The Temple Institute: A Pessah sacrifice in Jerusalem

 

 


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A Pessah sacrifice in Jerusalem

reprinted from The Jerusalem Post
Apr. 8, 2005

Mati Wagner, THE JERUSALEM POST

Thought about sacrificing a paschal lamb this year? Many of the hundreds - perhaps more than a thousand including the women - who gathered Thursday night at the Western Wall to march a circle around the Temple Mount believe it can become a reality - if not this year in Jerusalem, next.

So do many of the hundreds who will gather on Sunday to demonstrate against the police decision to close the Temple Mount to Jews.

"Today all we want is the right to pray on the Temple Mount," said Rabbi Yishai Ba'avad, secretary of The Institute for the Establishment of the Temple. "But this is just the first stage to realizing every Jew's aspiration to see the Temple rebuilt and the sacrificial worship renewed."

Rabbi Yossi Peli of the Samarian settlement Yitzhar, said he organizes a Sivuv She'arim [march around the Temple Mount] every month to express Jewish yearning to pray on the Temple Mount, renew animal sacrifices and see the rebuilding of the Temple. "As soon as there is real Jewish leadership in Israel, one of the first decisions will be to rebuild the Temple," said Peli.

"I think the majority of people in Israel really want it deep down. If they weren't so addicted to their daily infusion of media junk from that little noisy box, they would awaken from their stupor and demand it," he added.

Similar thoughts were expressed by David Ivri, a follower of Rabbi Meir Kahane and one of the heads of Revava, an organization based in Tapuach that is spearheading a civil disobedience campaign against disengagement.

Revava attempted to organize a 10,000-strong mass Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount on Sunday - Rosh Chodesh Nissan. However, police prohibited the gathering.

Many leading religious Zionist rabbis are opposed to entering the Temple Mount citing halachic concerns. According to Halacha, all Jews are terminally defiled by the impurity of death [tumat met] as long as the cure to this condition - a Red Heifer burned to ashes and mixed with spring water - is unavailable. In this condition it is forbidden to enter the innermost parts of what was the Temple. Special maps must be used to navigate the Mount.

Even the more external parts of the Temple are off limits unless one immerses in a ritual bath before entering.

But most rabbis oppose entering the mount for theological, not halachic, motives. Sources close to Rabbi Avraham Shapira, perhaps the most important halachic authority among religious Zionist rabbis, say he insists on keeping the issue theoretical and persuades his students from actually entering the Temple Mount, although he has encouraged learning the laws involved with the Temple.

"Rabbi Shapira does not want to whip up messianic fervor," said one source.

Rabbi Ya'acov Ariel, chief rabbi of Ramat Gan, who was the religious Zionist camp's choice for chief rabbi of Israel against elected Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger, said this generation is not yet ready.

"Renewing animal sacrifices and building the Temple depends on the spiritual level of the entire Jewish nation," said Ariel. "It makes no sense to talk about it at a time of glaring socioeconomic inequalities in Israeli society, at a time when Shabbat is openly desecrated and hametz [leavened bread] is served in public places.

"If there is no family sanctity, it is inconceivable that there can be a Temple," he said, explaining that unlike most commandments, those connected with the Temple are collective in nature. "Only when the majority of Jews living in Israel are observant and God-fearing can we begin to conceive of rebuilding the Temple."

Still, Ariel adamantly supports entering the Temple Mount to pray. So do the vast majority of the rabbis of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, expect for Rabbi Zalman Melamed and Rabbi Shlomo Aviner.

As Ariel put it, "we must not abandon the holiest place on earth for the Jewish people. It is a horrible injustice that a Jew cannot pray there".

There is a cabinet decision, dating back to August 1967, just a few months after the Western Wall was taken by the IDF, initiated by then-defense minister Moshe Dayan, prohibiting Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. At the time the vast majority of rabbis, including religious Zionist rabbis, opposed prayer there.

But opinions are gradually changing. Rabbi David Dudkevitch, 43, rabbi of Yitzhar and considered the spiritual leader of the "hilltop youth", said that every Jew should strive to observe every one of the 613 biblical commands, including those connected with the building of the Temple.

"The fact that many Jews do not adhere to the Torah commandments should not stop me from trying to bring about the building of the Temple," said Dudkevitch during the march around the Temple Mount Thursday night.

The rebuilding of the Temple was a central tenet of religious Zionism from its very beginning. Over 150 years ago Rabbi Tzvi Kalisher, the forefather of religious Zionism, sparked a debate with two of the most important halachic opinions of his time, Rabbi Akiva Eiger and Rabbi Moshe Sofer [the Chatam Sofer], when he suggested purchasing the Temple Mount and renewing animal sacrifices.

Eiger and Sofer did not rule out the idea of renewing animal sacrifices. They merely pointed to a number of technicalities, including the difficulty of purchasing the Temple Mount from Ottoman authorities.

In fact, that is what foiled the plan. Both Asher Anshel Rothschild and Sir Moshe Montefiore, two of the most sympathetic Zionist supporters of the time, turned down the idea.

Nevertheless, many religious Jews point to this historic incident as proof that if not for fear of the political ramifications resulting from such a move, it would be possible to bring a Pessah sacrifice this year, and if not this year, perhaps next.

 

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