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Anniversary of Rambam's Temple Mount Ascent Tuesday

reprinted from Arutz Sheva
11:33 Nov 08, '05 / 6 Cheshvan 5766

by Ezra HaLevi

Holy Temple enthusiasts observe Tuesday, the 6th of - a tradition observed by the Rambam (Maimonides) - to commemorate his ascent of the Temple Mount.

The Rambam (Moshe, son of Maimon, otherwise known as Maimonides) was the physician to the Sultan of Egypt in the 12th century. His most well known work is the 14 volume Mishna Torah, (literally, The Repetition of the Torah), which was the first attempt to systematically codify the entire body of Jewish law, (halachah). This work became the basis for later codifications, most notably, the Shulkhan Arukh, written by Rav Yoseph Karo in the 16th century.

In 1166 C.E. the Rambam made a pilgrimage to Israel from his home in Egypt, writing of his trip:

"We left Acco for Jerusalem under perilous conditions. I entered into 'the great and holy house' [the term used to refer to the Holy Temple] and prayed there on the sixth day of the month of Cheshvan. And on the first day of the week, the ninth day of the month of Cheshvan, I left Jerusalem for Hebron to kiss the graves of my forefathers in the Cave of Machpela. And on that very day, I stood in the Cave and I prayed, praised be G-d for everything. And these two days, the sixth [when he prayed on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem] and the ninth of Mar-Heshvan I vowed to make as a special holiday and in which I will rejoice with prayer, food and drink. May the Lord help me to keep my vows...."

Tuesday morning, Temple Mount activists and educators stood with a sign marking the occasion at the entrance to the Temple Mount at the southern end of the Western Wall plaza.

The banner highlighted the fact that the Rambam actually prayed on the Temple Mount, which was under Muslim rule at the time - whereas Jews are banned from uttering a prayer on Judaism's holiest site today, even though it is under Israeli rule.

The prayer ban is enforced by Israel police and the Muslim Wakf, who surround and closely watch any Jewish visitors to the site, removing them and banning them from future visits to the mount if they are caught so much as moving their lips in a way resembling prayer.

"We hope that this vigil will be the opening shot in the struggle against the anti-Semitic policy of the Israeli government with regard to the Temple Mount," one participant explained.

Rabbi Chaim Richman, Director of the Temple Institute, ascended the Temple Mount Tuesday morning and described the emotional nature of the visit to Arutz-7.

"We felt very strongly that we were part of the trajectory of Jewish tradition - that we were continuing the Rambam's tradition," he said. "Despite the fact that we were surrounded by police and Wakf officials who followed us the whole way, we were able to connect to the emotional visit of the Rambam in his time."

Visiting the Temple Mount remains a controversial topic in the religious Jewish world. Years of the site being off-limits to non-Muslims and differing opinions with regard to the location of the Holy Temple cause some to advise against visiting the site at all - even within the areas known to have been added by Herod.

"It is very frustrating that there are people that go to the extent of doubting that the Rambam even visited the Mount," Richman said. "He writes that he entered the 'great and holy house,' a term used in all our prayers to refer to the Temple, and is exceedingly emotional in his writing on the experience, something that is very rare for the rationalist rabbi, whose works are known for their exacting language. Do they expect us to believe that he risked his life to visit a shtiebl [makeshift synagogue] nearby? Some people are so stuck in the thinking of 'we don't go there' - that they can't accept that he went there. But anyone that reads the text can clearly see what his stance was."

Hundreds of Jews visit the Temple Mount each month, including entire Yeshivas together with their rabbis as the laws of ascending the Holy Mount according to Jewish law are increasingly taught and studied. There is also a movement trying to obtain permission for non-Muslims to visit the mount using the entrance near the Lion's Gate, an area that is permissible according to all opinions and would allow a broader segment of the observant population to visit in accordance with their rabbi's opinions.

Click here and here to learn more about visiting Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount).



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