The first two Temples in Jerusalem were physical structures that were destroyed by God’s command. Earlier this month, Torah teacher Sarah Yehudit Schneider released a video in which she suggests that the Third Temple will not necessarily be a physical structure at all.
Last week, Jews all around the world marked Tisha B’Av, the date on the Hebrew calendar which commemorates the destruction of both Holy Temples in Jerusalem. Each year, Tisha B’Av is followed by seven weeks of consolation, during which Messianic passages from the Book of Isaiah are read in synagogue on the Sabbath.
When the Temples stood in Jerusalem, God’s Presence was manifest in the world. The prophet Isaiah promises that, in the future, the Temple will also be a source of wisdom for the nations.
And many peoples shall go and say: “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Hashem, to the house of the God of Yaakov; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.” For out of Tzion shall go forth the law, and the word of Hashem from Yerushalayim. Isaiah 2:3
Although it is common to assume that the Third Temple will also be a physical structure, Schneider has a surprising take on the future. Speaking to Breaking Israel News, she said, “There are nearly infinite scenarios of how this messianic era could unfold and the order of the various events anticipated. The messianic era is the transition between this world and the next. So the earlier stages are more this world-like, and the later stages are more next world-like.”
Schneider explained that both the Tabernacle in the desert and the first two Temples were a diminishment of God’s original vision. In the video, she teaches that “the original vision—the one Hashem (God) had in mind from the start—was for the community of Israel itself to become a living Mishkan (Tabernacle). The people themselves going about their God-centered lives would embody the Presence and shine it into the world.”
As a result of our various sins, we lost the ability to exist on such a lofty level. Thus, the Tabernacle and the first two Temples hosted the Divine Presence in a physical structure that stood apart from ourselves, she explains.
“It’s all we’ve ever known,” teaches Schneider. “But the question becomes, what about the Third Temple? Will it be like the previous two? Will it also be of stones and wood and cloth and skins…or will it be more like the originally envisioned Sanctuary, the living community of Israel holding the Presence of God and shining it into the world through the integrity of their God-centered lives?”
Since the messianic age will offer healing to our souls, Schneider claims that, eventually, the Third Temple “will really be the First Temple, meaning the first one to actually embody what Hashem truly envisioned as our Tabernacle.”
However, that doesn’t mean that there will not be a building we can point to and call the Third Temple. “If the Temple is built at the beginning of [the messianic] period, then it is likely that the Jewish people will start off with a physical Temple and then we will eventually outgrow it,” Schneider told Breaking Israel News.
If the Jewish people “outgrow” the need for a physical Temple, what will happen to the structure itself? According to Schneider, it will be used by other nations, who will also be growing spiritually. As she describes in the video, in the messianic age, “everyone moves up a notch. No doubt there will be other nations who are first transitioning into monotheism and their next step is to confine their animal sacrifices to the One-and-Only-One, and so we will still need a Temple of stone and wood and tapestry, etc., to service them.”
While presenting this alternative paradigm of the Third Temple, Schneider cautions that we can’t know for sure how things will play out. “At any rate, it is important to remember that we cannot possibly imagine what will actually be in messianic times.
“There are conflicting opinions about how the messianic times will differ from our present reality. [12th century Jewish scholar] Rambam (and his camp) assert that the only difference will be that the Jewish people will be self-governing, but the world will remain basically the same. Most everyone else asserts that the world will be profoundly transformed in all ways, both material and spiritual.
“And yet there will be so many paradigm shifts, new dimensions and expansions of consciousness that we cannot possibly anticipate, even in our most wild science fiction, what will actually be happening then. Whatever we know (or think we know), it is just the chapter headings. How those words will actually look when they embody themselves in the altered reality of messianic times…we need to humbly admit that we really have no idea.”
Schneider lives in the Old City of Jerusalem, where she interprets the mystical teachings of Judaism for a wide audience of spiritual seekers.