1. During the present days, the schedule of the daily study of the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah focuses on a subject of great importance, Hilchos Beis HaBechirah, the laws of building the Beis HaMikdash. These laws are of particular relevance to us since, every moment, we are waiting for the coming of Mashiach when we will begin building the Third Beis HaMikdash.

The conclusion of these laws discusses a unique dimension of the service of the Beis HaMikdash, the mitzvah to guard it. The Rambam writes:

It is a positive mitzvah to guard the Beis HaMikdash. [This mitzvah] applies even though there is no fear of enemies or thieves, for the guarding of [the Beis HaMikdash] is for the sole purpose of expressing respect. A palace with guards is [much more impressive] than a palace without guards.1

This law raises an interesting question: The respect for the Beis HaMikdash is not because of the physical building, but because of the Divine Presence which rests within as the Rambam writes (in regard to the mitzvah to hold the Beis HaMikdash in awe): “Your awe should not be [motivated by] the Beis HaMikdash, but rather, by He who commanded that it be held in awe.”

The Divine Presence never departed from the site of the Beis HaMikdash as the Rambam writes:

Why do I say that the original consecration sanctified the Beis HaMikdash and Jerusalem for eternity, while in regard to the remainder of Eretz Yisrael... [the original consecration] did not sanctify it for eternity? Because the sanctity of the Beis HaMikdash stems from the Divine Presence and the Divine Presence will never be nullified. Thus, it is said, “I will lay waste to your Sanctuaries,” which our Sages [interpreted to mean]: “Even though they have been devastated, their sanctity remains.”2

Accordingly, it would appear proper for a watch to placed around the site of the Beis HaMikdash even in the present times as an expression of respect to the Divine Presence which rests there.3 In regard to the mitzvah to hold the Beis HaMikdash in awe, the Rambam writes:

Even though the Beis HaMikdash is now in ruin because of our sins, a person must hold it in awe, as he would regard it when it was standing. He should only enter a place which he could enter. [This law is derived as follows:] It is said: “You shall observe My Shabbasos and revere My Sanctuary.” Just as the observance of the Shabbos applies for eternity, so too, the reverence for the Sanctuary must be eternal. Even though it is in ruin, it remains sanctified.

If this applies in regard to the awe of the Beis HaMikdash which is a positive commandment, surely, it should apply in regard to the guarding of the Beis HaMikdash which involves both a positive and negative commandment. Nevertheless, throughout the generations, our Rabbis have never made an effort to have levites and priests guard the site of the Beis HaMikdash after its destruction.4 Even in the time directly after the Beis HaMikdash’s destruction, when the Jews would still come to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage festivals, they did not attempt to guard its site. Similarly, in the generations that followed, we find virtually no record that the sages and Rabbis sought to perform this mitzvah.5

One text, Mishcanos L’avir Yaakov, is dedicated to this subject and explains in detail that this mitzvah must be fulfilled at present. (Indeed, the author of this attempted to fulfill this mitzvah himself.) Nevertheless, throughout the generations, this remained a minority opinion that was not accepted by other Torah sages.6

The question also applies to the Lubavitcher Rebbeim who undertook great efforts to help the settlement of Eretz Yisrael, raising funds for the support of its inhabitants despite the difficult financial conditions in Russia. The Rebbeim demanded self-sacrifice to support the Jews in Eretz Yisrael to the point where they advised people to borrow money to give for this purpose. Nevertheless, in none of their letters or scholarly works do the Rebbeim mention the obligation to guard the site of the Beis HaMikdash.

The above question is particularly appropriate since, at each and every moment, we are awaiting Mashiach’s coming.7 Surely, this applies in the present age, when according to all the omens given by our Sages, Mashiach’s coming is imminent.

The Third Beis HaMikdash is already built and is waiting to descend from the heavens when Mashiach comes. Thus, every moment, the priests and the levites should be prepared to guard it. Since we are in the last generation of exile and the first generation of the redemption, seemingly, we should be concerned with preparing guards to watch the Beis HaMikdash.

It is possible to resolve this question as follows: Practical considerations prevented this mitzvah from being fulfilled. In many eras, the gentile authorities who governed Eretz Yisrael would not allow such activities. Surely, this applied directly after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash and in the eras when the ruling authorities in Eretz Yisrael were negatively disposed towards the Jews. Even when it was possible that the ruling authorities themselves would show such consideration — or when the Jews were themselves the ruling authorities — the possibility existed that individual gentiles would wish to harm the guards.8 Hence, rather than expose the guards to danger — for the danger to a Jew’s life supersedes any Torah obligation — the mitzvah was not fulfilled.9

Although the halachic dimensions of this subject still require clarification — it must be emphasized that this applies only to the theoretical applications of the concept, in practice, since we see that the Rebbeim did not make an effort to have the mitzvah fulfilled, no one else should try to do so — there is, however, an aspect of this discussion which is applicable to each individual’s service. Each Jew’s house is “a sanctuary in microcosm,” a dwelling place for G‑d. When G‑d commanded the Jews to build Him a Sanctuary, He stated: “And you shall make Me a Sanctuary and I shall dwell within,” using the plural term for the word “within,” thus, indicating that G‑d dwells within each and every Jew.

In practical terms, each person, man, woman, and child, should transform his home and room into a place for prayer, Torah study, and charity. A fixed place should be made where a siddur, chumash, and tzedakah pushkah are displayed as visible signs of these activities.10 This emphasizes how every aspect of one’s life should be permeated with holiness and G‑dliness for the purpose of each Jew’s life is to serve G‑d as the Mishnah teaches, “I was created only to serve my Creator.”

The above discussion teaches that each person should also guard “his sanctuary in microcosm.” The more valuable something is, the more we protect it. Similarly, we must protect the articles which make our homes “sanctuaries in microcosm,” not because of a threat to them, but rather as an expression of our appreciation of their importance. Although every element of existence was created — and according to the Baal Shem Tov’s teaching is being created anew every moment — by G‑d, a greater measure of respect must be paid to those articles through which holiness is openly revealed.

The above concepts should increase our anticipation and yearning for the coming of Mashiach and the revelation of the Third Beis HaMikdash. Although a Jew should await Mashiach’s coming at all times and in particular, this applies in the present generation when Mashiach’s coming is imminent, there are certain times throughout the year when these concepts receive greater emphasis.

The present Shabbos combines many factors which contribute to such feelings. Firstly, it is the month of Nissan, the month of redemption which commemorates the exodus from Egypt and when there is the promise, “In Nissan, our ancestors were redeemed and in Nissan, we will be redeemed in the future.”

Furthermore, we are in the midst of the counting of the Omer,11 which is connected with the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash as obvious from the prayer recited after fulfilling the mitzvah: “May the Merciful One restore the Beis HaMikdash to its place, speedily in our days. Amen. Selah.

There is also a connection to this week’s Torah portion which mentions the revelation of the Divine Presence in the Sanctuary. This surely heightens our anticipation for the ultimate revelation which will come in the Third Beis HaMikdash.

As mentioned above, the third Beis HaMikdash is already complete, waiting in the heavens to descend and the Divine Presence has never left the site of the Beis HaMikdash. May we merit the revelation of His presence with the coming of Mashiach.

2. On this Shabbos, it is customary to begin the recitation of Pirkei Avos.12 Each chapter in Pirkei Avos is preceded by the recitation of the following Mishnah:

All Israel have a share in the World to Come as it is stated: “And your people are all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever. They are... the work of My hands in which to take pride.”

This emphasizes the unique dearness with which G‑d holds every Jew, without distinction, for each Jew possesses a soul which is “a part of G‑d from above.” For this reason, each Jew will receive “a portion,” i.e., not just a connection, but an actual portion, in the World to Come.

In this context, the World to Come refers to the World of Resurrection. Every Jew will receive an equal share of this ultimate reward. In regard to Gan Eden, the spiritual rewards of the afterlife, there are differences depending on the service of each particular soul.13 Indeed, there are some Jews who have died without repentance and — though ultimately, in another reincarnation, their souls will also repent and receive their share in Gan Eden — at present, their portion is given to a colleague who deserves it. In the era of Resurrection, however, each and every Jew will be given an equal share.

The verse quoted as a prooftext explains the reason for this reward. Each Jew is “the work of My hands,” created by G‑d; for a purpose, “in which to take pride.” G‑d glorifies Himself through every Jew.14

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3. Our sages teach that one should pay attention to the needs of the community on Shabbos. In this context, it is necessary to begin plans for the summer vacation which is approaching. Schools are closed and often, the free time a child has may be spent in an environment which will not have a positive influence upon him.

Accordingly, efforts must be made to enroll children in Torah camps. Everyone should try to influence his neighbors or people with whom he has contact to send their children to such camps.

Since a camp provides a 24 hour environment, it has a tremendous influence on a child, often surpassing the influence of a school. Indeed, the time a child spends in camp will have a continuing influence, not only in the year that follows, but throughout his life as implied by the verse “Educate a child according to his way; even when he becomes older, he will not depart from it.”

In view of these concepts, it is clear that we must work towards these goals, “raising up many students,” who will, in turn, themselves attract other students and thus, reveal, in an apparent way, how each Jew is, “the work of My hands in which to take pride.”