Legos have been a part of American life for more than 80 years. Memories of the small plastic bricks can range from the joy of the family creating a masterpiece with hundreds of them to the uniquely horrible feeling of stepping on just one. As Lego aficionados point out, with even a simple idea in mind, a person can create almost anything, which has led Lego fans from around the world to meet once a year to learn from each other and discover new aspects of their hobby.

This was amply demonstrated recently in Chicago, when the more than 10,000 attendees at the annual “Brickworld” convention had the opportunity to view the first scale-model replica of the Third Temple built entirely out of Legos, and learn about the Temple from the model’s creators and from Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis on hand for the event.

The new model was unveiled at a particularly appropriate time of the year, say its creators. For the past 1,948 years, the Jewish people have been mourning the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and hoping for its rebuilding. There is no time of the year that this is felt more deeply than the “Three Weeks” and “Nine Days” that fall before the solemn fast day of Tisha B’Av, which is observed this year from sunset on Saturday, July 21 through nightfall on Sunday, July 22.

“As we approach 2,000 years in exile, we must realize by now that whatever the causes of the destruction were, they are still plaguing us,” said Rabbi Kalman Worch, one of the creators. “But the world can’t be fixed in one day. Just like a Lego construction, we have to focus on where I will place the next brick of good deeds, Torah study, prayer and charity.”

Scale Model Considers Minute Details

The idea for the creation came when both Worch and Rabbi Ruven Benshmuel were studying the Third Temple. The Lego building is made up of more than 12,000 Lego bricks. It had to be properly calculated where each piece would best fit. For instance, the Legos’ pattern around the Temple are color-coordinated to be matching. The Lego representation is almost 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide. This impressive scale was noticed by attendees, many of whom had little or no exposure to the concept of the Third Temple.

Worch and Benshmuel put years of research into the details of the structure. Sorting through the many different sources and commentaries, while also debating the minor details. There were, as is always, the case of a variety of opinions. One of the biggest issues was in the making of the mizbeach, or altar, and working out the correct calculations for the different positions of the three fire pits on the altar. There are three pyres and a large ash pile on the mizbeach. The location and size of only some of them are known. It was a real puzzle to figure out how the relative sizes and placements would fit together. Calculations were made on the size of the ash pile, based on how many offerings would be brought on a busy day and how big an ash pile that would create.

Every element was researched (and then constructed) in painstaking detail.
Every element was researched (and then constructed) in painstaking detail.

Rabbi Lazer Hershkovitch, community-outreach director for the nearby Lubavitch Chabad of Niles-F.R.E.E., used the opportunity to help teach attendees about the Temple and its rebuilding, and made sure that there was no shortage of tefillin-wrapping and giving of Shabbat candles at the event. “Jews and non-Jews alike were impressed with this amazing creation,” said Hershkovitich about the Temple model. “One woman came up to me and told me she was so delighted to see a Jewish presence in a place that you would not expect one,” said the rabbi. He gave her a set of candles that she agreed to light on the upcoming Shabbat.

“Our sages tell us that the Bais Hamikdash was destroyed because of sinat chinam [baseless hatred],” said Worch, “and that has to be the first place where we start to fix it with acts of kindness, expressions of unity and other signs of our commitment to loving our fellow Jews. Just the example of how this project brought so many different people together from so many different areas of the community is an inspiration as to how well all of us can be working together to bring us to final redemption.”