Though it has been over 2000 years since we have had a Temple to serve the Almighty properly, we would be sadly mistaken to think that we are completely removed from its holiness. Truth be told, we have a chance to access that same holiness every single week, when the holy Shabbos sets in.
This is alluded to in the beginning of Parshas Vayakhel, a Torah portion dedicated completely to the building of the Tabernacle, which suspiciously starts out commanding us to keep the laws of Shabbos.
Rashi explains that we are meant to learn from there that all building of the Tabernacle had to seize when Shabbos came around. But there is a very deep message here. Why, in fact, did the building of the Tabernacle seize when it came Shabbos? Why did it not take priority over the laws of Shabbos as many important commandments do, like Bris Milah for example?
The profound message we are supposed to draw from here is that the when it comes Shabbos we don’t build the Temple, because no Temple is needed on Shabbos! Shabbos is the manifestation in time that the Temple was in location. The Temple was meant to be the vehicle to bring God’s presence into the world and into our hearts; Shabbos, itself, does the very same thing- if we make the full effort to tap into its holiness. This is why we say in our friday night Zmiros that “Lovers of Hashem who long for the building of the Temple, on Shabbos rejoice and be glad as if receiving the gift of God’s heritage”. All week you can yearn for the Temple, but on Shabbos you can experience the Temple!
It is for this reason that if we examine the practices of Shabbos, we see that they all parallel one of the practices done in the Temple. The sacrificing and eating Korbanos are paralleled by the mitvah to eat special foods and meats. Kiddush wine parallels the wine libations. The Menorah lighting in the Mikdash is paralleled by the mitzvah to light candles on beautiful candlesticks. The Shulchan with its twelve challos are paralleled by the Mitzvah to eat two challos at three meals and to cut each challah in two halves so throughout the entire Shabbos we have 12 challos. On Shabbos there is Mitzvah to dress in special clothing, just as the Kohanim wore special clothing in the Mikdash. In the Mikdash the Leviim used to sing Shirah. On Shabbos there is a custom to sing special songs and Zmiros.
Furthermore, on Shabbos there is a special Mitzvah for husband and wife to spend intimate time together. This, our Sages teach us, is meant to bring down the special holiness of, no less than, the Holy of Holies itself, where the Keruvim could be found in a warm embrace when the Jewish people would do the will of Hashem.
And it is for this reason as well that on Shabbos we refrain from the 39 acts of building/creating that were performed in the building of the Tabernacle, because on Shabbos we remind ourselves that on Shabbos there is no need to build the Temple. On Shabbos, it is already there for us.
This is alluded to from the very first time the Torah talks about Shabbos, a verse that we recite every week in Friday night Kiddush, when we say “Vayichulu Hashamayim Va’aretz- and the heavens and the earth were completed”. The root of “Vayichulu” is “Kli” which means a vessel. When that first Shabbos set in marking the completion in the world, the world became a “Vessel”. What was it that the world was a “vessel” for? The next words in the verse are “Vayishbos”- and he rested- the world became a vessel for Hashem to rest or to dwell in.
There is an old Jewish saying that says “for all of history, more than the Jews have kept Shabbos, Shabbos has kept the Jews”. It’s a long time that we have been away from home, but every Shabbos another opportunity waits for us to tap in to that wonderful holiness that we felt long ago, and eagerly wait to feel again one day soon. Let’s make sure to seize that opportunity!