Likkutei Sichos-Parshas Teruma-Building a Temple for G-d in your community and home

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Parshas Teruma

Building a Temple for G-d in your community and home

(Likkutei Sichos Vol. 36 Sicha 1)

In Parshas Teruma, we are commanded with the great Mitzvah of building a Temple for G-d. At first this command was fulfilled in the desert through building the Mishkan, tabernacle, in the times of Moses. The Mishkan lasted for the first 400 years of our living in the land of Israel, until the Temple was built in the times of Shlomo. Later on in the times of Ezra, this command was fulfilled with the building of the second Temple. An intriguing question is how this command is to be fulfilled today? The Midrash states that the command to build G-d a Temple is eternal, even during exile, and not limited to times of redemption. Now, being that the command cannot be literally fulfilled during times of exile, as we await the coming of the Messiah to build the third Temple, it therefore remains to be discovered as to what the Midrash is referring to, and as to how this command can be fulfilled today. In this talk, the Rebbe explores the various options of how this command can be fulfilled even today and comes to a fascinating conclusion that this command can be fulfilled even today during exile, and even within one’s own very home. How does one fulfill the command to build G-d a Temple even today and in his own home? We will now walk through this journey of discovery.


Explorations of the Sicha:

1. Is the mitzvah to build a Temple an eternal command which applies even during times of exile?

2. Can the mitzvah of building the Temple be fulfilled even today when we cannot physically build it?

3. Does the building of a synagogue fulfill the mitzvah building a Temple?

4. How can one fulfill the mitzvah of building a Temple within his own home?


1. The command to build a Temple is eternal:

We are commanded in Scripture to build a Temple for G-d, as the verse[1] states “Veasu Li Mikdash/and build for me a Temple.” This command is listed as one of the 248 positive commands, and as part of the 613 commands.[2] Now, while there are many commands that are only applicable to specific times and settings, such as many of the commands that deal with the land of Israel, which are only applicable in the land of Israel, and not during times of exile, regarding the above command we find it stated that it is an eternal command applicable even during exile. It states in the Sifri[3] that whenever the word “for me” is used in Scripture, it refers to an eternal and everlasting instruction. Thus, being that the command of building the Temple is worded as, “thou shall make for Me a Temple,” therefore, it is an eternal command. Likewise, we also find a similar teaching in the midrash[4] in which it states that whenever Scripture uses the word “for me” it does not move from there not in this world or in the next world, and so applies regarding the command of making the Temple.

Now, how exactly is the command of building the Temple to be fulfilled in times that we are physically unable to do so? The Temple can only be built on the Temple Mount[5], and so long as the Jewish people are in exile[6] we do not have the power to build it, and we must await the coming of the Messiah to build the third Temple as tradition requires.[7] Hence, it is not understood how or why the eternity of the command of building a Temple is emphasized if it cannot be fulfilled during exile, at least not in its literal form. Thus, we must conclude that there is some nonliteral method of fulfilling this command, which goes beyond the simple building of the Temple on the Temple Mount, which will only be fulfilled in the times of the Messiah. We will now explore several options of understanding this Midrashic statement, and if it is possible for this command to truly be fulfilled even today.

2. First answer-The physcial building and vessels of the Temple are eternal:

In answer to the above question, and in explanation for the above saying of the sages that the command of building the Temple is eternal, we find several explanations. Some[8] explain that the intent of the above statement is not to say that the command is eternal, as in truth during times of exile we cannot build the Temple and cannot be commanded to do so. Rather, the intent of the statement is to say that the vessels of the Temple are eternal. As is known, even though the Temple building of Shlomo was destroyed, it’s vessels were hidden prior to the destruction, and remain there until this very day, and will be around forever.[9] Furthermore, the tabernacle was never destroyed and was hidden in a special place and is hence around today and forever.[10] Likewise, the gates of the Temple were never destroyed and rather became submerged within the ground.[11] Thus, in the above Midrashic statement, the sages are teaching us that the physical building of the Temple and its vessels are eternal.

3. Second answer – The holiness of the Temple is eternal:

Other commentators[12] explain that the intent of the above Midrash is in reference to the holiness of the Temple, as although the Temple has been destroyed, its holiness has not dissipated. The Rambam[13] states that when King Shlomo sanctified the Temple, he sanctified it for eternity, even after its destruction. The holiness of the Temple is due to the residing of the Divine presence in its area, and the Divine presence has never left the Temple site and never will. Hence, the sages teach us that although the Temple has been destroyed, it still stands in its holiness.[14] According to this explanation as well, the intent of the above Midrash is not to state that the command for building the Temple is eternal, but simply to make a factual statement that its holiness is everlasting.

4. The pushback against the above answers and the opinion of the Rambam that the actual command is eternal:

The issue with the above two explanations, is that they take the Midrashic teaching out of its literal context. According to the first explanation, the wording of the Midrash “and it does not move in this world” is compromised being that they hold that indeed the vessels and gates of the Temple were moved and hidden. Likewise, even the second explanation is difficult to accept being that the literal understanding of the Midrashic statement seems to imply that the actual command of building the Temple is eternal, and not just that its holiness or physical structure is eternal, and so indeed clearly is ruled by the Rambam.

The Rambam in Sefer Hamitzvos[15] explains that whenever the term “for me” is used it is around forever. Hence, he explains that that the command of building a Temple is not a temporary command, but rather a command for all generations. Thus, the Rambam explicitly rules in his Mishneh Torah[16] that the command of building a Temple is learned from the above verse in Scripture of “and make for me a Temple.” Although this verse in Scripture refers to the tabernacle, nonetheless, the Rambam derives from it the eternal command of building a Temple due to the fact that the word “for me” is used in the verse. Hence, according to the Rambam, the mitzvah of building a Temple is an eternal command relevant to all places and to all times, and it is not a command which is dependent on the land of Israel.[17]

According to the above, we are now challenged to discover how indeed it’s possible to interpret the command of building the Temple as eternal even in today’s times during exile.

5.  Third answer-Learning Hilchos Beis Habechira:[18]

Based on the above ruling of the Rambam that the mitzvah of building a Temple is an eternal command relevant to all places and to all times, we must conclude that there is a method in which one can fulfill the mitzvah of building the Temple even today. Indeed, this can be done through studying the laws of the building of the Temple.

The Midrash[19] states that after the destruction of the Temple, Hashem showed Yechezkal Hanavi a vision of the Temple and instructed him to tell the Jewish people of the structure of the Temple and its dimensions. Hashem told him to instruct them to study the laws of the building of the Temple. At first, Yechezkel objected to this command, saying to Hashem that it would be better off to wait until the Jewish people leave exile to instruct them of these laws, as what good is it for them to study it now while they are in exile, and unable to build the Temple. Hashem replied to Yechezkal “Because my children are an exile therefore the building of my home should be nullified? When the Jewish people study these laws, I consider it as if they are building My home.”

From this Midrash we see that studying the laws of the Beis Hamikdash, its structure and vessels, is viewed by Hashem as if one is building His Temple. Thus, even during times of exile when one is unable to help build a physical Temple, one can still fulfill the eternal Biblical command of “Making me a Temple” through studying the laws of the Temple. [Accordingly, the Rebbe instructed that one should study the prophecies in Yechezkal from 40 and onwards, Miseches Middos, and Hilchos Beis Habechira of the Rambam.[20] One should especially increase in studying these laws during the period of Bein Hametzarim. Studying these laws weakens the exile and hastens the redemption.]

6. Fourth answer-The Mitzvah to build a Shul:

While the above explanation is intrinsically correct [that studying the laws of the Temple is considered by G-d as if he is building it] it is difficult to accept this as the intent of the above Midrash. The wording of the Midrash “and it does not move in this world” implies that there is no change at all to the way that the mitzvah is fulfilled, and that not only is it always possible to fulfill the mitzvah, but that also the method through which the mitzvah is fulfilled, remains eternal. Now, according to the above explanation, while the mitzvah can still be fulfilled today through studying the laws of the Temple, this is a different method of fulfillment than the literal command of building the actual physical Temple. Hence, we will now offer a 4th explanation in which it is explained that not only is the possibility of fulfilling the command of building the Temple eternal, but it’s method of fulfillment is also eternal.

The Tzemach Tzedek[21] in his commentary on the above Midrash raises the question as to the meaning of how the command of building the Temple is eternal. The Tzemach Tzedek does not bring any of the explanations that we recorded above, seemingly due to the reasons of negation that we brought above. Rather, he explains that the command of building a Temple is considered to be eternal being that we have a Mitzvah to build synagogues. In Scripture, we find that a synagogue is referred to as a “Mikdash Me’at/small Temple.”[22] Thus, as states the Midrash, this command has “not moved in this world” being that a synagogue is called a small Temple in Scripture, and through building it one fulfills the command of building a Temple for G-d, which is a command that we can fulfill even today.

This explanation of the Tzemach Tzedek, however, requires clarification, as how does the building of a Temple replica known as a synagogue satisfy the command to build an actual Temple on the Temple Mount? Furthermore, how can one state that this is considered the same level and method of fulfillment as the building of the actual Temple, and that therefore there’s been no movement at all in the command during exile. To understand this matter we must first introduce the words of the Zohar regarding this mitzvah of building the Temple.

7. The “Temple” referred to in the command refers to a house of worship:

The Zohar[23] comments on the command, “and build for me a Temple,” that it is a general command to build a place of worship, and that every synagogue in the world that is built is considered a Temple in this regard. To take this a step further, in the list of 613 mitzvah’s by the Raya Mehemna[24], it lists this command as the 19th Mitzvah, writing as follows: The 19th command is to build a Temple, a synagogue, below in this world similar to the Temple of above… to pray in it each day, to worship G-d, as prayer is considered service. Thus, we see that according to the Zohar the command of building the Temple is not to be understood to refer only to the Temple in Jerusalem, but rather as a general command to build a house of worship for G-d, which is applicable in all times and in all places. This opinion of the Zohar is recorded in the Rishonim[25] and Achronim[26] and given legal basis, as we will now explain.

The Maharik[27] writes that donating items to a synagogue is similar to donating items to the Temple, as in all areas the sages have compared a synagogue to a Temple, and referring to it as a “small Temple.” He brings several proofs to his conclusion that a Temple and synagogue are similar, including the following points: The Mordechi rules that it is forbidden to destroy any part of a synagogue, just as it is forbidden to destroy any part of the Temple due to a negative command. [So likewise rules the Rambam[28], that from the verse of Lo Sasun Kein Lahashem Elokeichem we learn that it is forbidden to destroy a synagogue or house of study.] Likewise, he brings that synagogues must be treated with holiness and respect similar to the Temple. Likewise, the Talmud[29] learns that it is forbidden for a home to be taller than the roof of its local synagogue from a verse in Scripture that discusses the Temple. Thus, the Maharik concludes that a synagogue has a similar status to that of the Temple. Based on this, the Kaf Hachaim[30] records in the name of the Poskim[31] that a congregation can be forced to donate money for the sake of building a synagogue, just as one can enforce any positive command. In his concluding words: “As just as there is a positive command to build a Temple for G-d, and to upkeep it, as the verse states “and make for me a Temple,” so too to build and strengthen the synagogues and houses of study.”

Also, in the teachings of Chassidus and Kabbalah we find a relation between a synagogue and the Temple. It states in Siddur Im Dach[32] that the Divine ray that was revealed on the Temple is revealed also during exile after the destruction within each and every synagogue and house of study. Every synagogue and house of study receives a portion of the Divine revelation that was revealed in the Temple itself.

This then is the intent of the Tzemach Tzedek who interprets the midrash which states that the command of building the Temple does not move in this world, to refer to the building of synagogues, as the command to build a Temple is an everlasting command to build a place of worship for G-d even when the Temple is not around, even in the Diaspora.

8. The command includes also a house of study, a Beis Hamidrash:

Although many of the above sources specifically write the term synagogue in their teaching that it has similar laws to that of the Temple, in truth it also includes a house of study known as a Beis Midrash. So is proven from the source of this entire discussion in the Talmud[33] which states that also a house of study is considered a small Temple. The reason that also houses of study are included within the command of building a Temple, and through building a house of study one fulfills this command, is because the study of Torah is also considered a service, Avoda. Meaning, aside for the fact that most houses of study today are also used for prayer, the mere study of Torah itself makes it be considered a house of worship and is part of the fulfillment of the above command. This especially applies according to the saying of the sages[34] that from the day of the destruction of the Temple G-d only resides amongst the four cubits of Halacha.

9. The command can be fulfilled by every individual in their own home:

According to the above explanation, the ability to fulfill the command of making G-d a Temple, is not a command on the individual but rather on the congregation. During Temple times it was an obligation upon the congregation to build the Temple, and likewise today every community has the obligation to build for themselves a synagogue. However, for the individual there seems to be no obligation, or capability, of fulfilling this command, neither in Temple times nor today. However, in truth, this command can be fulfilled even by the individual at all times, even during exile, and that is through him designating a portion of his home to become a house of study and area of prayer and service of G-d. This is based on the following teaching of the sages:[35]

After Scripture commands us to build a Temple for G-d, it states that if we do so “Veshachanti Besocham/I will dwell within them.” Strangely, the verse does not use the singular term of Besocho, to say that G-d will dwell within it, within the Temple or synagogue, but rather within them in plural. Who is the “them” that the verse is referring to? The sages teach us that the plural use of this word is coming to teach us a very profound lesson, which is that every single individual Jew has the command and ability to have G-d dwell within him. Meaning, it does not suffice to simply build a house for G-d and have G-d dwell within a building, which the Jew will visit only on occasion, but rather that he is instructed to also make a dwelling place for G-d within himself, “within each and every jewel amongst Israel,” as every single Jew can and must become a dwelling place and Temple for G-d.

Now, how does one fulfill this obligation of making himself a dwelling place for G-d? This can be fulfilled by every Jew building and designating an area of his home for the sake of G-d, for the sake of studying Torah and prayer. [This is in reference to prayers that do not have to be said with a minyan, such as the morning blessings, personal prayers to G-d, the bedtime Shema, and of course for times that one is unable to pray with a minyan.] Now, although we cannot say that there is an absolute obligation for one to do so, being that the Rambam rules that the obligation of making a Temple for G-d only applies in a community of 10 men, nonetheless, if one does do so he certainly fulfills this command. Thus, every individual can personally fulfill the command of making G-d a Temple even today by designating an area of his home for Torah study and prayer.

This concept is recorded also in Halacha[36], in which it states that one should designate for himself a set area to pray within his home. Now, although the recorded purpose for this designation is so he maintains an area within his home that he can pray without disturbances, nonetheless, by doing so he draws down a level of holiness to it. The Ramban[37] indeed writes that an individual who designates for himself an area for him to pray [and were Torah], then it contains some holiness, and is forbidden to be used for mundane matters throughout its holiness.

10. How to build one’s personal Temple in his home:

Just as a synagogue needs to be uniquely built and constructed, so too, the designated “Temple” area of one’s home must be uniquely constructed for this purpose. It does not suffice to simply pick an area that one will pray and learn, but rather he must do some construction for the sake of this personal in-house Temple. This can be accomplished by building and setting up bookcases in the area to hold all of one’s holy books, and to set up a special table and chair in the area for one to use while learning. Furthermore, just as we find that in the Temple was located the three pillars of Divine service, which is Torah[38], Avoda [i.e. Karbanos], and acts of kindness[39], so too should be done in one’s personal in-house Temple. It should contain a designated area and bookcase for the sake of praying to G-d and studying Torah, and likewise contain a charity box for the sake of donating charity. Likewise, it should be used for the sake of hosting guests, which is also an act of kindness.

11. Men, women, and children:

The above ability to fulfill the command of building a Temple for G-d within one’s own home is relevant for both men, women, and children. Just as regarding the building of the actual Temple itself we find that even women and children were involved in the donations and building, soo to this command of building the in-house Temple is relevant also to them. Therefore, women and children should also make for themselves a personal in-house Temple which they will use for prayer and Torah study and acts of kindness.

Through each and every individual doing their utmost to build up the community synagogue and houses of study, as well as their personal in-house Temple, it hastens the rebuilding of the third eternal Temple. May it happen speedily in our days!


The Lesson:

The lesson of this talk of the Rebbe is straightforward and easy to fulfill. Every individual should recognize that even today they have both a community and personal obligation to build for G-d a resting place in their community and home. In the community this is fulfilled by being active in the building and maintenance of the local synagogue and houses of study. In the personal home this is fulfilled by every member of the family having a designated area in the home that is specially designed and designated for worship of G-d and Torah study. Don’t forget, to also place a charity box in the area. Through doing so, we fulfill the biblical command of building G-d a dwelling place in this world, and draw the Divine presence into our very homes.


[1] Teruma 25:8

[2] See Rambam Hilchos Beis Habechira 1:1; Chinuch Mitzvah 95

[3] Behalosecha 11:16

[4] Vayikra Raba 2:2

[5] See Rambam ibid 1:3

[6] See Chinuch ibid that it can only be fulfilled when majority of the Jewish people are living in Israel

[7] See Rambam Melachim 11:1-3

[8] Yifei Toar Hashaleim Vayikra Raba ibid

[9] See Rambam Hilchos Beis Habechira 4:1

[10] Tosefta Sotah 13:1; Sotah 9a

[11] Midrash Raba 15:13

[12] Sifrei Debei Rav; Toldos Adam Vezera Avraham for Behalosecha

[13] Hilchos Beis Habechira 6:14-15

[14] Megillah 28a

[15] Mitzvas Asei 170

[16] Hilchos Beis Habechira 1:1

[17] See Kesef Mishneh on Rambam ibid

[18] See Likkutei Sichos ibid and Vol. 18:412; 21:149; Hisvadyus 5748 2:564; Shulchan Menachem 3:52

[19] Tanchuma Tzav 14; Pesikta of Rav Kahana 6; Pesikta Rabasi 16; Yalkut Shimoni Yechezkal 43:10

[20] Toras Menachem 5750 4:55

[21] Or Hatorah Teruma

[22] See Yechezkal 11:16; Megillah 29a

[23] Zohar Vol. 3 p. 126; Beshalach 59b; Naso 126a

[24] Zohar 59b

[25] Maharik end of Shoresh 161

[26] See Sdei Chemed Kelalim Mareches Beis Kedlal 43-44; Kaf Hachaim 150:5; Piskeiy Teshuvos 150:1

[27] Maharik end of Shoresh 161

[28] Minyan Hamitzvos Mitzvah Lo Sasei 65

[29] Shabbos 11a

[30] 150:5

[31] Orchos Yosher chapter 13; Yifei Laleiv 150:1

[32] Shaar Hachanukah “Mizmor Shir”

[33] Megillah ibid

[34] Brachos 8a

[35] Alshich on verse in Teruma ibid of “Veasu Li Mikdash”; Reishis Chochmah Shaar Hahvah 6

[36] See M”A 90:33; Admur 90:18

[37] Chidushei Ramban end of Megillah; See also Encyclopedia Talmudit Erech Beis Hakeneses in begining

[38] The Sanhedrin was located by the Temple, in then Lishkas Hagazis

[39] The Lishkas Chashain was designated to distribute charity to paupers

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