Friday, February 08, 2008

Temple rebuilt

This Shabbat is the 3rd of Adar which is the anniversary of the completion of the construction of the Second Temple. The book of Ezra tells us that on this date they finished rebuilding the Temple which had been destroyed more than 70 years earlier. Even though this Second Beis Hamikdash did not compare at all with the first Beis Hamikdash (the ten daily miracles mentioned in Pirkei Avos no longer existed in the time of the Second Temple), Judaism once again had a focus and the sacrifices were once again offered on the altar.

15 And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.
16 And the children of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy.
17 And they offered at the dedication of this house of God a hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs; and for a sin-offering for all Israel, twelve he-goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel.
18 And they set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, for the service of God, which is at Jerusalem; as it is written in the book of Moses.

Of course then, as today, most people preferred the comfortable lives they had made for themselves in Bavel, and didn't want to return to Israel. Only a few came back, and they were mostly the poor or the misfits of society who had not succeeded in Bavel. I suppose there were some who joined Nechemiah for idealistic reasons and wanted to return to the Holy Land, but those who came with Ezra a few years later were not primarily motivated by ideology.

We know that those who came back and rebuilt Israel were the continuation of Judaism. Those who didn't return seem to have assimilated in exile (the Amoraim who lived in Bavel at the time of the Gemara, several centuries later, were descendants of the Israeli Jews, not the oringal Babylonians).

Let us pray that this day also brings us closer to the rebuilding of the Temple and the coming of Mashiach. And may everyone merit to be able to come back to Israel safely and for the right reasons.

Shabbat Shalom

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