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Kotel Prayer,Cracks & Women &, Sacrifices in the 3rd Temple


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Av 3, 5777
1) Reform and unaffiliated Jews in the US are complaining about the egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel, however they themselves do not believe in the building of the Third Temple, nor do they generally observe 17 Tammuz thru Tisha B’Av (my guess is that they don’t know what these observances are). Also, belief in the building of the Third Temple is pretty fundamental to the practice of Judaism historically (or since the destruction of the Second Temple). Do the Women of the Wall, actually pray there? Or is this a publicity stunt? 2) Would you consider praying at the Kotel to be a form of idolatry? I have read that people leave prayer requests inside the cracks in the wall. Can’t a person just pray to God directly? Is praying at the Wall really that necessary?? 3) Will animal sacrifices be restored after the building of the Third Temple? And if so, will I need to come to Israel to promote Vegetarianism first? Because if Animal Rights activists catch wind of this, that Third Temple will never get built!
1. You raise a very interesting point! In fact, I saved a picture from the Jerusalem Post showing a mixed Reform prayer group by the Kotel, where only the women (!) are wearing tefilin, but the men don’t! In other words, the main point as far as they are concerned is to always do the opposite of tradition, to reform, which is more important to them than ideology and truth. 2. When we go to the Kotel, we obviously pray to God, and not to the Wall. God surely doesn’t need notes left in the cracks (which in fact, is a relatively newfangled custom, not mentioned in any ancient source!), but any way a person prays well, with concentration, sincerity and emotion, is great, including writing notes to Him and placing them on your living-room table. We also believe, as it is written, that God chose to “concentrate” His presence on the Temple Mount, and that Jews throughout the world, already from the time of Solomon (Kings I, 8, 27-29, 48), and as we see also in Ezra, all prayed towards the Holy of Holies: outside of Israel- prayed towards Israel, within Israel- towards Jerusalem, and within Jerusalem- towards the Temple Mount. In other words, the closer, the better (Brachot 30a)! This mountain is special, so it’s definitely not wrong, surely not idolatry! 3. The Rambam (Mlachim 11, 1) writes that there will be animal sacrifices in the Third Temple, and this has always been mainstream Judaism. Nevertheless, Rav Kook knew that source very well, and nevertheless wrote 5 different approaches to justify halachically the annulling of animal sacrifices, should the rabbis wish to do so (Kvatzim m’Ktav Yad Kodsho, Boisk A, pp. 15-16). The main point is, will it add or detract from our connection to Torah and Godliness, which will be decided at that time, but theoretically the possibility of future vegetarian sacrifices has already been raised, see Malachi 3, “Then shall the vegetation-offering (“mincha”) of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in ancient years.
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