Every year, on Tishah BeAv, the anniversary of the destruction of our Holy Temple in Jerusalem, Reb Avraham, the son of the Maggid of Mezritch, would sit for the entire day bent over, with his head between his hands, mourning for our people’s exile. Every so often, he would raise his head and ask those around him: “Has he come? Is he here yet?” He was awaiting the arrival of Mashiach, for he was convinced that Tishah BeAv could not pass without his coming.

We may not have the depth of spiritual feeling possessed by Reb Avraham, but both of these feelings, sadness over the Temple’s destruction and the anxious expectation of Mashiach’s coming, are relevant to each of us.

The Three Weeks

There are three weeks between the fast of the 17th of Tammuz, which recalls the destruction of the walls of Jerusalem and the capture of the city, and Tishah BeAv, which commemorates the destruction of the Temple. These three weeks are times of mourning; we don’t conduct weddings or cut our hair. For our Sages tell us that whoever does not witness the construction of the Temple should feel as if it was destroyed in his lifetime. Therefore, during these three weeks, we take stock of the faults that led to the destruction of the Temple, and try to eradicate them from our own conduct.

But these aren’t merely somber times. Quite the contrary, although we commemorate the destruction of the Temple, that concern is forward oriented — we are looking forward to it being rebuilt. Our recollection of its destruction has that purpose in mind.

For this reason it is desirable to spend these weeks studying the laws of building the Temple. The study of these laws serves as a powerful catalyst, leading to the time when they will actually be applied. Indeed, the prophet Ezekiel refers to the study of the laws of the Temple’s construction as “building G‑d’s house.”

Looking to the Horizon

Although the conquerors of Jerusalem — the Babylonians and the Romans — carried away many of the Temple utensils, they were not able to take possession of its most sacred vessel. The Holy Ark — in which the Ten Commandments were placed and on which G‑d’s presence rested — was not taken into captivity.

Many years before the destruction of the First Temple, Josiah, the last of Jerusalem’s righteous kings, hid the ark in a mazelike system of chambers and vaults that King Solomon had constructed under the Temple building. The ark is still buried there, beneath the site of the Holy of Holies. When Mashiach comes, it will surface.

It follows that there are two places for the Holy Ark: one in the Holy of Holies, where it is openly revealed, and another, concealed in the mazelike vaults within the Temple Mount.

Each one of us has a Sanctuary in microcosm in his heart, a place where G‑d’s presence rests. There are times when the G‑dliness in our hearts shines openly; our personal Holy of Holies is revealed. On other occasions, that G‑dliness is hidden, buried in mazelike vaults. But even when hidden, it is not captured. Like the Holy Ark on the Temple Mount, it is waiting anxiously to be revealed.

This is the essence of Mashiach’s coming — that the Divine potential, which we and every element of existence possess, will shine in overt revelation.