Rabbi Eliakim Koenigsberg
Rabbi Eliakim Koenigsberg

Connecting to the Beis HaMikdash Today

In this week's haftorah, the navi Yeshaya tries to comfort Klal Yisrael for the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. "Nachamu nachamu ami, yomar Elokeichem - be comforted, be comforter my nation, says your G-d" (Yeshaya 40:1). What words of comfort does the navi offer? How can we possibly be consoled when we have lost so much?

The posuk says, "A voice calls out, 'Proclaim to the world that all flesh is like grass, and all its kindness is like the blossom of the field.' The grass withers, the blossom fades...indeed people are like grass. The grass withers, the blossom fades, but the word of our G-d remains forever. (Yeshaya 40:6-8)" What message does the navi wish to convey in these pesukim? How is the fact that man withers and fades away with time a source of comfort? And what does this have to do with the loss of the Beis HaMikdash?

Perhaps the navi is saying the following. The physical world beckons us with its materialism and pleasure. But all physical pleasure is ephemeral; it's fleeting. None of the gashmiyus of this world lasts forever. A juicy steak or a good ice cream cone can be mouthwatering and enjoyable. But their memory fades quickly. They're like a passing dream.

There is only one thing that one can enjoy in this world and the feeling lasts, and that is dvar Hashem. U'dvar Elokeinu yakum l'olam - the word of our G-d remains forever. The pleasure from dvar Hashem, from words of Torah, from any spiritual experience, lasts forever, for all eternity. This is the message of the navi: if you want to have lasting pleasure in this world, do not become obsessed with materialism. Connect yourself to Torah and to spirituality, to something of real value, and then you will experience lasting pleasure, both in this world and the next.

Moreover, this is the way to reconnect to the Beis HaMikdash. Chazal say, "From the day the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, the only thing Hakadosh Boruch Hu has in his world are the four amos where halacha is studied"(Berachos 8a.) What does this mean? We say in kedusha, "m'lo chol ha'aretz k'vodo - Hashem's glory fills the entire world." How can Chazal say that Hashem only has the four amos of Torah study?

The answer lies in the difference between a makom and a bayis. A makom is a place, but a bayis is the primary location of someone or something. While the entire world is a makom for the Shechina, the primary location of the Shechina in this world is the Beis HaMikdash. That is the ultimate beis Hashem.

After the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, the primary location of the Shechina, the place that Hashem still calls home so to speak, is the beis medrash where Torah is studied. The smallest size for a bayis is four amos by four amos. That is the required measurement to define a bayis for the halachos of mezuzah, ma'akeh and nigei batim (Sukka 3a). When Chazal said that nowadays Hashem only has the four amos of halacha, they meant that after the churban Beis HaMikdash, the bayis of the Shechina is the four amos of the beis medrash where people are studying Torah. The place where one can still feel the special kedusha of the Beis Hamikdash, even today, is in a bayis where the words of Torah are studied. And it is through limud HaTorah that one can still feel a special closeness to the Shechina.

This is the message of comfort that the navi gives to Klal Yisrael. Even if there is no Beis Hamikdash today, you can still behold a glimmer of its kedusha. You can still connect to the Shechina, to something of lasting value, by studying dvar Hashem in the beis medrash. That is why the beis medrash is called a mikdash me'at because it gives us a "little" taste of the intense kedusha that was found in the Beis HaMikdash. And that is why limud HaTorah is so important because the spiritual joy we feel when experiencing the sweetness and beauty of Torah can help us maintain our connection to Hakadosh Boruch Hu, while at the same time it makes us yearn for the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash where the kedusha and spiritual ecstasy were even greater.

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