The Temple Mount is the place all Israel yearns for, and where all prayers are directed *Only a few people are involved with practical preparations for building the Temple. Why? * The spiritual process required to build the Temple * As long as the Temple Mount is open to the Arabs, it is a mitzvah to go up in order to express Israeli sovereignty * Hold fast to the vision of building the Temple, even if its implementation is still far off * Islam and Arabs respect the ruling power and accept its sovereignty, provided it demonstrates strength and authority * Prevent the rights of ungrateful East Jerusalem Arabs
Temple Mount: The Focus of Prayers
The Temple Mount, site of the Holy Temple, is the place all of Israel yearns for, and where all prayers are directed (Berachot 30a). In connection to the building of the Temple and Jerusalem, we recite two prayers out of the nineteen blessings of the Amidah prayer: 1) “…and to Jerusalem Your city, return in mercy, and dwell therein as You have spoken”; 2) “…and restore the service to the Holy of Holies in Your abode… and may our eyes behold Your merciful return to Zion.” Upon completion of our prayers, we once again ask: “That the Holy Temple be rebuilt speedily in our days.” Additionally, at every wedding we pledge our vow to Jerusalem and its rebuilding.
Similarly, in the Birkat HaMazon (the blessing over food), an entire blessing is dedicated to Jerusalem: “Have mercy, Lord our God, on Israel, Your people, on Jerusalem, Your city, on Zion, the dwelling place of Your glory… and on the great and holy House upon which Your Name is called… Rebuild Jerusalem, city of the Holy Sanctuary, speedily, in our days. Blessed are You, Lord, Builder of Jerusalem in His mercy. Amen.”
This is the right moment to praise the “Temple Institute” and all the rabbis and people engaged in the study of the laws of the Temple, who are restoring Temple consciousness and its significance to the Jewish People and the nations of the world.
The Spiritual Level Required for the Temple is Still Far-off
On the other hand, although building the Temple is the pinnacle of the Jewish people’s national aspirations, the majority of us do not see an obligation to engage in direct preparations for its building. The reason is that we still have a long way to go – in building the Land of Israel in its entirety, in absorption of new immigrants, and in returning the Jewish nation to its faith, study of Torah, and observance of mitzvoth, so the Torah can illuminate Israel’s society, economy, sciences and culture. These processes are entrusted to our own free choice and are not dependent on Divine inspiration or the laws of ritual purity, whose observance is far from us. Also, it appears that prior to reaching the level required for the Temple, we will observe Shmitta (Sabbatical year) and Yovel (Jubilee year) as Biblically obligated, which is dependent on all of Israel residing in their land, each tribe in its inheritance (see, ‘Peninei Halakha: Shevi’it’ 11:5). It also appears that prior to building the Temple, the Sanhedrin needs to be established in order to decide questions related to the construction of the Temple, and the order of its service. To do this, the Torah must first return to be the spiritual focus of the majority of Jewish people’s lives, and all the rabbis, from all ethnic groups, must unite to form a joint Beit Din.
A miracle could happen, and the eyes of the blind be opened, and we could achieve all this in a short time. However, under normal circumstances, we still have a great amount of progress and spiritual elevation to accomplish. The religious community needs to be a society of exemplary moral individuals imbued with Torah, who work for a living and possess ‘derech eretz‘ (good character traits), and merit Divine blessing through raising praiseworthy families and contributing to society, until the multitudes of Jews will want to come closer to Torah and mitzvoth. Then we can move forward towards building the Holy Temple. May we merit being full partners in bringing the Redemption closer on the one hand, and on the other – merit it speedily.
Sovereignty over the Temple Mount
Although we are far from the appropriate spiritual level required to establish the Temple, it is forbidden for us to relinquish sovereignty over the place of our Temple under any circumstance, for this is the obligation of fulfilling the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz (settling the Land of Israel), as it is written: “Take possession of the land and settle in it” (Numbers 33:53), and also, “and you shall possess it and dwell in it” (Deuteronomy 11:31). The meaning of the Hebrew word ‘ve’yerashtem‘ (“and you shall possess it’) refers to sovereignty, as the Ramban wrote: “We were commanded to take possession of the Land which the Almighty Blessed Be He, gave to our forefathers, to Avraham, to Yitzhak, and to Yaacov; and to not abandon it to other nations, or to leave it desolate” (Supplement to the Sefer HaMitzvot, Positive Commandment 4).
The most important place in terms of the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz is the Temple Mount, as we have learned that the sanctity of ‘mitzvoth ha’teluyot ba’aretz‘ (commandments dependent on the Land) did not apply to areas of Syria which King David conquered, because he conquered them before conquering Jerusalem (Sifri, Ekev), and this was codified in Jewish law by Rambam (Terumot, 1:2-4). Thus, a delay in Jerusalem’s sovereignty harms the mitzvoth of settling the Land, and the sovereignty of the entire country.
Ascending the Temple Mount Nowadays
If it were possible, it would be better to close the Temple Mount to all, to be guarded and separate in its sanctity until the Holy Temple is built. But as long as the Temple Mount is open to the Arabs, it is a mitzvah to ascend the Temple Mount in order to express Israeli sovereignty over the mountain. True, during the British Mandate the position of the rabbis, led by Rabbi Kook ztz”l, was to forbid entrance to the Temple Mount. However, this was after three centuries during which Jews were forbidden to enter the Temple Mount, and as a result, an uncertainty arose concerning the exact location of the Temple (whose area is less than ten percent of the Temple Mount compound). However, following the liberation of the Temple Mount in the Six Day War, a number of rabbis, led by Rabbi Goren ztz”l, returned to measure the areas of the mountain, and determined where the site of the Temple was, and in which areas one is permitted to enter while observing the Halachic purity laws. And thus we can return to the minhag (custom) practiced by gedolei Yisrael (eminent rabbis) for more than a thousand years, whereby after immersion in a mikveh, one ascends to the areas permitted on the Temple Mount, and prays for building the Temple and Israel’s Redemption.
Moreover, the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz
requires us to do so. Prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, due to the pressing situation we could not fulfill the mitzvah. At that period in time we were dependent on the mercy of the British, who, in addition to betraying the mandate assigned to them to build a home for the Jewish people, also claimed that if the Jews ascended the mountain, they would not be able to guarantee the security of Jewish lives’ in the country. But today, with the grace of God, we have security forces that have the ability to protect our people and country.
Blessed be those who ascend the Temple Mount, fulfilling the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz in the heart of our holy land.
The Importance of the Vision
And if one should ask: Since the building of the Holy Temple is remote, why is it so important to preserve its memory, and the sovereignty of its location? The answer is, because the vision is the foundation driving the entire process forward. When the vision is forgotten, the whole process comes to a halt.
Hold Fast to the Vision
When we were in the dreadful Diaspora, despite the difficult conditions we managed to survive and hold onto our faith, enduring all the persecutions and killings because, in the end, we would return to Zion, the place of our origin. Today, our duty is a lot more modest: to hold fast to the place of our Holy Temple.
Even if it appears to the Prime Minister that because of our security and international situation it is impossible to allow public, Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, at the very minimum he is obligated not to say anything implying a waiver of our sovereignty over the Temple Mount. He must refuse any limitation of entry of Jews to the Mount, and not agree to any expressions of incitement or degradation of Jews on the Temple Mount.
Even members of the opposition, headed by MK Yitzhak Herzog, the grandson of the Chief Rabbi, the Gaon, Rabbi Yitzhak Herzog of blessed memory, are obligated not to abandon the place of our Holy Temple.
The Realistic Consideration
Even from a realistic, political-security consideration, it is forbidden to abandon any signs of Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount. After all, the goal is to deal with the Arab enemy, and Arabs in general ascribe great importance to honor. In their eyes, a people who are prepared to spurn their values and dignity are considered a contemptible, spineless nation that can easily be defeated. Any objective and impartial person who listens to what the credible Arab leaders are saying, immediately understands this.
Presumably, if Israel’s leaders related to Judaism’s sacred traditions with more respect, we would have been spared a number of wars and conflicts.
The Arabs in East Jerusalem
The Prime Minister’s initiative to examine the revocation of residency rights of Arab residents of hostile East Jerusalem neighborhoods, and the economic benefits associated with them, is deserving of praise.
Unfortunately, except for a few righteous people such as the wonderful Annette Haskiya, the Arabs demonstrate ingratitude for the benefits they receive from the Jews – financial assistance that costs State coffers billions of shekels each year. Instead of speaking the praises of the State of Israel and the Jews who granted them rights and a standard of living found in no other Arab state, their leaders and elected representatives spread wicked libels throughout the world about the “countless evils” that Jews supposedly cause them, to the point where currently, they are the most abused, oppressed, poor and miserable people on earth! Only thanks to their “legendary valor” from the days when they conquered the Land of Israel, slaughtered Jews and Christians, and destroyed the synagogue that was on the Temple Mount, they are able to withstand the cruelty and wickedness of the Jews.
Therefore, it is justified to deny them these benefits. Rights entail obligations. And in no way does this affect our striving to expand sovereignty on as much area throughout the Land of Israel as possible.
The Duty of Muslim Loyalty to the Ruling Authority
In principle, the ungrateful behavior of Arabs toward Jewish rule runs contrary to the accepted law of Islam, which requires loyalty as subjects to the governing rulers. Consequently, during the riots in the days of British rule, the Arabs shouted: “Itbah al-Yahud, Al-Dawala ma’ana” – “slaughter the Jews, the government is with us.” However, this loyalty is conditional on the government demonstrating enforcing its power with all means at its disposal. But if when the Arabs riot they are given into, without enforcing upon them fully and resolutely the laws of building, driving, marriage, theft of property and payment of taxes, they despise the government.
Enforce the law on Muslim society, and many of them worldwide will praise the State of Israel.
A Story from Professor Tavger
Professor Ben Tzion Tavger, the pioneer credited with the restoration of Jewish history in Hebron after the Six Day War, told the story about how he and a few friends redeemed and cleaned-up the ancient Jewish cemetery in Hebron:
“When we got to the cemetery, we found that the Arab who was paid a salary from the State of Israel to guard the cemetery had planted a vineyard in it, and was using the cemetery as his private courtyard.
“We started to uproot the vineyard and clean-up the cemetery. The Arab “guard” came out towards us shouting threats, claiming that it was his land, and we had to leave. Without saying much, we gave him a good pounding and continued cleaning. On the second day, the Arab walked towards us once, more shouting and threatening, and once again, we beat him up, and continued working.
“The third morning, the Arab greeted us with a tray of tea and coffee, and said: ‘How could there be a vineyard in a cemetery, a sacred place?!’ He also asked to be photographed with the ‘wise Jews’, so he could hang the picture on his wall. From then on, the Arab helped us work cleaning the cemetery.”
This is how Professor Tavger related the story, in a dry manner, similar to the way a physicist speaks about a field-tested theory proved to be correct.
This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper, and was translated from Hebrew. Other interesting and informative articles by Rabbi Melamed can be found at: