My friend and colleague, Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, has written a provocative personal essay in the form of a prayer questioning the necessity for the restoration of the Beit HaMikdash, The Temple and its Divine service. I do not question the sincerity of his questioning or of his convictions. He is a man of integrity and is always one to express his genuine and heartfelt questions, challenges, declarations and points of dialogue. I feel compelled in this case to offer a response also in the form of a prayer for why I yearn for the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash in the holy city of Jerusalem. I do so not to, God forbid, publicly repudiate my friend and colleague, but rather to express that there are modern Jews who while not only firmly rooted in traditional practice also still dream the dream of our ancestors for two millennia.
You have been with us throughout our long exile. You have sheltered us under the wings of your Divine presence. You have protected us. You have led us to refuge when our neighbors would have us no more. You declared, “imo anochi b’tzarah — I am with you in your pain,” and throughout our long and tumultuous wandering and exile that was true.
Now, You have brought Your people back into Your land. You have restored our sense of national worth. We defend ourselves with Your help. We govern ourselves with Your help. Our system is so far from perfect and is so deeply flawed but nonetheless we thank You everyday that we once again have a system of self-government and protection. We are forever grateful for Your sheltering presence when we were unable to shelter ourselves but also understand that the highest form of maturity is when we can put a shelter over our own heads and have the capacity to extend that shelter to those in need.
We look to Yerushalayim and see a city once again bustling with the sounds of children playing and brides and grooms dancing on their wedding day. We see a city that is alive with innovation and intellectual spirit. The vibrant cacophony of the halls of Torah study pour out unto the streets. The serenity of Shabbat fills the space of Your holy city.
“Hanistarot l’Hashem Elokeynu — The hidden things are for God.” We know not Your ways. We strive continuously to gain a small glimpse of You and what we perceive is but a shadow of the shadow of You. We look to Har HaMoriah, the Temple Mount, and see a vacuum of what could be. While valuing and honoring the religious expression of our cousins, what we see are the ruins of Your glory on earth. The House of Prayer for all People, the one location on the planet where genuine closeness to You could be felt. We know not how your Beit HaMikdash will be restored whether through human or Divine intervention or combination of both. Those matters remain hidden to us.
Far away in the midst of exile I yearn for the Beit HaMikdash. I yearn for the immanence of Your presence. I yearn to take part in the avodah, the Divine service and watch my two sons train to take part in the avodah. I yearn to truly experience the words from our Yom Kippur liturgy, “emet mah nehadar hiyah Kohen Gadol be’tzayto mi’bayt kodshei hakadoshim b’shalom bli fegah — Truly, how glorious was the appearance of the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, when he came forth from the Holy of Holies in peace without any harm.”
When the Temple is restored may we hear Your promise as Shlomo HaMelekh, King Solomon, heard it thousands of years ago: “I have heard your prayer and your supplication, that you have made unto Me. I have hallowed this house, which you have built, to put My name there forever and My eyes and My heart shall be there for all time.” Amen.
Binyamin Chaim ben Dan Pesach HaKohen v’Elisheva