Thursday, March 30, 2023

“Not like Avraham who called the Beis Hamikdash ‘mountain,’ and not like Yitzchok who called it ‘field’ but rather like Ya’akov who called it ‘house’” (Pesachim 88a).

The Beis Hamikdash serves as a mountain, har, a place to ascend to. A place that inspires one to feel that he is in the shadow of the Shechina, the Divine Presence. That is the function of the Beis Hamikdash emphasized by Avraham: “Har Hashem yera’eh, the mountain upon which God will be seen” and from which the Jewish people will be observed by God. This refers to the first Beis Hamikdash, on which the Shechinah devolved, and which made a profound impression on those who stood in its shadow.

Yitzchok emphasized the second function of the Beis Hamikdash by calling it “field, sadeh,” a place for growth and development; an environment conducive to bringing out all man’s various emotions and expressing them in Hashem’s service. This was the essence of the second Beis Hamikdash, which lacked the full measure of Shechina, but which still served as a place for prayer and the bringing of sacrifices.

It was left to Ya’akov, however, to perceive the all-encompassing nature of the Beis Hamikdash as the House of God. After awakening from his dream, he exclaimed, “Surely God is in this place and I did not know it … How awesome is this place. This is none other than God’s House, and this is the Gateway to Heaven” (Bereishis 28:16–17). Although he knew of the distinction of this site as a mountain and a field, its significance as a house overshadowed either of those designations. That designation applies to the third Beis Hamikdash, which will be eternal and influence the entire world.

Ya’akov perceived this aspect of the Beis Hamikdash as he was ready to descend into galus. In galus, the concept of Beis Hashem would be embodied in the house of prayer, house of study and the Jewish home. These three would preserve the Jewish people in galus and enable them to return to Eretz Yisrael and receive the ultimate Beis Hashem, the third Temple.

To appreciate the function of the Beis Hashem, we must understand what a house is. The four walls serve three functions. First, they create a private domain, separated from the public. The Jewish home must create an environment of values and morals, an inner sanctum of spirituality that serves as the foundation of Torah learning and observance. Secondly, the walls unite all the individuals in the home. Shalom bayis, the perfect harmony, where each individual feels himself part of a unit. And finally, the walls of the house serve as buffers against foreign influences, hostile to Torah values.

We can see these same principles reflected in several mitzvos that apply to a house. Lighting Shabbat candles, symbolizing the sanctity of the house and enlightenment of Torah values and ethics. Bedikas chametz, checking for chametz prior to Pesach, teaches us that we must check to see if foreign influences have succeeded in invading the house and remove them. The mezuzah and ma’akeh, guard rail, represent the protection the house offers from the physical and spiritual dangers of the outside world. Lastly, the mitzvah of Chanukah lights symbolizes the influence that the Jewish home can have on the outside world.

It is significant that the parsha that depicts Ya’akov’s first galus deals primarily with our mothers. The woman is the akeres habayis, and more specifically the essence of the bayis itself (Shabbos 115b). To survive in galus and prepare for the bayis hagadol v’hakadosh—the Third Temple—we must strengthen our public houses, shuls, study houses, as well as our individual homes, to reflect the ultimate functions of that future house of God.

Rabbi Zev Leff is the rabbi of Moshav Matityahu, and a renowned author, lecturer and educator. He is a member of the Mizrachi Speakers Bureau ( www.mizrachi.org/speakers ).

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