At the time of the Temple's destruction, while Yirmiyohu was
sitting and weeping about the tragedy, he was approached by a
Greek philosopher (some say Plato). The philosopher asked
him, "You are known to be a very learned man; how can you cry
about the fall of a few stones?" Yirmiyohu inquired of the
Gentile scholar "In your discipline as a philosopher do you
have any questions which remain unresolved?"
The philosopher proceeded to expound several perplexing and
confounding paradoxes. The prophet instantly resolved all the
anomalies in a clear and lucid manner. The Greek philosopher
was astounded at Yirmiyohu's brilliance and perspicuity of
thought. He beseeched Yirmiyohu to reveal the source of his
exceptional wisdom. Yirmiyohu responded: "From these very
stones which I lament over." (Rema in the introduction
to Toras HaOloh).
While the Temple stood, Hashem dwelled amongst us and we
could recognize His existence. Aside from the miracles which
took place there daily, there were mitzvos which helped
Kohanim, Leviim and Yisroelim to recognize Hashem's Presence
in the Beis Hamikdosh. These included fearing and
guarding the Mikdosh, and preparation for the Temple
service. A clearer understanding of these mitzvos will help
us to appreciate what we are missing without the Beis
Walking In Awe
"You should fear My Mikdosh" (Vayikra 19,30). Let us
not make the same mistake as the Greek philosopher who could
only accept what his eyes relayed to him, and erroneously
thought that Yirmiyohu was crying over fallen stones. The
Torah commands us not to fear the building of the Temple, but
Hashem's Shechinah which dwells within its walls.
The Beis Hamikdosh was Hashem's palace, and when the Jewish
people entered its premises they were able to experience His
Majesty. In order for us to sense what such an experience may
have been like, we may try to visualize ourselves standing
before a flesh and blood king. After that we can relate that
experience back to visiting Hashem's house, and begin to
fathom what we are missing without the Beis
"Vagabond" conjures up the image of a person with his
possessions slung over his shoulder in a handkerchief,
traveling with a rough-looking walking stick, and his feet
covered with dust. Certainly a person should not appear
before royalty in such an unkempt state. One's appearance
should reflect the grandeur of royalty, and fear of the king
obligates a person to look presentable.
In front of a sovereign every movement is calculated to
generate the maximum splendor towards the central figure.
Even the way that a person walks is influenced by the
surroundings. Running like a commoner is certainly
inappropriate, and an effort should be made that one's
strides should express the honor of the royal setting.
After serving a king, a person cannot just casually get up
and leave. Royal protocol dictates that a person not turn his
back on the majesty before him. Instead of walking away,
small steps should be taken backwards until he has departed
from the king's courtyard.
Another facet of honoring a sovereign is that the monarch
sits on His throne and the subjects stand before Him. For
this reason, sitting was forbidden in the Temple courtyard.
Only the kings who were descendants of Dovid Hamelech were
permitted to sit there, in order to show respect for Hashem's
All of these aspects of royalty are part of the mitzvah of
being in awe of Hashem while in the Beis Hamikdosh.
When we had a Beis Hamikdosh we could go to
Hashem's palace and literally feel His Presence. Today we can
only learn about what it was like and long for it's return
(based on Rambam Hilchos Beis HaBechirah 7:1-6).
Even after the Temple's destruction, the mitzvah of fearing
the Mikdosh remains. Visiting the Kosel
Hama'arovi should stir us towards true awe of our
Creator. Sincere prayers accompanied by heartfelt tears have
the power to restore the Beis Hamikdash to the
splendor that once was.
On another level, we can fulfill this mitzvah in a beis
knesses and beis medrash as well. These places are
called "a small Mikdosh," and according to some
opinions behaving there with awe is a Torah-based commandment
(Yirei'im 394, Chayei Odom 17:6). We should be
especially careful to avoid disrespectful behavior there, for
our Sages reveal that treating places of Torah and
tefillah with disdain causes them to be transformed
into places of idol worship, Rachmono litzlan (Mishnah
Furthermore, our prayers serve as the substitute for the
avodoh that we are missing. Our Sages patterned the
preparations for tefillah in the same manner as the
Temple service and obligated us, for example, to wash our
hands before prayer. During the prayers we continually
reiterate our desire that Hashem should return to the Beis
Hamikdash. We finish Shemoneh Esrei by bowing down
and taking three step backwards as we take our leave of the
Preparing for Avodoh
"When you come to the Ohel Moed, you should wash with
water in order that you should not die . . ." (Shemos
30:20). Before entering the courtyard of the Mikdosh
to take part in the avodoh, the Kohanim had to go
to the mikveh. Therefore, any Kohen who wanted to
volunteer for the special services of that day had to wake up
early and immerse himself (Yuma 3:3; Tomid
In order to touch one of the consecrated vessels or perform
any service in the Beis Hamikdosh, the Kohanim were
obligated to wash their hands and feet. A Levi drew water
from the Kiyor and the Kohen would stand before him
with his foot raised towards his hand. That way the hands and
feet could be washed simultaneously.
Perhaps there is no greater sign of total subservience than
hishtachavoyoh, prostrating oneself completely on the
floor. After every act of avodoh, the Kohen would be
mishtachaveh on the floor of the Mikdosh. In this way
the Kohen likened himself to a servant leaving his master
(Tiferes Yisroel, Tomid 6:1).
The Royal Sentinel
"You should maintain watchmen in the Ohel Moed" (Bamidbar
18:4). This watch was not a protection against thieves or
damage. The purpose of the sentries was for the honor they
imply and give, that is, to instill a palatial atmosphere to
the Beis Hamikdosh (Rambam Hilchos Beis HaBechira
According to some opinions, this mitzvah only applied at
night (Ibid. 8:2). During the day, the Beis
Hamikdosh was bustling with activity and the extra guard
was not necessary (Boaz, Tomid 1:1). Others explain
that the Beis Hamikdosh had a constant honor guard and
even during the day sentinels stood on duty (Rosh and
Raavad in their introduction to Tomid).
This guard was maintained at twenty-one posts by the Leviim,
except for three places which were watched by Kohanim
(Middos 1:1). In order that every area should be
attended to, they were constantly circling the Temple grounds
(Rambam Positive Mitzvah 22). Although they were
generally required to stand, if they got extremely weary, the
guards were permitted to sit down (Tomid 27a).
During the night, there was a constant changing of the guard,
in order to give each guard a chance to sleep. The watchmen
slept on the ground, like guards of a palace, ready at a
moment's notice to spring out of bed and attend to their
position. While sleeping, the Kohanim did not wear their
special attire, lest they debase their special garments.
Rather they wore their everyday clothing, and placed their
bigdei kehunah near their heads (Tomid 1:1
according to Tiferes Yisroel).
A Time For Tears
A bride stands under the chuppah next to her mother on
her wedding night. The mother, a widow, is crying
uncontrollably, totally unaware of what is going on around
her. Her daughter asks, "Did I did something wrong? Maybe I
am not dressed properly? Maybe my chosson doesn't find
favor in you eyes?"
Her mother looks at her and says, "You look beautiful and you
couldn't have found a better chosson. The only reason
that I'm crying is because your father isn't here."
Looking around today, Klal Yisroel appears to be
thriving. Yeshivos are opening, shuls are constantly
being built, and new Torah works are published regularly.
Seemingly the Jewish people are quite well off.
The moed of Tisha B'Av comes to dispel this
perception, and wake us up to the realization of what is
really taking place. Without the Beis Hamikdosh our
Torah and tefilloh are sorely lacking, and we are
distanced from our Creator. Like the above scenario, we are
orphans without a father.
But in our case it is much worse, for our Father longs to
come back to us, and only our actions stop Him from
No one should expect to go to shul on Tisha B'Av and to be
suddenly overcome by tears. Don't think that this realization
will suddenly dawn upon us as the sun sets on the eighth of
Av. The only way that we can hope to feel any pain over the
enormous tragedy that of not having a Beis Hamikdosh,
is to take some time trying to comprehend what the
Beis Hamikdosh was, and why it is one of the most
fundamental aspects of the Jewish nation.
In the merit of trying to understand the importance of the
Beis Hamikdosh and what we lack without it, may Hashem
open our eyes to what we are missing in Golus, and
open our hearts to cry out to Him on Tisha B'Av.