A conversation has begun about how we as Jews and Israelis place the discussion of a Third Temple in our rhetoric today. On the one hand, the dream of the Third Temple is one of the central visions of Judaism and comes straight from the prophetic writings (see Yishayahu 2). We pray for it daily. On the other hand, in today’s political world, even the idea of mentioning a Third Temple being built on the Temple Mount, without even getting into how it would get there and replace the mosques, is just causing incitement.
I have one question to those who are calling to build the Third Temple in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount. Why are you focusing on this one vision of Judaism, when there is so much more that Judaism strives for?
Upon the return of the Jews to the land of Israel from the Babylonian/Persian Exile and the Second Temple built, a question was posed to the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah, Chapter 7):
“Should I weep in the fifth month, abstaining myself, as I have done these many years?”
The questioner wanted to know, with the building of the Second Temple, should he continue to fast on Tisha B’Av, the day we mourn the destruction of the Temple? The response came directly from God through Zechariah:
“When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and in the seventh month, even in these seventy years, did you fast to Me? When you eat and drink, aren’t you the ones who eat and drink? After all, was it not the words that the Lord proclaimed through the former prophets, when Jerusalem was settled and tranquil, and its cities were around it, and the Negev and the lowland were settled? So execute true judgment and perform loving-kindness and mercy, each one [of you] to his brother. Do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the stranger, or the poor man. Neither shall any of you think evil against his brother in your heart.”
Instead of answering the question, God chastises the questioner. You’re worried about having to fast?! Get over yourself and fix the problems that made you have to fast in the first place!
So the Third Temple, is it important to strive for? Yes. But many of us are missing the point of what rebuilding the Temple represents. The Third Temple represents creating an eternal peace that we come upon by improving society. It is created by executing true judgment, being good people, and worrying about those who are oppressed by society. It’s about stopping the internal fighting amongst Jews and creating a society that is a model to the world.
Do I believe in the Third Temple? Of course. But I also believe that we don’t deserve it until we fix our society first.