The Temple – A Model for Religious Zionism

The Temple structure represents the central values ​​of the Torah, which are reflected in Religious Zionism * At the center is the Kodesh HaKodashim (Holy of Holies), expressing both the holiness of Torah, and the holiness of Israel * The Kodesh (Inner Sanctuary) draws from the Kodesh HaKodashim, in which the Shulchan (Golden Table) represents work and livelihood, the Menorah represents secular wisdom, and the Ketoret (Golden Altar) represents the service of prayer in cooperation with the general public * The Mizbe’ach HaChitzon (Great Altar) represents self-sacrifice, expressed in each of these areas, and especially in devotion to the Nation and the Land * This is the great vision of Torah, but some of the public see fit to minimize it because “et la’asot la-Hashem, heferu Toratekha” (“it is a time to act for God, they have made void your Torah)”—the problem is when the great vision is forgotten

Uncertainty about the Path of Religious Zionism

From time to time I am approached by people debating controversial issues between the Haredi public and the National-Religious public, such as: 1) Why does the National-Religious public emphasize Israeli nationalism, and does not act like the Haredi public, which emphasizes Torah and mitzvot alone? 2) Is it preferable for someone who can make a living from a subsidy and support of his parents to devote his entire life to studying Torah in kollel, or is it better for him to earn a living from working? 3) Is the fact that the National-Religious public studies sciences as well as Torah, l’chatchila (ideal), or is it only because the rabbis are unsuccessful in convincing the public to study only Torah?

A: In principle, the National-Religious public’s path is the correct path to choose l’chatchila, because this is the way of the Torah, and only by means of it, can Am Yisrael (the Jewish Nation) fulfill its mission – to adhere to God’s ways, settle the Land, and establish a state in the light of the Torah’s instructions, until the time comes when all mankind receives inspiration from Am Yisrael, ‘from Tziyon will come forth the Torah, and the word of God from Jerusalem’, and blessing and peace will spread to all peoples.

This great vision the Torah sets before us can be explained in many ways. At this time, I will explain it by contemplating the Mikdash (Holy Temple), which is meant to express the complete vision of Am Yisrael and for that reason we are commanded to build it in the holiest place in the world, and consequently, the Torah elaborates on the mitzvah of building the Mishkan and its vessels.

The Holy of Holies

The Mikdash was divided into two parts: the inner third was the Kodesh HaKodashim (Holy of Holies), and the remaining two-thirds was the Kodesh (Inner Sanctuary). The Kodesh HaKodashim was designated for the revelation of the brit (covenant) between God and Israel, and therefore, in its center was the Aron (Ark) containing the Tablets of the Covenant. This brit between God and His Chosen Nation Israel, is fulfilled by means of the Torah, and therefore the Torah was also placed in the Kodesh HaKodashim – in the opinion of Rabbi Meir, in the Aron itself, and in the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah, on its side (Bava Batra 14a).

Above the Aron was the Golden Kaporet with two Keruvim on it, which were made in the like of male and female lovers, meant to express that the connection between God and Israel is a bond of love and life – “As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5).

From this we learn that in addition to the sanctity of the Torah, the sanctity of marriage is also rooted in the Kodesh HaKodashim – that the love and joy between husband and wife, by means of whom life flows to the world, in a small-scale reveals the idea of ​​the belief in Unity in this world, as hinted in Rabbi Akiva’s words: “For all the Ketuvim (Writings) are holy, but Shir HaShirim (The Song of Songs) is Kodesh Kodeshim” (Holy of Holies) (Mishnah Yadayim 3: 5).

We find, therefore, that the two basic values ​​revealed in the Kodesh HaKodeshim are the sanctity of emunah (faith), and the sanctity of Israel, and they receive expression by means of the Torah and marriage. Indeed, we find that our Sages compared the mitzvah of Torah study to the mitzvah of marriage, in their statement that it is forbidden to sell a Torah scroll except for the fulfillment of two mitzvot – in order to learn Torah, and to marry (Megillah 27a).

Between Kodesh and Kodesh HaKodeshim

There were three vessels in the Kodesh (Inner Sanctuary): the Shulchan (Golden Table), the Menorah (lamp), and the Mizbe’ach HaKetoret (The Altar of Incense). The Shulchan represented all types of work and matters of livelihood; the Menorah represented all types of secular wisdom in the world; and the Mizbe’ach HaKetoret, on which the incense was burned every morning and evening, represented worship of the heart in prayer, as it is written: “May my prayer be set before you like incense” (Psalms 141:2).

A curtain was placed between the Kodesh and the Kodesh HaKodeshim, in order to differentiate between the levels of holiness, for of the holiness of the Kodesh is derived from the Kodesh HaKodeshim. In other words, the sanctity of work, science, and prayer stems from the sanctity of the brit between God and Israel. Without the partition, the world would not be able to absorb the sublime light of the Kodesh HaKodeshim, and it would vanish and ascend to the heavenly heights without being able to shower light and blessing to the Kodesh, and thus to the entire world. In other words, when the difference between the levels is blurred, between the value of the brit between God and Israel and the ways in which it is realized, the brit cannot exist. Therefore, on the one hand, the brit must be the most important, but on the other hand, it must be revealed in the ways of human beings. And this is the way the general teaching of the Torah “in all your ways, know Him”, is fulfilled.

The Shulchan

The table on which the Lechem HaPanim (Showbread) was sacrificed expresses the value of work and earning a livelihood, for by means of working, man participates with God in the existence and development of the world. Therefore, even in the Garden of Eden, Adam HaRishon was commanded “to work it, and watch it” (Genesis 2:15). All the more so after he sinned, was punished, and expelled from the Garden of Eden, must he work hard to repair the world that was damaged by his sin. In any case, the role of the Shulchan is to express the sacred value of all types of labor in which man works so as to settle the world and add to it, blessing and goodness. There is a special virtue in working in the Land of Israel, for in a way, it is similar to the work of the Garden of Eden, since in the Land, one fulfills the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (settling the Land of Israel) (see, Chatam Sofer, Succah 36b).

The Menorah

The Golden Menorah expressed the value of all the secular wisdoms and arts of the world, and it had seven branches relating to all the different types of wisdoms, all of which are essentially Divine wisdoms. Proof of this is the fact that our Sages enacted that a person who sees a wise, non-Jewish scholar blesses: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has given from His wisdom to flesh and blood.” Hence, the secular wisdoms also come from His wisdom, but in contrast to the wisdom of the Torah, they are marginal. However, when the secular wisdoms are studied for the sake of Heaven, out of attachment to the Kodesh HaKodeshim, they consequently absorb from its holiness, and are elevated. Therefore, upon seeing a God-fearing Jew who is known to be a great scholar in science, the same blessing said over Sages of the Torah is recited: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has given from His wisdom to those who fear Him” (Peninei Halakha: Berachot 15:18).

The Golden Inner Altar

The Mizbe’ach HaPe’nimi (The Golden Inner Altar) on which the ketoret (incense) was burned, expressed worship of the heart in prayer. The ketoret was made from eleven incenses, relating to the ten levels of sanctity upon which the world was created. There was another important incense in the ketoret: galbanum, which had a bad smell, relating to the wicked of Israel, who, as long as they still remain connected to the Clal (general public), are bound together in kedusha (holiness), and their bad smell even becomes pleasant.

Just as the ketoret expresses the unity of Israel, so too the essence of prayer is for Clal Yisrael, and as our Sages instituted the wording for prayer. Out of prayer for Clal Yisrael, each individual Jew can draw a special prayer for himself, that he be privileged to be partner in the great vision of Clal Yisrael and Tikkun Olam (repairing of the world).

The Great Outer Altar

On the face of it, all the Godly values ​​already received expression in the Mikdash. Why then, was there a need for the great and awe-inspiring Misbe’ach in the Temple courtyard, where fire burned day and night?

Because misirut nefesh (sacrifice and devotion) must receive expression. All the lofty and good values ​​cannot exist in the world without misirut nefesh. One cannot merit attaining Torah without being willing to sacrifice leisure time in order to study it diligently. It is impossible to maintain the covenant of marriage without the willingness of husband and wife to devote themselves to one another, and be willing to compromise and sacrifice. It is impossible to succeed at work without dedication and a willingness to make an effort, and occasionally put in additional hours. Likewise, a scientist would never be able to discover the secrets of nature without devoting himself to his research.

Above and beyond all this, Am Yisrael, whose roots are in the Kodesh HaKodashim, cannot exist without the holy soldiers willing to sacrifice themselves for the sanctity of the Nation and the Land. And to every place where the soldiers of Israel stand on guard to protect their Nation and Land, spreads forth the sanctity of the Mizbe’ach, whose roots are in founded the brit between God and His Nation in the Kodesh HaKodeshim.

When we are worthy, the mesirut is expressed in the offering of korbanot (sacrifices), giving ma’aser kesafim (money tithe), willingness to sacrifice and help family and friends, and studying Torah in difficult circumstances. Occasionally, however, difficult times arrive, when, if a person wishes to remain connected to eternal values, he must be prepared to sacrifice life itself. Without the Mizbe’ach, the Beit HaMikdash cannot exist, as well as all the sacred values ​​in the world.

Another central foundation was revealed in the Kodesh HaKodeshim and the Mizbe’achteshuva (repentance)! The shga’gote (unintentional transgressions) are atoned for by the Mizbe’ach, and the zedonote (intentional transgressions) through a connection of misirut nefesh to the Kodesh HaKodashim.

Answers to the Three Questions

The answer to the first question comes from the Kodesh HaKodashim, for indeed, the place of Israeli nationalism is founded in the Kodesh HaKodashim, in the brit between God and Israel. This is the foundation of emunah – that God chose the Nation of Israel in order to reveal Himself in His world. And even when Israel sins, by means of them, emunah is revealed, as we have learned in the Torah, that even because of the sins and punishments of Israel, portions were written in the Torah. And thus, the entire history of the Jewish people is in essence the revelation of emunah and Torah.

The answer to the second question comes from the Shulchan, namely, that work possesses sacred, self-value by means of which one reveals the image of God within him, and participates with the Creator in perfecting and repairing the world. Moreover, it is forbidden for someone who is able to work, to earn a living from tzedakka (charity). Undeniably, a career in teaching and education is also important and sacred work, and whose livelihood comes from the public, as the Torah commanded the procuring of terumot and maasrot (tithes) for the Kohanim and the Levites.

The answer to the third question comes from the Menorah, that there is sacred self-value to the study of secular wisdom, as explained in the words of our Sages (Shabbat 75a). The Gaon of Vilna added that to the extent an individual lacks knowledge in secular wisdom, conversely, he lacks one hundred-fold in Torah wisdom, for secular wisdom is a vital adjunct to the Torah (see, Peninei Halakha: Likutim Aleph: 1; 14-6). Additionally, the location of the Menorah is in the Kodesh, adjacent to the Kodesh HaKodeshim.

Differences of Opinion about the Degree of Restricting

However, since it is difficult to fulfill the entire vision, sometimes it is necessary to narrow the areas of activity, in the sense of “et la’asot la-Hashem, heferu Toratekha” (“it is a time to act for God, they have made void your Torah”). This is the basis of the Haredi method, which restricts its involvement to the more necessary and secure fields, to the point where amongst many, the vision is almost totally forgotten. The Torani (National-Religious) public is also required to utilize the method of restriction in its education, and it ought to learn from the experience of various circles in the Haredi community. However, unlike the Haredi public, in principle, it places before its eyes the Torah’s great vision, and aspires to realize it.

This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew.

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