Once upon a time, there were two Jews living in the land of Israel. Both witnessed the horrors of the churban Beis HaMikdash, the destruction of the holy temple. One was a farmer living in the Galilee. The Romans swept in, destroyed his vineyards, slaughtered his livestock, razed his crops, and burned his property down to the ground. With the passing of the years, though, the farmer won back his freedom, returned to his land, rebuilt his home, his barns, his silos, and planted his crops once again. His pantry grew fat with rich things and his cellars filled once again with fine, aged wines. That which he had lost at the time of the churban was restored to him. For the farmer, it seemed as though the sun of the redemption had already dawned.
However, the second Jew lived in Jerusalem. The glory of the presence of the Almighty had been before his eyes. He had watched the kohanim performing the Beis HaMikdash services and the levi’im accompanying them in exquisite music and song. His heart had been pierced as he heard the Kohen Gadol (high priest) calling out, “Anah HaShem!” on Yom Kippur, the holiest of days. He had experienced the unimaginable joy of the simchas beis ha’shoeva celebration in the Beis HaMikdash during Succos. He had spent all of his days and his nights perfumed by the sublime fragrance of the ketores (incense).
He had seen the smoke of the offerings rise to the heavens in a line straight as an arrow even on the windiest of Jerusalem winter days. He had seen the eternal western candle of the golden menorah burn without faltering and the Beis HaMikdash showbreads that stayed fresh and warm for an entire week until the moment they were removed from their display. He had stood side by side with his brothers, uncles, nephews, sons, and thousands of others in the tightly packed Beis HaMikdash courtyard on Yom Kippur when the miraculous spaciousness allowed everybody to fall flat upon the ground in worship of the Almighty.
He had tasted the delicious korban Pesach, welcomed the farmers bringing bikkurim, their first fruits, to the Beis HaMikdash from all over the land, and had listened in awe to the wondrous words of the Sanhedrin sitting in a half-circle in the Beis HaMikdash’s lishka hagazis. Every day of his life holiness had been what this man lived and breathed.
But when the time of the churban arrived, the Romans destroyed the Beis HaMikdash, slayed those who performed the temple service, dispersed the Sanhedrin, and the presence of the Almighty was exiled from all but a single, western wall. This Jew also made it back to his original home years later, but for him it was not the same. The churban had taken away much more than his physical possessions. It had stolen the holiness that had pervaded his very existence.
Whoever had seen the Beis HaMikdash in all its magnificence and glory found it impossible to be comforted by material possessions alone. We can barely imagine the abysmal depths of their pain, the pain we continue to carry as a nation. As long as the complete redemption has not arrived with the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash and the restoration of the presence of the Almighty within it, we are still bereft.
The Beis HaMikdash served as the point of connection between the Creator and His creations. This point of connection began with the Mishkan, the original template for what would become the Beis HaMikdash. It was the sanctuary of the Divine Presence as the verse described, "And the glory of HaShem filled the Mishkan" (Exodus 40:34). Upon building the Beis HaMikdash, the Divine Presence came to dwell among us permanently. The primary revelation of the Divine Presence was in the Beis HaMikdash. When the Beis HaMikdash is rebuilt, this revelation from the Beis HaMikdash will shine through all worlds, serving as the center and foundation for the holiness of all higher realities.
The Beis HaMikdash was destroyed because of our destructive choices, our sins. We were barred from its gates and locked away from the serving the Almighty there in purity and holiness. Nothing was left to us but the Western Wall where, we were promised, the Divine Presence would never leave and that would never be destroyed.
The Western Wall continues to comfort our people. Its ancient stones, worn smooth as silk, bear our caresses as thousands lean into them every day to pour out their weary hearts to our Father in heaven. Tears without number flow by the holy site that unites all of the Jewish nation together, marking our shared home and our shared heart.
Our generation has been left with other types of places called a mikdash meh’at, a “small sanctuary”. One of these types of places are our synagogues where the Divine Presence is still invited to dwell and where we beseech the Almighty with rent hearts to return His Presence to Zion. May we be granted the merit to see the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash and the arrival of the complete redemption soon within our days