Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Zecher L'mikdash

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Further to my post last week on "zecher l'churban" – rituals intended to recall the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash - there is a similar, though completely independent concept known as "zecher l'mikdash" – rituals intended to recall religious life in the Beit Hamikdash. The source for the performance of zecher l'mikdash practices is based on the verse "For I shall restore your health and heal your wounds, says Hashem. For they have called you an outcast, saying: This is Zion whom no one seeks."[1] We are taught that this verse teaches us that we are to "seek Zion" by emulating things which were done in the Beit Hamikdash.[2]

Click here to read moreAmong these zecher l'mikdash rituals is today's practice of shaking the lulav all seven days of the Sukkot holiday as was done in the Beit Hamikdash even though the Torah only requires that we do so on the first day of the holiday.[3] So too, circling the Bima in the synagogue throughout Sukkot and Hoshana Rabba, the Simchat Beit Hashoeva celebrations, and even the daily recitation of the Birkat Kohanim in Israel are zecher l'mikdash rituals which remind us of religious life in Temple times.

On Pesach there are a number of zecher l'mikdash practices as well. For example, there is the well known dispute whether the matza and marror must be eaten separately at the Pesach seder or together at once.[4] Although the opinion that they are to be eaten separately is the one which seems to have prevailed - we nevertheless eat a serving of matza and marror together at the seder, as well. Before doing so we recite the passage "zecher l'mikdash k'Hillel" which recalls the view of Hillel who was of the opinion that this is how it was done in the Beit Hamikdash.[5] According to some authorities even eating marror at the seder at all is simply a zecher l'mikdash practice.[6]

Believe it or not, according to some opinions the seven week long mitzva of sefirat ha'omer is performed for no other reason than "zecher l'mikdash" as it is a mitzva which is dependant on a functioning Beit Hamikdash.[7] As such, we continue to count the omer today in order recall what was once done in the Beit Hamikdash. It is interesting to note that according to this approach one is only required to count the days of the Omer and not the weeks.

Finally, the mitzva of hafrashat challah is not truly binding in chutz la'aretz (in the Diaspora) but is nevertheless meticulously practiced everywhere "zecher l'mikdash". There are a number of additional examples of zecher l'mikdash practices, as well. The Aderet, Rabbi Eliyahu David Rabinowitz Teomim, wrote an entire treatise on zecher l'mikdash in his work "Zecher L'mikdash" which is required reading for those who seek to further explore this subject.

Once again, all the customs and practices mentioned above were once reserved exclusively for the Beit Hamikdash, or in some cases, for Eretz Yisrael. Zecher l'mikdash customs should not be confused with zecher l'churban ones! Those things which fall under the category of zecher l'churban are intended to be solemn and mournful but those things which fall under the category of zecher l'mikdash are meant to be educational and exciting. They are meant to ignite an inner spiritual desire to once again restore those days. We are taught that through recalling the Beit Hamikdash we play an important role in honoring it.[8]


[1] Yirmiyahu 30:17
[2] Sukkot 41a
[3] Rosh Hashana 30a
[4] Pesachim 115a
[5] O.C. 475:1
[6] Shulchan Aruch Harav 475:15
[7] Menachot 66a
[8] Sukka 41a

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Favorites More