In the Torah, we are instructed to build a Temple to God. In the desert, there was a temporary portable Temple called a tabernacle, which was also used for several hundred years after the Jews settled the land of Israel. The first permanent Temple was built in Jerusalem by King Solomon. (His father, King David, built the foundation). It stood for over 400 years and was destroyed by the Babylonians. The temple was then rebuilt 70 years later by Ezra the scribe. The second Temple also lasted over 400 hundred years and was later destroyed by the Romans. Almost 2000 years have passed since then and we still await the third Temple, which will be built by the Messiah.

The Western Wall is a remnant of the second Temple. It was surrounded by the courtyard outside the Temple. The sages of the Talmud say it will never be destroyed, and indeed it has lasted throughout these years of exile of the Jews surviving conquests by the Romans, Byzantines, Muslims, Crusades and then Muslims again.

Not well known is that tunnels underneath the Temple are still in existence and intact until very recently. Around 20 years ago, the Muslim Waqf began destroying these tunnels. The debris was thrown outside the temple mount and then dumped. Priceless history was lying in full view of anyone who was intended to take it. (How I wish I could’ve gotten my hands on some!) Recently the Israeli government has dug up these fragments in an effort to salvage them.

Synagogues are considered “miniature Temples” and constructing them is also a fulfillment of the mitzvah to build the temple. Throughout history, Jews have valued their synagogues and attended their services. Archaeologists in Israel (and other places to a lesser extent) continually uncover ancient synagogues. There is a synagogue in Djerba (North Africa) that dates back to Talmudic times and is still in use today!

By Rabbi Eliyahu Reit

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