March 6, 2012 Tuesday 12 Adar 5772
by Jeremy Sharon
Sepahardi Chief Rabbi Amar, others issue statement amid increasing organized attempts of late to go up to the holy site.
Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, along with several other senior rabbis, has issued a public statement to warn the public that visiting the Temple Mount is forbidden by Jewish law.
According to the statement, the warning is being made at this time because of increased organized attempts of late to go up to the holy site.
“It is a sacred duty to awaken your hearts [to the fact that] it is completely forbidden according to Jewish law to go up to the Temple Mount,” the statement reads. “This prohibition has been simple and clear for a long time, and has been forbidden by all of the great Torah scholars.”
Because many different organizations have been calling on the public to visit the Temple Mount in recent months, the declaration continues, it is incumbent upon the signatories to reiterate that the prohibition remains.
The Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site, but Jewish law requires those going up to certain sections of the site where the Temple stood to be ritually pure, a status only obtainable through a ceremony that cannot be performed today.
Some rabbinic authorities say that since it is now known which areas of the complex it is permitted to visit without the purification ceremony, it is permissible according to Jewish law to visit the site.
But Rabbi Yehuda Gilad, a former member of Knesset for the Meimad party and co-dean of Yeshivat Maalei Gilboa, said that in his opinion, and the opinion of many adjudicators of Jewish law, it is permissible to go up to the Temple Mount but added that he has reservations about doing so.
“Of course I am drawn to our holiest site, not the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, but perhaps something should be left for the times of the Messiah,” he said. “The Jewish people still have much work to do on ourselves,” he added, quoting a line from Psalms, “Who may go up to the mountain of God, and who may stand at His holy site?: He who has clean hands and a pure heart.”
And Rabbi Chaim Richman, the director of the International Department of the Jerusalem-based Temple Institute, was extremely critical of the statement prohibiting Jews from going to the Temple Mount.
“It is preposterous and absurd for official rabbinic representatives of Jewry to say that it is forbidden,” he said. “It is false, misleading and criminal to say that we don’t know where the Holy of Holies is,” he continued, in reference to one of the areas where according to Jewish law it is forbidden to enter. Richman also pointed to the visit to the Temple Mount by the revered medieval sage Moses Maimonides who visited the site whilst in the region in the twelfth century.
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, a greatly respected adjudicator of Jewish law who died in 1986 wrote a response in which he ruled it was permissible to visit certain areas of the Temple Mount and said that there was a strong tradition of continued ascent to the site following the destruction of the Second Temple.
Along with Chief Rabbi Amar, the much-respected rabbi of the Old City of Jerusalem Avigdor Neventzal, former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Bakshi Doron, and dean of the Porat Yosef Yeshiva in the Old City all signed the statement.
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger also added his name to the declaration and said that anyone giving permission to Jews to visit the site was leading people astray.