Chanukah is the time of the re-dedication of the Holy Temple. The festival commemorates the Maccabees' restoring the Second Temple to its original sanctity after it had been ransacked and defiled (but not destroyed) by the Greeks. It is, therefore, worth dedicating a few minutes to consider how the Temple relates to us today. By this, we mean, of course, the Third Temple, whose re-building and long-awaited presence will usher in the Messianic Era.
Since the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70, religious Jews have expressed their desire to see the building of a Third Temple on the Temple Mount. Prayer for this cause has been a formal part of the Jewish tradition of thrice daily Jewish prayer services. Though it remains unbuilt, the notion of and desire for a Third Temple is sacred in Judaism, particularly Orthodox Judaism, as an unrealized place of worship. The prophets in the Tanakh called for its construction, to be fulfilled in the Messianic era.
Artistic impression of the Third temple
The scenario of a rebuilding of the Third Temple also plays a major role with-in some interpretations of Christian Eschatology.
Unused ancient Jewish floor plans for a Temple exist in various sources, notably in Chapters 40–47 of Ezekiel (Ezekiel's vision pre-dates the Second Temple) and in the Temple Scroll discovered at Qumran among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Role in Orthodox Judaism
Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, by Francesco Hayez
Orthodox Judaism believes in the rebuilding of a Third Temple (or Fourth Temple [Solomon's Temple, Zerubbabel's Temple, Herod's Temple]) and the resumption of sacrificial worship, although there is disagreement about how rebuilding should take place. Orthodox authorities generally believe that rebuilding should occur in the era of the Jewish Messiah at the hand of Divine Providence, although a minority position, following the opinion of Maimonides, holds that Jews should endeavor to rebuild the temple themselves, whenever possible. Orthodox authorities generally predict the resumption of the complete traditional system of sacrifices, but some Reform authorities have disagreed. Mainstream Judaism maintains that Korbanot, or sacrifice, will be reinstituted, in accord with the laws in the Torah and the Talmud. This belief is embedded in Orthodox Jewish prayer services. Three times a day, Orthodox Jews pray the Amidah, which contains prayers for the Temple's restoration and for sacrificial worship's resumption, and every day there is a recitation of the order of the day's sacrifices and the psalms the Levites would have sung that day.
The generally accepted position among Orthodox Jews is that the full order of the sacrifices will be resumed upon the building of the Temple. Traditionally the view that sacrifices will not be restored has been considered a heretical view, held mostly by very liberal Reform Rabbis. Although Maimonides wrote in his early work "A Guide for the Perplexed" "that God deliberately has moved Jews away from sacrifices towards prayer, as prayer is a higher form of worship,", however his definitive book "Mishneh Torah" - which is considered by some to be the final authority on Jewish law - states that animal sacrifices will resume in the third temple, and details how they will be carried out. Some[who?] attribute to Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first chief rabbi of the Jewish community in Palestine, the view that animal sacrifices will not be reinstituted. These views on the Temple service are sometimes misconstrued (for example, in Olat Re'ayah, commenting on the prophecy of Malachi ("Then the grain-offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to God as in the days of old and as in former years" [Malachi 3:4]), he indicates that only grain offerings will be offered in the reinstated Temple service, while in a related essay from Otzarot Hare'ayah he suggests otherwise).