirmiyahu and Yechezkel and were more prepared for [prophecy] than was Barukh. But it did not go from them to others, because there was no ark at that time, and the profusion that reached them did not suffice that it should pass from them to others, inasmuch as there was no ark.  Proof for this [may be brought from the fact] that during the second Temple period there were pious men, men of deeds, who were fit for prophecy more so than during the first Temple period. But nevertheless, there was no prophecy there, because there was no ark. (Sefer ha-Ikkarim, part III, end of chap. 11).


            The author of the Ikkarim hangs prophecy on the presence of the ark and the tablets and the resting of the Shekhina thereon. Obviously the person himself must also be prepared, but without the ark and the tablets, prophecy is impossible. Therefore, even though there were more people worthy of prophecy during the second Temple period than during the first Temple period, since there was no ark, there was also no prophecy. Chaggai, Zekharya and Mal'akhi merited prophecy, because they had seen Yirmiyahu and Yechezkel, but in the absence of an ark, they were incapable of passing it to others.


            This position of Rabbi Yosef Albo is totally novel. While it is stated in various places that God reveals Himself from between the two keruvim above the ark, and so too, as he points out, it is stated about Shemu'el that God first appeared to him from there, nowhere do we find it stated explicitly that the resting of the Shekhina or prophecy is conditioned on the presence of the ark.


            As we know, the ark was concealed by Yoshiyahu:


When the ark was concealed, the bottle of manna, the flask of anointing oil, Aharon's rod with its almonds and flowers, and the chest that the Pelishtim sent as a gift to the God of Israel, were concealed along with it… And who concealed it? Yoshiyahu concealed it. What did he see that he concealed it? He saw that it says: "The Lord will bring you and your king whom you will set over you" (Devarim 28:36). He stood up and concealed it, as it is stated: "And he said to the Levites who taught all Israel, who were holy to the lord, Put the holy ark in the house which Shelomo the son of David King of Israel did build; you need no longer carry it upon your shoulders: serve now the Lord your God, and His people Israel" (II Divrei ha-Yamim 35:3). (Yoma 52b; see also Seder Olam Rabba, chap. 24)[7]


            In the continuation, the Gemara in Yoma brings a Tannaitic dispute regarding the fate of the ark after it was concealed:


Rabbi Eliezer says: The ark was exiled to Bavel… Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai says: The ark was exiled to Bavel.

Rabbi Yehuda ben Lakish says: The ark was buried in its place.

It was taught: And the Sages say: The ark was buried in the chamber used as a shed for goats. Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak said: We too have also taught: It once happened that a priest was occupied with something, and he noticed that [a section of] the floor was different than the rest. He went and told his fellow [priest], but he did not finish before his soul departed, and they knew by a special sign that the ark was buried there. What was he doing? Rabbi Chelbo said: He was occupied with his hatchet. It was taught in the school of Rabbi Yishma'el: Two priests with physical defects were removing worms from wood, and the hatchet of one of them slipped and fell there and a fire issued forth and consumed it. (Yoma 53b-54a)


            Why wasn't a new ark fashioned during the second Temple period? Both the Maharal and the Minchat Chinukh relate to this question:


In my opinion, we learn an important thing, that the [tablets of] testimony are indispensable for the ark. For had it not been written, I would have thought that [even] if there is no testimony, there is an ark. For regarding the choshen it is similarly written: "And you shall put in the breastplate of judgment the urim and the tumim" (Shemot 28:30), but nevertheless in the second Temple, even though there was no urim, there was a choshen (Rashi, ad loc.). Here too then perhaps even if there are no tablets, an ark should be made in honor of the Shekhina. About this it was further said: "And you shall put the testimony into the ark" (Shemot 25:16). It was repeated to make it indispensable, that there is no ark if there is no testimony, and in the second Temple where there was no testimony, therefore an ark was not made. (Gur Arye, Teruma, s.v. lo yadati)


The primary purpose of the ark is that the tablets should rest within it… And during the first Temple period, when the ark was concealed together with the testimony in the days of King Yoshiya, another ark was not fashioned. And during the second Temple period, there was no ark, for what need is there for an ark. Since also the tablets were concealed, there is no mitzva to fashion an ark, and the ark is not indispensable… But the ark, since the tablets were concealed, and will not be seen again until the arrival of the Redeemer speedily in our days. They never made another ark other than what Moshe made in the wilderness. When the Redeemer will come speedily in our days, the tablets and the ark will reappear. Thus there is no need to write the laws governing the ark. (Minchat Chinukh, mitzva 95)


            According to them, the whole purpose of the ark is to contain the tablets, and therefore there is no reason to prepare an ark if there are no tablets. This answer fits with the position of Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai that the ark was exiled to Bavel, but according to the position of Rabbi Yehuda ben Lakish and the Sages, that the ark was buried in the Temple – and especially according to the Mishna in Shekalim, that the exact spot where the ark was buried was known – the question remains: Why was the ark not taken out in accordance with the instructions of Chaggai, Zekharya and Mal'achi?


            Even though there is no explicit source to this effect, it stands to reason that the prophets understood that the ark should not be taken out based on human initiative, but rather that this must be based on explicit Divine revelation. According to the Gemara (Zevachim 62a), these prophets testified about the altar and its location, and that sacrifices can be brought even without a Temple. Why didn't they relate to the ark? Surely it was Chaggai and Zekharya who encouraged the people to begin the construction, promising them about the greatness of the second Temple and the renewed selection of Jerusalem and the resting of the Shekhina therein! Why then didn't they pursue the matter to complete the building and cause the Shekhina to rest therein by restoring the ark? It seems that the fact that they didn't do this testifies that they understood that the restoration of the ark itself depends on the Shekhina descending first from on high, and not on human will.


The position of the second Temple prophets can be understood in the opposite manner as well. This understanding rises from Yirmiyahu's prophecy about the future when all of Jerusalem will turn into the throne of God and an ark will no longer be necessary:


And it shall come to pass, when you multiply and increase in the land, in those days, says the Lord, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the Lord: nor shall it come to mind: nor shall they remember it; nor shall they miss it; nor shall that be done any more. At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem: nor shall they walk any more after the stubbornness of their evil heart. (Yirmiyahu 3:16-17)[8]


            The prophets of the period may have thought that this prophecy would be fulfilled during the days of the second Temple (which fits the grand visions of Chaggai and Zekharya for the members of their generation), and therefore there was no longer any need for an ark.




            In this shiur we examined the reasons that the Shekhina did not rest in the second Temple. We opened with proofs to this assertion from a comparison of the words of Scripture regarding the dedication of the second Temple, the dedication of the first Temple and the dedication of the Mishkan, and with a description of the problem according to Chazal. We then discussed three main reasons for the Shekhina's absence: the small number of people who returned from the exile to Zion, the patronage of a foreign power, and the absence of the ark.


Whatever the reason may be, the result was that the second Temple was exclusively a house of worship: the people of Israel worshipped God therein, but it was not the house of God. In the next two shiurim we will discuss the differences between the first and the second Temples.


(Translated by David Strauss)




[1] This might also find expression in the great difference in the length of the description of the respective dedications of the Mishkan and the first Temple, on the one hand, and the dedication of the second Temple, on the other. The dedication of the Mishkan is described at length both in the book of Vayikra (chap. 9) and in the book of Bamidbar (chap. 7). The two descriptions of the dedication of the first Temple (I Melakhim 8, II Divrei ha-Yamim 5:2-7:1) each contain 66 verses. The dedication of the second Temple is discussed in a mere four verses (Ezra 6:15-18).

[2] In the parallel sources there are variations. The Yerushalmi (Ta'anit 2:1) substitutes anointing oil for the Shekhina. The Rishonim also disagree about how to count the five differences, but we shall not expand upon this here.

[3] Rashi explains (ad loc.): "I hate you" – all of the people of Bavel who did not go up in the days of Ezra, and prevented the Shekhina from returning to rest in the second Temple.

"You would have been likened to silver" – which does not decay, so too you would not have been missing the Shekhina.

"Doors" – a gate which has two doors, you open one and the other closes, so too only a part of you went up [to Eretz Israel].

"Which is subject to decay" – part of it is eaten by worms from the inside and part of it remains, so too part of the vision concerning the Shekhina was there, but all of it was not there.

"What is cedar" – how are you likened to a cedar.

"Ulla said: Sasmagor" – the name of a worm.

"What is Sasmagor" – that is to say, why was the second temple likened to Sasmagor regarding the resting of the Shekhina.

"Rabbi Abba said: A heavenly voice" – remained for them, just as a little bit of the cedar remains.

See also Pesikta Rabbati, parasha 35: "For when the second Temple was built, the Shekhina did not rest in it, for thus said the Holy One, blessed be He: If all of Israel goes up, the Shekhina will rest therein, but if not, they will only use a heavenly voice."

[4] Indeed, we find that there are certain mitzvot which only apply when all – or at least a majority – of the people of Israel is found in the land of Israel (e.g., the jubilee year, terumot and tithes).

[5] See also Pesikta Rabbati, parasha 35: "Rabbi Yitzchak said: Why did the Shekhina not rest in the second Temple built by the people who returned from exile? Because it was built by Koresh, king of Persia, who was a descendant of Yefet, and the Shekhina does not rest on the handiwork of Yefet. But in the first Temple, which was built by the people of Israel, the descendants of Shem – the Shekhina did rest, as it is stated: 'God shall enlarge Yefet, and He shall dwell in the tents of Shem' (Bereishit 9:27)."

[6] See, for example, the Ramban's formulation in his commentary to Devarim 32:40: "For during the construction of the second Temple, the nations did not rejoice with His people; they merely scoffed at them, 'What are these feeble Jews doing' (Nechemya 3:34), and their leaders were servants in the palace of the Babylonian king (Daniyel 1:9), and they were all subordinate to him, and in those days, He did not render vengeance to His adversaries, nor did He forgive His land and His people."

[7] According to the plain sense of the text, it is possible that this is a command issued by Yoshiyahu to return the ark to the Temple after having been removed therefrom during the days of Menashe.

[8] It is possible that this is also the reason that the ark is not mentioned in the chapters dealing with the Temple in the book of Yechezkel.