The Glory of this Latter House Shall be Greater than that of the Former: Like its Building, Great is its Reading in Torah
I have hearkened to your prayer and to your plea that you pleaded before Me. I have sanctified this house that you built to set My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart shall be there for all time (1 Kings 9:3).
“Rav Shmu’el son of Abba said: The blessed Holy One said to Israel, ‘Even though the House is destined to be destroyed and the sacrifices nullified, do not forget the order of the sacrifices, but rather be careful to learn them and review them. And if you occupy yourselves with them, I will reckon it to you as if you were occupied with the sacrifices.’
Come and see: When the blessed Holy One showed Ezekiel the design of the House, what did He say? You, man, tell the house of Israel about the house, and let them be ashamed of their crimes, and let them measure its design (Ezekiel 43:10). Ezekiel said before the blessed Holy One: Master of the Universe! Until now we are in exile delivered into in the land of our enemies, yet You say to me go and tell Israel the design of the House, [and if they are ashamed of all that they have done, inform them of the plan of the house and its design…] and write them before there eyes that they may observe all its design and its regulations [and do them] (ibid., 11). And are they able to do [them]?! Leave them until they go up from exile, and afterwards I will go and tell them. The blessed Holy One said to Ezekiel: And because My children are in exile, will the building of My House be nullified? The blessed Holy One said to him: Like its building, great is its reading in Torah. Go and say it to them and they will occupy themselves with reading the design of the House in Torah. And in reward for its reading, that they occupy themselves in its reading, I reckon it to them as if they were occupied with the building of the House.
And happy is the man who engages in Torah and gives his money to teach Torah to his son. As on account of the money that he gives for teaching, he merits life in the world to come, as is said, For He is your life and your length of days (Deuteronomy 30:20). Your life—in the world to come; and your length of days—in the world that is long. And know that it is so. Rabbi Asya said: Why do the schoolchildren of Rabban’s house study the book of Leviticus? Since all the sacrifices are written in it, and because they are pure until now and do not know the taste of offense and crime. Therefore, the blessed Holy One said: Let them first begin with the order of the sacrifices—let pure ones come and occupy themselves with acts of purification. Therefore, I reckon it to them as if they were standing and offering sacrifices before Me. And He is informing you that even though the Temple is destroyed and sacrifices are not practiced, were it not for schoolchildren that read the order of sacrifices, the world would not stand. Therefore, the blessed Holy One said to Israel: My children, even though the Temple is destroyed and the sacrifices are nullified and the sacrifice of the burnt offering is not practiced, if you occupy yourselves with reading the portion of the burnt offering and study the portion of sacrifices, I reckon it to you as if you were offering the sacrifice of a burnt offering before Me, as is said, This it the teaching for the burnt offering (Leviticus 7:37)—one who occupies himself with the teaching of the burnt offering merits life in the world to come. What is written above? Should a person offend and betray YHWH’s trust and dissemble with his fellow [about a deposit or a pledge, or by theft, or defraud his fellow, or should he find something lost… he shall pay back the principal and add a fifth to him to whom it belongs he shall give it, when his guilt is confirmed] (Leviticus 5:21). And afterwards: This it the teaching for the burnt offering. Isaiah said: For I, YHWH, love justice, and hate robbery (Isaiah 61:8)—with a burnt offering. The blessed Holy One says: Do not say, ‘I will steal and defraud, and bring a burnt offering and it will atone for me.’ Since I hate theft, even with a burnt offering made for theft. And if the world wants Me to accept a burnt offering, return the theft to its owner. Afterwards, if he bring up a burnt offering for it, I will accept it, as is said, For I, YHWH… hate robbery with a burnt offering—I hate the burnt offering when the theft is still in his hand.
And one who reads the teaching of the burnt offering is as if he brings and offers up a burnt offering before the blessed Holy One. Therefore, happy is the one who teaches himself Torah and gives his money to teach himself and his sons, as is said, And this is the teaching of the communion sacrifice (Leviticus 7:11). Israel said before the blessed Holy One: Master of the Universe: Behold You command us that we bring all of these sacrifices. When the Temple was still in existence, a man that offended brought a sacrifice and it ransomed for him. And so [too], he brought a meal offering and it was accepted. But now that the Temple is destroyed, what can we do for our offenses and for our guilt? The blessed Holy One said to them: If you want them to be atonement for you, keep My laws, and I will reckon it to you as if you offered up sacrifice before Me. From where is this known? This is the teaching for the burnt offering, for the grain offering, and for the offense offering and for the guilt offering and for the installation offering and for the communion sacrifice [which YHWH charged Moses on Mount Sinai…] (Leviticus 7:37). Do not read it so: [This is the teaching לָעוֹלָה (la-olah), for the burnt offering…], but rather: This is the teaching לֹא לָעוֹלָה (lo la-olah), not the burnt offering, not the grain offering, and not the offense offering and not the guilt offering and not the installation offering and not the communion sacrifice. Rather, occupy yourselves with Torah, and it will be reckoned by Me as if you offered up all of the sacrifices before Me. Therefore, David said, How I loved Your teaching. All day long it was my theme (Psalms 119:97)—since I know that engaging in Your Torah atones for crime, thus How I loved Your teaching.
What is [This is the teaching of the burnt offering. It is the very burnt offering] over its flame on the altar all night till morning (Leviticus 6:2)? That they burn the fats and the limbs the entire night. And the prayers were instituted corresponding to the sacrifices [cf. BT Berakhot 26b: ‘Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi says: The prayers were instituted to replace the daily sacrifices’]. Now that we do not have burnt offerings, nor sacrifices, nor meal offerings, nor guilt offerings, they instituted them as prayers. And the evening prayer can be brought the whole night, just as we bring limbs and fats the whole night. But the Patriarchs instituted the prayers, and this means to say, its burning is on the altar the whole night. And why was the burning on the altar and not in another place? Rather, the verse says, An earthen altar shall you make for Me, [and you shall sacrifice upon it your burnt offerings and your communion sacrifices, your sheep and your cattle] (Exodus 20:24). Why earthen? Because the human was created from the soil, and his name was called אָדָם (adam), human, because he was taken from the אֲדָמָה (adamah), humus. And we offer up burnt offerings and sacrifices on that altar, made of earth, to atone for the body that is taken from the soil. And from where do we know that it ransoms for a life? As is written, For the life of all flesh, its blood is in its life (Leviticus 17:14). And it also says, for it is the blood that ransoms in exchange for life (ibid., 11). And cast the blood round the altar (ibid. 1:5). And cast the blood—the life; round the altar—of soil which is like the body; that ransoms in exchange for life. A perpetual fire shall keep burning on the altar. It shall not go out (ibid. 6:6). And it says, And they shall go out and see the corpses of the people who rebelled against Me, for their worm shall never die and their fire shall not go out (Isaiah 66:24)—those that deny the Omnipresent. But the perpetual fire on the altar atones for the offenses of Israel.
And what is מִזְבֵּחַ (mizbeaḥ), altar? מ (Mem)—מְחִלָּה (meḥillah), wipe out, as it מּוֹחֵל (moḥel), pardons, their crimes; ז (zayin)—זְכוּת (zechut), merit, as it gives them merit for the world to come; ב (bet)—בְּרָכָה (berakhah), blessing, as the blessed Holy One brings them blessing in the work of their hands; ח (ḥet)—חַיִּים (ḥayyim), life, as they merit life in the world to come. One who leaves all of these (pardon, merit, blessing, and life) and goes and serves foreign worship, is burned by His great fire, as is said, For YHWH your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24). How is He jealous? As is said, And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness (Hosea 2:22)—just as a husband is jealous for his wife, so too the blessed Holy One is jealous, as is said, [As a young man beds a virgin…] and a bridegroom’s rejoicing over the bride [shall your God rejoice over you] (Isaiah 62:5). One who leaves all these will be burnt by His great fire, as is said, For their worm shall never die and their fire shall not go out, and they shall be a horror to all flesh (ibid. 66:24). However, if he repents, the fire burning on the altar ransoms for him and extinguishes the fires of Hell” (Tanḥuma, Tsav 14).
“Rabbi Abba said, ‘I remember something that I heard from the Holy Lamp [Rabbi Shim’on son of Yoḥai], who heard it in the name of Rabbi Eli’ezer [son of Hyrcanus]. One day, a certain clever Gentile came to him and said, Old man, old man… you say that another Temple will be built for you, whereas only two were supposed to be built: the First Temple and the Second Temple—a Third Temple and a Fourth Temple you will not find in the Torah! Surely, what is meant to be built has already been built, and there will never be any more; for, after all, Scripture calls them the two houses of Israel (Isaiah 8:14), and it is written The glory of this last house will be greater than the first (Haggai 2:9)….’
[The Gentile] said, ‘Old man, old man, don’t say anything to me, because I won’t listen to you or accept it!’ [cf. Proverbs 18:2: A fool does not care for discerning but for exposing his inner thoughts; ibid. 26:4–5: Do not answer a dolt by his folly, lest you, too, be like him. Answer the dolt by his folly, lest he seem wise in his own eyes].
Rabbi Eli’ezer raised his eyes and gazed at him, and he turned into a heap of bones. When his wrath subsided, he turned his head and wept. He said, ‘YHWH our Lord, how majestic is Your name throughout the earth! (Psalms 8:2). How mighty is the holy power throughout the earth! There is not a single tiny word appearing in the Torah that has not issued from the mouth of the blessed Holy One. These things asked by that wicked man I asked Elijah one day, and he said that they had been presented in the Heavenly Academy before the blessed Holy One.
For when Israel came out of Egypt, the blessed Holy One wished to make them on earth like holy angels above, and He wanted to build for them a holy house, bring it down from the utmost heavens, and plant Israel as a holy shoot corresponding to the image above. As is written: You will bring them, You will plant them on the mount of Your heritage. In which? A firm place for Your dwelling You fashioned, O YHWH (Exodus 15:17)—in the one that You fashioned Yourself, no one else—the First Temple. The sanctuary, O YHWH, Your hands firmly founded—the Second Temple. Both of them, the artistry of the blessed Holy One.
But because they angered Him in the desert, they died, and the blessed Holy One brought into the Land their children—who learned their ways—and the house was built by human hands. Consequently, it did not endure; and Solomon said, Unless YHWH builds the house, its builders labor in vain (Psalms 127:1), for it has no endurance [cf. Zohar 1:74a; Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah on 1:1 (5): ‘Rabbi Berekhiah said, It is not written here: The House that they were building, but rather: The House, in its being built (1 Kings 6:7). It was built by itself!’].
In the days of Ezra, sin took its toll—due to various transgressions—and they were forced to build it themselves, so it did not endure. Until now, the original building of the blessed Holy One has never appeared in the world. For it is written: YHWH builds Jerusalem (Psalms 147:2)—He and no one else. It is this building we await, not a human building, which has no endurance at all [cf. Mekhilta, Shirta 10; Melkhilta de-Rashbi, Exodus 15:17; Avot de-Rabbi Natan A, 1; Targum Yerushalmi, Exodus 15:17; Tanḥuma, Noaḥ 11; Pequdei 11; Tanḥuma (Buber), Noaḥ 17; Pesiqta Rabbati 31, 142b; Yalqut Shim’oni, Psalms 848; Rashi on Exodus 15:17; idem, Rosh ha-Shanah 30a, s.v. la tserikha; Sukkah 41a; Zohar 1:114a (MhN), 183b; 2:59a–b, 108a–b].
The blessed Holy One will bring down the First Temple and the Second Temple as one from above—the First Temple, concealed [Binah]; the Second Temple, revealed [Malkhut]. The house called Second Temple will be revealed, so that the artistry of the blessed Holy One will be visible to the whole world—total joy, aspiration of the heart, in full existence.
That First Temple, concealed, will ascend high above the one revealed; and the whole world will see clouds of glory surrounding the revealed one; and within those clouds will be the First Temple, in hidden fashioning, rising to the height of the glorious heavens. It is this building that we await, which has never existed in the world.
Even the city of Jerusalem will not be the work of human hands, for it is written: I Myself—declares YHWH—will be a wall of fire around her… (Zechariah 2:9). If this is what is written about the city, all the more so for the Temple, which is His dwelling. This act should have happened at first, when Israel came out of Egypt, but it has been deferred to the end of days in the final redemption” (Zohar 3:220b–221a).
“Come and see: Four hundred years, the minister of the children of Ishmael stood and begged before the blessed Holy One: ‘Whoever is circumcised has a portion in Your name.’ He said to him, ‘it is so.’ ‘Behold Ishmael who is circumcised. Why does he not have a portion in You like Isaac?’ He said to him, ‘It is not so, the one was circumcised properly and according to the full requirements, while the other was not so [as Ishmael do not fulfill פּרִיעָה (peri’ah), uncovering, which is alluded to by the verse: He will be פֶּרֶא אָדָם (pere adam), a wild ass of a man, his hand against all, the hand of all against him… (Genesis 16:12, see Zohar 2:86a; 3:192b). אָתוֹן (Aton), she-ass, is numerically equivalent to יִשְׁמָעֵאל (Yishma’el), Ishmael)].
Moreover, they cleave to Me as is specified, on the eighth day, while the others are distanced from me for many days [being circumcised only at age thirteen, see Bereshit Rabbah 55:4].’ ‘But still in all, since he is circumcised, would he not have a good reward for this?’ [Rabbi Ḥiyya said:] Woe is to the time that Ishmael was born into the world and was circumcised. What did the blessed Holy One do? He distanced the children of Ishmael from supernal cleaving and gave them a portion below in the Holy Land, because of their circumcision. And in the future, the children of Ishmael are destined to rule over the Holy Land for a long time when it is empty, like their circumcision, empty and imperfect. And they will prevent the children of Israel from returning to their place until the reward for the merit of the children of Ishmael reaches completion.
The children of Ishmael will cause great wars in the world and the children of Edom will gather against them, and wage war against them, one on the sea, one on the dry land, and one near Jerusalem. And they will rule over each other, but the Holy Land will not be given over to the children of Edom [cf. Numbers 24:19]. At that time, a nation from the end of the earth will be roused against evil Rome and wage war against it for three months. Nations will gather there, and will fall into their hands until all the children of Edom will gather against it from all the corners of the world. Then the blessed Holy One will be roused against them. This is the meaning of For YHWH has a sacrifice in Botzrah (Isaiah 34:6). And afterwards, it is written That it might take hold of the ends of the earth (Job 38:13).
He will destroy the descendants of Ishmael from the Land, and break all [its] powers above. There will not remain any power of any people on earth, except the power of Israel alone. This is the meaning of YHWH is your shade upon your right hand (Psalms 121:5). For the Holy Name is on the right, and the Torah is on the right. Therefore, everything stems from the right. We have learned that one should raise the right over the left, as it is written In His right hand a fiery law (Deuteronomy 33:2). In the time to come: Save with Your right hand and answer me (Psalms 60:7). And of that time, it is written: For then I will purify the language of the peoples, that all of them may call upon the name of YHWH and serve Him shoulder to shoulder (Zephaniah 3:9), and On that day YHWH will be one, and His name will be One (Zechariah 14:9)” (Zohar 2:32a).