In the 25th year of the Babylonian exile, G‑d showed a vision of the future Temple to the prophet Ezekiel.1 Yet the Second Temple was built only partially based on the description in the book of Ezekiel, as this prophetic description was reserved for the Third and final Temple.2

The Midrash tells us that when G‑d commanded Ezekiel to describe the dimensions of the Temple to the Jewish people, Ezekiel asked, “Master of the Universe, why are You telling me to go and tell Israel the form of the House; they are now in exile in the land of our enemies—is there anything they can do about it? Let them be, until they return from the exile. Then I will go and inform them.”

G‑d answered: “Should the construction of My House be ignored because My children are in exile? The study of the design of the Holy Temple as detailed in the Torah can be equated to its actual construction. Go tell them to study the form of the Holy Temple. As a reward for their study and their occupation with it, I will consider it as if they actually built the Holy Temple."3

Based on the above Midrash, the Lubavitcher Rebbe strongly promoted learning about the building of the Temple, especially during the time of year in which we mourn its destruction.4

Thus, we present an outline of some distinct characteristics of the Third Temple. (Note, however, that Maimonides writes that the design of the Messianic Temple, though mentioned in the Book of Ezekiel, “is not explicit or explained.”5)

It Will Be Big

The Third Temple will be many times larger than the previous two Temples. For example, the area set aside for the Second Temple complex, or what is known as the Temple Mount, was 500 by 500 cubits (each cubit being approximately 18.9 inches). In the Third Temple, it will be 3,000 by 3,000 cubits—i.e., it will be 36 times larger, or 9,000,000 square cubits (approx. 22,325,625 square feet or 512.5 acres)!6

It Will Be Square

The basic division of the Temple into different sections, such as the Kodesh (Holy) and the Kodesh HaKodashim (Holy of Holies), will be the same as in the previous Temples. However, the section called the ezrat nashim in the Second Temple (and “outer courtyard” in Ezekiel’s prophecy) will have a very different layout in the Third Temple. Whereas in the Second Temple this section was a 135-square-cubit area in front of the azarah (the latter is equivalent to the “inner courtyard” in Ezekiel’s prophecy), in the Third Temple this area will be 312 by 317 cubits, and completely surround, almost like a square, the azarah.7

Iron Is In

Iron was not used in the building of the first two Temples, as the verse states: “The House, when it was in building, was built of stone finished at the quarry, and there was neither hammer nor axe (nor) any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building.”8 Why? Because iron is used in the fashioning of weapons used to shorten life, and the purpose of the Temple was to “make peace” between man and G‑d, thereby lengthening one’s life. Thus, it is improper to build a life-sustaining structure with a material that is its very antithesis.

However, the Lubavitcher Rebbe explains at length that in the messianic era, when “swords will be beaten into plowshares” and iron will be used only for the positive, this prohibition of using metal in the structure of the Temple will no longer apply.

The use of iron in the Third Temple will not just be a symptom of the peace that will reign, but it is symbolic of the messianic era in general.9

The Hebrew word for iron is ברזל, which the Arizal explains is an acronym for the four wives of Jacob, from whom the Jewish nation is descended: בלהה רחל זלפה לאה.10 This corresponds to the mystics’ explanation that in the era of redemption, women will be on a higher level than men.

We’ll Go There Often

The verse at the end of Isaiah states, “‘It shall be from new moon to new moon and from Sabbath to Sabbath that all flesh shall come to prostrate themselves before Me,’ says the L‑rd.”11 The Midrash explains that although during the eras of the first two Temples the Jews made a pilgrimage to the Temple only three times a year, in the messianic era we will do so every first of the new month. The Midrash goes on to explain that this was impossible to do during the first two Temples, but that in the era of the Third Temple we will have “clouds” that will transport us to Jerusalem and the Temple, enabling us to visit the Holy Temple on a much more frequent basis.12

May the merit of learning about the building of the Temple stand us in good stead, and may we merit the rebuilding of the Third Holy Temple speedily in our days!