“They shall make a Sanctuary for Me so that I may dwell among them.” (Shemos 25:8)
The great R’ Yehoshua Leib Diskind notes that in Eichah (2:9) we read that the gates of the Holy Temple were sunk into the earth. What was the purpose of preserving the gates, if we are promised that in the future a Beis HaMikdash of fire will descend from Heaven?
He explains that it is so that the Jewish people should be able to “rejoice in its [the Temple’s] completion,” as we pray in the mussaf service of the Three Festivals. If the construction of the Third Temple were to descend from Heaven totally finished, we would be embarrassed, and our joy would be marred because we would not have fulfilled the mitzvah of “they shall make a Sanctuary for Me.” Therefore, Hashem buried the gates so that in the future the elders will recover them and affix them to the Temple.
The Talmud in Bava Basra (53a) states that one who places the doors on a house acquires the house, for building an incomplete structure is not sufficient to take ownership. By placing the gates on the Beis HaMikdash, the Jewish nation will take possession of it and their joy will be complete.
Nikanor paid craftsmen in Egypt to design two brass doors for the Second Temple. A storm broke out as the ship carrying the doors traveled the sea, and one of the doors was thrown overboard. When the crew wanted to throw the second door overboard, Nikanor grabbed on to it and said they would have to throw him into the sea together with the door. The storm immediately subsided, and when the ship reached the port of Acco, the door that had been thrown overboard was miraculously floating alongside the ship.
When a person demonstrates his strong love for a mitzvah and is even willing to self-sacrifice for that mitzvah, Hashem gives him extra Divine Assistance. This is as it says in the Medrash, “If one will create an aperture like the eye of a needle, HaKadosh Baruch Hu will set up an opening as large as a great hall.”
The Tractate Middos discusses the various dimensions of the Second Temple and notes that the Great Hallway did not have doors, symbolizing openness and receptiveness. The Imrei Emes comments that this alludes to the concept that if one creates an opening as small as the eye of a needle to return to Hashem, he will find that Hashem has opened the doors wide like the entrance to the Great Hallway in the Temple.
The Nefesh HaChaim teaches that, in truth, every individual has the ability to become a dwelling place for the Divine Presence in this world. He discusses in great detail how much change one can effect in the heavenly spheres by his deeds and acts on earth. In fact, if a person sanctifies himself properly he becomes a mikdash – a place where Hashem’s presence dwells.
For the Love of a Mitzvah
The following awesome incident is recorded to have taken place during the Holocaust in the town of Gabrovo, Bulgaria.
It was late Friday afternoon when the Nazis surrounded the entire town. All the Jewish inhabitants, young and old, men and women, were gathered into the old wooden shul in town. It was impossible for anyone to escape. The Nazis intended to eventually set the shul afire to kill all within.
The Nazis warned that any Jew who ventured outside the shul would be murdered on the spot. The cries of the Jews inside pierced the heavens as the hours passed.
Among the captives was a baker, R’ Yoel, a simple man of great faith and yiras shamayim, a righteous and upstanding individual. Even on that Erev Shabbos, R’ Yoel had managed to bake a supply of challos in honor of Shabbos. However, in all the panic of the roundup he had left the challos behind in the bakery. Yet, during these fearful moments he considered returning to his bakery to retrieve the challos and bring them to shul so everyone could have the mitzvah of lechem mishnah.
And that is what he did. R’ Yoel quickly jumped out of the window of the shul and ran to the bakery. He knew that if he was caught he would lose his life, but he desperately wanted to bring merit to the community. Minutes that seemed like an eternity, passed, and R’ Yoel suddenly reappeared, climbing back in through the window he had left, his face glowing, carrying a sack of challos.
Joyfully he called out, “Precious Jews, it is Shabbos now. Come and take challah to fulfill the mitzvah of the Shabbos seudah.” The Jews, with the edge of the sword literally at their necks, forgot their unfortunate situation for a moment. Swept up in their love for the mitzvah and the joy of having an opportunity to fulfill another mitzvah, the impending doom was cast aside. They all washed and took a bite of the challah, experiencing briefly a taste of olam haba.
Then something unexpected happened. A German general suddenly appeared and ordered the soldiers to abandon their posts. The enemy had been sighted a few miles outside the town and every available soldier was needed.
The soldiers were gone very quickly, and all the Jews made a quick escape. The sudden miracle was credited to the self-sacrifice of R’ Yoel for a mitzvah. His noble mesiras nefesh at such a time of darkness had disarmed the Angel of Death and his zealous agents.