The Temple Institute: The Tenth of Tevet



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The Tenth of Tevet

December 25, 2001
2001 The Temple Institute, Rabbi Chaim Richman - All Rights Reserved

Today, the tenth of Tevet, is a day of fasting and prayer. On this day Jerusalem was surrounded by the forces of Nebuchadnezzer, king of Babylon. The siege continued for three years and finally led to the breaching of Jerusalem's walls and the destruction of the Holy Temple.

The theme of the Temple's destruction is a prominent and central motif in Jewish life which we are urged not to simply remember, but to live with daily, as expressed by the sages of Israel: "Whoever mourns for Jerusalem will merit to see her joy."

Today, on this day designated for reflecting on the sanctity of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, and most importantly, the Holy Temple itself, this theme has more relevance than ever. But how sensitive are we to their ongoing plight?

"Oh brothers, there is a conspiracy to Judaize Jerusalem." These were Arafat's words to his people in a vitriolic speech delivered last week (and largely ignored by the media). However, in the midst of this "conspiracy," Judaism's only holy site, the Temple Mount, has been closed to Jews for 13 months, ever since Prime Minister Sharon's visit. Atop the Mount, the Moslem Wakf appointed by Arafat continues with its campaign of destruction. This barbaric and criminal piracy has already facilitated the removal of thousands of tons of Temple-era remnants. In the words of the bi-partisan Committee Against the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, the purpose of this work is "to destroy all signs of Jewish existence at the site and to turn the whole area into one huge mosque." Although the Committee claims to have detailed evidence of the continuing destruction that it has recently presented to the Prime Minister, Jerusalem police deny that any work is being carried out. The committee alleges that the police are also part of a conspiracy - a conspiracy of silence. Eager to maintain quiet, they are deliberately withholding information about activities on the Mount.

Prime Minister Sharon could order a halt to this work, just as he could permit Jews to return to the Temple Mount. In the days before September 2000, Jews were allowed to visit the Temple Mount, and many ascended the Mount daily to those places that are permitted by Jewish law, and in accordance with all relevant halachic guidelines. But even in those "good days" such visits were often exercises in futility and degradation, for Jews were never allowed to pray at their only holy site - despite the guarantee of this freedom by the Supreme Court - out of the police's fear of Moslem sensitivities. According to the policy of the Moslem Wakf authorities that administer over the Mount, only Moslem prayer is allowed. So much for "the Judaization of Jerusalem."

During all the years that Jewish prayer has been forbidden on the Temple Mount, no objection or comment was ever raised by the world community. This begs comparison with the uproar that has ensued today over Sharon's decision to prevent Arafat from attending Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem. Sharon said he would be glad to let Arafat travel if the latter would simply arrest the killers of assassinated Minister Rehavam Ze'evi, which he refuses to do.

Various foreign governments and embassies have voiced their displeasure. The Pope (who has met with Arafat eleven times) called Israel's decision "arbitrarily imposed," and the French, for example, have called it "a violation of freedom of worship... especially when it appears that Arafat is beginning to crack down against the violence." Jewish freedom of worship, like other things Jewish, appears to be inconsequential. And of course, Arafat is "cracking down against the violence" even though Vitali Binos, 47, was shot yesterday by members of Arafat's Fatah Tanzim, and just this morning Arafat's forces opened fire on an IDF patrol south of Hebron.

In his televised address, with a large photograph of the Temple Mount in the background, Arafat said "the whole world that has seen what happened... has to know what kind of terror the worshippers in this holy land are facing." Which worshippers?

Was it important for Christians, or for the Palestinian's national pride, that Arafat attend services in Bethlehem? Opposition leader Yossi Sarid, among others, has been critical of Sharon's decision to prevent Arafat from attending Mass in Bethlehem, stating that "Arafat the Muslim has become the Christians' hero." Hopefully Sarid, who has proven himself to be somewhat lacking in his knowledge of Judaism, is no more fit to be a spokesman for the Christian community either. Anyone who sees Arafat as a hero must really be scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Today in Jerusalem, a special symposium will be held to discuss the situation of the Temple Mount. At the conclusion of the fast, a large number of people are expected to attend the march around the gates of the Mount. These initiatives, long overdue, are praiseworthy; but they are only "remembrances." Even visiting the Temple Mount in the "good days" was nothing but a remembrance, without the possibility of prayer. With the continued closure of the Mount, we are left with nothing but "remembrances of remembrances... "

The Torah calls the Tenth of Tevet "the fast of the tenth." In the book of Zechariah we read:

"Thus says the L-rd of Hosts: The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall become times of joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts to the house of Judah... " (8:19)

If we really anticipate this to happen, if we really desire to see this, we must shake off our complacency. If we remain satisfied with mere remembrances, in place of the real thing, then that is all we deserve. The Talmud states, "When you pray, stand facing Jerusalem. If you are already in Jerusalem, you should direct your heart towards the Holy Temple." Even while standing in Jerusalem, one can lose their way. The surest way to direct the heart to the Temple is to be standing on the Temple Mount.

Rabbi Chaim Richman

PO Box 31876 Jerusalem, Israel 97500



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