Why Did They Build The Temple?
YESHIVAT HARA'AYON HAYEHUDI
HaRav Yehuda Kroizer SHLIT"A, Rosh Yeshiva
13 Adar 5767/2-3 March 2007
WHY DID THEY BUILD THE TEMPLE?
Upon the return of the Jews to the Land of Israel after the destruction of the First Temple, the exiles from Babylon went right to work to rebuild the Holy Temple. This was in the year 3390 from Creation. The first returnees found life in the Holy Land quite hard. First of all, only some 42,000 Jews returned home, about 20 percent of Babylonian Jewry at the time. The great majority of Jews, who were business people and scholars from the upper classes, decided that this was definitely not Hashem's wish that the Jews return, so they stayed in the golden medina of Babylon. Secondly, the non-Jewish neighbors in Israel at the time, after being prevented from partaking of the building of the Temple with the Jews, informed the king that the Jews, in building the Temple, were rebelling against him. He immediately sent a stop order and all construction of the new Temple was halted. That king who gave this stop order was, of course, our very own Achashverosh.
So the story of Purim begins to unfold. The Jews of Israel decided to send a delegation to the king to persuade him to let them continue to rebuild the Temple. The non-Jewish neighbors, seeing that the Jews sent a delegation to the king, also decided to send one of their own to the king to persuade him of the dangers of the Jews rebuilding the Temple. Representing the Jews was none other than our own Mordechai HaYehudi, who had returned to Israel from Babylon years before, when permission was first granted to the Jews by King Cyrus of Persia. Representing the non-Jews was none other than our arch-enemy Haman, who was part of the foreign tribes installed in the Holy Land by king Sennacherib of Assyria when he exiled the ten tribes.
The question that we must ask at this point is: Why? Why did the Jews go to so much trouble to rebuild the Temple? Not only did they have a very small community at the time, making upkeep of the Temple very difficult, but also, the danger of the non-Jews who lived in the Land at the time and who were threatening to the Jews would seem to make this a matter of "pikuach nefesh" - endangering lives - so that danger should override the rebuilding of the Temple. Anyway, isn't it coming down from Heaven as many rabbis today state, and all we have to do is wait and look up carefully and watch that it won't fall on us on its way to the Temple Mount? Why, then, did they go though all of the trouble to rebuild the Temple, when the community in Israel at the time was so fragile and the majority of the Jews were just not ready for it, anyway?
The answer is so simple but so removed from our conscience that it seems light years away. They went to so much trouble to rebuild the Temple because it is a positive commandment to build a Temple, as the Torah teaches us: "You shall build Me a Sanctuary, that I might dwell within". From here the Rambam derives that the commandment to build a Temple is applicable to every generation, a place where one can offer sacrifices to Hashem.
In this spirit, the Or HaChayim also writes that the commandment to build a Temple was not just incumbent for the generation in the desert, but for every generation. And that is why the Jews who returned to the Land of Israel from the Babylonian exile set out to rebuild the Temple right away. Without excuses, without fanfare, because of its importance and the central role it plays in daily Jewish life.
And so, when Mordechai HaYehudi finally disembarked from his long journey to Shushan from the Land of Israel, imagine his horror to find that in spite of his purpose for being in Shushan - to convince the king to reinstate the construction work for the Temple - he finds, instead, that not only can he not get to the king, but his own fellow Jews were running here and there to partake of the great banquet that king Achashverosh was throwing. And just what was the good king celebrating? That the Temple was not rebuilt, and the Redemption of the Jewish people was not fulfilled, as the prophet Jeremiah had prophesied that the Jews would return to their own Land after 70 years.
Hashem, Master of history, had other plans for his people, though, and if they did not want to come home and rebuild His House, then He had many messengers at His disposal to help us along, as in the unfolding story of Purim, with Haman and his evil decree.
Today, too, the Land is awaiting its sons to return and to rebuild Hashem's House. If we don't move along with His program, then the Master of history will know how to bring it about one way or another. That is what is happening today in our still-unfolding story of Purim. Do we dare make the wrong choice and miss the boat?
With love of Israel,
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