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Insights - Q&A on Redemption


What will come first, the ingathering of the exiles or the rebuilding of the Holy Temple?


There is a difference of opinion between the Zohar and the Midrash, over which will take place first. The difference is based on differing interpretations of a verse in Psalms (147:2), “G-d will rebuild Jerusalem, He will gather in the dispersed of Israel.” The Zohar interprets this verse in the order it is written: first G-d will rebuild Jerusalem, and then He will gather in the dispersed. However, the Midrash Tanchuma (and other sources) explain differently. G-d will rebuild Jerusalem, having already gathered in the dispersed of Israel.

Halachically, Maimonides rules according to the Zohar. In Hilchot Melachim, Maimonides writes a description of the Messianic era, in which he writes: “He will rebuild the Holy Temple in its place and gather in the dispersed in Israel.” However, the Lubavitcher Rebbe refers to the principle that “These and these are the words of a living G-d.” In other words, whenever contradictions are found between sayings of our sages, each one is expressing a different truth, and they are not mutually exclusive.

The two opinions can be reconciled as follows: First there will be an ingathering of exiles, as per the Midrash, and then the rebuilding of the Temple. However, the initial ingathering will not be complete. The process will be finalized only after the building of the Temple, according to the view of the Zohar.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains a lesson in Divine service that this teaches us. “The beginning of our Divine service is to collect the sparks of holiness of one’s soul that have been dispersed in foreign, distant places. Only then can we complete the task of building the Holy Temple in the external world. However, so long as we have not perfected ourselves, we cannot achieve complete perfection in the external world.

“However, although the general rule is that we first perfect ourselves and then attempt to ‘fix’ others (Baba Metziah 107b), there are at times special cases, when the service of building the Temple takes precedence over self-perfection (ingathering of exiles). When, by Divine Providence, one is given the opportunity to perfect something outside of himself, this is an indication that it is his task to perfect it, even though he himself is not yet perfect.”

(Zohar Chayei Sarah 134a. Brachos 49a, see Rashi. Midrash Tanchuma, 58, 11. Yalkut Shimoni, Tehillim, remez 888. Hilchos Melachim, 11:3. Toras Menachem 5747, vol. 1, p. 530. Ibid, 5743, vol. 1, p. 508. Ibid, 5748, vol. 1, p. 487)



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