Our sages tell us that when King Solomon built the
Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple), knowing that it was destined
to be destroyed, he built a place in which to hide the Ark,
[at the end of] hidden, deep, winding passageways.
It was there that King Josiah placed the Ark twenty-two years
before the Temples destruction, as related in the Book
The Beit Hamikdash was first built by King Solomon
in the year 2928 from creation (833 BCE), and was destroyed
410 years later, on the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av,
by the armies of the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar. Seventy
years later it was rebuilt; the second Temple stood for 420
years, until its destruction by the Romans, also on the ninth
of Av, in 3829 (69 CE). For the nineteen-hundred-and-twenty-seven
years since, the ninth of Av has been a day of fasting and
repentance, a day on which we mourn the destruction and pray
for the coming of Moshiach, who will build the third and final
Temple and restore its place as the spiritual epicenter of
The Beit Hamikdash was G-ds home, the place
in which He chose to manifest His all-pervading truth. How,
then, could it have been destroyed by human hands? Only because
the very structure of the Temple allowed for this possibility.
This is the deeper significance of the fact that King Solomon
built the Beit Hamikdash knowing that it was
destined to be destroyed, and incorporated into it a
hiding place for the Ark for that eventuality. Had the Beit
Hamikdash not been initially constructed with the knowledge
of and the provision for what was to happen on the ninth of
Av, no mortal could have moved a single stone from its place.
The Places of the Arks
The fact that the Arks hiding place was built into
the Beit Hamikdash from the very beginning also carries
another implication: it means that the first, second and third
Temples are not three distinct structures, but the continuum
parts of a single edifice.
The Ark contained the two tablets of stone that Moses brought
down from Mount Sinai inscribed with the Ten Commandments
by the hand of G-d. It was the holiest object in the Beit
Hamikdash, and the sole object in the Temples innermost
chamber, the Holy of Holies. Indeed, our sages
define the primary function of the Beit Hamikdash as
the housing of the Ark, for the Ark constituted the
resting place of the Shechinah (divine presence).
Thus, the underground chamber built by Solomon is much more
than another part of the Beit Hamikdash.
The fact that it was constructed for the express purpose of
containing the Ark means that it is of a piece with the Holy
of Holiesthe very heart of the Temple and its
This is further underscored by the fact that the Ark has
remained in this chamber from the time that it was placed
there by Josiah, twenty-two years before the destruction of
the first Beit Hamikdash, to this very day. This means
that for the four-hundred-and-twenty years of the second Beit
Hamikdash, the Ark was not in the (above-ground portion
of the) Holy of Holies, but in its underground chamber. But
if the most fundamental function of the Beit Hamikdash
is to house the Ark, how can there be a Beit Hamikdash
without an Ark? Also, at the time that Josiah hid the Ark,
there was not yet any threat to the Beit Hamikdash
or to the Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem, only the prophetic
knowledge that the Temple was destined to be destroyed. If
the essence of the Beit Hamikdash would have been negated
by the removal of the Ark below ground, this would certainly
not have been done until there was actual danger that it might
fall into enemy hands. Obviously, then, the underground hiding
place of the Ark is no less part of the Beit Hamikdash,
and no less valid a place for the Ark, than the (above-ground)
Holy of Holies.
In other words, the Beit Hamikdash was initially designed
and built to exist in two states: a revealed state and a concealed
state. Accordingly, there were two designated places for the
Ark in the Beit Hamikdashthe above-ground portion
of the Holy of Holies, and the chamber hidden at the end of
deep, winding passageways. In its revealed state,
the Beit Hamikdash was a beacon of divine light, a
place where man openly perceived and experienced the divine
presence. In its concealed state, the divine revelation
in the Beit Hamikdash is muted, or almost completely
obscured. But as long as the Beit Hamikdash houses
the Ark, it continues to serve as the dwelling of G-d.
In the thirty centuries since it was first built, the Beit
Hamikdash has never ceased to fulfill its fundamental
function as the seat of the divine presence in the world.
There were times in which the entire structure stood in all
its glory atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and times in
which it existed in a diminished form (as in the Second Temple
Era) or was almost entirely destroyed; but a certain part
of the Beit Hamikdash has never been disturbed, and
there its heart has never ceased to beat. When the third
Temple will be built, speedily in our days, and the Ark restored
to its above-ground chamber, it will not be a new edifice,
or even a rebuilding, but the reassertion and
manifestation of what has been present all along.
Deep and Winding
Because we have sinned before You... our city was destroyed,
our Beit Hamikdash laid waste; our grandeur was banished,
and the glory departed from our House of Life; no longer are
we able to fulfill our duties in Your chosen home, in the
great and holy house upon which Your name is proclaimed...
As these lines express, the Temples susceptibility
to destruction is, on the most basic level, a negative thing.
Because G-d knew that we might prove unworthy of His manifest
presence in our lives, He instructed that the Beit Hamikdash
be built in such a way as to allow for periods of diminution
But human vulnerability to sin is but G-ds awesome
plot on the sons of man.
G-d created us with the capacity to do wrong only to enable
us to uncover the greater light that comes from darknessto enable us to exploit the
momentum of our lowest descents to drive our highest achievements.
There is much to be achieved through the virtuous development
of our positive potential; but nothing compares with the fervor
of the repentant sinner, with the passion of one who has confronted
his darkest self to recoil in search of light. No man can
pursue life with the intensity of one who is fleeing death.
For centuries the Beit Hamikdash has lain desolate,
its essence contracted in a subterranean chamber deep beneath
its ruined glory. But this terrible descent is, in truth,
but the impetus for even higher ascent, even greater good,
even more universal perfection, than what shone forth from
the Temple in its first and second incarnations.
The paths to this chamber are hidden, deep and winding. This
is not the straight and true path of the righteous, but the
furtive, convoluted path of the returnee (baal
teshuvah)a path that plunges to the depths of his
soul to unleash the most potent forces buried therein.
Based on an address by the Rebbe, Shabbat Chazon, 5741
Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe
by Yanki Tauber
.† Mishneh Torah, Laws of the Holy Temple,
4:1; Talmud, Yoma 53b.
. II Chronicles 35:3; Mishneh Torah, loc. cit.
. Nachmanides commentary on Torah, introduction
to Exodus 25. See Likkutei Sichot, vol. IV, p. 1346, note
. Thus the Talmud says that the Ark was concealed
in its place (Yoma, ibid.).
. See Exodus 23:17 (as interpreted by the Talmud,
Chagigah 2a), 25:8 and 40:34-35; I Kings ch. 8; Ethics of
the Fathers, 5:5; et al.
. From the Mussaf prayer for Shabbat Rosh Chodesh.
. Ecclesiastes 2:13 (as interpreted by chassidic
. Likkutei Sichot, vol. XXI, pp.