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In Ezra chapter 3:10-13 it describes the establishing of the foundation of the Second Temple and how once the foundation was laid there were mixed reactions. The older people who remembered the First Temple were sad and cried, the younger people who had not seen the First Temple were joyous and blew trumpets.

My question is why did this reaction take place at this event? The full Temple wasn't yet built, only the foundation. If so how did anyone yet know if the Second Temple was going to be greater or lesser than the first? Why didn't people wait until the Temple was actually built to have such a strong emotional reaction?

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    A suggestion -- Rashi suggests (3:12, sv זה הבית) that it was because of the size of the building, which could be told from the size of the foundation: "כשהיו רואין בניין בית זה היו בוכין מתוך שהיו זוכרים אותו בניין גדול של בית ראשון." ......See also Metzudas David, 3:12 sv "Bochin": "היו בוכים על כי היה קטן הרבה מן הבית הראשון"
    – MTL
    Dec 2 '14 at 2:46
  • @Shokhet that it your extrapolation Rashi says nothing of the foundation, he speaks as if they are already seeing the finished product. furthermore there is no indication that the foundation was in fact smaller. Dec 2 '14 at 3:46
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    From the passuk, and from other Rashis on the passuk (eg 11 sv על הוסד, and 12 ביסדו) I think he is discussing the foundation. Also, "there is no indication that the foundation was in fact smaller" -- so? They had to see something that made them sad; Rashi tells us what he thought it was.
    – MTL
    Dec 2 '14 at 5:13
  • Leaving your reservations to the side (along with the discovery of the Ralbag), I wrote a real answer along the lines of what I suggested in the above comments.
    – MTL
    Dec 2 '14 at 6:15
  • compare 1 kings 6:2 (60l x 20w x 30h) with Ezra 6:3 (60w x 60h)
    – user6641
    Dec 2 '14 at 18:48
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I think it means that they cried because they saw that the building was going to be smaller than the Temple that Shlomo HaMelech built, which is something that you can see from the size of the foundation.
See Rashi, 3:12 sv זה הבית:

כשהיו רואין בניין בית זה היו בוכין מתוך שהיו זוכרים אותו בניין גדול של בית ראשון

When they saw the construction of this (Second) Temple they cried, because they recalled the large building of the First Temple.

They may have been tipped off to the smaller size of the building due to the size of the stones that they saw being used. See Ralbag (3:12 sv ביסדו):

ביסדו זה הבית בעיניהם בוכים בקול גדול: ידמה שהיסוד הזה לא היה נעשה מאבנים גדולות כל כך כמו שהיה בבנין שלמה שהיו בשעור עשר אמות או שמנה אמות וזה כי לולא זה הנה לא היה הבדל בין יסוד זה הבית ליסוד הבית הראשון כי שיעור ההיכל היה מסכים לשיעורו הראשון

It would appear that this foundation was not made with as large stones as Solomon's Temple (the First Temple) was made; those were built with stones that were 10 or 8 amos (cubits) in size. If not for this, there would not have been any difference between the foundation of this (Second) Temple to that of the First, because the size of the Heichal (in the Second Temple) was the same as that of the First.

( all translations are mine )

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At the risk of breaking the rules of Mi Yodeya! May I answer with these questions:

A Confluence of Miracles:

The source of the building materials
The source of the young builders
The source of the young builders' shouts.

  1. Could the "ancient-men" have just been overwhelmed, and could no longer hold the pent-up hope? that seeing even the foundation completed, and the miraculous confluence bring them to tears of joy? Like a husband bursting into tears. deep heart-felt tears of release upon seeing the plane land bringing home his soldier wife back from war.

Ezra 3:12

But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy:

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    That's an interesting way to read the verse, but Rashi there doesn't agree. See also verse 13, there, that sort of contradicts your reading of verse 12.
    – MTL
    Dec 2 '14 at 17:24

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