The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: Sivan 1, 5771/June 3, 2011


Jerusalem! Just hearing her name stirs the soul. This Wednesday was Jerusalem Day, marking the 44th anniversary of the liberation and unification of Jerusalem. For 1900 years Jerusalem was occupied and ruled by strangers. For nineteen years Jerusalem was divided. Israel had reclaimed her western flank, while the heart of Jerusalem, the old city, the City of David, and the Temple Mount, were in the hands of the Jordanian occupiers. This Jerusalem day hundreds of observant Jews as well as many G-d fearing Gentiles ascended the Temple Mount. Tens of thousand more weaved their way through the thoroughfares of Jerusalem waving the flag of Israel and wound down the narrow paths of Jerusalem's old city as they headed towards the Holy Temple's western retaining wall - the Kotel. It was a type of aliya - a type of pilgrimage ascent, reminiscent of Israel's historical festival pilgrimages of Sukkot, Passover and Shavuot. Where does this energy come from? What is its source?

This upcoming Tuesday night-Wednesday is Shavuot, the festival which features the bringing of the bikkurim - the first fruits - to the Holy Temple, and which commemorates the Sinai revelation - the receiving of Torah at Mt. Sinai. The journey to Sinai was, as we know, fraught with danger. Both the sole superpower, Egypt, and the terrorist nation of Amalek did their level best to stop Israel in her tracks, and both failed. And as we will witness in the upcoming weeks as we proceed through the book of Numbers, countless prophets and soothsayers and kings and armies and plotters and planners would all seek to block the way, to keep Israel from entering the land and possessing Jerusalem. Why all the opposition? Why was the entire international community so vehemently opposed to Israel living in her land and building up Jerusalem? Was it jealousy? Fear? Did they also desire the land? Was Jerusalem also the chief of their joys? Or were they threatened by the idea that a nation and a city would arise from which the Torah of G-d would emanate? That a new moral order, one perhaps antithetical to the moral order that they had imposed upon the world in order to serve their own needs and perpetuate their own grasp on the reins of power, would expose them, for once and for all, in their nakedness?

The book of Numbers, as we have noted, describes Israel's journeys through the desert, and the many opposing forces that rose up along the way. But in this Shabbat's reading, parashat Naso, we are introduced to a number of actors who, on the surface, don't seem to play a role in the book's overlying theme. There is the nazir, the ascetic who takes upon himself an oath to refrain from wine and other "indulgences," to remove himself, in other words, for a prescribed period of time, from this world. The other characters play their parts in the drama of the sota - the woman accused by her husband, influenced by a fit of jealousy, of marital infidelity. But perhaps these two descriptions actually do fit in Numbers' overall theme.

The nazir is a man, (or woman), who feels that he is not quite up to this world, that the physicality, the sensuality of this world is more than he can handle. Torah, on the other hand, commands us to be very much plugged into this world. So as a corrective for the individual who seeks to exile himself from the world, the Torah acquiesces, but sets the terms. The nazir can refrain from certain things for a limited time only, after which he brings an offering to the Holy Temple and concludes his period of self-denial. Today, this same nazarite syndrome can be detected in individuals who, while being otherwise very pious, insist that we of this world are not yet ready to really lay claim to Jerusalem by building, once and for all, the Holy Temple. We're not up to it, they say, we're not good enough. What would we do with the Holy Temple? We'd only mess things up. We need to sit back and wait for an otherworldly occurrence, for G-d to build the Holy Temple. How ironic that the nazir concludes his oath of abstention by bringing an offering to the Holy Temple, the very place on earth that confirms, uplifts and celebrates the "this world" that G-d created. May those among us who feel that we should abstain from building the Holy Temple, or even ascending the Temple Mount, soon also be able to conclude their retreat from this world by presenting an offering at the altar of the Holy Temple!

The case of the sota involves a jealous husband and an accused wife. She is compelled to undergo a very difficult and public ceremony conducted by the Kohen Gadol, (Hight Priest), at the Holy Temple, in order to prove her fidelity. Israel today is being accused of a never ending list of atrocities, of inhumanity, of greed, of bloodlust, etc. by a world immersed in a fit of jealousy. The world, from President Obama to Ahmadinejad, accuses Israel of infidelity to their agendas and to their expectations; to their inhumanity and bloodlust. But Israel need not answer to them. Israel need only to answer to G-d and just like the accused woman, Israel need only to show her fidelity to the G-d of Israel and to His agenda and His expectations.

Both the nazir and the jealous husband are very real types whose idiosyncratic predilections are like sticks being poked in the spokes of the wheels of time. The nazir of today is too intimidated by the world as it is to even consider trying to change it for the better, while the jealous husband angrily tries to prevent Israel from doing anything which might create a change in the world, a change which may prove harmful, even disastrous, to their aims. The nazir urges Israel: "Lay low! Don't upset them! Just do as they say!" The jealous husbands simply conduct their warfare on every front, trying to isolate, humiliate and neutralize Israel.

Yet, the streets of Jerusalem are teeming with people, carrying flags, streaming towards the Temple Mount, exuding an energy that hearkens back to the great pilgrimages of yore. Where does this energy come from? What is its source? This energy, whose source is the inevitability of time, the inevitability of the words of G-d's prophets, of the promise of G-d to His people and the promise of His people that they shall never forget Jerusalem, is what animates her people and brings them to the streets, not in protest, but in celebration of the great gifts G-d has bestowed upon us: the gifts of Torah from Sinai, of Jerusalem rebuilt, and of the Holy Temple, whose rebuilding cannot be stopped. Not by superpowers, not by terrorists, and not by prophets or soothsayers or kings or armies or plotters or planners. Not by those who endorse passivity and not by those jealous of G-d's will. Jerusalem and the Holy Temple: they span the distance between heaven and earth, between man and G-d, but they are of this world, emphatically so, and evermore shall be.

Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK, as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss: Jerusalem! The world wants to wrest Jerusalem from the hands and the heart of the nation of Israel, but we will never let that happen. The Rabbi and Yitzchak reflect upon the day, forty four years ago, in which the prophetic clock began ticking anew as G-d and Israel fulfilled their long before planned rendezvous and met and embraced once again in the united city of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

But are we being faithful to the holy city, to G-d and to our own destiny? Are we capable of living up to the plans G-d has for us? We believe we are. Join us in this Jerusalem Day broadcast.

Complete Show