Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Man of the Temple Mount

"And G-d called the name of the place 'G-d will see,' about which it is said to this day, 'in the mountain where G-d appears'" [Bereishit 22:14].
"The man of the Temple Mount would visit every guard post while holding a burning torch in front of him" [Mishna, Midot 1:2]. The title "Man of the Temple Mount" is very fitting for our friend Yehuda Glick (let G-d grant him a long life and protect him), who has dedicated his life to lighting up the path that ascends to the Temple Mount with torches (see Shoftim 21:19). "The Man of the Mount," the conqueror of the Mount, is a pioneer who stands at the top of the mountain, shouting out the words of the prophet: "Let us go and rise up to the Mountain of G-d and to the House of the G-d of Yaacov, and let Him teach us of His ways, and we will follow along His pathways" [Yeshayahu 2:3; Micha 4:2].
The Temple Mount was Divided among the Tribes
The issue of our entering the Temple Mount in modern times – subject to the restrictions of first immersing in a mikveh, showing the proper respect for the site, and avoiding certain areas because of their sanctity – is the subject of a purely halachic dispute, an issue related to "halachic policy," with some opinions in favor and some against. There are diverse opinions among the learned men in the Torah Zionist camp. Some are stringent based on strictly halachic grounds, while others have a generally stringent approach based on a desire to maintain strict limits and a fear of gradual erosion of any restrictions. Others from the same Torah Zionist camp permit visiting the Temple Mount. Some of these lenient ones base their opinions on strictly halachic considerations, just as for any other halachic question, while others are influenced by their great love for the holy site. To put this another way: in the halachic decisions of the Torah Zionist camp, there is a "Lita'i" trend of those who prefer to be stringent, who have a fear of making lenient rulings and who prefer a policy of "sit by and do not take action," in any question where there is some doubt. However, some of those in the same camp have a more "Chassidic" approach, and they are willing to give halachic permission when in the background there is a strong element of yearning and a desire to "rise up."
On the other hand, within the Chareidi camp, almost everybody (see one exception below) responds with fear to this question and declares: It is forbidden! "Let no man ascend with you, and let no man be seen on the entire mountain" [Shemot 34:3]. Why is this so? Here is my answer: The Temple Mount has been tagged as "Zionist halacha," in a way similar to what I wrote in the Succot edition with respect to the Heter Mechirah and Shemitta. I have written and presumably will continue to write about this with respect to the issues of conversions andmilitary service (see the Rambam on "Protecting Yisrael from an oppressive attack," Hilchot Melachim 5:1). Such halachot are tainted with nationalistic feelings, heaven forbid, and this alone is a good reason to forbid having anything to do with them. "If a mitzva is related to nationalism, avoid it at all cost!"
I began the last paragraph by saying that "almost" everybody in the Chareidi camp agrees on this point. However, we have been privileged to have some Chereidim who have ascended to a higher level (pun intended). They are very few in number who do visit the Temple Mount, in order to get a direct view of the pleasantness of G-d and to visit His palace. As you may well have guessed, these people are from the Chassidic sects. Not from the Breslev camp, for example, but rather from the more reserved people of Belz, which is conservative, and which is characterized by a relatively cool attitude towards learning and the fear of G-d. This remarkable group not only promotes the verse, "Let us ascend to the Mountain of G-d," but is also interested in the continuation of the verse, "and to the House of the G-d of Yaacov." That is, they agitate for the construction of the Temple in our days, by our own hands. (By the way, anybody who would like to see something of an example of the view at the top of the mountain is invited to visit the glorious Belz synagogue in Jerusalem, which can hold as many as ten thousand people at the same time.)
The Source of the Teachings
Let us return to the "halachic" Mount Moriah. "What is the meaning of the name Mount Moriah? ... It is the source of hora'ah (teaching) for Yisrael" [Taanit 16a].
I do not deny that I have also ascended the mountain, maintaining the proper purity and respect. I have written about my holy experiences in this column. Let me make a brief statement about the halachic dispute. There are two social-political arguments used by those who forbid ascending to the Temple Mount, and they are not worthy of further discussion. The first is, "What our fathers did not need in the past is not necessary for us either. We will manage without doing this." The other one is mentioned above – "Such halacha, which has been taken over by the Zionists (who play the role of the modern Tzedukim), should be rejected out of hand."
On the other hand, there are two real halachic claims. (1) There are both archeological and geographic uncertainties about the exact positions of the internal borders on the Mount.Where is the "Levite Camp" (where people who are ritually impure because of contact with the dead are allowed to enter, after immersion in a mikveh), and where are the "Camp of the Shechina" and the holy courtyards, where entry is forbidden? (2) A prohibition on entry should be decreed in order to block those who will not prepare themselves properly in terms of halacha and a show of respect. Here is my answer to these claims: (1) There are halachic disputes about many issues, and we have ways to choose from among competing opinions. Often lenient decisions have been made, even with respect to prohibitions which involve "karet" – being cut off from the nation of Yisrael. Examples are such matters as Shabbat and Pesach, family purity, kashrut, Shemitta, and more, which we cannot discuss in this article due to space limitations. (2) We are not allowed to make new decrees. However, it is better to have the people enter with the permission of the rabbis rather than have them violate a prohibition. Hundreds and even thousands of people enter the Temple Mount without any limits, and many people will doubtless follow instructions of the rabbis about how to behave if they are published.
We should also note that the current Chareidi prohibition is prominently displayed in the international arena, where it plays into the hands of our enemies, who want to ban us, and into the hands of all those who want to attack us. The rabbinical "veto" causes the holy dwelling place of the Shechina to be abandoned and to revert to the days when it belonged to Aravna, the Yevusite, and today to "El-Burak" - Mohammed's horse. (Oops – here we go again, raising Zionistic claims, heaven forbid...)

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