To Dwell Among Mortals

With His commandment to the Jews to erect a Sanctu­ary, G‑d also gave the promise,1 “I will dwell within.” That promise was fulfilled with the manifestation of G‑d’s Presence in the Sanctuary — as it is written,2 “G‑d’s glory filled the Sanctuary.” The manifestation of the Divine Presence within our material world has under­gone several different phases.

As the Sanctuary journeyed through the desert, and simi­larly, afterwards, when it was located in Eretz Yisrael, 3

More particularly, however, it is possible to differentiate between the manner in which the Divine Presence was manifest in the Sanctuary and its manifestation in the Beis HaMikdash. Although there is no change in G‑d Himself, there is a differ­ence between the nature of the manifestation of His Presence in these locations, the difference being the extent to which the physical nature of the site was nullified, and hence, the extent to which it served as a medium to reveal G‑d’s Presence.

The Differences Between a Temporary Dwelling and a Permanent Home

To explain: The Sanctuary served as a temporary dwelling for G‑d, as it is written:6 “And I [G‑d] have sojourned in a tent and a tabernacle.” The site of the Beis HaMikdash, by con­trast, is the permanent dwelling place for the Divine Presence, as it is written:7 “This is My resting place forever.”

Among the corollaries to this concept is the following: Al­though the ground became sanctified at the time when the Sanctuary was located in a particular place,8 after the Sanctuary was relocated, no vestige of holiness remained in its previous location. In regard to the Beis HaMikdash, by contrast, the na­ture of the physical site was changed. From the time of its con­struction onward, even after the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, the site remains the resting place for G‑d’s Pres­ence.9

In Chassidic thought,10 this distinction is explained as follows: The revelation within the Sanctuary reflected the descent of G‑d’s Presence until it rested within our material world. As this revelation radiated downward, it reflected the infinite power of G‑d’s light. It did not, however, effect a lasting change within the setting of the revelation.

The construction of the Beis HaMikdash, by contrast, re­flected the transformation of a portion of the world itself into a dwelling for G‑d. Here, the emphasis was not on the revela­tion of G‑dliness from above, but on how the truth of the exis­tence of every entity in this world is G‑dliness. Thus the Beis HaMik­dash represented the ultimate expression of our efforts to refine our material environment, and to elevate it to a state of holi­ness.11

Two Levels of Refinement

Within the latter concept itself, there are two different levels, which correspond to the differences between the First and Second Batei HaMikdash. To explain by means of analogy: There are two types of thinkers: one whose thinking processes have been developed by a teacher, and another who achieves success through his own independent efforts. Even in the first instance, the person is capable of thinking creatively and under­standing concepts which he has not heard explicitly from his teacher. Nevertheless, his concep­tual thrust originates in the teachings of his mentor.12 The sec­ond individual, by contrast, develops his thought processes without such guidance.

Although the second individual has made greater use of his powers of achievement, the first individual nevertheless pos­sesses a clear advantage. For the guidance of his mentor has endowed him with greater clarity and direction.

To see these principles reflected in the analog: The First Beis HaMikdash possessed a far greater degree of Divine revela­tion than the Second Beis HaMikdash. 13 Thus, although the First Beis HaMikdash reflected a transformation of the material aspects of the world as mentioned above, it was also associated with Divine revelation, like, to refer back to the anal­ogy, a student who proceeds independently, but who relies on the guidance of his teacher.

The Second Beis HaMikdash lacked the aspect of revelation that characterized the First Beis HaMikdash. It did, however, reflect the transformation of the material aspects of the world into a dwelling for G‑d to a greater degree; to refer back to the analogy, a student who achieves success through his own inde­pendent efforts.

This dimension is highlighted by our Sages’ interpretation16 of the verse:17 “The glory of this later house will be greater than the first house,” as referring to the Second Beis HaMikdash which was greater, in time18 and space,19 than the First Beis HaMikdash. For time and space are the coordinates that deter­mine the nature of existence within our material world.

This dimension is also reflected in the fact that the con­struction of the Beis HaMikdash was ordered by Koresh, King of Persia, a gentile. This indicates that the world itself, as it exists within its own framework, desired that a Sanctuary be con­structed for G‑d.

Parallels in Our Divine Service

The relationship between these three phases of Divine revelation — the Sanctuary, the First Beis HaMikdash, and the Second Beis HaMikdash — can be compared to the relationship between three modes of our divine service: Torah study, the performance of mitzvos, and turning to G‑d in teshuvah.

To explain: When studying the Torah, we deal with mate­rial concerns. Nevertheless, our involvement in these matters is abstract in nature; we are not directly involved with matters of the world. On the contrary, Torah study requires separating oneself from the issue in question, viewing it abstractly, and striving to discover what the Torah states regarding the matter. This parallels the revelation of G‑d’s Presence within the Sanc­tuary, where G‑d’s Presence was revealed within our world in a manner that did not effect a permanent change in the world’s material nature.

In regard to the performance of mitzvos, by contrast, our Sages state:20 “The mitzvos were given for the sole purpose of refining the created beings.” For our performance of mitzvos is directly involved with material entities and refines them by establishing a bond of oneness between them and G‑d.

Although the performance of mitzvos elevates the material substance of the world, this elevation comes as a result of the influence of G‑d — He who commanded that the mitzvos be observed. Thus, this mode of service parallels the manifestation of G‑d’s Presence in the First Beis HaMikdash which was illus­trated by the analogy of a scholar whose development is guided by a teacher.

The desire to turn to G‑d in teshuvah, by contrast, does not come “from above.” On the contrary, the classic conception of teshuvah is repentance from sin, and in that instance, a person has separated himself from G‑dliness and does not feel Divine light. Why then does he turn to G‑d? Because that is the truth of his being. No Jew can or will remain separate from G‑d,21 and his inner spiritual core compels him to develop an outward, conscious connection. Teshuvah represents a reestablishment of a connection to G‑d through man’s own initiative. This paral­lels the manifestation of G‑d’s Presence in the Second Beis HaMikdash illustrated above with the analogy of a scholar who achieves success through his independent efforts.22

The Ultimate Divine Dwelling

The Third Beis HaMikdash will possess the advantages that were present in both the First and the Second Basei HaMikdash and will fuse both these di­mensions into a single whole.23 For the Era of the Redemption will be characterized by the refine­ment of the world at large; Mashiach “will perfect the entire world to serve G‑d as one.”24 And this will be the era of com­plete revelation; “the glory of G‑d will be revealed and all flesh will see.”25

This Beis HaMikdash will remain for all time, an eternal testimony of G‑d’s Presence within this world. May it be revealed in the immediate future.

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Vol. IX, Parshas VeEschanan