Ask the rabbi

  • Family and Society
  • Settling the Land of Israel

Temple Mount


Rabbi David Sperling

Sivan 30, 5772
Since the Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, is it correct, or allowable for any Jew to allow Muslims to bury their dead there, and defile the site. Is it not the obligation of EVERY Jew to reclaim, make holy, and to pray on Temple Mount. The Rambam stated that even without a Temple, sacrifices could still be done there. Is it not an affront against G-d’s Name to allow a Mosque to stand on the site of our Temple, now that we have the ability to evict them.
It is clear from your words that you have a strong connection to Hashem’s Torah, and a great desire to merit to rebuild the Temple and serve Him there. What a wonderful thing – may we all merit to share your enthusiasm. Nonetheless, it is important to understand two major points when it comes to the Temple. Firstly, it is imperative to grasp the fundamental principle of commandments that can only be fulfilled by the unity of the Jewish people, as opposed to mitzvot that fall upon the individual. Mitzvot such as keeping Shabbat are the obligation of “EVERY Jew” (as you write). However, the command to build the Temple is a community obligation that cannot be fulfilled by an individual (or even a lot of individuals together). The nation together must build the Temple. When you talk about “any Jew allowing” or “every Jew” building the Temple - it is important to realize that the Jewish people as a whole must rebuild the Temple, and not each and every Jew alone. Of course this means that we need to work to create a unified people who are together striving to reach these G-dly goals. But this labor will express itself in a very different way than direct efforts to start hewing stones. Secondly, one should be aware that there is an order to these national mitzvot. The Talmud states (and the Rambam rules) that there are three mitzvot incumbent on the Jewish people when they return to the land of Israel. The first is to establish a King, the next is to wipe out the Amalekites, and only then to rebuild the Temple (see Rambam Laws of Kings and their Wars, chapter1,1). Before we are ready to rebuild the Temple we need to work on re-establishing the national Kingship of Israel (a process that thank G-d is well on the way, but is still far from complete). With all this in mind, I turn to your correspondence. It is true that no one should be allowed to bury their dead on the Temple Mount, nor have a foreign house of worship there. However, it is not so clear that the nation of Israel is ready to evict all peoples from the Temple Mount, and start to build. In fact it is clear that we still have much work to do in building the religious level of the nation in all levels of their growth before we can start on the Temple. This is especially true when we see the unfortunate position of Jews who still live in the Diaspora, and need good relations with their non-Jewish neighbours, who would certainly be swayed by “eviction” of the Mosques on the Temple Mount today. As to praying there, there is no mitzva to pray on the Temple Mount, and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel has always ruled that it is totally forbidden to go up to the Temple Mount for any reason (other than soldiers involved in security matters). May we merit to reach the level of rebuilding the Temple speedily in our days.
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