Merkaz Anash, Beis Hamedrash L’shluchim and COLlive.com present The Chassidic Perspective with Rabbi Yoel Kahn, a weekly short webcast on topics that are timely and relevant.
Rabbi Kahn, often referred to as “Reb Yoel,” is the most preeminent authority on Chabad-chassidic teachings and was the chief reviewer and transcriber of the discourses of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Rabbi Kahn is also the lead editor of Sefer Ha’erechim, a multi-volume encyclopedia of abstruse chassidic and mystical concepts and the head Mashpia at the Central Yeshiva Tomchei Tmimim Lubavitch at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, NY.
This webcast is delivered in Yiddish and a transcription in English appears below or can be printed in a PDF format.
This Shabbos is “Shabbos Chazon,” in reference to the beginning of the haftorah. R. Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev famously stated that Shabbos Chazon is a time when we’re shown the third Beis HaMikdash, hence the name Chazon, which literally means ‘a vision’. He offered a parable of a father who sewed fine clothing for his son who proceeded to misbehave and rip them, which then repeated itself another time, until the father sewed a beautiful third set, which he was only willing to show his son until the son had unmistakably changed his nature. The Rebbe mentioned this idea every year, even when he wasn’t offering new insight, since it’s so fundamental.
What’s the Point?
One question the Rebbe raises is why the father changed his attitude from being willing to share the clothing despite the consequences, to insisting that the third set only be given once proper behavior had been ensured
Another question is that considering that we don’t actually see this vision physically, it’s therefore assumed to mean that it’s in the vein of the Heavenly announcements to repent. As the Baal Shem Tov explains we can ‘hear’ in the sense that we experience unsolicited urges to repent, despite the utter lack of external stimuli conditioning us to do so such as studying the subject of the gravity of sin. Our neshama simply picks up on these spiritual broadcasts and manifesting it in a palpable desire for teshuva.
Yet, no matter how strongly this resonates, it can’t compare to action taken as a result of our own effort, and while personal initiatives are likely to bear long-lasting effects, Heavenly alerts are external and therefore temporary. So what do we similarly gain by merely experiencing a vision of the third beis hamikdash?
A Combined Effort
The Rebbe explains that both modalities have a unique upside: On the one hand, our own effort is far deeper and more meaningful, yet Heavenly inspiration is much more powerful and intense than anything we could reach through our limited understanding. Man-made teshuva is more personal yet weaker, while the divine call to repentance contains tremendous energy but remains external.
The Rebbe explains that the three Batei Mikdashos correspond to the three levels in our connection with Hashem: ‘the first’ is Hashem’s initiative, ‘the second’ is ours, while ‘the third’ is a combination of both.
The Power of the Third
This is just like the months of the year: Nissan featured the exodus where Hashem revealed Himself and extracted us without any contribution of our own, which was powerful in the sense that the Jewish people pursued Hashem without personal calculations.
Yet the only way to truly change in a fundamental way is through personal effort, which is why Iyar, the second month, is dedicated to sefiras ha’omer, improving our every mida. Pesach is ‘first,’ a revelation from Above, enabling us to do what we couldn’t on our own, while Iyar is the ‘second,’ when we work on self-improvement on individual terms. Only in ‘the third’ month, at matan Torah, were they combined, when “those Above descend below and those below ascend Above.”
It is this ‘above-below-both’ pattern which holds true for the three Batei Mikdashos; the plan originally was to leave Mitzrayim and build the first Beis HaMikdash in a sin-free environment, while the second Beis HaMikdash was preceded by seventy years of exile, ten for every mida, for the purpose of teshuva.
Destined to be Torn
There is an authority who maintains that there is no actual mitzva to repent; only that we must recite vidui when we choose to do teshuva. While the Alter Rebbe doesn’t share this view, the Rebbe explains this rational position: Teshuva is all about a personal sense of regret, as opposed to something we can be instructed to do by Hashem. So while a tzadik’s holiness is rooted in Hashem and therefore higher, a baal teshuva’s actions are purely his own and therefore have a more significant impact.
The first Beis HaMikdash was similarly a Heavenly structure designed for tzadikim, whereas the second Beis HaMikdash came subsequent to sin and represented our own actions. But it is the third Beis HaMikdash where “those Above descend below and those below ascend Above,” when the revelation is both high but becomes one with our own existence.
Similarly, the first and second ‘garments’ were designed to be ‘ripped,’ since the first lacked our own input, while the second was constricted by our limitations. It is the third where we and Hashem are unified, and it is this inseparable bond between these two templates which we are shown in a vision. Unlike the Heavenly announcements, G-dly infinity becomes internalized within us, and the outcome of this exposure is that this ultimately becomes our actual nature, the third Beis HaMikdash becomes our reality.
For further learning see לקוטי שיחות חלק ט’ פרשת דברים ג’ – חזון.