Shiur #02: The Absence of the Mikdash (Part II) -Torah, Service and Acts of Loving-Kindness
The world stands on three things: on the Torah, on the service [of God] and on acts of loving-kindness. (Avot 1:2)
According to this mishna, three important values serve as the foundation of the world and sustain it. It is not by chance, then, that these three values are prominently represented on the
I. THE TORAH
1. THE MIKDASH AND THE REVELATION AT
In the previous shiur, we mentioned the idea that the Mishkan served as a direct continuation of the revelation at Mount Sinai; we pointed out that the hakhel assembly serves as a sort of renewal of that revelation once every seven years with the participation of the entire Jewish people – men, women and children.
While the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai was the initial revelation of God to all of
This explains why the tablets of the Law were placed in the ark, which was later placed in the Holy of Holies, following Moshe's descent from
2. AT THE HEART OF THE MIKDASH – THE TORAH
The keruvim on top of the kaporet symbolize God's royal throne; they rest upon the tablets of the Law and the broken tablets in the ark, which symbolize the Torah and God's covenant with His people. From this very place, "from upon the kaporet from between the keruvim, Moshe heard the voice speaking to him;" (Bamidbar 7:89) it was from between the keruvim that Moshe received the ever-renewing Torah – the Oral Law. This Torah is found above the Written Torah that rests in the ark.
Another expression of the Mikdash as the center of Torah is the Torah scroll that was kept in the
3. PLACE TO ENCOUNTER TORAH AUTHORITIES AND THE SANHEDRIN
The gemara relates that Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai would sit in the shade of the sanctuary (Pesachim 26a) and that Rabban Gamliel would sit on a step on the Temple Mount (Sanhedrin 11b). One of the objectives of making a pilgrimage to
Another aspect of the connection between the Mikdash and the Torah is the relationship between the Mikdash and the Sanhedrin. Chazal learned (Mekhilta de-Rabbi Yishmael, Yitro, Masekhta de-be-Chodesh, parasha 11; Yerushalmi, Makkot 2:6) that the Sanhedrin convened alongside the altar. The mishna in Sanhedrin (11:2) states:
Three courts were there – one used to sit at the entrance to the
The Sanhedrin was located in Lishkat ha-Gazit, half in a sanctified zone, the
The proximity of the nation's highest court to the Temple allows the judges (who hail from all sectors of society – priests, Levites and Israelites) to decide issues and play a role in many diverse halakhic, spiritual, communal, social, and political matters (e.g., going out to an optional war, expanding the boundaries of Jerusalem [Sanhedrin 1:5], examining the lineage and physical defects of priests, creating laws, and disseminating Torah to all of Israel).The source of the Torah and the location of the supreme judicial authority adjoined the Temple – the source of the validity of the Written and Oral Law.
4. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TORAH AND THE MIKDASH
Both the Mikdash and the Torah express the connection between the people of
It can be compared to the only daughter of a king whom another king married. When he wished to return to his country and take his wife with him, he [the father] said to him: "My daughter, whose hand I have given you, is my only child. I cannot part with her. Neither can I say to you: 'Do not take her,' for she is now your wife. This favor, however, I would request of you: wherever you go to live, have a chamber ready for me that I may dwell with you, for I cannot leave my daughter." Thus God said to
The Maharal (Gevurot Hashem, end of chap. 8; Ner Mitzva, p. 24) explains that just as the heart is the source of man's vitality and the brain is the source of his intelligence, so, too, the
The Zohar (Teruma 161a) states that the Holy One, blessed be He, "looked into the Torah and created the world;" God created the world through contemplation of the Torah – the world reflects the Torah, and the Torah is the world's blueprint. It is interesting and significant that the Torah embodied by the Mikdash rests precisely upon the place from which the world was created, the even ha-shetiya, the foundation stone (Yoma 54b). In that way, as it were, the Mikdash preserves in its heart – its innermost, most sanctified, and most concealed area - both the place where the physical world began and the Torah, the world's blueprint.
Various sources indicate that the Mikdash and the Torah complement each other, each one filling in what is missing in the other. Herod, who killed the Torah authorities of his day, extinguished the light of the world, and his repentance involved the construction of the light of the world – the Mikdash (Bava Batra 4a). On the other hand, Chazal assert in various places that today, when there is no Mikdash, the Torah substitutes for the
Since the day that the
This refers to the scholars who devote themselves to the study of the Torah in whatever place they are: [God says] I account it unto them as though they burnt and presented offerings to My name… This refers to the scholars who devote themselves to the study of the Torah at nights; Scripture accounts it to them as though they were occupied with the
As the Maharal says (Tiferet Yisrael, chap. 70: "The Torah in our exile is the place of the
What better way is there to end this section with the short prayer that we customarily add at the end of the Shemoneh Esrei (based on Avot 5:20):
May it be your will… that the
II. SERVICE OF GOD
There are many aspects to the "divine service" that took place in the Mikdash. First of all, the Mikdash served as a place of prayer. Another specific service that took place in the
The most obvious form of divine service that took place in the Mikdash, however, was the sacrificial order. The sacrifices united a Jew together with God not only at designated times – the three Festivals – but also in various situations connected to his personal life: in the aftermath of sin, or as an offer of thanksgiving, or after a birth, whether in the wake of the birth of a firstborn in his flock or when bringing the animal-tithe. In all these situations, man is required to stand before God and offer a sacrifice.
One of the unique characteristics of the sacrificial order is the disqualification of an offering stemming from the improper thoughts of the person bringing the sacrifice. For example, if his intention is to offer the sacrifice outside of its proper time or proper space, the sacrifice is disqualified. In order to achieve intimacy with God, one who brings a sacrifice must achieve purity of thought and focused action. Thus, man's thought in its purest form reveals itself in the Mikdash.
1. "A LIFE FOR A LIFE"
The story of the Akeida – the first incident in the Torah that explicitly took place on
It seems to be highly significant that psychological readiness to offer one's own son was demanded already at the first sacrifice that God commanded to be brought on an altar on
All these acts are performed in order that when they are done, a person should realize that he has sinned against his God with his body and his soul, and that his blood should really be spilled and his body burned, were it not for the loving-kindness of the Creator, who took from him a substitute and a ransom, namely this offering, so that its blood should be in place of his blood, its life in place of his life, and that the chief limbs of the offering should be in place of the chief parts of his body.
Man's sin dictates that he be burnt upon the altar, but in place of man's own body, God accepts the body of an animal. One who brings a sacrifice must therefore pronounce his confession over the animal, fully repent, and repair his desires and actions so that he will achieve atonement. It is also possible that the slaughter of the animal, the sprinkling of its blood, and the burning of its flesh represent the total change of the person, and his connection, together with the rest of creation, to God who created them.
2. SACRIFICE – ELEVATION OF THE ANIMAL
The sprinkling of an animal's blood and the burning of its flesh on the altar constitute, in a certain sense, the highest intimacy that can possibly be achieved between an animal – having the spirit of a beast, lacking intelligence, and void of the image of God – and God, Master of the universe. The Midrash states that in the future animals will stand in line at the altar asking to be sacrificed upon it.
A fine illustration of this idea of the elevation of animals brought as offerings is found in a midrash concerning the two bullocks brought on
This bears on what Scripture says: "Who teaches us by means of the beasts of the earth, and makes us wise by means of the fowls of heaven" (Iyyov 35:11)… The Holy One, blessed be He, said to
It is difficult to say that we are capable today of understanding, feeling, and sensing the loss of the sacrifices as a means of coming closer to God. A sacrifice brings its owner to intimacy with God and to a feeling of devotion to an extent that is unknown today. By adding salt with every sacrifice, all parts of creation – mineral, vegetable, animal, and human – are raised to their source. By his choice and through his actions, man – the only creature that was created in the image of God – is capable of raising all of creation to its source. This he can do in the
3. "WE WILL OFFER THE WORDS OF OUR LIPS INSTEAD OF CALVES" (HOSHEA 14:3)
Paralleling the view that "the prayers were instituted in correspondence to the daily offerings" (Berakhot 26b), Chazal describe the prayers as a substitute for the sacrifices (Bamidbar Rabba 18:21 and elsewhere). Without a doubt, one of the most important services performed in the Mikdash was prayer: personal prayer and communal prayer, prayer in times of trouble and prayer in times of calm, as described in King Shlomo's prayer at the dedication of the Mikdash (I Melakhim 8).
In this context it is important to mention the law that states that one who is engaged in prayer anywhere in the world must direct himself in the direction of Eretz
When one proceeds to pray, if he is standing outside the
The Mishna Berura (ad loc.) explains:
He must think in his heart and in his mind as if he were standing in the Mikdash in
In addition to directing one's body, it is also necessary to direct one's thoughts and intentions toward the Holy of Holies. A person praying three times a day anywhere in the world is expected to direct his thoughts and think in his heart as if he were standing in the Holy of Holies itself, before the kaporet, in the most intimate section of the Mikdash, where only the High Priest is permitted to enter, and only on Yom Kippur. This is one of the clearest expressions of the experience of prayer as standing before God. Were we able to imagine this in our prayers today, it is quite possible that the memory of the
Before we conclude this section, it should be noted that while we have focused here on the sacrificial service, the term "service" clearly includes a variety of mitzvot and actions that were not mentioned here (some of these – for example, pilgrimages on the Festivals and the service on special Festivals – we shall discuss in the next shiur).
III. ACTS OF LOVINGKINDNESS
1. EXPRESSION OF SENSITIVITY TO ONE'S FELLOW IN THEM MIKDASH
The Baraita in tractate Smakhot (6:11-12) describes how visitors would approach the
On the first and second day [of mourning, the mourner] may not enter the
Chazal describe here a simple but ingenious enactment. Whenever a person walks against the direction of traffic, it is a sign that his situation is exceptional, and that he must be related to in a special fashion. One must console the mourner, pray that one placed under a ban should mend his ways, pray for the recovery of a sick person in his house, thus strengthening and encouraging his family, and one must help recover lost property to its owner. This enactment demands sensitivity, caring, and paying attention to anyone whose exceptional behavior (moving counterclockwise) testifies to distress; it brings the community to pray for its individual members and offer them help.
A similar idea appears in Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer (chap. 17):
Shlomo saw that the observance of loving-kindness was great before the Holy One, blessed be He. When He built the
The Midrash presents Shlomo's action as an opportunity given to
2. CHARITY IN THE MIKDASH
The mishna states:
There were two treasury-chambers in the
In this way, the mitzva of giving charity was fulfilled in the
Moreover, whoever comes to appear before God is obligated to give charity, as Chazal say about the verse: "And they shall not appear before the Lord empty" (Devarim 16:16):
"And they shall not appear before the Lord empty" – empty of charity." (Sifrei Devarim, piska 143)
A person appears before God by way of charity, and this giving allows him to see the inside of the
3. THE PRIEST – MAN OF LOVINGKINDNESS
In his blessing to Levi, Moshe says of Aharon: "Let your Urim and your Tumim be with your pious one" (Devarim 33:8).The famous mishna in tractate Avot notes that loving-kindness is the quality of Aharon:
Hillel says: Be of the disciples of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving [your fellow] creatures and bringing them nearer to the Torah. (Avot 1:12)
The Zohar states in various places (see, for example, Zohar Bamidbar 145b) that the priests come from the emanation of loving-kindness.
The idea of the centrality of loving-kindness to the priesthood finds expression in many ways. Aharon bears the names of the tribes of
Like the priests, the Mikdash is also the center of the unity of the people, of peace, and of justice, as is stated in Avot de-Rabbi Natan (4:5):
It happened once that Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai was coming out of
In this shiur we examined various aspects of the Mikdash through the perspective of the mishna in Avot: "The world stands on three things: on the Torah, on the service [of God] and on acts of loving-kindness." We saw that in the
In the next shiur, we will continue to discuss the absence of the Mikdash. We shall consider the significance of the pilgrimages undertaken on the Festivals and focus on two Festivals on which the experience of the Mikdash is especially strongly felt: Pesach and Yom Kippur.
 Similarly, Moshe was commanded with the completion of the Torah to place the Torah scroll on the side of ark (Devarim 31:25-26). See the disagreement between Rabbi Yehuda and
 Mo'ed Katan 18b, and Rashi, ad loc., s.v. afilu. See alsoKetubot 106a: "Book readers [checking for errors] in
Much has been written on this topic in contemporary scholarship. See, for example, R. Saul Lieberman, Yevanit ve-Yevanut be-Eretz Yisrael, Jerusalem 1984, pp. 165-166; Shemaryahu Talmon, "Shelosha Sefarim Matz'u ba-Azara, in Sefer Segel, 1965, pp. 252-254. My thanks to my colleague Prof. Menachem Kahana, who referred me to these sources.
 The essential connection between
 This statement has practical significance, as the Gemara learns from it that Torah scholars should pray in the place where they study, and not in a synagogue.
 In peace-offerings of every type (thanksgiving, peace-offering, firstborn, and animal-tithe), part of the animal is burnt on the altar, part is given to the priests, and part is left to the owners; thus, the person who brings the offering feels that he eats his portion by virtue of the altar's consumption of its part. We see an expression of this feeling in the practice observed by certain Perushim in the aftermath of the destruction to abstain from eating meat and drinking wine, as was noted in the previous shiur.
 The Akeida also underlies other mitzvot in the Mikdash, e.g., bowing, fear of the Mikdash, and others.
 Several times I have gone to watch the slaughtering process in order to try and imagine, to the extent possible, how a person feels when he slaughters an animal in the aftermath of sin or in gratitude for God's lovingkindness, when he rests his hands on its head, confesses (if the sacrifice is offered for a sin), and then sprinkles the blood, the life force, on the altar. How a person feels when he is actually in such a situation is difficult to imagine, but it stands to reason that bringing a sacrifice allows a person to feel much closer to God than he does in today's day and age.
 The description relates to entry onto the