The Third Beis Hamikdash
ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם
The Rishonim debate whether the third and final Beis HaMikdash will be built by human hands, like the first two, or will descend from Heaven as a structure of fire made by Hashem’s own hands, as implied by the verse, “מקדש ה’ כוננו ידיך– The Mikdash, Hashem, that Your hands have made.”
The Rambamstates clearly that Moshiach will build the third Beis HaMikdash, aided by the rest of Klal Yisrael. The Sefer HaChinuch states the same. Rashi and Tosefos, however, argue that the third Beis HaMikdash will descend ready-made from Heaven in all its perfect splendor.
The Zoharsupports this opinion:
ובגין דא אתבני בי מקדשא על ידא דקודשא בריך הא יהא קיימא לדרי דרין. ועליה אתמר “גדול יהיה כבוד הבית הזה האחרון מן הראשון”. דקדמאה אתבני על ידא דבר נש ודא על ידא דקודשא בריך הוא, ובגין דא “אם ה’ לא יבנה בית שוא עמלו בוניו בו.”
Since the (third) Beis HaMikdash will be built by HaKadosh Baruch Hu, it will endure forever. Of this it is written, “The glory of the final house will be greater than that of the first.” Whereas the first Beis HaMikdash was built by human hands, the final Beis HaMikdash will be built by HaKadosh Baruch Hu Himself. Therefore it is written, “If Hashem does not build the house, the builders labor in vain.“
The MaharamShik writes that in fact the Beis HaMikdash might be built in either way, depending on the manner of our Redemption. Our Sages explain a seeming contradiction in the verse that states of the Redemption “בעתה אחישנה – In its proper time, I will hasten it.” Will the Redemption arrive in due time, or will it be hastened to arrive before its time? The Gemara explains that if we so merit, then the Redemption will be hastened to arrive before its time. If not, then we will have to wait until the destined time for the Redemption.
Similarly, through our Torah and mitzvos, we can build the Beis HaMikdash by our own hands.However, if we fail to do so, then we will have to wait for Hashem to build the Beis HaMikdash Himself, and send it down from Heaven as a fiery structure.
In either case, it is certain that no political power will be the instrument through which the third Beis HaMikdash will be built. The Midrash states that in the time of Rebbe Yehoshua Ben Chananya, the wicked empire (Rome) gave orders to rebuild the Beis HaMikdash. Offices were then set up from Akko to Antiochia to provide gold and silver for all the laborers who were needed.
However, the plan ultimately failed since the third Beis HaMikdash cannot possibly be built by any world power, but only by the Torah and mitzvos of Klal Yisrael or, if necessary, by Hashem Himself.
כי אתה ה’ באש הצתה, ובאש אתה עתיד לבנותה
“For You, Hashem, have caused it to be consumed by fire; and with fire You will rebuild it.”
May it be soon and in our days.
ותלמוד תורה כנגד כולם
And the study of Torah is equivalent to them all.
As we’ve explained numerous times, the mitzvos that were performed in the Beis HaMikdashand with all its vessels remain eternal despite the fact that the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed and the vessels are no longer in use. We are still commanded to study the laws pertaining to the service in the Beis HaMikdash; for though the House was destroyed because of our sins, the Shechina, Divine Presence has not left Bnei Yisrael. As our Sages teach us “ואהי להם למקדש מעט” אמר ר’ יצחק אלו בתי כנסיות ובתי מדרשות שבישראל [G-d assured the prophet Yechezkel that in the exile:] ‘Yet I have been for them a minor Sanctuary.’ R’ Yitzchak said: These are the synagogues and study halls in Babylon; each is considered a Temple in miniature. Not only does G-d rest His presence in synagogues and houses of study, but He also dwells in the homes of the righteous, homes designated for every-day living and not just for Torah study and prayer. As Rashi states עד שלא נבנה אהל מועד היתה השכינה מצויה באהלי צדיקים, prior to the tabernacle being built, the Divine Presence was found in the tents of the righteous.
In what merit does the Divine Presence dwell in our homes? How can we make our homes more suited to house the Shechina?
Our Sages have illuminated the way for us to achieve this. They explain that each one of the vessels in the Beis HaMikdash represents a different type of service. The מנורה, the candelabra, represents the light of Torah, as our Sages teach us הרוצה להחכים ידרים וסימנך מנורה בדרום, one who wishes to become knowledgeable should face south during his prayers, and your mnemonic for this is that in the Temple the Menorah is positioned on the south side of the Sanctuary. Our Sages teach us הרגיל בנר הויין ליה בנים תלמידי חכמים, one who is habitual in kindling the light will have sons who are Torah scholars. Clearly, the מנורה parallels Torah study.
The מזבח parallels prayer. Prayer was instituted to replace the sacrifices we can no longer bring, as the passuk states ונשלמה פרים שפתינו, and let out lips substitute for bulls. Rabbeinu Yonah comments on the Mishna in Pirkei Avos על שלשה דברים העולם עומד על התורה, ועל העבודה ועל גמילות חסדים, the world depends on three things: Torah study, the service [of G-d] and kind deeds. He explains that עבודה, the service, refers to the sacrificial service in the Beis HaMikdash. And now that we do not have the Beis HaMikdash, we replace those sacrifices with prayer. Thus, the מזבח is the pillar of עבודה.
It seems that the שלחן represents kindness, because the kohanim who serve Hashem are the ones who eat the לחם הפנים, the show bread,. גמילות חסדים, acts of loving kindness, are asegula for livelihood and wealth. As the Gemara states מלח ממון חסר, TRANSLATE. Furthermore our Sages tell us וסימנך שלחן בצפון ,הרוצה להעשיר יצפיןone who wishes to become wealthy should face north during his prayers, and your mnemonic for this is that in the Temple the Table is positioned on the north side of the Sanctuary.
These three items in the Beis HaMikdash represent the three pillars on which the world depends,תורה, עבודה וגמילות חסדים . Just like these three things are the main focus of the service in the Beis HaMikdash, so too are these three things the mainstay of serving G-d in our microcosmic sanctuary—our homes. Only by serving G-d, in these three realms specifically, will we merit the Divine Presence in our homes.
Let us now examine what the ארון, the ark, represents. It seems that the ארון represents the essence of our people’s existence, and the highest principles of Judaism. The service performed with the three aforementioned vessels, the ,מזבח, מנורה and שלחן, is public. They are visible and the service done with them is visible. The fire atop the altar, the cloud of the incense, the continual lamp, and the show bread are all publicly seen. But the ארון is not seen publicly. It is hidden, cloaked in mists of holiness.
The two Tablets in the ארון are hidden and secret. The ארון is housed in the Holy of Holies, where anyone who enters is punishable by death. Even on Yom Kippur only the High Priest is allowed entry to bring the incense offering, only once he has sanctified himself. The Yerushalmi states that even the ministering angels are not allowed into the Holy of Holies.
This comes to teach us that although the three realms of serving G-d are the pillars of the worldתורה ,עבודה , and גמילות חסדים—in whose merit the world continues to exist—these are all revealed forms of serving G-d. But the hidden roots, the real reason for the world’s existence and endurance is Torah study. Torah study is the root from which stem all the branches of G-d’s service.
This is the foundation on which everything depends: the Ark, housing the two Tablets written by G-d. This alone is the פנימיות, the internal force in the Holy of Holies on the EVEN HASHTIYA? On which the Creator established His world. אם לא בריתי יומם ולילה חוקות שמים וארץ לא שמתי,if not for My covenant [Torah study] with the night and with the day, I would not have set up the laws of heaven and earth.
Hilchos Melachim 11:1
Rosh Hashana 30a
Teshuvos Y.D. 203
Shemos Rabbah 64
 מגילה כ”ט ע”א
 שבת נ”ה ע”ב
 בבא בתרא כ”ה ע”ב
שבת כ”ג ע”ב
 הושע י”ד: ג’
 פרקי אבות א’:ב’
 כתובות ס”ו ע”ב
 בבא בתרא כ”ה ע”ב
 יומא ז’ ע”ב and סוכה כ”א ע”ב
 ירמיהו ל”ג: כ”ה