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Why Haven’t Jews Rebuilt the Temple Yet?

Why Haven’t Jews Rebuilt the Temple Yet?

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For thousands of years, Jews have yearned and prayed for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, Now, finally, Israel is in Jewish hands again. Why don’t I see the rabbinic leaders in Israel spearheading a building campaign?

Before We Begin

As anyone who has been to Israel knows, the country is nothing short of a modern-day miracle. At the same time, there are very real political and security issues—issues that get even more heated when there is any discussion about the Temple Mount, let alone actually building anything there. That being the case, this entire conversation is purely theoretical, with no relation to the current sociopolitical state of affairs.

Additionally, there is much rabbinic debate surrounding the building of the Third Temple. To keep things short and simple, we’ll just touch on some of the issues that may be involved.

Who Must Build?

When discussing the question of rebuilding the Temple, it is important to keep in mind that, in general, this mitzvah is not an individual obligation, like the mitzvot of tefillin or Shabbat. Rather, it is a communal obligation.1

The obligation to rebuild the Temple may apply only when the majority of the Jewish nation resides in Israel, which currently is not the case.2 In addition, it may apply only when there is a Jewish king or prophet.3

How to Build?

Even if we’re not obligated, should we build the Temple anyway, restoring G‑d’s home one earth?

Truthfully, we don’t even know how to construct it. The dimensions of the Third Temple are somewhat described in the book of Ezekiel, but the interpretation of many verses is subject to debate. In fact, when it came time to build the Second Temple, the Jews built it according to the dimensions of the First Temple, and included only certain aspects that are explicitly stated in Ezekiel.4 It is only the third and final Temple that will be built entirely according to the prophecy of Ezekiel.5

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of all is the placement of the altar, which must be in a very specific location, as the verse states, “This is the altar for the burnt offerings of Israel.”6 According to tradition, the altar is to be placed on the exact spot from which the earth to create Adam was taken and where he later offered sacrifices to G‑d, and where Abraham built the altar to sacrifice Isaac.7 The altar’s location is so essential that when they built the Second Temple, they needed three prophets to vouch for the location they had planned.8 Accordingly, we’d need at least one prophet to help us in our construction project,9 and prophets seem to be in short supply nowadays.

Who Can Go There?

Assuming that somehow we did get the exact dimensions figured out, there is still one big issue: It is forbidden to enter the Temple area in a state of ritual impurity.10 The only way to become ritually pure is with the ashes of a red heifer, which presents its own set of challenges.11

HR Woes

The Temple was (and will be) staffed by kohanim, descendants of Aaron through a direct line of males. In order for a kohen to actually work in the Holy Temple, his genealogy would need to be verified with certainty, a test very few of today’s kohanim would pass.12

Additionally, they would need to wear the priestly garments, made of materials such as threads dyed with the special techeilet (blue) dye, and a selection of precious stones for the high priest’s breastplate—but the specifics of both are a matter of great debate.

So How Is It Going to Happen?

As for how the Temple will ultimately get rebuilt, it is a matter of dispute between the classic commentators.

Maimonides teaches that the Temple will be built by Messiah himself, and in fact its construction will be one of the signs that he is indeed the Messiah.13 One of the Messiah’s first orders of business will be to use his spirit of prophecy to discern who is a priest, as well as the tribal affiliation of each Israelite.14 Additionally, we will have the ashes of the red heifer to purify those who are impure.15

Others are of the opinion that in the messianic era, the Temple will descend ready-built from heaven.16

So Is There Nothing We Can Do?

Despite the above complications, without even lifting a trowel, we can actually fulfill the mitzvah of building G‑d’s home. How so?

Our sages tells us that after G‑d revealed the dimensions of the future Temple to the prophet Ezekiel,17 Ezekiel turned to G‑d and asked, “Why should I tell this to the Jewish people, if they are in exile and will not build the Temple now? Let me wait until they are redeemed, and then I will tell them this prophecy.”

G‑d replied: “Just because My children are in exile, should there be no building of My house?! Learning about the description of My house is as great as the building of it. Go and tell the Jewish people to occupy themselves in learning about the Temple, and in that merit I will consider it as if they engaged in building it.”18

Based on this, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, strongly encouraged learning the laws of the Holy Temple, especially during the period known as the “Three Weeks,” during which we mourn the destruction of the Temple. For through this learning, not only do we fulfill the commandment to build the Holy Temple (even during the exile), but we actually weaken the concept of its destruction—and we ultimately merit its rebuilding with the coming of the messianic era, may it be speedily in our days.

A good place to start is with this tour of the Second Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Footnotes
1.
Rambam, Sefer Hamitzvot, end of positive commandments; Chinuch, mitzvah 95.
2.
See Chinuch, end of mitzvah 95. Some counter this by pointing out that when they built the Second Temple, the majority of Jews lived in Babylonia, not Israel. Others explain that they built it at that time at the behest of the prophets. See Responsa She’eilat David, Kuntres Derishat Tzion.
3.
See She’eilat David loc. cit.
7.
Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Beit Habechirah 2:1.
8.
Ibid. 2:4.
9.
See Responsa Chatam Sofer, Orach Chaim 208.
10.
See Magen Avraham, Orach Chaim 561:2. Violating this biblical prohibition is punishable by death.
11.
Although there are times when we say that if the majority of Jews are impure we may still bring offerings in the Temple, this applies only if we have a high priest who is wearing the priestly garments, specifically the tzitz (forehead plate). See Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Bi’at Hamikdash 4:15.
13.
Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Melachim 11:1,4.
14.
Ibid. 12:3.
15.
See Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Parah Adumah 3:4.
16.
See commentaries of Rashi and Tosafot to Talmud, Sukkah 41a, and of Rashi to Rosh Hashanah 30a; see, however, Who Will Build the Third Bais Hamikdash, Man or G‑d? for a number of explanations by the Lubavitcher Rebbe on how to reconcile both opinions.
17.
See Ezekiel chs. 40–48.
18.
Midrash Tanchuma, Tzav 14; Yalkut Shimoni on Ezekiel 43:10–11 (382).
Rabbi Yehuda Shurpin responds to questions for Chabad.org's Ask the Rabbi service.
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Emir Indonesia December 9, 2017

I'm a non denominational Muslim. However I support the building of the 3rd Temple.

Why : Love Thy Neighbour As Thyself

Emir Batara Muda P Reply

Jeanne Florida September 13, 2016

Shimon's comment is very interesting..and makes perfect sense. In addition to this, I have to say that where the Beit Hamikdash is concerned, let us never forget Who is really in charge here, and that when the time comes, He will provide and bring about the circumstances that will make possible this rebuilding. There will be no doubt, and as far as that "building" now occupying the area, He, and only He can take care of that...G-d. "In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your way..." Reply

Shimon Somewhere September 11, 2016

It is easy to figure out where the Temple Mount was and where the sacrifices took place by using new technologies one can tell where the blood was spilled and satellites or drones can show where the original buildings stood... One must start thinking out of the box...There are some that think the Temple Mount is not the place where the dome of the Rock is and was the fort of Antigonia that the Romans built... There is conjecture that the western wall is not part of the old temple but was built for another reason regardless we have the tools and the know how to find and rebuild what is ours...The Gihon springs is another clue as the other temples needed fresh flowing water which you would not find on today's Temple Mount...The interesting thing is that 3 d printers are able to build a home in a few days as the technology gets more advanced there is no reason to believe that the temple could not be built in similar fashion very quickly and precisely... Reply

Jeanne Florida July 27, 2015

Beit Hamikdosh Mr. Stackler is correct. The giving away of the Temple Mount was a major, major, mistake - and who, today, is going to stand up and attempt to bring it back where it belongs? First things first. Many questions, and sadly, few answers. Reply

Jeanne Florida July 26, 2015

The Temple Every morning along with the Sh'ma, I pray that the rebuilding of the Temple be done speedily and in our day, and then go on to learn more and more about the Temple. However, as things stand now in Isra-el, I truly feel that the Temple Mount will have to be cleaned out by Divine means because it has to be obvious that He the One who is doing the cleaning in order that those who claim the Temple Mount as theirs will have no question to Whom this place belongs. How many times do we read....."and they will know that I am HaShem. Reply

Ariel Abel Manchester July 26, 2015

iI can't agree with the basic presumption that all we can do is st and learn about the Bet HaMikdash.
1. There are many mitzvot which we can't know for sure how to implement, but we still do them, to the best of our ability. If we wanted to be sure, absolutely sure, of the parameters of each and every mtizvah, before doing them, we would end up doing very few of them indeed.
2. There is no mention here of the vessels of the temple and the priestly clothes, which have already been made by Mechon HaMikdash and are ready to use.
3. We now know, as Jews did in the early medieval period, where the Bet Hamikdash was not located. Therefore, there is a spearate mitzvah to daven on the Har Habayit, even without a Temple, and thereby fulfill pilgramage. For this, the red heifer ashes are not required, only going to the mikva, like any lady visiting on a monthly basis.
4. The opinion concerning the Beis Hamikdash coming down miraculously from heaven is not halachic. See Maimonides. Reply

Anonymous Israel July 26, 2015

The Torah says that the temple is in our hearts. .So maybe the physical temple is more an outreach, a place where G-d might draw unbelievers? Regardless, the exile could be over if just a million Jews in the US, and/or the Israelis living in the US, would come home to Israel to live. If Jews in the exile prefer the exile to the Redemption, it appears their inner temples are in need of repair. Who really knows who are true Jews? Only G-d knows. If this all means we need to wait for HaShem to send the Moshiach, it is for us to concentrate on building and spreading the temple within. And Redemption could come at any moment. Reply

Adrienne Hyser Nokomis November 30, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

I think there is truth in what you say. I'm so glad you mention it in the post. Could it be that some Jew's are afraid to go to Israel? Their fear might be a sin but still the struggle of fear is real to those who feel it. Sometimes a person will say they are being disobedient, when they are really just afraid to admit they are afraid. I hope that we can all lift one another up, and conquer this fear. Keep building the temple with in you, because it means so much. Reply

Anonymous July 25, 2015

Just do it And I say (as Nike slogan) - - "Just do it".... Reply

Sigmund Ivarsson Nara July 25, 2015

300 yards south of the wailing wall. New terracing and a new mound have to be built first Reply

JP July 25, 2015

First things first... Even if all the complications mentioned above were met you are still missing one big issue. That is, preparing the holy land for the building of the temple. Israel in it's current state is no where near ready for the holiness of the temple. Firstly, the land is still filled with people with their own religions, serving and praying to other gods. Not to mention the Dome of The Rock exactly where the temple should be.

G-d made it clear that before they could settle in the land they had to drive out all the other nations before them. Today Israel is a democracy who accepts any religion inside it's borders. So you see, there is still a long way to go, the Jews, especially those in leadership, should start to see it for what it is, and if they do, start to do something about it.

"Waiting for the messiah" to come and do something about this big mess is an excuse the Jews like to use because honestly, you are either too scared to do something about it, or believe that you can't. Reply

Rod Koozmin Frederick via m.jewishfrederick.org July 24, 2015

I wish they had the Temple. If they did it would be just like the Bible. I heard some are building a Ark but it seems more important to build a Temple. Reply

Anonymous Not in Israel July 23, 2015

Not a Problem... "The obligation to rebuild the Temple may apply only when the majority of the Jewish nation resides in Israel, which currently is not the case."

The way around that restriction is to disown the Jews living not in Israel. Then, if later, if they want to be Jews, they can rejoin. Reply

ron stackler Mallibu, CA July 23, 2015

The first reasons are the most valid ( if stated politically correctly so as not to embarrass Labor Zionists): Moshe Dayan and David Ben Gurion gave away the Temple Mount to the Moslem authorities which own it now when they had the chance to claim it for Israel twice--after the 1948 War. and after the 1967 War/ Reply

Anonymous Anonymous July 23, 2015

Vessels of the Third Temple If you can also discuss about making the vessels for the Bais Hamikdosh before the Bais Hamikdosh is here. Reply

Jonathan las vegas via chabadofsummerlin.com July 23, 2015

Nonsense Maimonides expresses scorn for those individuals who would nullify certain commandments of the Torah and not fulfill them, saying that they will wait for the messiah to arrive first:

"Those people who convince themselves that they will remain [in exile where they cannot perform the commandments] until the king, the messiah arrives, and then they will all go to Jerusalem... they are not only fooling themselves, but they are causing others to sin as well... because there is no fixed set time for the messiah to arrive... but the obligation of our religion and the commandments is not dependant on the arrival of the king, the messiah. Rather, it is our duty to be occupied with the Torah and commandments, doing our best to fulfill them. After we have seen to our obligations, if G-d finds us worthy... to see the messiah, then good. But if not - we have lost nothing, and we have fulfilled our obligation." Reply

Yehuda Shurpin (Author) July 23, 2015

Re: Sacrifices With regards to the question about sacrifices in the future see Are You Really Planning to Bring Back those Animal Sacrifices? Reply

Anonymous I'ont care bout yo opinion calling the jewish nation weak. July 22, 2015

To: Avi in California who said "Inexcusable" Ain't nobody give a bout what you think. We ain't weak and if you saying that that's a shame cause the jewish nation is stronger than you think. Reply

Anonymous July 22, 2015

we're waiting for a clearance sale at Home Depot ! Reply

Anonymous July 22, 2015

We don't return to temple worship and burning animals for the same reason the Egyptians no longer worship golden calves, the Zoriastrians no longer leap though fire and the Greeks no longer pour libations to their pantheon. The present year is 2015 CE (5775), we no longer are primitive pastoral tribes of limited perimeter. but citizens of an evolved world 2 or 3 millennia thence, with realities of a different era.

The Medes, Presians, Egyptians and Hellenes (among others) have figured this out and have evolved into modern religions. Perhaps we could turn our attentions to saving this beautiful garden that G_d has entrusted to us, and to protecting the widow and orphan and stranger, of which there are so many in our midst. G_d dwells not in a temple nor earthly structure, but in the heart of man. That's where His preferred temple is found.

Respectfully, Reply

Arthur Yanoff July 22, 2015

rebuilding the Temple before my mother, of blessed memory, passed away she said, "We will know all the answers when Moshiach comes." Reply

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