Pros and Cons for Building the Jerusalem Temple.
Dr. Yitzhaq (Isaac) Hayut-Man, Cyber-architect
(Note: this article was part of the (Hebrew) book by Ohad Ezrahi and Yitzhaq Hayut-Man: "Let the Old be renewed and the New Sacralized", 1997. The book was kind of "underground bestseller" which sold out. The article was posted long ago in another website.
Introduction: Who needs the Temple?
"And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of all the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all the nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Ya'aqov; and he will teach us of his ways, and we shall walk in his paths: for out of Ziyyon shall go forth Torah, and the word of the Lord from Yerushalayim."
The almost identical "Zionist" vision of the prophets Isaiah (2:3) and Mikha (4:3) equates the true Zion and the future Temple as a facility for instruction and bringing forth God's word. This is the vision of the aim of the Temple, to bring a blessing to all humankind. Moreover, Isaiah emphasizes that the gentiles will have a real stake in the worship of the Temple: "Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and all that hold fast to my covenant. Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer, their burnt offerings and sacrifices shall be accepted on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples." (Isaiah 56 7-8).
This means that from the beginning the Temple was meant to serve all humankind, all the more so all the House of Israel, and all the more so those Jews who pray every day "and let our eyes see Thy return to Zion."
But when we come to discuss the possibility of the reconstruction of the Temple, we must ask ourselves who, of all these widening circles of Jews, Israelites, and humans for whom the Temple is intended, are actually interested in its restoration.
In all the history of the Zionist movement, the National Home, and the State of Israel, the Temple was included as an integral part only once: in the teachings of Avraham ("Yair") Stern, who saw in it just "a national symbol."
In a personal discussion with me, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel (Steinzaltz) expressed his impression that people are not involved with the building of the Temple because they do not feel its lack. Our generation is a generation of the breaking down of ideals, he maintained, certainly of collective ideals. There is nothing more illustrative of this than the collapse of communism. People want to act for themselves, for their own small and individual world. Even spiritual questions are examined from their individual aspect.
Therefore, claimed Rabbi Even-Israel, even if he himself views the building of the Temple as desirable, without a widespread sense of missing it, there is no chance for building the Temple. The state of Israel was founded through a deep sense of need. Even people who did not define themselves as Zionists or who were anti-Zionists felt compelled to address this problem of need and tried to find various solutions for it. There was a question that required an immediate answer. Without a question - every answer is irrelevant.
Concerning the Temple, Rabbi Even-Israel averred, the question has not yet been asked. He claimed that our generation is the generation that was destined to raise the question. Often the basic terms for the answer lie in the very formulation of the question. Agreement about the proper question may introduce us to a complex conceptual framework. The right construction of the questions today may raise a real need for an answer in the future.
In the spirit of these words of Rabbi Even-Israel, I would like to pose some questions on the subject: Who will build the Temple? For what needs? What kind of Temple will it be?
It is very difficult to predict a potential need. For example, who would have imagined twenty years ago that our social and economic institutions would not be able to exist -- literally -- without computers? Twenty years ago, who felt a desperate need for a personal computer? Where did the hundreds of millions of computer users come from? In the same generation when we in Israel had to wait five or ten years for a telephone, who could have predicted the need to connect to the giant brain called the Internet?
Our role, thus, is "to stir up and awake the love, till it please" (Cant. 2:5) .
The Amoraim, the authors of the Talmud, who lived during and following the destruction of the Temple, knew and told how deformed and tasteless became the world we live in after the Temple was destroyed: "prophecy was taken away" (Bava Batra 12); "counsel (etsah) was taken away" (Megillah 12); and even "the pleasure of coitus was taken away and given to the transgressors." (Sanhedrin 75) This means that the sages point to aspects which are lacking in our lives, even if we are not aware of them because we have never tasted them. These lacks torment and weaken our existence.
Even now there are attempts by researchers of the unconscious (mainly Jung and his students), and of anthropologists who investigate indigenous cultures (such as Eliade and his school), to understand the psychological meaning of ancient shrines and the rituals which took place in them. Even the first doctoral graduate of the Hebrew University, Raphael Patai, dedicated a comprehensive book (in English) to "Man and Temple" according to the Jewish sources. But only obscure scholars, certainly not the champions of building the Temple in our times, have been exposed to these writings.
So whom, and for what purposes, will a Temple serve in our times?
1. The Meaning of the Temple for Observant Jews
It seems, initially, that the building of the Temple will serve the need of the people who express this need thrice daily, the public who pray "and return the worship to Thy dwelling house," namely the observant Jews.
There were 613 (TaRYaG) commandments given to Moses at Sinai; according to the Torah, we are commanded to fulfill all the 613 commandments, in practice, at all periods and without exceptions, as is written in Deuteronomy 29:28 "... those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this Torah". But in practice, the majority of the commandements (343) are related to the Temple and the worship in it, and therefore we cannot fulfill today more than 270 out of these 613. The Kaballah points out that the count of 613 parallels the full human stature (248 limbs and 365 sinews); whoever omits one of the commandments misses a certain part in his own self-rectification. The Book of The Hinukh has defined the post-Temple predicament: "The rain (GeSheM, meaning also "corporality," and equaling in gematria 343) has passed away," (Canticles 2:11) leaving "only evil (RA, equaling in gematria 270) all day long" (Gen 6:5).
The realization that for some 1900 years even the most punctilious observant Jew manages only to accomplish "only evil all day long" should cause concern. Moreover, the realization that what the people of Israel lack is the "Geshem," namely the real actualization of the Torah, and this actualization can only be fulfilled when the Temple exists should guide the thinking of the observant, in both their study and practice. As long as the Jewish people were living in exile and without sovereignity over their land, the building of the Temple was impossible. "God excuses the coerced omission." But during the present time, the avoidance is a tacit decision on our part.
The usual excuse of the observant students against those who speak against the willing avoidance of the building of the Temple is that the obligation for the commandments concerned with the Temple can be fulfilled by the study of these commandments. This, in my opinion, is a doubtful excuse, especially because their study is hardly genuine study, which, by definition, brings one to a new, deeper understanding and to drawing conclusions, rather than mere regurgitation.
If we ask a devout observant Jew, who takes the greatest pains in performing each commandment, "What is the Temple needed for?" he will probably answer that the Temple is needed for the performance of animal sacrifices, as are required by the Torah. But if we persist and ask the question of the prophet, "Has the Lord a great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices?" (1 Sam. 15:22), and perhaps recall the categorical assertion of the prophets "For I desired loyal love, and not sacrifice...." (Hosea 6:6), and "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to me? says the Lord: I am sated with the burnt offerings.... and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats" Isaiah (1:11), or the belief of the Psalmist "Thou does not desire sacrifice or meal offering," (Ps. 40:7), he may reveal his own emotional ambivalence to animal sacrifices. In my opinion, it is important to raise this question from the outset, because many in Israel, religious as well as secular, who lack an esoteric understanding of the cosmic implications of the sacrifices, are loath to reinstate what they regard as a primitive rite. Not only do they not want a Temple that will include animal sacrifices, but they will strongly object to its building. Even if the secular Jew is likely to be more resolute in this stance, many religious Jews also have doubts about this issue. Thus, they prefer to suppress the question of the Temple in their minds, and to postpone involvement in it until the coming of the prophet Elijah and the Messiah, who will take the responsibility for it off their hands.
The Kaballah in general, and the Book of the Zohar in particular, treat the question of the sacrifices in a profound and interesting way. The Zohar, for example, explains the concepts of lehaKRiV (to sacrifice) and KoRBan" (a sacrifice) as related to hitKaRVut (getting near), because through the ordained sacrifices the human being gets near to God and his soul cleaves to God. This tradition of the Zohar, and its continuation in the kaballah of the Holy ARI and in Hassidut, allows us to treat the questions of the sacrifices, the questions of "human" (ADaM) and "animal" (BeHeMaH), as pertaining to questions of the immanent Divine qualities (the expansions of the Holy Name of YHWH as the Name of MaH and the name of BeN) which then can lead back to questions of human rectification and transformation, both individual and social.
The Kaballists in Italy, since the time of the Renaissance, have made an extensive study of the reasons (te'amim ) for the Temple commandments. Thus, for instance, the Kaballist Yohanan Aliman in his book Heshek Shelomoh ("the Passion of Solomon," extant only in manuscript) discusses the Temple as a facility for drawing down the Divine plenitude (Shefa) and directing it. (Aliman, incidentally, could not refer to the Zohar as a basis, because it was not yet known in Italy in his generation). Later Yehiel Nisim ben Shmuel of Pisa repeated similar arguments in his book Minhat Kena'ot. Ben Shmuel already bases his argument on the Zohar and quotes it as support. Also the 18th century Kaballist the RaMHaL (Rabbi Moshe Hayim Luzzatto), in his book Mishkane Elyon (the Dwellings of the Supreme), discusses in painstaking detail the structure and functions of the Third Temple. (It is quite interesting that this book, which had been lying for 200 years in hidden manuscript, was published recently in several different editions.) Thus, there arose in the later Kaballah a stream which devoted itself to the "technical" discussion of the Temple as a facility for drawing down the Divine blessing.
In the teachings of HaBaD there are some discussions (such as in the book Derekh Mitzvoteikha of the Tsemah Tsedek) of the reasons for the commandments to build the Temple, emphasizing its function in the reception and internalization of the invisible "surrounding lights" (Orot Makifim). We may explain their meaning by using the familiar contemporary example of the radio and TV waves that surround us; they are invisible, but can be received and rendered usable by appropriate equipment. Likewise, here we speak of the "surrounding lights" of the soul (called Hayah and Ye hidah, the latter being also "the Light of the Messiah"), which are generally unperceived by our senses, but with the "appropriate equipment," i.e. the Temple, would connect us -- the separate individuals -- to the whole complex of Being and to the Divine Singularity.
These and other sources pose a great educational and interpretative challenge to religious scholars and students: to learn the reasons for the sacrifices and the Temple. The Temple and the sacrifices duplicate in tangible form the hidden patterns of the spiritual worlds and the workings of the Divine holy process in its contacts with the human soul. These are the same patterns which lie at the basis of the Torah and of the whole world, and whoever goes deeply into the Torah and painstakingly follows the commandments may presumably reach them, even without the assisting facility of the Temple. But the interpretation and realization of these patterns in the building of the Temple will enable even the common person to observe and participate in the spiritual processes at the core of existence. " Even a maid at the Red Sea saw more than the prophet Ezekiel saw (in his mystical visions)." All the people "saw the voices" at Sinai, the pillar of smoke in the Mishkan (the Tabernacle), and the descent of the Divine cloud in Solomon's Temple. The Third Temple would allow all of us, in our lifetime, to observe the pattern of the heavenly Temple and to become involved with its workings. Just like a telescope allows us to observe the distant stars, which are not visible to us otherwise, the Temple will allow us to observe the higher worlds.
2. The Possible Meaning of the Temple for Reform and Conservative Judaism
Since Halakhic Jews are not clamoring for the building of the Temple, it is difficult to base the hope for the building of the Temple on the prospect that when all the Jews embrace the Halakha, they will quickly rise up for the building of the Temple. Thus, it makes sense to ask: Is it possible to evoke the desire for the Temple among those circles who do not keep the Halakha and who comprise, for example, the majority among American Jewry and who gave, and are still giving, most of the Jewish assistance for the building of the State of Israel and its educational, cultural, and welfare institutions?
It is well known that the Reform Movement has explicitly expunged from its prayer book all prayers for the rebuilding of the Temple and the resumption of sacrifices. It seems that to the above-mentioned question of the prophet, "Has the Lord a great delilght in burnt offerings and sacrifices?" this movement gave an emphatic negative answer. According to the book by (Reform) Rabbi Professor Manfred Vogel, Towards a Theology of Judaism, Judaism regards the relationship to God not necessarily through a "vertical connection" of man to God, that is, achieved through mitzvot (commandments) between God and man, but mainly and rather through the "horizontal connection" of fulfillment of the mitzvot between man and man, which is expressed in the functioning of the whole community on a high moral and spiritual level. Thus, according to the Reform opinion, there is simply no need for the Temple, and perhaps not even for the revelation of the Shekhinah (the Divine presence). In any case, the social unit, of the nation in general and the community in particular, is the right place for the Divine service and its (or His) revelation through the relationship between humans. (If we continue along the way of Buber, as Vogel does, we might say that the place for the revelation of the Shekhinah is in the Other.) The religious arguments that are acceptable to these circles and to Conservative Jews, who lie along the entire continuum between Reform and Orthodoxy, will be social-rational arguments.
Is it at all possible to deal with the Temple from this framework? In my opinion, it is entirely possible. The Temple could be regarded from an understanding of its social-spiritual role. According to extra-Talmudic sources, the Second Temple definitely served such social purposes. From the writings of Josephus Flavius and Filo of Alexandria, as well as from anthropological literature about Temples and pilgrimages, we can derive a mental picture of the tremendous social importance which the Temple of Jerusalem had in strengthening national cohesion.
My assumption is that if we succeed in translating this social-national function to contemporary social-global, spiritual terms, we shall be able to view the Temple of Jerusalem as a focal point for the spiritual and social ascent of the people of Israel and even of all humankind. Such a Temple could, in the most practical terms, draw people close to each other. It is a truism that the problems of the world, including economic and political problems, derive less from objective lack of resources and means than from the human limitations of fear, animosity, pride, vengeance, etc. Thus, the Temple we envision would address the heart of the world's problems by applying the meaning of "korbanot" (sacrifices) as inner sacrifices that people commit to in order to reach "kirvah" (nearness) to the Other. Through this nearness they would draw close to the Divine, as well. The pilgrimages to the Temple, charged with an atmosphere of festivity, elation, and awe, could, and should, inspire a person to make the sacrifice of his/her animal-soul qualities, such as fear, animosity, pride and competition, which alienate him/her from others and from the Divine. The human being thus brings him/herself up as an Olah (sacrifice, but literally "ascent") in the sense of a spiritual and social ascent. This is congruent with the seminal event of Judaism, the sacrifice of Isaac, where God commanded Abraham to bring his son up as an olah; at the climactic moment God Himself elucidated that He did not intend the actual physical slaughter of the boy. Thus, Judaism originated as a religion which demands human sacrifice, in the spiritual, rather than physical, sense of the term.
Another possible religious answer to the need for the Temple, apart from the issue of the sacrifices, is that this is the locus for the revelation of the Presence (the Shekhinah ) of the Divine, and that through the Temple will manifest the connection between God and man. This connection is certainly weak or even severed in this era.
Here we come to the next outlying circle of people who may have an interest in building the Temple: secular Israelis.
3. The Possible Meaning of the Temple for Secular Jews
On the face of it, this is a contradiction in terms. Why would Jews who chose to distance themselves from the religion and adopt instead national values desire the Temple, which is the ultimate religious symbol in Judaism?
We should analyze, however: Is the Temple really less a national symbol than a religious symbol? We know that in the days of its glory -- the hundred years before its destruction -- the worship in the Second Temple was a national issue of contention. The Essenes opposed it, while the Pharisees opposed the Zadokite priesthood. Yet, despite such large-scale misgivings, this period witnessed an unparalleled identification with the Temple. The majority of theJewish people were already living in the diaspora, yet they undertook great pains to perform the pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. This was not only a religious act; it was their way of showing national identification.
Is there a way to turn the Temple once again into the focal point of national identification?
In his book Alteneuland , Theodore Herzl envisioned that when Jerusalem would be restored from its ruins, the Temple would also be rebuilt. Not instead of the structures sacred to Christianity and Islam, but alongside them. (On his way to the Temple for the Shabbat eve prayer, the hero sees the Holy Sepulcre church and the Dome of the Rock.)
In his book Cosmotheism - Israel, Zionism, Judaism and Humanity towards the 21st Century, Mordekhay Nessyahu, who was one of the foremost ideologists of the Israeli Labor Movement and a lecturer in its college Beit Berl, bids his readers to select a unique project as "a national-universal enterprise," in which the People of Israel may distinguish itself. According to Nesiyahu, we should "invent" God and offer God to humankind. The conceptual revolution that Nessyahu proposes is not to assume the existence of God, His being "prior to all that was created," but to hypothesize His existence as a result of the development of the world and the consciousness of humankind. (In Hebrew, he refers to the hamtsa'ah of God, which means both "invention" and simply "making accessible and available.")
There is no need for the traditional-religious symbols and terms to make God accessible. It is enough if we use the term "Divine" to express that which is beyond the mundane and much superior to it.
It seems to me that there are two basic levels of being through which the Divine can be perceived: the physical-biological level and the social-ethical level. Nessyahu, in the above-mentioned book, follows both avenues. He is amazed by the cosmic processes of the formation of the world and the development of life; he also expresses yearning for a just and benevolent global social order. The development of the Divine (or what the believer would qualify as "the revelation of the Divine") is, in his opinion, both the condition for a more exalted human functioning and the fruit that comes out of it.
4. The Temple as a National Enterprise
Let us determine whether the "secular-Divine plan" of Nesiyahu may be realized through the building of the Temple. In order to realize this plan, we must actualize two things: an exhibition of the intricate cosmic processes of the formation of the world and its creatures, and a demonstration of the ethical-social processes at the basis of benevolent human action.
This is precisely what temples were in the ancient world. Anthropologists and ethnologists have established that every sacred locus, in every traditional culture, was considered by its devotees to be the center from which the heavenly order issued over chaos. The foundation ritual for the sacred locus was a recapitulation of the cosmogony, the world-formation.
People of this modern age, too, try to recapitulate the process of the formation of the world. Nowadays, however, this is the function not of temples, but of science museums. Whereas in first generation science museums, exhibits were displayed, and the visitor was a passive observer observing the "priests" who do science, in second and third generation science museums, the visitor has become an active participant. The next generation of science museums are presently being planned, in which the visitor will take an active part in scientific experiments and discoveries.
Yet we still lack a "museum," or an analogous facility, for social-ethical-spiritual experimentation.
Israel is becoming integrated into the world-system and is taking an honorable place in the development of science museums. But if Israel would focus on the development of a grand social-moral project, Israel could become a leader in the promulgation of a new science, which nurtures two sets of values: awed exaltation at the cosmological process, and human partnership in the responsibility to the world and to the whole of creation. The pinnacle of this development would be a facility in and through which it would be possible to observe the comprehensive physical and spiritual processes which form worlds, to participate in them, and to experience in detail their genesis anew each day. The participant would also experience the microcosmic genesis of the human body and psyche, because all the wondrous processes which take place among the galaxies, in the depths of the seas, and in the domain of chemical and biological reactions are also occurring incessantly within our bodies, and interact with the processes of the mind, the sensations, and cognition. We generally are not aware of these processes; the new facility -- namely the new Temple -- would facilitate such an encounter.
Such a Temple would enable an experiential continuum of participation in the grand creation, from the dance of the elementary particles, their association into atoms and molecules, through the formation of living cells and their metamorpheses, until they become brain cells, the dwelling for cognition and intellection, which in turn transform into the joining together of all the thoughts of a collective of people, who then overcome their selfish desires and sacrifice them for the building of a greater whole. In the very act of giving up, of sacrifice, the participants will be able to experience the Divine in the other and the Divine within the whole, collective pattern.
It is possible, of course, to build such a facility anywhere. Jerusalem, however, because it comprises such a variety of (often warring) cultures and religions, seems like the ideal place to develop such an interpersonal and intercultural Temple-facility. Jerusalem, in turn, could be the global focus of a network of such facilities in other places around the world.
The mission of building such a Temple, whose connection to the Mitzvot would be innovative and original, would doubtfully appeal to the orthodox religious Jew. It seems thus appropriate that this challenge, just like the preceding Zionist challenge of building the State, should be shouldered by secular pioneers.
5. The Possible Meaning of the Temple to All Peoples
Rabbi Sh'ar-Yashuv Cohen, in a personal discussion with me, posited that the Temple will not rise up over the ruins of the institutions of another religion. Rather, he claimed, the Temple will be built when the Moslems ask us to build it. He recommended that we strive for the fulfillment of the prophet's vision: "Then I will convert the peoples to a purer language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent." (Zephaniah 3:9) This means that for all the peoples of the world, no less than for the People of Israel, there is a role in the building of the Temple.
As shown at the beginning, even before the fraternity of the nations became a slogan, much before McLuhan likened the globe to a village, the prophets of Israel have already regarded the inter-national role of the temple. Also the Jewish rabbis and interpreters have not overlooked this vision. Thus, for example, the RaMBaN (Nachmanides) in interpreting the conflict over the wells that the patriarch Isaac had with the Philistines and the king of Gerar. Each well, according to his exegesis, is analogous to one of the temples. The first two wells were destroyed by them just like the first two temples were destroyed. The third well - Rehovot , about which Abraham said "for now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land" - parallels the Third Temple. There there was already an evident cooperation between the Children of Abraham and the people of the land (or, more specifically is you like, with the Philistines), and the expression "and we shall be fruitful in the land" is interpreted by the RaMBaN as a hint to the passage we quoted from Zephaniah 3:9 that all the nation will serve him with one consent.
Also the RaMBaM (Maimonides) in Hilkhot Melakhim writes that that time, when the temple will be built, will be an age when "there will be no more Jealousy and hatred and competition in the world". In the whole world and not just in Israel.
And indeed, whereas the observant Jew has actual difficulties with the temple, and has found a substitute - in the Torah study of the temple rulings - it is among the fundamentalist Christians, whose number reaches scores of millions, there is a growing conviction that that the time has come to realize the Biblical prophecies once for all. There are among them Americans and Europeans, and there are others from Japan and Asia, who regard themselves as Zionists and are expecting the building of the temple soon in our times.
In Europe there is nowadays a growing interest in the secret societies which were persecuted for centuries by the Inquisition - the Knights Templar - the knights of the Order of the Temple who ruled the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and their heirs "The Free Masons" who attribute their organization and teachings to the builders of Solomon's Temple. For all these there must be an interest in the restoration of the temple - and especially in Jerusalem - soon in our lifetime.
We should recall who were the heralds of modern Zionism. It is true that the movement of Hovevei Tsion has started to operate in Russia in the 80's of the last century, but it was proceeded by Millenerian Christians, mainly British, who sought precisely this: that in the year 2000, after two millennia from the time of their Messiah, the Jews will return back to their land, because this was a precondition for a Messianic revelation. Books like "Daniel Deronda" by the English authoress George Elliot have contributed to the restoration of Israel no less than Ahavat Tsion of the Jew Abraham Mapu.
And lastly, there is a point in remembering who was the "Messiah" who gave the order to build the Second Temple: the Persian emperor Cyrus (who saw himself as given "all the kingdoms of the earth" by the Lord God of heaven who chose Jerusalem). When all the peoples, including the Moslems, understand the global benefit for building the temple in Jerusalem, they will ask Israel to build it.
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