Replacing What We Lost in the Temple




Insight into: Devarim 

A famous legend about Napoleon notes that he was once walking through the streets of Paris on Tisha b’Av. As his entourage passed a synagogue, he heard wailing and crying coming from within.

He sent an aide to inquire as to what had happened. The aide returned and told Napoleon that the Jews were in mourning over the loss of their temple. Napoleon was indignant! “Why wasn’t I informed? When did this happen? Which temple?” 

The aide responded, “They lost their temple in Jerusalem on this date 1,700 years ago.” 

Napoleon stood in silence and then said, “Certainly a people which has mourned the loss of their temple for so long will survive to see it rebuilt!”

Since 70 C.E. (when the Second Temple was destroyed), the Jewish people have built many temples all over the world, as well as in Jerusalem itself. What is it about the Holy Temple that we miss so much and mourn for thousands of years? 

The Mishnah in the Ethics of our Fathers (Pirke Avot) lists 10 miracles that took place in the Holy Temple on a daily basis. For example, the fire on the altar (in the courtyard of the Temple) was never extinguished, no matter how hard the rain came down. 

The Ner Tamid (Eternal Lamp) that can be found in every synagogue today also tells the story of a miracle that used to take place in the Temple. There was a menorah (candelabra) of seven branches, and each night the High Priest used to light all seven candles. By morning, six of the flames were extinguished, but one of the candles, miraculously, never burnt out. 

The Holy Temple in Jerusalem was more than just a beautiful building where Jews came together to pray to G‑d and bring offerings; it was a place where G‑d revealed Himself to us daily. 

When a person came to visit the Temple, he was able to personally experience G‑d. The miracles made G‑d’s presence so obvious that

G‑dliness was almost tangible. No one needed proof of His existence.

When the Temple was destroyed, we didn’t just lose a physical structure. What we lost was an awareness of G‑d. Since then, we must search for G‑dliness and work hard on feeling the presence of G‑d in our lives. 

What we mourn on Tisha b’Av is the loss of this high level of spirituality. We miss the “good ole days,” when the presence of G‑d was revealed among us. 

In this week’s parasha Devarim, Moses describes the miracles that took place in the desert. He tells how the clouds of glory traveled with the Jews for 40 years, guiding them and protecting them throughout their long journey. These and all the other miracles that took place in the desert resulted in the amazing relationship that the Jewish people had with G‑d. 

What we lost in the desert was replaced by the Holy Temple, and what we lost in the Temple is our duty to replace!