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Regarding the Rumor about the Building of the Holy Temple on March 16th, 2010, and the Story that Lies Behind It


A STORY HAS BEEN CIRCULATING RECENTLY concerning the prophesied commencement of construction on the Holy Temple on March 16th, 2010. It would appear that the current interest began when a certain Israeli daily newspaper published a story claiming that the celebrated Rabbi of Vilna, Eliyahu ben Shlomo, known to this day as the Vilna Gaon, (The genius of Vilna), or by his acronym, the Gra, who lived over 200 years ago, (1720-1797), purportedly declared that the beginning of the redemptive process would commence upon the completion of the rebuilding of the Churva synagogue in Israel. The current excitement has to do with the fact that the Churva synagogue is being rebuilt at this moment and March 15th is scheduled to be the day of its rededication. The essence of this story is very beautiful, and most beautiful is the tremendous anticipation it has been generating.

BY MORPHING TWO DIFFERENT historical happenings into one, the story making the rounds today is one of prophecy, vision, calculating the precise dates of the redemption, and a strong dose of Divine determinism. After all, if March 16th is the projected date, then where is our input? Suppose we want to build the Holy Temple today? And we should so desire, of course, for G-d said, "Build Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them." (Exodus 25:8) Build Me - today, not necessarily on March 16th, 2010.

AS EXCITING AS THIS STORY IS, the true story, from which the current version has taken certain poetic license, is even more exciting. The Gra was very proactive, and he believed that the long awaited redemption depended upon positive steps being taken. He encouraged his disciples to pack up their belongings and move to the land of Israel. This they did, one hundred years before the advent of modern Zionism, and a number of them settled in Jerusalem. Basing himself on the Gra's mystical teachings, his most accomplished student, and leader of the Jerusalem community, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Mishklov, was of the conviction that the completion of a certain Jerusalem synagogue, known as the Churva, was an essential roadmark on the path toward redemption. Now at the time the holy land was under the authority of the Ottoman empire, and so when the followers of the Gra took upon themselves to complete the construction of the unfinished Churva synagogue, they needed first to be granted permission to do so by the Ottoman authorities. After twenty years of effort, in 1836 they were finally given the long sought go ahead. They began the rebuilding embued with the sense that the redemption was truly under way. A number of traditional observations marking the destruction of the Holy Temple were dropped from their daily and Shabbat liturgy, as they moved forward with the construction of the synagogue. In addition to resettling the land, and rebuilding the Churva synagogue, the community of the Gra's followers in Israel made tremendous efforts to reconvene the Sanhedrin, but in this they did not succeed.

The construction of the Churva synagogue was originally begun in 1700 under the auspices of Yehuda heHassid, who had relocated with his follower from Poland to Jerusalem. The construction ceased upon his death. An ensuing lack of funds prevented the completion of the synagogue, until the effort was taken up by the follower of the Gra, in 1836. The "official" title of the synagogue remains to this day, the Yehuda heHassid Synagogue. The appelation, Churva, which means "a ruin," was given to it in commemoration of the Holy Temple.

THE SYNAGOGUE WAS COMPLETED IN 1856, and was one of Jerusalem's largest structures at the time. Less than one hundred years later, in 1948, during Israel's war of independence, the Jordanian Arab Legion, which occupied Jerusalem's walled city, razed the synagogue to the ground. When Israel liberated the eastern sector of Jerusalem in 1967, which included the old walled city and the Temple Mount, the Churva synagogue was a pile of rubble. Over forty years passed before the rebuilding of the synagogue commenced in 2003. Now, as completion of the synagogue nears, and a rededication ceremony has been set for March 15th, the original enthusiasm of the followers of the Gra from 1936 has been rekindled. Today, however, the enthusiasm has spread from beyond the wall of Jerusalem, and can be felt around the world.

HAVING EXAMINED THE HISTORY of the Churva synagogue, and the source of today's current excitement, it can be stated that heart of the matter is not a prophetic prediction of a precise building-of-the-Temple date, but something, in fact, much more compelling: The taking upon itself by the nation of Israel the performance of prophetic action. The return to Israel and the rebuilding of Jerusalem are precursors to the great event of the rebuilding of the Holy Temple. Israel today, unlike two hundred years ago, has the means and the authority to do so. The realization of the necessity for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple and the renewal of the Divine service for the spiritual revival and redemption of all humanity, is growing day by day. Both inside Israel and abroad, the longing for the Holy Temple is becoming a powerful voice for change. May it be G-d's will that we soon begin the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, if not before the 16th of March, then not a day later!



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