The Repetition of a Commandment

As is his practice in many Halachos in the Mishneh Torah, the Rambam begins Hilchos Beis HaBechirah, “The Laws of [G‑d’s] Chosen House,” by stating the fundamental mitzvah upon which the entire collection of laws which follow is based:

It is a positive commandment to construct a house for G‑d, prepared to have sacrifices offered within.... as it is written,1 “And you shall make Me a Sanctuary.”

Significantly, the Rambam also mentions the mitzvah of con­structing the Beis HaMikdash elsewhere in the Mishneh Torah, in Hilchos Melachim, “The Laws of Kings.” There, however, he focuses on the mitzvah in a different context, stating:2

The Jews were commanded regarding the observance of three mitzvos when they entered Eretz Yisrael: to appoint a king over them.... to wipe out the descendants of Amalek.... and to build [G‑d’s] Chosen House; as it is written,3 “You shall seek out His presence and come to that place.”

The commentaries question: What is the Rambam’s purpose in repeating the commandment to build a Sanctuary in Hilchos Melachim and why in that source does he link together the three mitzvos he mentions?4

The Bond Between These Three Mitzvos

In regard to the latter question, it can be explained that there is an intrinsic con­nection between these three mitzvos.5 Although they are three separate commandments, the fulfill­ment of one contributes a measure of perfection to the others. To cite a parallel: The arm tefillin and the head tefillin are two separate mitzvos.6 Neverthe­less, when both of these mitzvos are performed together, each one is elevated to a higher level.

Similarly, in regard to the three mitzvos mentioned by the Rambam: The intent is not merely that the mitzvos are to be fulfilled in the chronological order mentioned by the Rambam.7 Instead, the linkage of three mitzvos teaches that the mitzvah of building the Sanctuary can be fulfilled in the most perfect man­ner, only when first, a king is appointed and then Amalek is destroyed. Similarly, the fulfillment of the mitzvos of destroying Amalek and building a Sanctuary enhance the mitzvah of ap­pointing a king, and the fulfillment of the mitzvah of wiping out Amalek is enhanced by the mitzvos of appointing a king and building the Beis HaMikdash.

This concept is supported by the verses8 cited by the Ram­bam in the halachah which follows in Hilchos Melachim:9 “And it came to pass, when the king dwelt in his house, and G‑d brought him peace from all the enemies which surrounded him, the king said to the prophet, Natan, ‘Behold, I am sitting in a palace of cedar, [while the Ark of G‑d dwells in curtains].’ ”

These verses indicate how the secure establishment of the monarchy, [“the king dwelt in his house”,] the destruction of Amalek, [“And G‑d brought him peace from all the enemies which surrounded him,”10] and the building of the Beis HaMik­dash [David’s request from the prophet Natan] are interrelated.11

Based on the above, we can appreciate a further point: The Rambam’s statements in Hilchos Melachim are based on the Mid­rash Tanchuma. Nevertheless, he alters the text of that Mid­rashic passage, choosing a different prooftext. In the Midrash Tanchuma, the prooftext cited for the commandment to build the Beis HaMikdash is the verse: “And you shall make Me a Sanctuary.”12 The Rambam, by contrast, substitutes the verse: “You shall seek out His presence...,” because the context of this verse in the Book of Devarim describes the Jews’ entry into Eretz Yisrael and their progress to a state when “G‑d will grant you peace from all your enemies around you and you will dwell in security.”13

Fulfilling a Mitzvah in Stages

The above concepts also shed light on another related point which has aroused the attention of the commentaries: As men­tioned above, the Ram­bam uses the verse, “And you shall make Me a Sanctuary,” as the prooftext for the mitzvah to build the Beis HaMikdash. This is problematic, for seemingly, this com­mand refers to the con­struction of the Sanctuary in the desert and not to the construc­tion of the Beis HaMikdash. The passage cited by the Rambam in Hilchos Melachim, by contrast, refers specifically to the con­struction of the Beis HaMikdash, and indeed, is cited as the source for the commandment to build the Beis HaMikdash by our Sages14 and by our Rabbis.15

It is possible to explain16 that the commandment, “And you shall make Me a Sanctuary,” is general in scope, applying to all the structures which were “a house for G‑d” [i.e., a place where G‑d’s presence was revealed] and “prepared to have sacrifices offered within” [a place for the service of the Jewish people].17 Throughout their history, the Jews fulfilled this commandment in several different ways, beginning with the construction of the Sanctuary in the desert.

In this context, we can resolve a problematic point in Hilchos Beis HaBechirah. Directly after stating the mitzvah to build a Sanctuary, the Rambam continues:

The Sanctuary which Moshe our teacher built is already described in the Torah. It was, however, only temporary in nature....

When [the Jewish people] entered Eretz [Yisrael], they erected the Sanctuary in Gilgal for the fourteen years in which they conquered and divided [the land]. After­wards, they came to Shiloh and built a structure of stone....

When Eli died, it was destroyed and they came to Nov and built a Sanctuary.18 When Shmuel died, it was de­stroyed and they came to Givon and built a Sanctuary. From Givon, they came to the [Divine Presence’s] eternal home.

The place of such statements in the Mishneh Torah is prob­lematic. Unlike the Talmud or the Midrashim which are general in content, the Mishneh Torah is exclusively a text of Halachah, Torah law. Points of ethics, philosophy, and history are men­tioned only when they are themselves halachos, specific direc­tives governing our conduct. Thus the question can be raised: What halachic points can be derived from the historical back­ground to the construction of the Beis HaMikdash?19

On the basis of the explanation given above, we can, how­ever, appreciate the sequence of these halachos: After the Ram­bam uses a prooftext which implies that the mitzvah of building a Sanctuary is not confined to one specific structure, he illus­trates this point by citing the various different intermediate stages through which our people’s observance of this mitzvah underwent.

Intermediate Way-Stations On the Path to Jerusalem

To return to the concept explained at the outset: The link­age of the mitzvah of con­structing a Sanctuary with the mitzvos of appointing a king and wiping out Amalek is also rele­vant with regard to the other structures mentioned by the Ram­bam.20 Our Rabbis state that “Moshe Rabbeinu served as a king,”21 and the construction of the Sanctuary followed the war in which Yehoshua defeated Amalek.22

The title “king” was also applied to Yehoshua23 who con­structed the Sanctuary at Shiloh, and to Shmuel,24 who con­structed the Sanctuary at Nov. We are unsure of the exact time of the construction of the Sanctuary at Givon. We may, how­ever, assume that one of the following — Shaul, David, or Shmuel, all of whom either served, or were described, as kings — was involved in its construction. Similarly, at the time these structures were built, the people had reached progressively more developed stages of being “at peace from the enemies around them.” Nevertheless, just as the monarchy and Israel’s peace had not been established in a complete manner at the time of these structures, these structures did not represent a complete manifestation of the indwelling of the Divine Presence, nor did they fulfill the ideal conception of a center for the sacrificial worship of the Jewish people.

It was not until “the king dwelt in his house, and G‑d brought him peace from all the enemies which surrounded him,” i.e., David had securely established the monarchy and brought peace to the land, that it was possible to build the Beis HaMikdash.

The Ultimate Beis HaMikdash

Based on the above, we can appreciate one of the positive dimensions that will be pos­sessed by the Third Beis HaMikdash. That structure will be built by Mashiach,25 the ultimate Jewish monarch, and will be con­structed after he “wages the wars of G‑d, defeating all the nations around him.”26 Among these wars will be the total an­nihilation of Amalek.27 Thus, since in the Era of the Redemp­tion, the other two mitzvos, the appointment of a king and the destruction of Amalek, will have been fulfilled in a perfect mat­ter, this will contribute an added dimension of per­fection to the mitzvah of constructing the Beis HaMikdash.

We can hasten the coming of this era through our divine service. To explain: In chassidic thought,28 the appointment of a king is associated with developing inner bittul, nullifying oneself to G‑d. This in turn allows a person to “drive out” Amalek from his being, to free himself from pride, egotism, and other unde­sirable character traits. Such personal refinement allows him to proceed further and transform his person, his home, and his surroundings into a “sanctuary in microcosm,” in which the Divine Presence can rest.29

This will serve as a catalyst for change in the world at large. For each particular manifestation of the Divine Presence within the world hastens the coming of the time when the Divine Pres­ence will again be revealed, and not merely in microcosm. At that time, “the world will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the ocean bed.”30 May this take place in the immediate future.

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VI, Terumah