Former Shaliach in Atlanta
As we approach Tisha B’Av, we are frequently enjoined to recall the famous Talmudic dictum:
“Every generation which did not witness the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash, it is considered as if it was destroyed in that generation.”
In other words, if a generation was unable to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash, the generation is considered to be guilty of the same sin which led to the Beit HaMikdash’s destruction: sinat chinam (baseless hatred).
Yet, what does this statement really mean? Sadly, the Beit HaMikdash is still destroyed, and since the Second Beit HaMikdash era, no one has rebuilt it. Are we to understand that all those generations which preceded us were comprised of sinners? Were all those generations – the Tana’im, the Amora’im, and all the sages and righteous individuals who followed them – still steeped in sinat chinam? And what about all the tzadikim who died al kiddush Hashem throughout the millennia? Was their merit insufficient?
R’ Yehudah Aryeh Leib, the Sfat Emet of Gur, explains that “the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash” is actually an ongoing process, which continues in every generation. Just as we employ the phrase “Boneh Yerushalayim” (“the Builder of Yerushalayim”) in our prayers – i.e. in the present, rather than in the future – we are constantly rebuilding.
No single generation – not even the generation of the final redemption who will, b’ezrat Hashem, be privileged to construct the Beit HaMikdash in Yerushalayim in actuality – has enough merit on its own. Rather, the combined merit and mitzvot of all the Jews throughout the generations are necessary for the Third Beit HaMikdash.
Similarly, no single individual can perform all the mitzvot. After all, no one can be both man and woman or a Kohein, Levi, and Yisrael at the same time. Hence, each Jew must be part of the greater nation which observes the Torah, and in this way, the individual can observe the Torah in its entirety.
So, too, each generation of Am Yisrael adds its mitzvot and merits to the whole, and the cumulative effect eventually leads to the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash. Thus, each and every generation can rebuild its own share of the Beit HaMikdash – via its good deeds and by atoning and rectifying for past transgressions. Furthermore, as part of this generation, which is part of Am Yisrael, we can each rebuild our own special corner and add our own unique bricks.
In order to participate in this wondrous process, we must be part of the nation and the unbroken chain. We must be connected to Am Yisrael and everything it experiences. We must constantly ask ourselves: Where is my place? How can I contribute to the nation and to this process – right now, in this generation? Which bricks must I add to enable the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash?
B’ezrat Hashem and in the merit of our collective efforts, may we soon be privileged to see Yerushalayim and the rebuilt Beit HaMikdash in all their splendor and glory.