The purpose of the Temple-Karbanos or Divine presence?
(Likkutei Sichos Vol. 36)
Parshas Pekudei is the final Parsha in which the construction of the tabernacle is discussed. While the previous Parshiyos discussed the commands of G-d to Moshe, and the instructions of Moshe to the Jewish people relating to the tabernacle, in this week’s Parsha the final construction of the tabernacle is mentioned. In this talk, the Rebbe delves into the purpose behind the construction of the Temple. Amongst the great Jewish thinkers, we find two approaches regarding the distinct purpose behind the building of the Temple. One states that the purpose of the building of the Temple was to offer sacrifices to G-d. The other states of the purpose of the building of the Temple was to have an area to house the Divine presence. This is a famous debate between the Rambam and Ramban. To explain this debate, the Rebbe connects this debate to another debate that they have regarding how the Divine presence resided within the Temple, and whether the Temple building became permeated with the Divine presence or simply served as a conduit through which it would pass through. After explaining the two sides of the debate, the Rebbe offers an explanation to reconcile the two opinions and explains that there is no intrinsic argument and that they simply speak of different perspectives. This leads us to a fascinating discovery regarding the dwelling of the Divine presence in the Temple area even today during exile, and how this revelation is even greater than that which existed in Temple times.
Explorations of the Sicha:
1. What was the purpose of the Temple; sacrifices or to review the Divine presence?
2. How could the Divine presence reside within a physical space?
3. What major debates do the Rambam and Ramban have regarding the Temple and its purpose?
4. Does the same level of the Divine presence reside in the temple area even today?
1. The opinion of the Ramban-The purpose of the Temple is for the Divine presence to reside:
The Ramban writes in his commentary on the Torah that, “the main purpose of the tabernacle was for G-d to have a resting place, which refers to the Aron.” It is for this reason, explains the Ramban, that G-d first commanded Moshe regarding the Aron being that it is the main purpose of the tabernacle. Thus, according to the Ramban, the main purpose behind the Temple is not the sacrifices that are offered within it, but rather the holy of holies which contains the Divine presence. The fact that we also offer sacrifices in the Temple is a side and secondary factor to its main purpose of the dwelling of the Divine presence. This, however, is not the approach of the Rambam.
2. The opinion of the Rambam-The purpose of the Temple is to offer sacrifices:
The Rambam writes in his opening statement on his compilation of laws on the Temple that, “it is a positive command to build a house for G-d in which one can bring the sacrifices.” The Rambam makes absolutely no mention of the residing of the Divine presence within the Temple. Seemingly, in his opinion, the entire purpose of the Temple was simply for the sake of offering sacrifices and not for any other purpose. This matter however requires further clarification, as certainly also the Rambam was of the opinion that the Divine presence dwelled in the Temple, and hence why does he not make any mention of it? To understand this matter we must first introduce the level of divinity that resided in the Temple and as to its form of residence.
3. What level of divinity resided in the holy of holies?
The Ramban writes that the same level of divinity that was revealed on Mount Sinai likewise resided in the Temple. On Mount Sinai G-d revealed Himself with all of His glory shining a most infinite light from the mountain. It is this same level of revelation that the Jewish people experienced by the giving of the Torah that G-d desired to have a permanent resting place within the Temple. Now, we will explore as to how exactly the Divine presence resided within the holy of holies, and if it was in the form of investment, or in a form of mere passing.
4. How did the Divine presence reside within the holy of holies:
Regarding the method in which the Divine presence resided within the Temple we find another debate between the Rambam and Ramban.
The Rambam is of the opinion that it is not possible to say that G-d’s presence is located in a specific area, as G-d is above all realm of space. Rather, according to the Rambam, the Temple and Divine presence is merely the area through which the Divine presence is revealed, but it does not reside there. This is similar to the relationship between one’s fingers and his brain, although the fingers have ability to express matters of wisdom, such as to draw a beautiful picture or write an intellectual compilation, this does not mean that one’s intellect resides within his fingers but simply that his fingers are receptacles for his wisdom to be revealed through them. The fingers themselves have zero comprehension in the intellect that runs through them, and there is no connection between them and the wisdom which they write.
The Ramban, however, is of the opinion that the Divine presence resided within the Temple in a form of investment, similar to how the intellect resides within the physical organ of the brain. According to the Ramban, there is an essential connection between the Temple and holy of holies and the Divine presence.
5. Is there enough permanent residence of Divine presence in the Temple to state that that is its entire purpose?
Based on the above debate regarding how the Divine presence revealed itself within the Temple, we can now explain the previous debate between the Rambam and the Ramban. The Ramban who holds that the Divine presence became invested within the physical building of the Temple and united with it, likewise holds that it is possible to say that this is the entire purpose behind the building of the Temple. However, according to the Rambam who holds that the Divine presence did not invest itself within the physical building but simply became revealed through it, there is not enough justification to state that the purpose of its building was for the sake of the residing the Divine presence.
6. Making peace between the two opinions of the Rambam and Ramban:
While at first glance the opinions of the Rambam and Ramban seem to be very far apart regarding everything that has to do with the Temple, in truth one can dilute their debate to the point that they are really not arguing but simply speaking from different perspectives.
First and foremost, we must conclude that even according to the Ramban, the purpose of the dwelling of the Divine presence within the Temple was not simply because G-d desired a place to dwell, but for the sake of the Jewish people. The Ramban explicitly states that revelation of G-d within the Temple, was in order for G-d to dwell within the Jewish people. This is similar to the position of the Rambam who holds that the Divine presence do not reside within the Temple but was simply revealed through it for the sake of shining on the Jewish people.
The next matter that we will now resolve between the two opinions, is their debate regarding the purpose of the Temple. In truth, one can propose that they are not arguing at all but simply speaking from different perspectives. Even the Rambam agrees that one of the purposes of the Temple is for the sake of the Divine presence reside on it, as Scripture explicitly states, “and you shall make for me a Temple and I will reside within you.” However, the Rambam in his work Mishneh Torah which was written for the purpose of codifying Jewish law feels no need to bring this aspect of the purpose of the Temple being that it has no practical ramification in the command to the Jewish people. Hence, he brings only the practical aspect of the offerings. However, the Ramban, who is a commentator on the Torah which is not limited to only the halachic ramifications, explains the purpose more broadly to include that it’s purpose is for the residing of the Divine presence. Hence, the Rambam doesn’t really argue on the position of the Ramban, but simply omits it from his work viewing it as unnecessary information for the purpose for which his book was written. Now, the same way that we have resolved this dispute between the Rambam and Ramban, similarly we can resolve their debate regarding the form of revelation of the Divine presence within the Temple.
7. There were two forms of Divine dwelling in the Temple, revealed and covert:
The Zohar explains that there are two forms of connection between the Jewish people in G-d, one being a revealed connection and the second being a covert and secret connection. We can apply this concept likewise to the Temple and to G-d’s dwelling within it. There exists a more conscious revelation of G-dliness in the Temple that serves the purpose of benefiting the Jewish people in a revealed way. This is affected by the service of the offerings that the Jewish people perform in the Temple. The second form of revelation is more covert and not related to any Temple service of the Jewish people, and intrinsically resides there on its own. The former revelation is only consciously felt by the pilgrims who come to the Temple, those who offer sacrifices, and those who perform the Temple service. The experience of the revelation is dependent on the service of the individual Jew. However, the latter revelation affects every single Jew everywhere on earth, as it is not relevant to any particular service.
Based on this we can now explain the debate between the Rambam and the Ramban, and that in truth they are not arguing at all, but simply speaking of different levels. The Rambam speaks of the level of revelation of the Divine presence that is consciously felt and comes as a result of the Temple service. Hence, he explains that this revelation is not permanent and permeated within the physical building of the Temple, but simply is revealed through it. However, the Ramban speaks of the esoteric dwelling of the Divine presence in the Temple which permeates the very body of the building.
8. What purpose did the second Temple serve if it did not contain the Aron?
Based on the above, we can explain a seemingly puzzling matter regarding the second Temple. On the one hand the sages state that the second Temple was greater than the first Temple. On the other hand, we know that there were five major items missing from the second Temple, including the Holy ark. How then is it possible to say that the second Temple was greater than the first one? Furthermore, if the whole purpose of the Temple was for the sake of the Divine presence, as writes the Ramban, then how was this purpose fulfilled in the times of the second Temple if the holy ark was missing which was the conduit through which the Divine presence was revealed through and is what the Divine presence resided on.
The answer to the above dilemma can be understood based on the novelty that was explained above that there existed two forms of revelation of the Divine presence, one revealed and one covert. The covert level of revelation was concealed due to its very high and sublime level. Now, in the first Temple it was concealed within the holy of holies, and aside for knowing its location, the high priest had access to it once a year. Hence, it’s level of concealment was not in full. However, in the second Temple the Divine revelation was so high and sublime, even higher than that of the first Temple, that its location could not even be known, and therefore the ark was not kept in the holy of holies. If so, then where was the ark located together with the very high and sublime revelation of the Divine presence? It was located underground, under the holy of holies, as King Solomon built an underground holy of holies for the sake of housing the ark in times of necessity, and hence it ends up that there were two holy of holies that existed in the Temple one above ground and one underground. In the first Temple that the covert revelation of the Divine presence was less intense it was able to reside in the upper holy of holies of which its location was known to all. However, in the second Temple era that the covert revelation of the Divine presence was much higher than that of the first Temple, therefore the ark and Divine presence was found in the hidden holy of holies which was underground.
Now, for what reason did the Jewish people merit to have a higher covert revelation in the times of the second Temple? This is because they needed it more. In the times of the second Temple, many Jews still lived in exile and were on a lower level of service of G-d. This affected that they needed and required a higher level of covert revelation of G-dliness to attach them to G-d, and help them retain their connection to him.
· In the times of exile, it appears that G-d has left us and forsaken us, G-d forbid, however, in truth on an esoteric level the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people is even deeper and more intense. In order to make up for the conscious lacking of the relationship, G-d increases the subconscious connection with the Jewish people specifically during exile.
 Beginning of Parshas Teruma
 Hilchos Beis Habechira 1:1
 Beginning of Parshas Teruma
 Moreh Nevuchim 1:25
 Ramban end of Pekudei
 Ramban beginning of Parshas Teruma
 Bava Basra 3a
 Yuma 21b
 See Rambam Hilchos Beis Habechira beginning of chapter 4