SALT - Monday, 6 Av 5780 - July 27, 2020

  • Rav David Silverberg
            The Gemara in Masekhet Berakhot (33a; also in Sanhedrin 92a) comments, “Any person who has knowledge [dei’a] is considered as though the Beit Ha-mikdash was built in his lifetime.”  The basis for this association between “dei’a” and the Beit Ha-mikdash, as the Gemara explains, is the fact that both terms appear in a verse in Tanakh surrounded by Names of God.  A verse in Sefer Shemot (15:17) speaks of “makhon le-shivtekha pa’alta Hashem, mikdash Hashem konenu yadekha” – “An established place for Your residence, O God; the Sanctuary, God, which Your hands have set.”  In this verse, the word “Mikdash” is surrounded on either side by the Name of God.  And in a verse in Sefer Shemuel I (2:3), Chana exclaims, “Ki Keil dei’ot Hashem” – “For the Lord is an all-knowing God.”  In this verse, the word “dei’ot” – the plural form of the word “dei’a” – is surrounded by Names of God (“Keil” and “Havaya”).  The Gemara finds it significant that both “dei’a” and the Beit Ha-mikdash have this unique quality – being mentioned in between the Name of God – and infers from this common feature that a person with “dei’a” is considered as though the Beit Ha-mikdash was built in his time.
            What precisely does the Gemara mean by the word “dei’a” in this context, and what is the connection between this kind of “knowledge” and the Beit Ha-mikdash?
            One explanation (cited by Rav Elimelech Biderman, Be’er Ha-parsha, Devarim, 5779, pp. 7-8) is that this comment should be understood in light of the Gemara’s famous remark elsewhere (Yoma 9b) that the Second Temple was destroyed because of the sin of sin’at chinam (baseless hatred).  We overcome hatred and resentment when we live with firm faith in Providence, trusting that everything we endure is God’s will and intended for our ultimate benefit.  If we internalize this belief, then we will disregard wrongs committed against us without carrying with us the debilitating baggage of resentment and hostility.  And thus the Gemara associates “dei’a” – which this approach interprets as a reference to the wisdom of understanding that everything which happens has been decided by God – with the rebuilding of the Temple, as this mindset has the ability to rectify the ill of sin’at chinam on account of which the Temple was destroyed.
            Rav Baruch Weintraub explained the Gemara’s comment by focusing on the significance of the notion of a term being surrounded by the Name of God.  The Gemara perhaps viewed a word’s position between two instances of God’s Name as symbolic of connecting to Godliness, of extending beyond the confines of our physical existence to the realm of spirituality.  This is, in essence, the function of the Beit Ha-mikdash, as expressed in a number of statements by Chazal.  For example, tradition speaks of a heavenly Temple situated directly parallel to the Temple in Jerusalem – symbolizing the merging of heaven and earth at the site of the Temple.  Chazal understood that Yaakov dreamt his famous dream of the ladder extending from the ground to the heavens at the future site of the Beit Ha-mikdash.  Yaakov described the spot where he slept and beheld this vision as “the gate to the heavens” (Bereishit 28:17), the place on earth where one can experience the heavens.  The Beit Ha-mikdash is “surrounded” by God in the sense that its purpose is to connect the physical earth to the Almighty.  And, when the Gemara speaks of “dei’a,” it might refer to transcending our physical impulses and instincts, and living our lives governed by the mind, by our rational understanding of right and wrong.  Living with “dei’a” means living “surrounded” by God, extending beyond our physical existence to connect to Him.  “Dei’a,” according to this understanding, refers to directing our behavior based on the dictates of our mind, rather than the dictates of our physical being, and thereby living a life of spiritual meaning, connecting to our Creator.  When we live this way, we take a step toward the rebuilding of the Beit Ha-mikdash, as we help make the world holier, and Godlier, and worthier of His presence in our midst.