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Why Is There No Third Temple?
Why wasn’t the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, twice destroyed by our enemies, rebuilt in the last 2,000 years? We have had all those years to pray, to yearn. And yet we are seemingly no closer to the rebuilding of the Temple than we were after the destruction of the Second Temple by Titus.
The question is especially pertinent when we accept that, for the first time during this period, the Jewish people are now in control of the land on which the Temple, the “Home of the Tabernacle,” stood. And so I used to think as many others do: that we simply lack the courage to do what needs to be done. If this is so, we could say that our medieval, ghetto mindset has not been updated by the existence of the State of Israel. I think this is part of the answer. But it is not a complete explanation.
Until we understand why the Temple was destroyed in the first place, there is no reason why G-d should give us another chance. After all, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” (Rita Mae Brown). We had the first two temples. And we lost them both, which means that thinking that if we restore what we had in the past we would get a better result would be, in a word: insanity.
If we were “doing” the temple wrong the first two times, then perhaps we are not supposed to build the third Temple until after we understand why G-d commanded the tabernacle to be built in the first place!
The serious gap in our understanding rests with a major purpose of the Temple: to offer sacrifices. Yet, the prophets and psalms have no shortage of exhortations about G-d NOT wanting the sacrifices that He told us to bring! Here is but a short sample:
For I desired mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of G-d more than sacrifices. (Hosea 6:6)
Do I eat the flesh of bulls
or drink the blood of goats? (Psalms 50:13)
Yet the Torah commands us to bring sacrifices! What were the prophets and the psalms trying to tell us? Why did they seem to contradict G-d’s expectations for sacrifices? Does G-d want sacrifices, or not?
I think the prophets were making a more subtle, but profound argument: G-d wants us to understand that the commandments are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. And what is that end? God wants us to behave and live in a holy manner: Mercy. Love. Justice. Growth, both personal and societal.
So, too, the Temple, the house of the Tabernacle where we bring our sacrifices, is also a means to an end. Each of the parts of the tabernacle is rich with symbolism and meaning, capable of guiding us through the ages – but only if we appreciate the importance of seeking understanding, as opposed to merely ticking the boxes.
The problem is that throughout history, the Jewish people have forgotten G-d’s expectations and slipped back into mindset of Cain (G-d as a powerful entity requiring a payoff), Korach (G-d as pagan deity who is ultimately uninterested in the affairs of men as long as He gets His own offerings), and countless Jews who see G-d as nature and nature as G-d. For all these deities, man merely has to go through the motions, and the god is assuaged. None of these gods requires the worshipper to seek personal spiritual growth, to find ways to love the widow, the orphan and the stranger – let alone one’s own neighbor.
But the G-d of the Torah stands qualitatively apart from all pagan (and for that matter Greco-Roman, Norse and other) deities. G-d is not nature or one of its forces. Nor does He want us to serve because we acknowledge His power: He wants us instead to acknowledge and emulate his mercy and justice.
Hashem also wants and craves a relationship with us, one in which we seek to understand and perceive His thoughts. He commands us to bring sacrifices not because He is hungry, but because sacrifices, given properly, can help us grow and move on in our personal development and deepen our connection to and our relationship with Him.
When we instead practice what I term “Rain Dance Judaism”, we are reverting to a kind of “fill in the blanks” service to G-d that is much more pagan than Jewish. Instead of understanding why we have commandments, we think all we really need to do is follow the commandments, with slavish attention to detail. If we do things just right, then the Celestial Slot Machine will come up bells, and we’ll be rewarded with a cascade of quarters. This is precisely the same trap into which the Judaism of the Temple periods fell into!
Instead of understanding why we brought sacrifices, people assumed that as long as they followed the letter of the law, G-d would be happy. Instead of understanding why the Mishkan was commanded, we instead assumed that we didn’t need to know the reasons; we were only to show our devotion by doing precisely as we were told. And instead of understanding and internalizing the lessons contained within sacrifices, we mailed it in: give G-d lunch, and He’ll bless us – or at least leave us alone! We have forgotten that all of these actions, these commandments were intended to bring us closer to G-d and to emulate Him in our actions, words, and deeds.
Until we come to understand what the commandments are for, we will not have the opportunity to practice them fully, to use them as a way to learn and understand G-d. As we read on the day commemorating the destruction of the Temples:
Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches. But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23,24)
And it is in these things, lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, that we have been given the Torah and all its commandments. The challenge for us is to try to understand how and why the commandments in the Torah, including all of those of the tabernacle, lead us to making ourselves and our societies more loving, just and righteous. As we do that, we grow in our understanding and knowledge of G-d Himself.
When we meet that mental challenge, then we will no longer be doing the same thing over and over again, and we will be able to reasonably expect a different result. At that time, we will be ready for the Third Temple.
(another @iwe and @susanquinn production!)Published in General
iWe, this is an interesting question, but probably an issue for Jews to ponder among themselves. I suspect that a Christian view would be counterproductive.
God bless the discussion and the seed of Abraham.
It’s not counterproductive. Jews and Christians have more in common than you would think. As far as Latter-Day Saints believe, there will be a temple in Jerusalem again. We just don’t know when.
The time maybe at hand:
JP: Biblical prophesy fulfilled
iWe, with sincere respect for you as a Jew who is baki in Torah and whose heart is undeniably directed L’Shem Shamayim, it is with trepidation — combined with a sense that nevertheless I must offer my own reaction — that I say that I cannot concur in this interpretation as presented and elaborated in the OP.
My reasons for this disagreement are multiple, and not only will I readily concede that if I were to attempt to elaborate on them here there would be much sound basis for disputing them — but also again as a matter of respect I prefer not to elaborate on them in this forum.
However, I do feel compelled to register that disagreement — perhaps sometime, in a different venue and with the guidance of respected rabbeim somehow, we can explore the contours of this machloket.
I would say this: do not forget the Third Commonwealth of Israel, otherwise known as the Jewish State, where nearly half of the world’s Jews currently reside. And within that Third Commonwealth, there is building, building, building, both in the physical and spiritual sense. There are people in Israel that are pure gold, such as the boy, Dvir Sorek — may HaShem avenge his blood — murdered by terrorists. Have you read about him? I doubt there is an 18 year old boy anywhere that measures up to him, except in Israel itself where there are many, many like him. Israel has succeeded in doing the seemingly impossible, that is, bringing the values of justice and compassion under one roof. We see this in two areas: in the wartime conduct of the IDF and in the State of Israel’s treatment of a hostile minority within its midst (e.g. there is no death penalty in Israel for captured terrorists), despite slanderous accusations against the army and the government. Something extraordinarily special is happening here which, sooner or later, will be appreciated by the world at large.
Tellingly, Dvir, the murdered boy, once bought a sick donkey from an Arab, returned the donkey to health, and then gave it back. Together with this, he was enrolled in a program that combines Torah study with army service. Ironically, when he was murdered, one of the books he was carrying was a novel by a leftist Israeli author. Here was a young man who did not look askance at any aspect of the world around him, the sort of young man whose life will not have been in vain since his memory and essential goodness will hasten the rebuilding of the Temple, במהרה בימינו אמן (speedily in our days, amen).
I appreciate the disagreement! Judaism is founded and built on argumentation for the sake of heaven – from Avraham and Moshe openly arguing with G-d to the entire Gemara and most of our history. Ours is a religion of process, not product.
I am well aware that this post is new, which means that it will necessarily be resisted by the ideas that came before it. That is as it should be. Either the argument takes hold, or it fails to do so.
As a person who believes that G-d wants mankind to be the salvation of the world, and who deeply desires to grow my relationship with G-d (and try to aid others in doing so in their own ways), I hope that the argument in the post gains traction.
We are commanded to build the tabernacle, and we are commanded to bring sacrifices upon it.
I agree! I think this is a part of what will make the Temple possible!
So, too, are the growing numbers of Jews who choose not to see themselves as victims, but as responsible actors. May they grow in influence and numbers!
Awesome post and discussion. Thank you all.
I guess I’m not as polite as some of my Christian brethren. Christians have a ready answer for this: because Jesus. “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it again.”
Jesus fulfilled the prophecies and is the New Temple. The Son is especially present in the Eucharist — in every tabernacle of every Catholic Church in the world.
Which leads to the question, how can there be a third Temple without the Ark? Without the presence of God?
Agree utterly. He wants us to know and love Him. Therefore, Jesus.
Some say the ark was hidden to protect it. Perhaps it will be found. What makes you think G-d wouldn’t be present in a Third Temple?
If we build it, He will reside there. That is precisely what happened with the tabernacle, and the temples.
Catholic theology. Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant. There’s no need for a Third Temple. All of general revelation was accomplished in Christ. We’ve been given all we need to know and love God and to emulate His mercy and justice in Christ.
I would be watching carefully if the Ark were found and restored to a Third Temple, though. It would be a fascinating development. I don’t expect it to happen, but God is full of surprises.
That, of course, is one of the theological splits that separate the faiths.
Jews consider the Torah (the Five Books) to be fully relevant and applicable today. Christianity, at least in the way that it is practiced, does not.
Similarly, as we have discussed before, in Judaism the Five Books (the revelation at Sinai) is definitive, while prophets were at a lower level than Moshe. No prophet can supersede or cancel the Torah. The Torah itself warns against any prophet who claims to add or detract from the Commandments. Christianity holds that newer prophets can do just that.
I am interested in the depth of meaning of sacrifices and the tabernacle. I think they are important, and overlooked by both Jews and Christians – though traditional Judaism studies the how of the sacrifices, if not the why. Hence the reference to Rain Dances.
I do not understand why the Ark is considered a relic. Man built it in the first place, repeatedly. Why wouldn’t we build it again?
Indeed, the Second Temple had an Ark that was empty (with no relics in it at all). If anything, that is more powerful; the realization that G-d is incorporeal.
Catholicism doesn’t abrogate the Torah’s moral laws (although Marcion tried to annul the Old Testament). The Gospel calls us to keep the Ten and challenges us with Eight more (Beatitudes), because these are how we show love of neighbor — even unto death. “No greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” in emulation of Jesus.
Catholics celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass wherein we recapitulate the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord (joining in the Heavenly Banquet). God saw that His people were unable to keep the intricate dietary and ritual laws and offered Himself as fulfillment instead.
I understand this is where we break, I just want our Jewish brothers to know we (Catholics especially) take the OT and the NT and Sacrifice and the Tabernacle very, very seriously.
This is, ironically, the sister position to most of mainstream orthodox Judaism: that all we need to know has already been given, and there are no unanswered questions or understandings that we lack. There is ignorance, but the answers are all in the texts and commentaries.
In that Jewish worldview, all we need is more/better dedication.
My thesis is bolder, in no small part because I am an historian as well as a devout Jew, and history doesn’t make sense to me unless we admit that we have not been on quite the right path.
Judaism fixated on the Torah commandments – but in understanding how to do them, and almost entirely ignoring why they were given too us. The how, alone, does not get us where we need to go.
Christianity shed those same commandments, accepting neither the how nor having any interest in understanding the why.
I would disagree most strenuously! ALL the laws are moral – but nobody tried to understand them.
Yet here Jews are, keeping those laws in their intricacy. I want to go further: I want to understand why they are there, and why – counter to Catholicism’s belief that they are not moral, and mainstream orthodox Judaism’s belief that they are not comprehensible – they matter.
Please understand that from the Jewish perspective, this is impossible to believe. I don’t know any Catholics who know the various kinds of sacrifices, what they are, who brings them, or how. Can you, without research, tell me the differences between an elevation offering, a sin-offering and a peace-offering? And yet they are all described, in black and white. Every educated orthodox Jewish man studies these as a matter of course.
Our of curiosity, where is this commanded?
I know that there are extensive commandments (in Exodus and Deuteronomy, I think) about the tabernacle, the ark, and various related paraphernalia. David wanted to build the Temple, but was told by God that his son would do so. Solomon did so. I think that it was Ezra (and perhaps Nehemiah) who rebuilt it.
We all know that the Ark is in that government warehouse . . .
G-d commanded the Children of Israel. Us.
Discussion of the the tabernacle and offerings comprise much of Exodus until the end of the Five Books.
If by “Christianity” you mean “disciples of Christ” then you are, simply, wrong.
I am no expert in Christianity.
But please substantiate your assertion. Can you explain the how and the why of the commandment of the red heifer? Or why a woman after giving birth brings a sin-offering? What is the symbolism of the laver? Why are there exceptions to the Jubilee, and can you explain them?
There are countless questions that arise from the text. I have yet to meet a Christian who has read Leviticus for itself and not merely as an antecedent text to the New Testament.
It is true that Christians read the Old Testament in light of the New. We believe God, having sacrificed Himself on the Cross, negates the need for red heifers. Absolutely.
Maybe you can explain how animal sacrifice lends itself to love of God and neighbor? But, honestly, I think we’ll keep talking past each other and the conversation is unlikely to be fruitful.
Dear Sir, I can assure you that you should have no difficulty in finding things in the Pentateuch, things in the writings of the Prophets, things elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures that I cannot explain because I have either not studied them or not studied them sufficiently. I am not a Theologian, nor a Pastor but a simple layman. Furthermore, I figured out long ago that debates aren’t necessarily won by who’s right, but by who’s the better debater.
Nevertheless, I have read Leviticus, which you mention, multiple times. But I can only read these Scriptures in light of the New Testament. Why bother doing that? Because 2Tim 3:16, 17 says that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The reference to Scripture here would have meant the Old Testament in its entirety.
And because Rom. 15:4 says of the Old Testament, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” Again, a reference to O.T. writings.
And because 1 Cor. 10:11, speaking of the Old Testament, says “Now these things happened unto them by way of example; and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come.“
The entirety of the Sacrificial system; the Temple system; the Ten Words; the civil laws, the ceremonial laws, the moral laws; all the works of G-d and the things which happened are all for my instruction and edification in this age. That I might worship aright, that I might live aright.
And the places I have studied, we could not possibly agree because you and I do not worship the same G-d: I worship the Triune G-d, you do not. Briefly, on just one of your questions, the woman having given birth: From the creation, the pain of childbirth and the frequency of conception is a consequence of sin. To give birth is not per se’ sinful. But she is bringing into the world another sinful person stamped with the inherent depravity of mankind. Furthermore, due to that she is ceremonially unclean. And in this I find an anticipation of the birth of the One without sin, who would offer Himself – once for all – as the perfect sacrifice to restore sinners to an offended G-d.
Also, the woman by virtue of uncleanness would have been absent from coming to the Sanctuary or participating in other rites and that required a sin offering. Which thing is instructive to the disciple of Christ as to the importance and necessity of faithful participation in those means of Grace such as the assemblies of the Saints upon the Lord’s Day (4th Commandment- Sabbath.)
I hope that @iwe will weigh in again, but I have a few comments. The line of yours I copied above is for my first comment. @iwe would probably also himself a simple layman but one who has pursued Torah deeply (and I’m working on it). His point is in part just what you’re saying: you are well versed in the meanings of Christianity, but you do not know the reasons behind the practices of Judaism. You say yourself, “
That’s the point. From the Jewish standpoint, looking through the lens of Christianity provides a Christian understanding not a Jewish one. I realize you may think that yours is a more “advanced” interpretation, but it is not a Jewish one. Your description on a woman’s giving birth is a good example. You don’t know the reasons for a woman’s making the sin offering; in fact, your explanations are diametrically opposed to the Jewish purpose. You are providing a Christian perspective. There’s nothing wrong with that, except it is not a Jewish understanding.
Finally (and I’m delving into these questions myself), we can explain what a sin offering is for after childbirth, but why is there a sin offering at all? I have my own thoughts on this requirement, but they are evolving. I believe this is the kind of question @iwe is suggesting we ask ourselves. I hope this was helpful.
You are correct: Indeed, it isn’t possible for me to read it otherwise than from the perspective of a disciple of Christ – as I said. Nevertheless, I read and have read, and am continuing to read and study daily. But this started, you remember, with iwe making the statement that Christians were neither interested in the how nor the why of these things and that is simply in error.