Robin Diamond
Robin Diamond

The third temple: Rabbi Mendel Kessin

When G-d instructed the prophet Yechezkel, to record the dimensions of the Third Temple, he reasonably wondered as to the purpose of the directive given that the Jews were about to be driven into exile. But this period of exile is really a third and final preparation, the final “device” to complete the tikkun — rectification of Creation.

The Third Temple is unlike the previous two in that it is a l’maale — upper, implying that it is a kind of “portal, a window” to a lofty spiritual realm from which, and through which, the Light, the kedusha — holiness descends to “merge” with the physical Temple and is why G-d, rather than man, builds it. That is also why the Messianic Era has such an incredible amount of Light and haskala — enlightenment.

The rabbi explains the actions we can take to bring the mashiach, the predominant one being the avodah — service which took place in the Temple, but has been, for two millennia, without the Temple.

Korbonot — Animal Sacrifice

The derivation of our understanding of the sacrificial service is based on a midrash-exegesis on the Torah portion in Bereishit—the Book of Genesis. It describes the agreement that G-d makes with Avraham, telling him that his progeny will observe commandments and will be given the Land of Israel and, ultimately, the Future World. Avraham expresses consternation as to what could happen if his descendants fail to perform and serve. What if the future resembles the past when the generations before the Flood chose to ignore G-d’s directives? G-d responds with the assurance that He will establish a system of teshuva — repentance, featuring the offering of korbonot — sacrifices which have within them, intrinsically, power to bring kaparah—atonement. But, Avraham reasoned that even this would be problematic because, prophetically, he knew that the Temple required for these rituals would not survive. So, what then?

What G-d tells Avraham is “stunning.” The loss of the Temple service can be compensated for. How? G-d will equate learning “Torah of Korbanot,” learning the rules for the sacrificial service, with the actual service itself. This compensatory aspect is based on the dual nature of fulfilling Torah’s commandments: learning and doing. One must study the Torah’s precepts and commandments and also practice them.

This principle is operative also in what G-d told Yechezkel, that learning about the dimensions, the materials, the construct of the Beis ha’Mikdash — Holy Temple, would be tantamount to building it. Therefore, it is possible to engage in the Temple’s construction and the offering of sacrifices without the actual Beis Ha’Mikdash.

We find the same principle expressed in the Gemara (component of the Talmud comprising rabbinical analysis of and commentary on the Mishnah) by R. Yochanan: “Zos Torat ha’chatas — these are the laws of the sin offering.” Why not simply say “these are the sin offerings”? This demonstrates yet again that learning the laws of the sin offering is as effective as actually offering it.

A woman might ask how she can atone since, traditionally, she does not learn as a man does. Since the laws of sacrifices are part of the liturgy of the t’fillat ha’Shachar — the morning prayers, the recitation of these prayers, with an understanding of their meaning, brings the atonement.

This substitution of learning for the actual sacrificial service has tremendous ramifications. First, it saves a lot of money. Consider the cost of a cow, a goat, a sheep. A second advantage is that one’s preparation for the mashiach has been advanced by becoming familiar with the service. But perhaps most important, G-d becomes “induced” to build it. G-d sees a tangible demonstration of our desire to serve Him. Both that desire and the efforts we expend in the learning and prayer will have earned us the merit required to “tip His Hand” to bring the messianic era because it is really G-d, via His servant — Mashiach ben Yosef — who builds the final Temple.

Most of the operations within the Temple relate to the sacrifices. We know that many ancient societies offered sacrifices though not for the same purpose. There are many ideas, particularly kabbalistic ones, as to the meaning of sacrificial service. There is a midrash that presents a scenario in which G-d posits a question, perhaps to the angels, asking what should be done with a person who sins. Angels, the representatives of various traits and characteristics within Creation, respond. The angel representing din-judgement answers that the sinner’s fate should be death. Why?

When you observe a mitzvah—commandment, you acknowledge, you testify, to the supremacy of G-d’s Will. Such an act is rewarded — G-d “appears” to you. What is expressed by sin? — the opposite. Sin expresses that G-d’s Will is not supreme, that the individual has a will, an existence, independent of G-d. Further, his sin is a statement that he is entitled to that independence. Measure-for-measure, the consequence is logical and commensurate. Since the sinner’s actions express who he thinks he really is, someone with conviction and sense of entitlement to his own supreme and independent existence, G-d’s accedes to that sinner’s belief essentially saying, “Then I withdraw my sustenance from you” and the sinner’s existence vanishes. Death is not a punishment; it is a result in conformity with the sinner’s conviction. Now we understand that the sentence for any sin, justifiably, is death. Death is the logical result of a sinner’s testimony.

We know that the world is run on the basis of din — judgment/justice. Why? —because justice embodies cause and effect, the mechanism whereby mankind earns his existence in olam ha’ba — Future World. Rachamim — mercy is what tempers justice and intervenes when G-d deems it necessary because mankind is not capable of fulfilling the purpose of Creation by observing G-d’s commandments; he is prone to sin. The world would not survive. So, G-d “partnered” mercy/compassion with judgment, despite justice being the truest expression of the system G-d created which finds its truest expression in man’s annihilation.

The great Torah scholar RaMBan says that, upon bringing a creature for sacrifice, a person should focus his consciousness upon the sin which should have killed him. The placing of the hands of the penitent upon the head of the animal is accompanied by vidui — confession, his admission that his actions were akin to the behavior of an animal and, as such, he doesn’t deserve to live and would not were it not for the ability to sacrifice and animal in his stead. The animal’s death is a surrogate. This is called a “representational reality.” The true judgment can be fulfilled.

This is fundamentally different from the purpose of sacrificial service in other religions or societies. Their purpose was to appease angry gods, to placate them, not to atone for their own transgressions and fulfill the demands of justice created by a just G-d.

What has been explained so far does not, as the rabbi points out, fully disclose all meanings of the sacrifices. We do not fully grasp the thousands of laws governing the rituals. Mysteries abound.

The sacrificial service as a means of satisfying justice is conveyed in the episode of the akeida — binding of Isaac. Avraham is prepared to sacrifice his son when the angel stops him. Avraham removes Isaac from the altar after seeing a ram entangled in a nearby thicket. Rather than the text simply saying that Isaac was removed from the altar, the text says that a ram was offered tachat b’no — instead of his son. Here is the intrinsic transmission of the concept of animal sacrifice as a substitute to satisfy demands of justice.

We see too this concept conveyed in the Torah portion “Shemini.” The title means “eighth” which refers to the eight days of inauguration, the culmination of which is the shekhina — G-d’s presence in the physical world resting upon Moses’s handiwork, the mishkan—the tabernacle. The exegesis on this portion says that G-d’s simcha — happiness on that day the tabernacle was completed was equal to G-d’s simcha when He created the world.

Juxtaposed with this celebration are the deaths of Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Abihu when they bring a “strange fire,” an unsanctioned incense offering. What is the connection between the two events? The celebratory aspect of having the tabernacle represents the potential to institute a means for not having to enact the death penalty. The deaths of Aaron’s sons show us what might have been, death rather than a ritual. The simcha comes from the assurance that both can be served — justice and continuity of life.

A question arises as to why the communal,tamid — daily sacrifice is read in prayer twice per day, once during the morning shacharit service and, again, during the afternoon mincha service. This mimics the actual sacrifices that were offered at those times.

Another question brought out that the rules of the incense offering read in daily prayer atones for the sin of loshon ha’ra — harmful speech. So critical is the need to atone for this sin that, on Yom Kippur, the kohen gadol — High Priest entered the Holy of Holies to offer incense. “Imagine,” says the rabbi, “the holiest man, on the holiest day, in the holiest place….to atone for loshon ha’ra.”

Loshon ha’ra: Harmful Speech

Another way to bring the mashiach is to avoid speaking loshon ha’ra. When slander demeans a person’s reputation, justice allows the Satan, G-d’s prosecuting “attorney,” the right and the means to condemn the accuser. That condemnation takes the form of a kitrug — a prosecutorial action. As the rabbi has explained in many other lectures, it is only when you speak ill of another that your “file is opened” and the Satan can now bring a case against you. As the Chofetz Chaim said, when Jews refrain from speaking ill of each other, the Satan’s role to prosecute is curtailed and there are fewer cases in the Heavenly Court, those caseloads that keep the mashiach at bay and shorten peoples’ life-spans.

More proof of this was in ancient Egypt where the Jews were to have been enslaved for 400 years but were there for only 210. They were there because they had engaged in harmful speech. When Moses saw one Jew hitting another and asked him why he was doing so, the one inflicting the blows asked Moses, “Will you kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” about which it is stated: “surely the matter is known,” which is literally understood to refer to Pharoah’s awareness of Moses’s crime. However, the great commentator, Rashi, says that it refers to the obvious nature of the intense suffering of the Jews in their bondage due to loshon ha’ra. When they refrained from such speech, they were redeemed. Had they continued, the Satan’s prosecutorial argument, among others, might have been that they were only in Egypt 210 years with many more yet to serve. But all arguments became moot once they no longer engaged in denigrating speech.

Further evidence for loshon ha’ra being an impediment to redemption is seen when the Jews reached the Reed Sea with the Egyptian army in pursuit. Panicked, they complained about G-d’s having brought them to the desert to die. Moses tells them to stand back and watch the salvation of G-d Who will fight for them, and for them to remain silent. The directive to remain silent attests to the importance of refraining from accusatory speech whether against G-d or a fellow Jew.

In response to a request from an audience member to elaborate on the Third Temple as a “portal,” the rabbi points out that the final Temple is built by G-d, not man. The first and second temples were destroyed having been built by man whose flaws and sins made it pervious to destruction. The tabernacle was not destroyed because it was built by Moses and G-d’s presence rested upon it. When G-d builds the Third Temple, that Temple “on high,” from the spiritual world of Yetzirah, becomes manifest here, in this world of Asiyah. The upper world will have been “brought down” and the result is beyond our imaginations. We become privy to revelations of that world. A midrash at the end of “Kohelet” (Ecclesiastes) says that the Torah of Moses is like “luft—air” compared to the Torah of mashiach. This comparison alludes to such revelation.

Another audience member asked whether the revelation was for the entire world or only Israel. The rabbi makes clear that it is for the entire world although there will be “boundaries.” Jerusalem will be enlarged to encompass the entire Land of Israel. “The whole planet changes because the entire world becomes filled with the presence and knowledge of G-d. No more death. No Satan. It is all gone; only unimaginable holiness; that’s all there is.”

Another question prompted remarks about Mashiach ben David, the war of Gog u’Magog, the role WWII played in a final reckoning. WWII “lessened” the catastrophic nature of the final war which is thought to happen during the future reign of Mashiach ben Yosef, that period of the ingathering of the exiles and the emergence and completion of the Third Temple. The extraordinary brutality toward the Jews in WWII supports the principle that the consequences of sin can be compounded by previous sins. We see this when the nation builds the Golden Calf. G-d makes it known that, due to the grave nature of that sin, consequences of subsequent sins would be aggravated by that gargantuan one, with repercussions made more painful. The debt incurred by the sin of the Golden Calf is being paid, and was, at least partially, by WWII.

A question about Israel’s cyber-attack on Iran’s centrifuges and any retribution incurred by it was answered saying that Iran’s threats of retaliation were “all talk” and unlikely to translate into any serious hostile action. The rabbi noted that Iran has threatened Israel before but knows that it cannot win a war against Israel though, in the future, the rabbi believes, they will likely try and be destroyed — “at least their infrastructure.”

A question was asked about the (advent of) the month of Iyar, the month of ani ha’Shem rafecha — I am G-d your healer. As the month defined by the counting of the omer, the 49 days which were, during the desert journey, a time of doing away with zoamo—the entropic force to facilitate healing in preparation to receive the Torah, could the Jewish people be on a trajectory for “something to happen”? The rabbi reminds us of the concept of “v’nehapechu,” that whatever will happen to bring the Redemption will happen “overnight and instantly and the world will wake up stunned…out of nowhere, something drastic happens. There will come a time when it is over, the tikkun will have been accomplished and the Jewish people will be worthy of Redemption. In that instant, and not a second later, something will happen, hopefully very soon…it isn’t a big deal for G-d Almighty to end all evil. We just have to deserve it…and when it happens, it will happen overnight and the world will be stunned. Like the 6-Day War…” the war was won.

Another question prompted the timing of the mashiach’s appearance. Is mashiach “released” from his confinement in the klipa–the impure forces before or after this stunning event occurs? It is unclear. The rabbi believes the mashiach is “here” but, like Moses whose emergence took eighty years, Mashiach ben Yosef’s emergence hasn’t yet occurred for whatever reason(s). But when it happens, it will be like what happened to Haman, the villain of the Purim story. One day he was “on top of the world”; on the next, he was dangling at the end of a rope.

The rabbi ends with his prognosis that this world, as is, will end very soon. The world is currently “uncivilized.” Laws are being enacted that are “insane.” The world has become Sodom; What seems to be the “bottom of the barrel” could get even worse. G-d will not tolerate uncivilized behavior because it spells the end of the world. Infanticide (late-stage abortion), gender self-determination, rampant homosexuality upheld by social norms and the courts, obliteration of the nuclear family — all this spells the end because it cannot be reversed and because America, whose inception was the hope of the civilized world, has deteriorated to the point where it may not be salvageable and the world will follow its example. The world is in a “downward spiral,” a payment exacted for a debt that can hold mashiach back no more.

About the Author
Robin is a retired Language Arts high school teacher who taught in the Los Angeles Unified District for 25 years. After retiring in 2010, she hurriedly made aliyah in 2011.
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