The Haftorah of the weekly reading of Vaes’chanan begins with the words, “Comfort, comfort My people, says your G‑d.”1 The Midrash2 explains that the word “comfort” appears twice because of the twofold nature of the consolation: once for the destruction of the First Holy Temple and once for the destruction of the Second Holy Temple.

G‑d’s consolation for the destruction of the Temples lies in His promise that a Third Holy Temple will be built after the coming of Mashiach. This Temple will contain all of the five vital elements (such as the Ark) that existed in the First Temple and were lacking in the Second.3

It therefore follows that in providing consolation for the First Temple, consolation for the Second Temple is automatically included. This being so, it would seem that one consolation would suffice for the destruction of both Temples. Why is there a need for a twofold consolation?

Although, in a general sense, the Second Temple was spiritually inferior to the First, nevertheless in certain respects it was superior.

The sanctity of both Temples was such that the physical materials from which they were built became refined and holy. It was for this reason that even after the actual sanctuaries were destroyed, the Temple area retains its sanctity.4

Although both Temples shared this quality, there was, however, a difference in the manner in which they achieved their refinement and sanctity, just as there are two general ways through which created beings may be refined.

One manner of refinement is that which results from an illumination from Above. This is similar to a master whose method of instruction is so profound that ultimately his disciple will be able to attain wisdom on his own — yet only because of what was previously taught to him by his master.

Another manner of refinement results from all creation having G‑dliness at its very core. Since this is so, creation eventually achieves such a degree of spiritual refinement that “all flesh will see that G‑d’s mouth has spoken”5 — physicality perceives G‑dliness not merely as a result of G‑d’s revealing Himself, but because the very world itself in its entirety is essentially united with Him.6

The latter means of refinement is similar to the spiritual service of a penitent. As a rule this does not result from a revelation from Above, but is rather a manifestation of the penitent’s own essence. In contrast, the former means of refinement is similar to the ongoing performance of mitzvos by righteous individuals.

The difference between the First and Second Temples and the superior aspect of the Second Temple may be understood accordingly.

During the time of the First Temple, the service of the Jewish people was at the level of the “righteous.” Consequently, the world’s potential for holiness by dint of its own intrinsic being and Divine service was yet to be revealed.

During the time of the Second Temple, however, Jews were at the level of penitents, for it was through their repentance for the sins that destroyed the First Temple that the Second Temple came into being. Since, as we have seen, the Divine service of penitents is of such intensity that physicality comes to perceive G‑dliness, the Second Temple possessed a superior quality — the quality of physicality transforming itself into holiness, and becoming a Temple for G‑d.

Thus, the Third Temple will contain not only those things found in the First Temple and lacking in the Second, but also those qualities found specifically in the Second Temple and lacking in the First. The verse therefore offers a twofold consolation, for the unique qualities found in each of the two Holy Temples.7

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IX, pp. 61-67.