In this week's haftorah, the prophet Malachi complains bitterly about
people's disdainful attitude towawrd the Temple service. He describes
they would offer blind sacrifices, or animals that were lame or sick.
held the Altar of Hashem in contempt. And he cries in the name of
among you will close the doors, so that my Altar will not be kindled in
What is surprising about this is that in Malachi's time, the Temple
not been in continuous existence for centuries, when over time the
might have become disdainful of it. Rather, Malachi prophesied right
beginning of the Second Temple. The Temple and its service were yet new
the Jews, and the excitement and the clamor of the Inauguration still
in their ears. How could they have tired of it so quickly?
To understand this, we must take note of a basic distinction between
First and Second Temples. Although the Jews, after a seventy-year period
exile, were able to return to their land and rebuild the Temple,
we are taught that the Second Temple was not a true replacement of the
First: it was in fact of a markedly lower spiritual quality. Whereas in the First Temple, the Divine Presence was openly perceived by all who entered, in the Second Temple the Divine Presence was in a state of concealment. It was there, to be sure. But those who served in the Temple were not able to sense it and be invigorated by it. At such a time, when the priests who serve in the Temple fail to see their efforts bear fruit, there is a grave danger. Gradually they, along with the people, may lose their excitement in the service of the Divine, until eventually the service is performed by rote in a mechanical fashion. And indeed, the prophet saw this happening before his very eyes. What might rekindle the enthusiasm of the people? And is there a lesson here for us?
The solution is offered by the prophet Malachi himself. "Remember the Torah of Moshe My servant, which I commanded unto him at Horeb." (Malachi 3:22) If we put our efforts into studying the Law, in becoming fluent in it and learning its meaning, then we shall never be in danger of neglecting it and stooping to mere mechanical observance of its details.
Copyright (c) 1996 by Rabbi Levi Langer
For information on subscriptions, archives, and other Shema Yisrael
Classes, send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Shema Yisrael Torah Network