We’ve got “first world problems.”

No, I don’t mean the trivial whining and moaning of the rich. “My closets are so stuffed, I can’t find my favorite outfit.” Or “My iPhone is dying and I don’t have my charger.”

The problem is that we live in this world and must learn to adapt to it. Only through playing by its rules can we be successful. The struggle to provide for our material needs can be so all-consuming that it leaves little time for reflection. But there’s a part of us that always feels at odds with this world. We have questions the world can’t answer, and crave satisfaction on a level this world can’t provide.

The problem is that we live in the material world, but sense that we are not from here. We have questions the world can’t answerWe come from a different world entirely, a spiritual world. We don’t fit in here. We exist for something more than mere survival or accumulating possessions. What’s the point of it all? What are we doing here?

This is the “first world problem,” the core, basic problem of existence that Chassidut is designed to address.

For some, the answer is that we are here to get back to heaven. But from the point of view of Chassidut, as explained in Tanya, that makes no sense. We already were in heaven. Why did we ever need to leave?

We could say that we are here to make earth more like heaven. But again that makes no sense, because heaven already exists. Why do we need another one?

So, the Tanya concludes,1 our task here is not to find a way back to heaven, or even to make earth more like heaven. Our task is to accomplish something entirely novel—to merge the two worlds into a place that has all the advantages of both heaven and earth.

Our struggle, then, is not to adapt to this world but to transform it, to somehow close the gap between this world and the first world, the world of our origin.

How do we accomplish this?

Picture a physical structure of stone, yet a dwelling for the divine. A finite building with precise measurements that serves as a receptacle for the Infinite. Not quite heaven, not quite earth, but a place that combines and transcends both. It is the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, which serves as the model for this process.

Having trouble visualizing this? That’s because we haven’t quite gotten there yet. The First and Second Holy Temples were important steps in the process, but they didn’t fully represent the merger of heaven and earth. The Third Holy Temple, may it speedily be rebuilt, is the end-point, the culmination of a very long, very ambitious project we have been commissioned for since the beginning of time.

The First and Second Temples were mighty, awe-inspiring accomplishments, and their destruction was a devastating loss that we mourn to this day. But they each were lacking something in comparison to the ultimate goal, the Third Holy Temple.

The First Temple was built by King Solomon. During his reign, the Jewish people were in the most perfect state they have ever been in. Solomon was fabulously wealthy, with international renown. Kings of all nations came streaming to him, and he effortlessly elevated all of them. He raised the world to a higher standard.

Does all of this sound dreamlike? Too good to be true? The wealth during the time of King Solomon represented a spiritual profusion that was granted from above. Does all of this sound dreamlike?It did not come through the efforts of the people, and so it was eventually interrupted. The First Temple had the “first world” element in abundance, but what was relatively lacking was the worldly element. Its power flowed from above, not from below.

The Second Temple, in contrast, was not quite as heavenly as the first. It was built 70 years after the destruction of the First Temple, after a period of exile and debasement. The Jewish people were not quite as perfect as before. But they were contrite. They were humbled. They fully invested themselves into the rebuilding of the Temple. Because it involved their own effort, the Second Temple lasted longer than the first. Still, it was a manmade structure that was destined to fall, as all worldly things eventually do.

The Third Temple will have neither of these limitations. It represents the ultimate fusion of the two worlds. It will be built by G‑d but powered by our work over the centuries of exile, our performance of mitzvahs under the most difficult conditions. All this time we have faced both physical and spiritual challenges, from the brutal to the subtle. Yet we have persevered and triumphed, thus creating a synthesis between the physical and spiritual. Each time we use an object for a sacred purpose, or even carry out our mundane daily living tasks with an awareness of G‑d, we make that merger happen. Except that we don’t see it. It happens largely outside of our consciousness. It’s hard to get excited about an achievement we can’t see.

That’s why we have help.

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev said that on Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbat before the 9th of Av, G‑d shows us a vision of the Third Temple. Although we may not be consciously aware of this vision, it gives us the spiritual strength we need to continue the work of synthesizing the physical and spiritual, until the work will finally be completed. The eyes of our soul know what we need to accomplish, and armed with this knowledge, we can overcome all obstacles.

“They shall build Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell in their midst.”2 On this verse, the sages comment, “It does not say ‘I will dwell in it,’ but ‘in them’—within each and every one of them.”3 Building a Temple for G‑d starts within our own soul. Each of us has an obligation to build a miniature Holy Temple in our soul and in our home.

In order to accomplish this, we have to forget any rules we may have learned that dictate success in the “real world.” There is only one rulebook that matters, and that is the Torah. The Torah itself is the perfect blend of both worlds—the most profound spiritual concepts garbed in real-world stories and examples. It provides us with the step-by-step instructions we need to carry out the process of fusing the spiritual and physical to make a home for G‑d.

At the same time, we need to realize that the physical world really is the focus of G‑d’s desires. The physical world is not evil, and the body is not our enemy. Our goal is to make peace between heaven and earth, and we can do that only by nurturing both our body and our soul. Torah is not about distancing ourselves from the physical, but about learning how to use the physical to enhance the spiritual.

It is no coincidence that we read Parshat Devarim, the first portion in the book of Deuteronomy, on the Shabbat before the 9th of Av (or on the 9th of Av itself, as the calendar falls this year). The first four books of the Torah were said by G‑d Himself. But the fifth book, Deuteronomy, was said by Moses in his own words. Moses, a human being, took the divine intellect and processed it through his own mind so that it became part of him. This is what we accomplish every time we study Torah or do a mitzvah—we bring the divine into ourselves and cause it to spill over into the world as well.Our goal is to make peace between heaven and earth

The Third Holy Temple represents the ultimate fusion between body and soul, heaven and earth, a harmony that recognizes each element of creation as a reflection of G‑d’s infinite creative power. In the era of redemption, we will finally find peace and harmony on a personal, communal and global level.

The good news is that this process is almost at its end. We can feel it, we can taste it, and on Shabbat Chazon we can see it too.

(Based on an address of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Likkutei Sichot, vol. 9, pp. 24–32.)