Today is "Purim Katan," the lesser Purim the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar 1. As this is a leap year, there are two months of Adar. So although the festival of Purim actually falls out next month, today is like a minor, mirror reflection of Purim, which will be celebrated in exactly one month. Today has some of the characteristics of a festive day; it is like a preparation for that day, and today, some of the "holy sparks" of that holy day already begin to reverberate. In fact, all throughout this month, we have already begun to contemplate the meaning of that festival and the great deliverance of Israel that it marks.
Everyone knows that the scroll of Esther, which we will read on Purim, tells the story of Mordechai and Esther, and the near destruction of the Jewish people through the plot of the wicked Haman. But in reality, the Scroll of Esther tells another story as well...it relates the saga of the Jewish people's struggle to build the Second Temple. An examination of the scroll according to the insights of our sages of blessed memory, as recorded in the Talmud and Midrash, reveals that the concept of the rebuilding of the Holy Temple lies behind the scenes of the Purim story. A strong connection exists between the main personalities described in the Scroll of Esther, and the Holy Temple.
With G-d's help, in the coming weeks leading up to Purim, we shall begin a new series of newsletters dedicated to a detailed exploration of the connection between the Purim story and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple...
During this period, the Jewish people have been following the weekly Torah readings in the book of Exodus, which deal with the commandments of the Tabernacle, the sacred vessels and the priestly garments. As we shall soon see, the Purim story all began when the evil King Ahashverash of Persia decided that the Temple was not going to be rebuilt. To celebrate this, he held a lavish pagan banquet...and as an act of total profanity, he donned the Priestly garments, and served the feast using the sacred vessels that had been plundered by the Babylonians, and taken from Jerusalem at the time of the destruction of the First Temple.
Through its recreation of the Temple vessels in preparation for the Holy Temple, the Temple Institute seeks to reverse the actions that took place at that banquet...and similiar actions throughout history.
Our sages teach that when the Temple's destruction is met with apathy, evil runs rampant throughout the world. During the first years of the Jews' return from Babylon to the Land of Israel, they were smitten with hunger and other disasters. Our sages explain that this was caused by the sluggish pace at which the building of the Holy Temple was proceeding. The Midrash relates that "When Israel was exiled to Babylon, Ezra the prophet told them 'Go back to the Land of Israel' --but they were not interested. And so Ezra told them: 'You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but you are not satisfied; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he that earns wages earns them to put them into a bag with holes' (Hagai 1:6)."
The sages explain the inner meaning of this verse:
"You have sown much, and bring in little"-- since the showbread has ceased. "You eat, but you are not satisfied"-- since the water libation has ceased. "You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm"-- since the Priestly garments are not used. "And he that earns wages..."-- since the daily congregational sacrifice was ceased.
"And why has this happened? Because the Temple service was discontinued." (Tanchuma Tzaveh 13)..
Today, in reflecting upon King Ahashverash and his arrogant abuse of the sacred vessels, it is a cause of great joy for us to report that as part of its ongoing program to restore the vessels of the Holy Temple, the Temple Institute has recently completed the golden Table for the Showbread, ready to stand with the twelve loaves of special bread, one representing each tribe of Israel, within the hallowed Sanctuary of the Holy Temple.
Thus, the Institute has now completed the three major, central vessels which stand within the holy area of the Temple...the Menorah, the Incense Altar, and the Table.
These three vessels may be said to represent three distinct concepts. The Menorah, with its seven lamps shining from within the Temple, represents the spiritual light of the Shechina, the Divine Presence, emanating from within the Holy Temple and shining forth to the entire world. The incense offering, most beloved part of the Temple service in G-d's eyes, represents the unity of all Israel...that elusive unity we so desperately seek, and the true secret of peace. And the Table of the Showbread alludes to the physical blessing of G-d's bountiful sustenance which He bestows upon His entire creation.
We would also like to update you on several items:
WithG-d's help, a unique VHS film on the subject of the Wakf Temple Mount desecration will be available shortly.
Effortsby local Israelis in cooperation with the Temple Institute are now underway here in Israel towards raising a herd of red heifers.
"TheMystery of the Red Heifer" will soon be available, with G-d's help, in a revised and expanded edition.
In the near future, the Institute plans to unveil a new and greatly improved website, with useful information and many features.
We take this opportunity to extend heartfelt blessings to all of our readers, and the hope that we may stand together soon in the rebuilt Holy Temple.
Rabbi Chaim Richman