“In my heart, I will build a sanctuary, To His honour and glory. And in the sanctuary, I will place an altar, As a seat for His radiance. And as an eternal light, I will take, the flame of the binding of Isaac. And as a sacrifice, I will bring to Him, My one and only soul. “-- Rabbi Isaac Hutner, Bilvavi This Sunday, we will again observe the festival of Tish'a Be'av, when both of our temples were destroyed. This day is marked with tragedy, pain and sorrow, regret for what was and pining for what could have been. We long for the Temple to be rebuilt. We long for a restoration of our relationship with G-d.
It is against this milieu that Rabbi Hutner wrote the above poem. While we lack the physical Temple and the intimacy it brings in our relationship with G-d, we can still forge a relationship. We can optimise our lives to a loving give-and-take with the divine, even without a physical structure. Ironically, it is from an act of sacrifice, in the physical sense, that we learn this lesson. The story of Isaac's binding teaches the depth of spirituality that comes from faith and devotion alone, without any tangible manifestation. The story teaches us that we can forge a new connection and even new hope through our internal attitudes and views. The Temple was built on the site of Isaac's binding so we would understand that the sacrificial offerings merely manifest our inner state of mind. They are not an end in themselves.
Our sages tell us that angels came down when the Temple was destroyed and shielded the Western Wall with their wings. They did so because that wall was built by the poor, and even though they had nothing, they put all that they could into the construction. The result is something more beautiful, lasting, and precious than the other walls. It is a testament to pure faith. When the Temple was destroyed, that monument had to be preserved and was. It stands with us to this day.
In our lives, we know that those most devoted to a cause are often those best acquainted with it, the ablest to speak of it, and the ones who derive the most value from it. So too in our relationship with Hashem. The effort, work, and devotion we show are reflected directly on us as the dividends of faith in our private, personal Temples. We continue to improve ourselves by building our personal, spiritual sanctuaries. Please g-d, through this hard work of self-improvement, through spirituality and our connection with the divine, we will merit to see the physical structure rebuilt and may it never be destroyed again.