Recently, someone asked me a shaylah that involves what is probably one of the most heart-breaking issues I was ever asked. The question was: “Are there any halachic issues involved in sifting through the earth removed by the Waqf from the Makom HaMikdash?”
To explain this shaylah, I will first explain what has happened, then discuss the halachic issues involved — and finally explain the answers. There is also a fascinating halachic-architectural issue that I noticed while studying photographs of the Moslem construction, which I will discuss at the end of this article.
The controversy with the Wakf is a nationalistic issue, but there is also an halakhic issue on which rabbis disagree. The late Chief Rabbi Goren tried to arrange a mass prayer on the Mount in 1967 and was stopped by the government.
Rav Tzvi Hersh Kalisher, the rav of Thorn, Germany, who
had studied as a youth in the yeshivos of Rabbi Akiva Eiger and the Nesivos HaMishpat (Rav Yaakov
of Lisa), published a sefer advocating bringing korbanos in the location where the Beis HaMikdash once
stood in Yerushalayim. Rav Kalisher considered it not only permissible to offer korbanos before the Beis
HaMikdash is rebuilt, but even obligatory.
The sages ruled that when a person builds a house for himself and arrives at its final stage, the whitewashing of the walls, he must remember that the Holy Temple still lies in ruins. He must therefore leave a square cubit of wall without whitewash.
Does the sanctity of the Temple stem from the Divine Presence or from the Land of Israel? Is Jerusalem destined to be sanctified with a more exalted sanctity in the future? Does the sanctity of the First and Second Temples continue to exist today?
Just as the time for the Redemption is dependent upon Israel's merit, so the nature of the redemption depends upon Israel's worthiness. The sages teach, “If they are worthy - with Heavenly clouds; if they are not - a peasant riding on a donkey” (Sanhedrin 98a).
What drove the Romans against the Jews was the Jews' “dangerous culture” - a culture which had begun to penetrate the Roman Empire. Judaism was educating the masses to behave according to the principle that says “man is created in God's image.”