By Rabbi Yisrael Rosen
Dean, Tzomet Institute
Is that Right? It will not Happen?
Today (the ninth of Av) is the anniversary of when the Second Temple was destroyed - 1,945 years ago. It is also 2,601 years after the destruction of the First Temple. During the last two weeks, in the wake of the signing of the "nuclear treaty" between Iran and the superpowers, the phrase "the Destruction of the Third Temple" has bubbled up into the national topics of discussion, in view of the Iranian threat to destroy Israel. And our Prime Minister is indeed doing the best he can (which is quite good) to fight against the whole world, and to tear away the mask from the face of this agreement, which is so reminiscent of the agreement signed by Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister before The Second world War.
The declaration/faith that "No destruction of the Third Temple will take place" is not a clear statement by our sages, although there are hints in the Midrash that point to it and Midrashic interpretations which have a similar theme. This wording of the slogan has been attributed to Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Herzog, the Chief Rabbi of Israel during the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. In 1941, Rabbi Herzog returned to Eretz Yisrael from the United States in spite of the advice of friends and relatives. He said, "We have a tradition that there will not be a third destruction!" S. Avidor reports in his biography of Rabbi Herzog ("Unique in his Generation") that the rabbi often made this declaration during the years of the Holocaust. "I declare publicly that no enemy oppressor will come through the gates of Eretz Yisrael. It is accepted in our tradition that after the first two times that the Temple was destroyed there will not be a third destruction." He repeated the theme in Rechovot in the year 1943: "Have no fear, do not be terrified, do not let your spirit be broken. Our prophets promised us that we have suffered two destructions in the past, and a third destruction will not take place!"
When the horrible Yom Kippur War broke out, in the gloomy atmosphere of approaching doom in the country, Moshe Dayan, the Minister of Defense at the time, wanted to make a broadcast to the nation on a theme of "Destruction of the Third Temple," but Golda Meir, the Prime Minister, intervened and blocked Dayan, and rightly so.
This statement, that no third destruction will take place, in spite of the fact that it is deeply rooted in the words of the sages and the masters of Chassidut, is not a prophecy and is not sealed with the ring of the Master of the Universe. Its main purpose is to serve as encouragement and to give strength, and to blow away the clouds of black smoke which are peeping out from over the horizon. The same can be said for the famous declaration by Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, which he made on the eve of the expulsion from Gush Katif (the region of Azza): "It will not happen! " It was not a prophecy which led to disappointment and not a false prophecy. Such statements are made out of a feeling of the depths of faith. However, the faith in the eternity is Yisrael and in the G-d of Yisrael does not depend on physical events of any kind...
Let us return to the vapors of uranium wafting from the modern centrifuges, and to the heroic battle being fought by our Prime Minister all over the globe to prevent the destruction of the Third Temple. In spite of various personal faults and behavioral weaknesses, it seems to me that nobody else is better equipped to carry the banner of national advocacy to the gates of the other nations. We are in the midst of a tough and stubborn battle on this front, and it is quite unfortunate that Zionist MK's are sending out strong criticism of the Prime Minister's "foreign policy with respect to the Iranians." They are "selling their national souls" for reasons of cheap and petty politics, and they are weakening our position, especially against the United States. In my eyes, the best title for these people is "Yehudon" – a "Jew Boy" – which in this case implies lowly and contemptible traitorous acts.
As the Ninth of Av approaches, I am reminded (by association only, not directly connected to our topic of discussion) of the historic example of the "Jew Boy,"Yosephus Ben Matityahu, who contributed his oral and written skills to his Roman masters. There is indeed controversy about whether he was a traitor or not, but the title "Jew Boy" suits him well, as a spokesman in the service of those who destroyed the Second Temple. Here is part of his dramatic description of how Titus tried with all his might to save the Temple and how he fought valiantly against his own Roman army and their effort to burn it down:
And, behold, when Titus saw the Holy of Holies, he had pity on it and he respected it. And Titus commanded his people not to touch the Holy of Holies. He said to them: "Whoever approaches the Holy of Holies will be put to death!" And he appointed powerful men to guard it... However, the Roman ministers replied, saying to him: "If you do not burn down this house, you will not be able to conquer the people." But Titus refused to listen to their advice on this matter... And the next day, the Romans gathered around and set fires all around the Holy of Holies. They took beams and placed them on the golden gates of the Holy of Holies, and they ignited them with the fires, and the gold became hot and the wood of the gates burned and they fell to the ground. And the Holy of Holies was opened up, in plain view of everybody, on the ninth day of the fifth month... And Titus ran with all his might, to try to extinguish the flames over the Holy of Holies, but he could not do so because of the large multitude who were burning and destroying the area. And Titus shouted to them to cease, but they did not listen or pay attention to him... Titus was crying out and screaming, but nobody listened. And he took out his sword, and many of them died that day... Titus cried out until he was hoarse, but they would not listen to him... He became weary and he fell to the ground without any strength. And it happened after the Holy of Holies was burned, Titus rose up and came to the Holy of Holies, and he saw the glory of the house and its magnificence, and he believed that this was the House of G-d, and that it was the dwelling place of the G-d of heaven. [Yosefus, Chapter 94].