The Western Wall Heritage Fund

Midrash

The Temple in Its Glory
 

The Temple in Its Glory

The Rabbis taught in a Baraisa: Whoever did not see Jerusalem in its splendor never saw a delightful city in his life. Whoever did not see the Temple when it stood never saw a magnificent structure in his life.
b. Sukkah 51b
The Center of the World
 

The Center of the World

The Land of Israel sits at the center of the world; Jerusalem is in the center of the Land of Israel; the Temple is in the center of Jerusalem; the Sanctuary is in the center of the Temple; the ark is in the center of the Sanctuary; and the foundation stone, out of which the world was founded, is in front of the Sanctuary.
Tanhuma Buber, Leviticus, Kedoshim
Miracles in Building the Temple
 

Miracles in Building the Temple

And so we find in the days of Herod, when they were engaged in building the holy Temple, the rains would fall only at night when no work was being done. The next day, the wind would blow, the clouds would disperse, and the sun would come out. And the people would go out to their work knowing that the work of Heaven was in their hands, i.e., their work was approved by Heaven.
b. Ta’anit 23a

It was said: Whoever did not see the Temple building erected by Herod has not seen a truly beautiful building in his lifetime.
b. Bava Basra 4a
Miracles in the Temple
 

Miracles in the Temple

Ten miracles were performed for our fathers in the Temple:
  • No women ever miscarried from the odor of the sacrificial flesh;
  • The sacrificial flesh never became putrid;
  • No fly was ever seen in the slaughterhouse;
  • No pollution ever befell the High Priest on Yom Kippur;
  • The rains never extinguished the fire of the woodpile on the alter;
  • The wind never prevailed over the column of smoke;
  • There was never found a disqualifying defect in the Omer or in the Two Loaves, or in the Shewbread;
  • The people stood tightly pressed together, yet prostrated themselves with ease;
  • Neither snake nor scorpion ever injured anyone in Jerusalem;
  • And no man ever said to his fellow: the space is too narrow for me to lodge overnight in Jerusalem.
m. Avot 5:5
Pilgrimage
 

Pilgrimage

Rabba expounded: What is the meaning of that which is written: “How lovely are your footsteps in sandals, O daughter of the noble.” (Song of Songs 7:2) [It means:] How lovely are the footsteps of Israel when they ascend to Jerusalem to celebrate the festival.
b. Hagigah 3a
Why Jerusalem Was Destroyed
 

Why Jerusalem Was Destroyed

Why was the First Temple destroyed? Because of the three iniquitous things that existed there- idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed… But the Second Temple- we know that the people occupied themselves with Torah, Mitzvos, and acts of kindness- so why was it destroyed? Because of the gratuitous hatred that existed there. This teaches you that gratuitous hatred is tantamount to the three cardinal sins of idolatry, immorality, and bloodshed put together.
b. Yoma 9b
Kamtza and Bar Kamtza
 

"Because of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza the Temple Was Destroyed"

A certain man who had a friend named Kamtza and an enemy named Bar Kamtza made a banquet. He told his attendant, “Go and bring Kamtza to join me at the banquet.” The attendant went and mistakenly brought him Bar Kamtza.
When the host arrived at the banquet and found Bar Kamtza sitting there, he said to Bar Kamtza, “Look here, that man [you] is the enemy of that man [me]. What do you want here? Get up and get out!”
Bar Kamtza said to him, “Since I have come, let me stay, and I will give you the value of whatever I eat and drink.”
The host said to Bar Kamtza, “No, I will not let you stay!”
Bar Kamtza said to him, “I will give you the value of half your banquet.”
Again, the host said to him, “No!”
Bar Kamtza said to the host, “I will give you the value of your entire banquet.”
The host said to Bar Kamtza, “No!”
He grabbed hold of Bar Kamtza with his hand, stood him up and ejected him from the banquet. Bar Kamtza said to himself: Since the Rabbis were seated at the banquet and did not rebuke him for the way he treated me, it is evident that what he did was acceptable to them. I will go and spread slander against the Rabbis in the royal palace. He went and told Caesar, “The Jews have rebelled against you!”
Caesar said to him, “Who says so?”
Bar Kamtza said to Caesar, “Send them an animal as a sacrifice, and see whether they offer it in their Temple!”
Casesar went and sent a fine calf with Bar Kamtza. As he was going to Jerusalem, Bar Kamtza caused a blemish in the calf’s upper lip, or, as some say, he caused a cataract in the eye. Either way, he ensured that the blemish was in a place where it is considered a blemish for us, i.e., for offering in the Temple, but is not considered a blemish for them, i.e., for offering outside the Temple. Although the animal was unfit to be offered in the Temple, the Rabbis considered offering it for the sake of peaceful relations with the Roman government. Rav Zechariah ben Avkulas said to them, “But people will then say that blemished animals may be offered on the Altar!”
The Rabbis considered killing Bar Kamtza so that he would not be able to go and tell Caesar that the offering had been refused. Rav Zachariah said to them, “But people will then say that one who blemishes consecrated animals is put to death!”
Rav Yochanan said: The tolerance displayed by Rav Zechariah ben Avkulas in refusing to have Bar Kamtza put to death destroyed our Temple, burned down our Sanctuary and exiled us from our land.

b. Gittin 55b-56a.
Why the Western Wall Was Not Destroyed
 

Why the Western Wall Was Not Destroyed

“Behold, He standeth behind our wall.” (Song of Songs 2:9). Wall alludes to the Western Wall of the Temple which will never be destroyed. Why? Because the Shechinah is in the west.
Numbers Rabba 11:2

R’ Eleazar says: The Shechinah did not depart from the Sanctuary … for although it is laid waste, it still retains in holiness. R’ Aha said: The Divine Presence will never depart from the Western Wall as it is said: “Behold, He standeth behind our wall.” (Song of Songs 2:9)
Exodus Rabba 2:2

When Vespasian had subdued the city, he assigned the destruction of the four ramparts to the four generals, and the western gate was allotted to Pangar. Now it had been decreed by Heaven that this should never be destroyed because the Shechinah is in the west. The others demolished their sections but he did not demolish his.
Vespasian sent for him and asked, “Why did you not destroy your section?”
He replied: “By your life, I acted so for the honour of the kingdom; for if I had demolished it, nobody would [in time] know what it was you destroyed; but when people look [at the western wall] they will exclaim, Perceive the might of Vespasian from what he destroyed!”
He said to him, “Enough, you have spoken well, but since you disobeyed my command, you shall ascend to the roof and throw yourself down. If you live, you will live; and if you die, you will die.”
He ascended, threw himself down and died.
Lamentations Rabba 1:31
Gates of Tears
 

Gates of Tears

And R’ Elazar said, “From the day that the Temple was destroyed, the heavenly gates of prayer were locked and our prayers are not answered as readily as before… But even though the gates of prayer have been locked, the gates of tears have not been locked.
b. Berakhot 32b
The Doves Share in the Anguish of Israel
 

The Doves Share in the Anguish of Israel

R’ Yose said: I was once traveling on the road, and I entered one of the ruins of Jerusalem to pray. Elijah the prophet, who is remembered for good, came and waited for me at the entrance of the ruin until I finished my prayer. And Elijah said to me: “My son, what sound did you hear when you were in this ruin?” And I said to him, “I heard a heavenly voice that was cooing like a dove and saying: ‘Woe to the sons because of whose sins I destroyed my house, and burned my temple, and exiled them among the nations of the world.’” And Elijah said to me: “By your life and the life of your head! It is not only at this moment that the heavenly voice says this, but on each and every day it says this three times. And not only this, but at the time that the people of Israel enter the synagogues and houses of study and respond in the Kaddish, ‘May His great name be blessed.’ The Holy One, blessed is He, shakes His head and says, ‘Fortunate is the King who is praised in this way in his house. What is there for the father who has exiled his sons, and woe to the sons who have been exiled from their father’s table.’”
b. Berakhot 3a
Solace
 

Solace 

Rabban Gamliel, R’ Elazar ben Azariah, R’ Yehoshua and R’ Akiva … On another occasion they were coming up to Jerusalem after the destruction of the Temple. When they reached the Mount of Tzofim and were able to see the city of Jerusalem in its destruction, they rent their garments. When they came to the Temple Mount, they saw a fox emerging from the Holy of Holies, and they started to weep. But R’ Akiva smiled.
They said to him: For what reason are you smiling?
He replied to them: For what reason are you weeping?
They said to him: A place about which it is written: the non-Kohen who approaches shall die and now foxes prowl over it! Should we not weep?
R’ Akiva then explained why he was smiling. He said to them: For this very reason I am smiling. For it is written: I will summon trustworthy witnesses for Myself, [the two prophets] Uriah the Kohen and Zechariahu ben Yeverechiahu. Now what connection does Uriah have with Zechariah? Uriah prophesied during the era of the First Temple, whereas Zechariah prophesied during the era of the Second Temple. Why then are they mentioned together? Rather, by mentioning the two prophets together, Scripture made the prophecy of Zechariah dependent upon the prophecy of Uriah. In the prophecy of Uriah it is written: Therefore, because of you, Zion will be plowed over like a field; Jerusalem will become heaps of rubble and the Temple Mount will become like stone heaps in the forest. In the prophecy of Zechariah, it is written: Old men and old women will once again sit in the streets of Jerusalem.
R’ Akiva concludes: As long as the prophecy of Uriah had not been fulfilled, I had feared that the prophecy of Zechariah would not be fulfilled. Now that the prophecy of Uriah has been fulfilled, and Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are totally desolate, it is certain that the prophecy of Zechariah will be fulfilled.
The Rabbis accepted R’ Akiva’s reasoning: They, R’ Akiva’s colleagues, thereupon said to him these words: Akiva, you have comforted us; Akiva, you have comforted us.
b. Makkot 24a-b
The Temple and the Western Wall
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