By Rabbi David Eliezrie
The great Chassidic sage Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev said that on this Shabbat before Tisha B'av, called Shabbat Chazon after Isaiah's vision in this week's haftarah, every Jew is shown an image of the Third Temple.
In a beautiful parable, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak tells of a father who made a garment for his son. The son tore the garment, so he made a second one. The son ruined that also, so the father made a third garment but kept it in the closet. Every year he would take it out and let his son gaze upon it. He would tell the son that if he improved his ways he would be able to wear the new garment.
The message is clear. The first
two temples having been lost, God gives the Jewish people a vision of the Third
Temple to inspire them in the right direction.
"Who sees this vision?" asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe. "If just the righteous ones and sages see it, how can it motivate Jews to transform themselves?"
The Rebbe answered that while we may not actually see the vision of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, our souls sense this unique spiritual phenomenon. He draws an analogy to the Bat Kol, the heavenly voice that the Talmud tells us emanates daily from Mount Sinai. "At times we feel a spontaneous spiritual awakening that seems to have no reason. It's really being prompted by a Bat Kol, in the same way our soul perceives the image of the Third Temple on Shabbat Chazon."
In this week's parasha we
read of a new epoch in Jewish history. The Israelites are preparing to enter the
land. It's a new generation, one that did not directly hear the words of
God at Mt. Sinai or experience the momentous miracles of the Exodus. They are
leaving the manna that God sent daily from heaven and entering a country in
which they will have to be involved in making a living. To secure that land they
will have to fight a long, bitter war. Our Torah portion contains the final
teachings they will receive from their great teacher Moses, who is not going
For the generation of the desert, entering the land seemed a spiritual step down, as they imagined that they would daily be less intimately involved with God. However, through involvement in a mundane world, the Israelites would potentially rise to greater spiritual heights. God wanted the Israelites, later known as the Jewish people, to bring holiness, not into a monastic lifestyle in the desert, but into the real world.
So too, now. Even in Israel, Jews still sing "L'shana Haba'ah B'Yerushalayim-Next Year in Jerusalem" at the end of the Passover Seder. They realize we are all still in a spiritual exile. But it is specifically in this environment that we can infuse holiness into the world, bringing greater purpose to all of mankind.
Still we yearn for Moshaich -- the Messiah bringing the ultimate era of peace that will uplift mankind. The key to that transformation of ourselves, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak said, is that on this specific Shabbat we can be spiritually awakened to the vision that Isaiah alluded to thousands of years ago. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak saw it, and we can too if we open our hearts and minds to the rich legacy divinely given to each one of us.