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Integrating Modern Technology into the Holy Temple

 

WILL MASSIVE DIGITAL SCREENS allow worshippers to observe the work of the Kohen Gadol from a great distance? Will escalators carry pilgrims up to the Temple Mount courtyards? Will special buses designed in such a way that they can't be tainted by spiritual impurity be employed to transport Passover pilgrims and their Pascal offerings? These, and many other fascinating and challenging questions were raised at this year's 29th annual Temple Institute Passover Symposium, under the banner of "Integrating Modern Technology into the Holy Temple."

THE SIZABLE AUDIENCE which turned out on Wednesday afternoon, March 31st, the first day of chol hammed Pesach, (the intermediary days of Passover), was rewarded with a learned and lively presentation by six leading rabbis and educators, each focusing on specific aspects of the Holy Temple, its architecture, and the Divine service, and how it can be enhanced and facilitated through the introduction of today's cutting edge technology.

WILL THE BEIT MOKED - THE CHAMBER OF THE HEARTH, the dormitory for the kohanim who are serving in the Holy Temple, still house a large fireplace, or will central heating render the hearth obsolete? Will Passover pilgrims be able to roast their Passover offerings in electric ovens? Do such ovens fulfill all the strict halachic (Jewish law) requirements of what constitutes roasting?

OVER THREE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED YEARS AGO, when the children of Israel left Egypt, they brought with them the most cutting edge technology of their day, and led by Betzalel, they employed all of their skills and worldly knowledge in the construction of the Tabernacle and the vessels that would be used in the Divine service. Throughout the nearly one thousand years that the two Holy Temples stood, technological advancements took place that helped to facilitate the performance of the Divine service and to enhance the beauty of the Holy Temple.

MOST FAMOUS OF THE TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCEMENTS WAS THE MUCHNI, a separate water reservoir added to the copper laver, solving a problem of water becoming impure if left in the laver overnight. This mechanism was conceived of, designed and executed by none other than the Kohen Gadol of that generation, known as ben Kattin.

CENTURIES EARLIER KING SOLOMON had designed the "great sea" massive water basin which stood outside the first Holy Temple. The historic refurbishing of the second Holy Temple ordered by Herod took advantage of the latest first century CE science and technology.

AS DISCUSSED AT THE SYMPOSIUM, Torah is very specific concerning the dimensions and materials of the various service vessels. The same principle holds true for the basic layout and structure of the Tabernacle and later the Holy Temple. However, where the Torah does not designate specifics, for example, as to what decorative enhancements can be incorporated into the vessels, the artists and artisans are granted free creative license.

NO ONE BUT THE KOHEN GADOL is permitted to enter the Holy of Holies, and he enters it only one time a year, on Yom Kippur. But could a camera be placed within the Holy of Holies, allowing others to witness the Kohen Gadol when he places the burning incense pan before the ark of the covenant? Would this constitute "seeing the Holy of Holies," which is strictly forbidden, or would viewing the Holy of Holies via a camera be considered as seeing indirectly, and would that then render it permissible?

THIS IS JUST ONE EXAMPLE of a wide range of issues raised at the symposium, all of which will need to be addressed when the Holy Temple is built.

IN ADDITION, AN ANIMATED THREE DIMENSIONAL ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN for the Lishkat HaGazit, the Chamber of Hewn Stone, the seat of the Great Sanhedrin, commissioned by the Temple Institute was shown to the public for the first time. Half in the sanctified courtyard, and half in the profane, just as it was in second Temple times, the new design also calls for the two story structure to be half underground, incorporating within it a parking facility for the seventy one judges, and a viewing gallery for the public.

AMONG THE DISTINGUISHED SPEAKERS WAS ISRAEL'S serving Minister of Science and Technology, Rabbi Professor Daniel Hirshkovitch, a mathematician by profession, who explained how sophisticated mathematical principles can be employed to reveal essential knowledge concerning the design and dimensions of some of the vessels referred to in Torah, but whose precise measurements weren't delineated. In turn, Rabbi Professor Hirshkovitch revealed the great knowledge of mathematics, physics and engineering possessed by our ancestors.

IN ALL, IT WAS AN ABSORBING AFTERNOON for all who attended. When we talk about and plan the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, we are not talking about an archaeological restoration in which no effort is spared to painstakingly recreate an ancient edifice. The Holy Temple of tomorrow will be a living viable center of worship for all mankind, incorporating all the relevant 21st century technological advancements which can be used to enhance the service and enrich the experience of the pilgrims, and most importantly, give honor to G-d. May we build it soon!

 

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