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10, Tevet 5762

Indifference toward the Temple Mount


Written by the rabbi

Dedicated to the memory of
R' Ytzchak Yoseph B"R Chaim Shlomoh

1. Speedily in our Days?
2. Why the Indifference
3. The Western Wall: Holiest of the Holies?
4. Towards Overcoming the Obstacles
5. The Temple Mount Off Limits


Speedily in our Days?
We pray for the sake of Jerusalem a number of times each day: "And to Jerusalem, Your city, may You return in compassion;" "And let our eyes witness Your return to Jerusalem, in compassion;" "May it be Your will that the Holy Temple be rebuilt speedily in our days;" "Have compassion upon Zion, the resting place of Your Glory... and upon the great and holy house upon which Your Name is called;" and, "Build Jerusalem the Holy City speedily in our days."

Yet, for some reason, the supplication and remembrance we give voice to each day do not move the general public to take practical steps towards strengthening our hold on the Temple Mount. No doubt there are those who are active in this respect, but we do not find the masses engaging in an attempt to nullify the misconception that the Holy Temple is a site sacred to non-Jews, or the absurd notion that it is not really so sacred a place to the Jews.

Even the religious public, on the whole, displays indifference to what is at present taking place on the Temple Mount. In order to know how to deal with this indifference we must first uncover the reasons for it.

Why the Indifference
There are a number of reasons for this insensitiveness:
a) We have become accustomed to living without a Holy Temple. Just as the Jewish people became accustomed to living without the Land of Israel, so too, they became accustomed to living without a Holy Temple. Even when the Jews were given the opportunity to return to their land, they, for the most part, did not return. Even today, there are orthodox and ultra-orthodox communities in the Diaspora who have the ability to come live in Israel yet refuse to do so. The great Jewish philosopher, Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi, cried out regarding this phenomenon. People accustom themselves to the fact of exile, and it appears to them that it is actually possible to live in such a manner.

The same thing is true concerning the Temple Mount. We accustomed ourselves to substitutes: to synagogues - what the Sages refer to as "small sanctuaries," and to study halls. These places satisfy our spiritual appetite, as it were, instead of the "great and holy house." Prayer and prostration at the graves of the righteous have replaced pilgrimage to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. What's more, we have accustomed ourselves to an abstract and almost imaginary Holy Temple. We long for the Holy Temple, and this longing itself satisfies us. This, then, is one fundamental reason for the indifference.

b) An estrangement from the deep inner world of the Torah. Our beloved mentor, Rabbi Avraham Isaac Kook, zt"l, in his seminal work, "Orot," explains that, "By being alienated from the recognition of the secrets of the Torah, the sanctity of the Land of Israel is understood in a foggy, unfocused fashion. By alienating oneself from the secrets of God, the higher qualities of the deep divine life are reduced to trivia that do not penetrate the depth of the soul, and as a result, the most potent force of the individual's and the nation's soul will be missing, and the exile is found to be pleasant in its own accord. To one who only comprehends the superficial level, nothing basic will be lacking in the absence of the Land of Israel, sovereignty, and all the ingredients of an intact nation."

In other words, unawareness of the hidden inner side of the Torah, the "soul" of the Torah, leads to our viewing worship superficially, and results in a failure to grasp the deeper and more sublime aspect of things. This is true regarding the special qualities of the Land of Israel, the People of Israel, and, of course, the Holy Temple.

c) Today's redemption has made its appearance adorned in mundane attire. When God's sanctity is hidden from us, it is difficult for even the religious to grasp the true significance of the events unfolding. People are led to believe that secular Israel's control of the Temple Mount possesses no religious significance.

d) Jews have become accustomed to the concept of worship on an individual, or, at the very most, local level. The concept of worship on a national level has been forgotten. The Holy Temple, and everything about it, is national and inclusive in nature - "Klal Yisraeli." One priest offering up one daily sacrifice is considered equal to and, even greater than, all the prayers of the entire Jewish people. "Prayers," say the Sages, "were instituted in place of the daily sacrifices." All of the prayers of each and every individual Jew cannot compare to the act of the priest offering up the single daily sacrifice in the morning and in the afternoon.

Our outlook has changed because of the Exile and the Destruction. We no longer understand the great value of worship on a national level. There are people who claim that they feel more uplifted when they pray in a synagogue than they do at the Wailing Wall. At the Wailing Wall there is no order; Jews of differing customs and backgrounds are all mixed together, making it difficult to concentrate properly. In fact, there are even people who find it distracting to pray in a quorum of ten. They feel they have to pray alone in order to concentrate and direct their attention properly.
This constitutes a complete lack of understanding of the fact that the Almighty desires the collective worship of the entire Jewish people as one. One does not worship oneself. Certainly the value of prayer is not weighed according to the fervor of the individual. We do not pray to ourselves; we pray to God. One must fulfill the desire of God. God wants the prayer and the service of the masses, of the entire Jewish people. This sort of service can only take place in the Holy Temple - today, in the closest place possible to the Temple Mount.

I consider this the most fundamental cause preventing people from appreciating the significance of the Temple and truly desiring its speedy restoration.

e) "All or nothing at all." People, on a psychological level, have difficulty accepting temporary or partial solutions. The ideal of building the Holy Temple is such an enormous one that to set it aside and to say that we want to find a temporary solution - for example, the idea of a synagogue on the Temple Mount - is deemed unacceptable. It does not matter to people that such action brings us closer to our grand and ultimate goal. There is a deep-seated feeling which many people possess which says that because we want the Holy Temple to be rebuilt immediately, we cannot be satisfied with anything less than everything. People do not want to abandon the great dream and settle for second best - i.e., a mere temporary solution.

Jewish law calls for leaving a square cubit of the wall of one's house unpainted in remembrance of the Holy Temple. It is forbidden even to paint it with black, despite the fact that black is a sign of mourning. I once heard Rabbi Bar-Shaul discuss this law. He explained that there are two stages that a person passes through after experiencing a tragedy. Initially, one experiences shock, an inability to digest the situation, an inability to think clearly about what to do or how to act, how to continue on in wake of what has transpired. There is an initial inability to accept the tragedy, the bitter reality. This is followed by a second stage in which one becomes capable of acknowledging the tragedy. We already begin to make memorial indications in remembrance of what happened. Rabbi Bar Shaul says that the Jews never resolve themselves to the fact of the Destruction of the Temple. It is impossible to come to terms with. It is impossible to memorialize through signs - no partial coming-to-terms, no reminder of what had happened. The square cubit area on the wall of the Jew's home must therefore remain without plaster or whitewash. One must view the crisis with his own eyes, like our own shattered fate. We find ourselves in the wake of a great tragedy, yet cannot accustom ourselves to it. I believe that this is one of the factors preventing Jews from striving to arrive at partial or temporary solutions when it comes to the Temple Mount.

The Western Wall: Holiest of the Holies?

There are those who feel that the holiest place Jews have today is the Wailing Wall. Government leaders thought this until they were informed otherwise. What made them think in such manner? Answer: the behavior of the religious public which streams to the Wailing Wall in such great numbers. If so many pious people pour out their requests before the Wall, they reasoned, it must be our holiest site.

A question of this sort was asked of Rabbi David ibn Zimra, "Radvaz." If a Jew were to find himself on the Temple Mount - the Western Wall to one side, the site of the Holy of Holies on the other - in which direction should he pray? Do not the Sages teach that the Divine Presence is forever present at the Western Wall? What's more, the Temple has been destroyed, the Holy of Hoiles is no longer. Should one turn his back to the Holy Presence that dwells upon the Western Wall in order to pray to the site of a temple that no longer stands? Radvaz responded, obviously, that one must pray to the Holy of Holies.

Towards Overcoming the Obstacles
Having discussed the reasons for the public's indifference - though we did not mention all of them - we can now consider an appropriate path to overcoming this apathy, to renewing and strengthening our relation with the Temple Mount. In order to overcome the first four obstacles we listed, there is no short cut. We must learn and teach others concerning the value of Holy Temple. Learn and teach, more and more. We must make ourselves aware of the very laws that were practiced in the days when the Temple stood. In this way we will come to know that the Land of Israel without the Holy Temple is like a body without a head.

Similarly, we must remember that even in its ruined state the site of the Temple remains holy. Any time we connect ourselves to the Temple, any time we bring ourselves close to it, even in its ruined state - it sanctifies and uplifts. From the "four corners of the world" we pray toward the Holy of Holies. From this site the divine bounty flows out to the entire universe, even though the Temple is no longer.

The Temple Mount Off Limits
In order to deal with the psychological condition which prevents people from accepting a partial solution and demands the immediate step of rebuilding the entire Temple, we must take nonrestrictive steps that are at least in the spirit of this great vision.

To begin with, I believe that we must demand that the Temple Mount be closed off completely, until the Redeemer comes, speedily in our day. It could be a matter of days - it could even happen today. Until that time, though, we must demand that the Temple Mount be made off-limits. It is a sacred place. One must be pure before entering it. Yet, it is not enough to be outwardly pure. One must be inwardly, spiritually pure.

At present we are not yet fit for such. We will not be fit until the Redeemer comes, or until the public as a whole elevates itself to a proper spiritual level and there come a decision on the part of the leading Torah scholars to rebuild the Holy Temple. At any rate, until the Jewish people attain such a spiritual level, until it become possible to rebuild the Holy Temple, I believe we must demand the closure of the Temple Mount completely. This is the first step: to do away with the disgrace of the Temple Mount being used as a place for non-Jewish worship. By closing off the Temple Mount, we will have at least cast off the humiliation. We will have erased, to some degree, the disgrace of the Temple's destruction, and of our only-partial sovereignty on the Mount. This is what we must demand of the government.

It is not proper to take steps that are subject to discrepancy. It is impossible to advance in such a manner. We must bring the entire public to one opinion. I do not see any possibility of this at present. Only when an agreed-upon goal is presented can large numbers of people be influenced and join in the struggle. When this happens it becomes possible to place much greater pressure on the ruling powers. It is therefore important to demand things concerning which there is a public consensus.

Convincing the government to allow us to enter the Temple Mount in order to pray in its outer areas, though, would be a disgraceful solution to say the least: "They" would be in there, on the site of the Holy of Holies, and we, on the outside. Moreover, as we have noted, only a small sector of the public would be willing to join in the struggle for such a compromise. In an attempt, though, to make the Temple Mount off limits to all, the demand for wholeness and perfection would not be surrendered, for we would not be establishing any sort of positive goal. Our sole desire would be to "turn aside from evil." - to remove abomination from the House of God.

We must increase our prayers, on all sides of the Temple Mount, so as to do away with the impression that only the Western Wall possesses sanctity, that only one side of the Temple Mount is holy while the other sides are not, heaven forbid. We direct ourselves to that which is inside, beyond the walls - the Holy of Holies.

It is therefore important to organize walks along the walls of the city and to urge the public to participate in large numbers. This idea must be strengthened, to the point where once a week students from one or two yeshiva's come and circle the Temple Mount. This practice could take on a lager and more all-inclusive nature on the first of every Hebrew month. It is important to gaze upon the Temple Mount from up close. God told the Spies that not only would they not enter the Land of Israel, but they would not even see it. To Moses God said, "You will see it." Sight possesses great value. One who sees the Temple Mount with his own eyes is greatly moved. Indeed, this sight makes a very strong impression.
Let us do our part, and may that which is written, "While they are still speaking I shall hear; before they call I shall answer," be fulfilled through us.



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