Every day we pray that the Beit HaMikdash may be rebuilt. Why is this spiritual center so important for us?

The Sages noted that the words Dei'ah (knowledge) and Mikdash (Temple) are both mentioned in verses surrounded by God's Name on either side. (I Sam. 2:3 and Ex. 15:17) What is the connection between them?

"Rabbi Elazar said: Whenever a person has Dei'ah (knowledge) - it is as if the Holy Temple has been built in his days." (Berachot 33a)
...what does erudition have to do with rebuilding the Beit HaMikdash?

What did Rabbi Elazar mean by 'a person with Dei'ah'? And what does erudition have to do with rebuilding the Beit HaMikdash?

True Da'at

We must first understand the concept of Dei'ah or Da'at. Dei'ah means much more than being knowledgeable.

The problem with those lacking Dei'ah is that they try to evaluate all matters only using their powers of logic and reasoning. They fail to recognize that the intellect is but one part of the human soul. In addition to one's intellectual abilities, there are character traits, emotions, and the faculty of imagination.

True Da'at is knowing how to utilize all facets of the soul. Spiritual growth and perfection may only be achieved with the wholeness of the entire Torah and all pathways of faith.

The Beauty of the Universe

The Sages used an intriguing expression to describe the Temple: "the beauty of the universe". (Zevachim 54b) Why did they single out beauty as its principle characteristic?

This statement is significant, for it indicates the central function of the Beit HaMikdash: to engage our sense of beauty and elevate our imaginative powers. The imagination is a powerful resource that has a decisive impact on all our actions; the Temple's aesthetic qualities served to promote the world's spiritual advance through this faculty of the soul. When the Beit HaMikdash stood in Jerusalem, it had a profound influence on the imagination; it projected powerful images of sublime holiness and inspiring splendor. This holy influence in turn had a potent impact on the character traits and conduct of those who merited passing through its gates.

We may distinguish between two aspects of the Temple's influence. The first is in terms of the Temple's own intrinsic holiness, and the impact of this holiness on those who observed its Divine service. The second aspect is in terms of the receptivity of the human soul. God prepared the imaginative powers so that the soul may be receptive to the Temple's splendor and holiness. These two aspects correspond to the two Names of God, placed before and after the words Dei'ah and Mikdash.

Elevating the Imagination

They recognize that their imagination was created for a sacred purpose.

Now we may understand Rabbi Elazar's statement. Individuals who are blessed with Dei'ah — a person who are wise enough to value all faculties of the soul, including his powers of imagination — it is as if the Beit HaMikdash was rebuilt in their days. In their wisdom, they are able to recreate for themselves and those around them a small measure of the Temple's holy influence. They recognize that their imagination was created for a sacred purpose. While in the eyes of cold logic, imagination may appear to be of little value, God placed it in the human soul for its ability to promote spiritual growth. Those crowned with Dei'ah are able to elevate all of their faculties in genuine holiness.

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Translated and adapted from Ein Eyah vol. I on Berachot 33a (5:96)

This is how Rav Kook described the aesthetic attraction of the Temple service in his spiritual journal: [Shemonah Kevatzim vol. I sec. 606]

"The sublime beauty, the Divine splendor, draws the soul to itself. It awakens the soul from its sleep and rejuvenates all of its powers. It shines over the soul like sunlight over a treasured plant, cultivating all of its aspects, full of strength and beauty, pleasantness and vitality.
"Our yearning is to be connected to the Temple —to God's house on the mountain summit, to the service of the kohanim, the song of the Levites, and the ma'amad of Israel, to share all of the nation's soul-ties to its holy abode — and these yearnings awaken the 'beauty of the universe' in the hearts of Israel each day. They establish an elevated Temple inside the soul of each individual, as we begin the day recounting the order of offerings and incense in our morning prayers."

From "Silver from the Land of Israel: A New Light on the Sabbath and Holidays from the writings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaKohen Kook"

Biographical note:
Rabbi Chanan Morrison, of Mitzpeh Yericho, runs ravkooktorah.org, a website dedicated to presenting the Torah commentary of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael, to the English-speaking community.