February 10, 2016
Rabbi H. Greenberg in #1008, Parsha Thought, Truma


The Mishkan, the portable Sanctuary the Jewish people constructed in the desert, was constructed out of gold, silver and copper.

According to the Midrash, these metals allude to three of the four nations that subjugated the Jews.

Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian monarch, dreamt of a huge statue consisting of four parts. Its head consisted of fine gold; its breast and arms were made out of silver; its belly and thighs were made out of copper, and its legs were made out of iron.

Daniel was summoned to interpret this dream. The golden head of the statue, he said, was a reference to the Babylonians; the silver breast and arms to the Medians; the copper belly and thighs to Greece and the iron legs were a reference to the Romans.

The Midrash then observes that G-d only asked for three of those metals, gold, silver and copper, for the construction of the Sanctuary, while iron, and its allusion to Rome, was conspicuously absent. The Midrash explains:

Because the evil Edom (Rome), which destroyed the Holy Temple, is likened to it. And this is to teach you that the Holy One, blessed is He, will accept gifts in the Future Era from all the kingdoms, with the exception of Edom (Rome).

The Midrash then asks:

But, didn’t Babylonia also destroy [the First Temple]? However, she did not raze it. But with respect to Edom [Rome] what is written ‘…those who say Destroy! Destroy! to its very foundation’ (Psalms 137:7).

The Midrash then describes how all of the nations of the world will bring gifts to Moshiach. Moshiach will accept all of their gifts, at which time Rome will come and argue:

Since they accepted gifts from these other nations, who are not their [Israel’s] brothers, all the more so us. Edom [Rome] too will seek to bring gifts to the King Moshiach, but the Holy One, blessed is He, will say to the Moshiach, ‘Rebuke the wild beast of the reed, (Psalm 68:31)’ whose entire existence is from the reed.


What did the Midrash mean by describing Rome as “a wild beast whose entire existence is from the reed?”

Commentators cite the Talmud and Zohar which state that Rome was built on the foundation of a reed. “When King Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh, the angel Gabriel came and stuck a reed in the sea, and the city of Rome was built on a sandbank that gathered around it.”

This discussion raises several questions:

First, what precisely is the reason G-d did not want Moshiach to take a gift from Rome? Why wouldn’t Rome’s willingness to bring a gift to Moshiach mitigate their past evil?

Second, what is the connection between Rome’s unredeemable evil and King Solomon’s marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter?

Third, what deeper message lies beneath the surface of the description of Rome being built “around a reed?”


To answer these questions we must first understand: a) the role of the Bais HaMikdash, b) why it is not standing today, and c) what will happen when Moshiach builds the Third Temple.

When G-d created the world, He not only intended for it to be civilized and peaceful; He also wanted it to be G-dly. G-d’s plan was for an independent-minded humanity that would become aware of G-d, His plan, accede to His will and permeate every aspect of existence with this G-dly awareness.

To this end, G-d gave us the Torah and its Mitzvos, which touch every aspect of our lives and instill them with G-dly light.

To further the goal of making our entire world a “dwelling place for G-d” we were given a Holy Land, a land that radiates fidelity to G-d’s will. Indeed, the word eretz-land, our Sages tell us, is etymologically related to the word desire. Israel is a land that has a natural desire and proclivity to conform to G-d’s will. (Of course, free choice enables us to suppress the land’s holiness and desire.)

To further the goal of making the entire world like Eretz Yisroel, G-d commanded us to build a Bais HaMikdash in which G-d’s presence would be powerfully present and radiate its G-dly aura to the entire world.

Without the Temple, the only way we could affect the world in accordance with G-d’s plan would be by physical proximity to the places we want to transform. If the Temple’s integrity had not been compromised, there would never have been a need for the Jewish people to go into exile. The spiritual power of the Bais HaMikdash would have spread to the entire world unimpeded. The destruction of the Temple necessitated our going into exile and having a direct connection with the world we want to affect.

Exile was therefore not just a punishment for our sins. Rather, our sins caused the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash. Without that source of Divine energy, we were compelled to descend into exile to fulfill our mission of transforming the entire world. The only way to accomplish that goal was by direct contact with each of the places to which we were exiled.


We can now understand King Solomon’s reason for marrying Pharaoh’s daughter and how it backfired.

King Solomon was well aware of his unique role in unifying the Jewish people and building the Bais HaMikdash to empower them to refine and elevate the whole world. However, King Solomon sought to buttress the process of bringing G-d’s unity and light to the “outside” world by marrying women from other countries (but only after they converted to Judaism). By marrying Pharaoh’s daughter, Solomon felt it would enable him to channel the powerful spiritual energy of Jerusalem to the Egyptian empire and beyond. Solomon’s intentions, albeit proven wrong, were entirely positive and holy.

His mistake was that rather than augmenting and enhancing the power of the Bais HaMikdash, King Solomon undermined its power.

First, the Bais HaMikdash did not need man-made support and enhancement. The very premise upon which the Temple was built was for us not to have to travel (either geographically or conceptually) to foreign states or states of mind. Marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter caused King Solomon to depart from and thereby diminish the unadulterated G-dly atmosphere of the Temple.

Second, the daughter’s beliefs and behavior were not consistent with the high ideals of the Temple. Her lack of fidelity to the belief in absolute Divine unity was diametrically opposite the existence of the Bais HaMikdash. Rather than increasing holiness and causing G-dly light to radiate outward, King Solomon brought some of the exile darkness into Jerusalem and the Bais HaMikdash.


This, perhaps, is what is meant by the statement in the Talmud and Zohar that King Solomon’s marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter created Rome. That unholy marriage undermined the very foundation of the Temple, which left us having to flounder in exile in order to reach and affect the outside world. Rome was the symbol of the destruction of the Temple, even to its very foundation. The seeds for that destruction, which brought on the long, arduous and painful exile, were sown by that marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter.


The significance of the reed, kaneh in Hebrew, is that it begins with the letter kuf, which has a negative connotation. The kuf is similar to the letter hei (which is part of the Divine name), with one significant difference. Its left leg extends downward, symbolizing the descent into the lowest precincts of our world. It represents the total immersion in the material world which causes one to lose sight of the Divine and imbibe unholy and un-G-dly influences.

When the Temple stood, there would have been no potential for that type of decline because we would not have needed to directly relate to the “outside-nether” world. The outside world could have been made G-dly without our intense and obsessive participation in it; there would have been no potential for drowning in the morass of exile.

When Moshiach rebuilds the Bais HaMikdash we will once more be able to radiate G-dliness to the entire world.


Thus, when Rome offers a gift to Moshiach its intention will be to demonstrate how much our existence in their exile contributed to the transformation of the world and leading it to the Messianic Age.

Rome will brag that it caused the infrastructure which enabled us to learn Torah and perform the Mitzvos. Rome, therefore will feel that, despite its evil, it deserves to be given some credit.

To use an analogy: Doctors discover and successfully treat a potentially fatal illness when a person injured in a fight goes for treatment. If not for that injury he would not have found the problem before it killed him.

It would be understandable if the victim would be grateful, at least in some small part, to his adversary for having, albeit unintentionally, saved his life.

This is essentially Rome’s argument: “True, we persecuted you. However, being in our exile provided you with the opportunity to bring holiness to every nook and cranny of the world. We also provided the tools which enabled you to fulfill your mission. We have, in effect, contributed to the building of the Third Temple!”


G-d will not buy their argument. Rome not only destroyed the Temple, they targeted its very foundation and core, which forced us into exile. This is far more analogous to one who throws another into the ocean and then jumps in to save him.

Their “contributions” will therefore be deemed totally unacceptable for the building of the Third Temple.

All the credit for the Third Temple will go to the Jewish people, who suffered through exile, persevered, flourished and brought G-dly light to the entire world. Only they, along with those nations and individuals who observed the Seven Noachide commandments and supported the Jewish people, will have a role in the Third Temple, as the prophet Isaiah (56:7) declares: “…for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations.”

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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