How To Rebuild The Temple
The Shabbat of Parsha Devarim is also known as Shabbat Chazon, from the name of this week’s Haftorah, which begins with the words Chazon Yeshaya ben Amotz (“The vision of Isaiah, the son of Amoz”). In it the prophet Isaiah rebukes the Children of Israel for having committed various sins, and he calls upon them to completely repent before the Holy One, blessed be He. This Shabbat always precedes the fast of Tisha B’Av, the day when our Temple was destroyed, when our pride and glory disappeared. We can no longer offer sacrifices on Hashem’s altar, a situation that will continue until He takes pity on the remnant of His people, allows us to rebuild the Temple, and sends us the redeemer, speedily and in our days. Amen, may it be so.
Yet to rectify the sin that caused the destruction of the Temple, we must constantly search our hearts in order to know how to better ourselves and bring about the construction of the new Temple. The Sages said, “Every generation that does not see the rebuilding of the Holy Temple is guilty of having destroyed it” (Yerushalmi, Yoma 1:1). Do we really want people to say that we destroyed the Temple with our own hands? Obviously not. Therefore we must think about how best to bring about its restoration. Some useful advice for bringing about the construction of the Temple is given at the beginning of Parsha Devarim. There we read of the reprimands that were addressed to the Children of Israel by Moses before he died. If we were to actually take them to heart, Hashem would quickly restore the Temple in all its glory.
At the beginning of the parsha we read, “These are the words that Moses spoke to all Israel, on the other side of the Jordan, in the desert, in the Arabah, opposite Suf, between Paran and Tophel, and Laban and Hazeroth and Di-zahab” (Deuteronomy 1:1). These names indicate the places where the Children of Israel angered Hashem, however Moses mentioned them only by way of allusion, for the sake of the Children of Israel’s dignity. We must explain the meaning of these allusions, for the references show us the path to follow and the deeds to perform in order to conquer the evil inclination and hasten the rebuilding of the Temple. In fact we are well aware of the Sages’ statement that “if a man makes himself like a desert, abandoning himself to all [Rashi: He teaches Torah to everyone for free], then the Torah will be given to him as a gift” (Nedarim 55a). Only such a man can acquire the Torah. This is what Moses said to the Children of Israel: The first condition for rebuilding the Temple is the study of Torah. Furthermore, if we study Torah all other good things will come our way.
In the expression ba’arava (“in the Arabah” – Deuteronomy 1:1), the word arava contains the same letters as avera (“sin”). This means that Moses warned Israel that when a person wants to study Torah, the evil inclination immediately comes and incites him to sin. That is, not only will it not let a person study Torah, it will incite him to do the very opposite! This is why the wise foresee things, allowing them to completely reject the evil inclination. Some may ask, “How can I do that? How can someone as insignificant as myself rebuff the evil inclination? My desires are so strong, and temptations are so powerful, how can I possibly conquer them?” This is why Moses continued by saying mol suf (“opposite Suf”). This alludes to a well-known piece of advice that the Sages gave to those who want to subdue their evil inclination. What must a person do in that case? He must study Torah. If that fails to work, he should recite Shema, and if that also fails to work, he should reflect upon the day of death (Berachot 5a). This is the meaning of the words mol suf, namely to remind the evil inclination of the end (suf) of man’s days, for everyone is destined to die. In this way each of us can truly conquer the evil inclination. At the same time we must strengthen ourselves in other areas. Now there are some people who truly want to better themselves, who want to become spiritually stronger, people who want to study Torah and perform mitzvot. They try to subdue the evil inclination day and night, yet they unfortunately continue to be occupied with useless things, things that have no value whatsoever, foolish pursuits that have nothing to do with serving G-d.
This is why Moses told the Children of Israel, “Between Paran and Tophel.” The word paran evokes the word perurim (“crumbs”), and tophel recalls tefelim (“useless words”), things that are completely unjustified. This means that if you truly want to strengthen yourselves spiritually, to be G-d-fearing Jews and hasten the Final Redemption, you should not be occupied with “crumbs” – useless things that have no justification – with petty sins. You should abandon all foolish pursuits and concentrate solely on the essential. You must focus on true spiritual values, for it is only the study of true spirituality that will raise you to great heights and lofty levels.
A person must adopt all these suggestions – studying Torah and defeating the evil inclination by reminding it of the day of death – all without occupying himself with petty foolish pursuits, but instead with spiritual ones. If a person does that, Moses continues to tell the Children of Israel, he will succeed in arriving at the primary thing. Such a person will arrive at lavan (“white”), for all his sins will be transformed from red to white, as it is written: “If your sins are like scarlet, they will become white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). Furthermore, deliberate sins will become merits, in which case a person may have a great deal of merit!
In addition to this, “Hazeroth” – you will truly merit finding yourself in the courtyards of Hashem’s house, rejoicing in His presence, gazing at His glory, and visiting His palace. All this will happen because you overcame all evil and strengthened yourself solely in what is good. Finally there is “Di-zahab,” a reference to money, to zahav (gold). In other words, if you do everything mentioned above, you will receive a tremendous reward from Hashem in the world that is entirely good (the World to Come) for all the mitzvot and good deeds that you have accumulated. Why all this? It is because you will have conquered the golden calf, meaning the evil inclination that is alluded to by the word “Di-zahab.” You will have deeply buried the evil inclination into the ground, and your entire personality will shine will holiness and purity, with Torah and mitzvot.
These are not simply sanctimonious remarks. We must implant these ideas deeply in our minds and in our hearts, for actions speak louder than words. It is only in this way that we will merit to hasten the Final Redemption and the construction of the Temple, speedily and in our days. Amen, may it be so!