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Before making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbi Kook, Eretz Yisrael, Art of T'shuva, War and Peace, and Torat Eretz Yisrael.
And the winner is………… Tzvi Fishman!!!!
That’s right, friends. At last night’s Oscars, the biggest winner of them all was Tzvi Fishman!
How can that be, you ask?
I’ll tell you, my friends. Tzvi was the biggest winner of the evening, precisely because he didn’t win anything at all!
If he had won, he’d be there now, grinning away in his tuxedo, surrounded by a galaxy of flashing light bulbs, signing new deals, clinking champagne glasses with fellow stars, while sneaking peaks at all of the Hollywood Hookers in their Deliah see-through gowns.
Here’s his acceptance speech, in case you missed it.
“I would like to thank the members of the Academy for having forgotten about me completely. But most of all, I would like to say, Thank You, Hashem, for having rescued me from America before I became totally lost. Thank You for having plucked me out of the land of the heathens, where the most vaunted prize is a statue of gold, and for having brought me to the Land of Israel, where the greatest prize is a life of Torah in the Holy Land, where a Jew can be true to himself without dressing up in a bowtie and tuxedo and grinning like a goy in order to prove that he’s just like everyone else. Thank You, Hashem, for making me the biggest winner of them all!”
There are a few other problems preventing us from building the Temple right now. In this blog, we will mention some of them, without entering into the thorough halachic explanation that they involve. In general, matters relating to the Beit HaMikdash are on such a transcendental level that they are very often above our rational understanding, in a category all by themselves, not to be compared to the performance of regular mitzvot. In fact, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook wrote that one small trespass on the holiness of our eternal Beit HaMikdash negates the merit of the establishment of millions of settlements in the Land of Israel (Igrot HaRiyah 2:285).
My perspective follows the opinions, as I understand them, of Rabbi Kook, his son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, and former Chief Rabbis of Israel, Rabbi Avraham Shapira, and Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu, all of blessed memory.
As we noted in the previous blog, the Redemption of Am Yisrael is a developing historical process which comes gradually to completion, with the passing of time. The Talmud states: “The Nation of Israel was commanded with three commandments upon entering the Land: to appoint a king; to wipe out the seed of Amalek; and to build the Beit HaMikdash” (Sanhedrin 20B). These mitzvot are to be carried out according to the order stated. First, the Kingdom of Israel must be solidified, then Amalek must be destroyed, and then it is possible to build the Beit HaMikdash. The Rambam rules that this order was not only the way the Temple was built in the days of Joshua, King David, and King Solomon, but also true for us today (Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 1:1-2).
Today, we have been blessed with establishing Jewish sovereignty over a portion of Eretz Yisrael, and there is an aspect of Jewish kingship (Malchut) in this, but we are still in a stage of development, in which both the physical and spiritual aspects of the nation need to be strengthened. Jerusalem is being rebuilt, the ingathering of the exiles continues, more and more Torah institutions are opening to meet the ever-growing thirst for the word of G-d, and the arrival of Mashiach, the pinnacle of Malchut, is coming closer every minute. Soon, the majority of Jews in Israel will be religious, and when the Knesset has a religious majority, the laws of the State will undergo a drastic change for the better, bringing us ever closer to our long-awaited goal of establishing a Torah State over all the Land of Israel, may it come to pass soon. If Hashem decides to speed up the process and send the Mashiach before the Knesset calls for the election of a king, well and good, but the fact remains that, at present, we still have a ways to go before our true Jewish kingdom develops to completion. Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook emphasized that our task today was to strengthen the Torah foundations throughout the nation, and that would lead the way to the Temple’s rebuilding.
As far as Amalek goes, today we don’t know exactly who the nation of Amalek is, and so we can’t do away with him, even if we wanted to. While Israel has no shortage of enemies, not every one of them is necessarily from the seed of Amalek. It seems obvious that the spirit of Amalek surfaced in Hitler’s Germany, but we can’t be sure that all of today’s Germans are Amalekites. And we can’t slaughter all Arab peoples, no matter how much they hate us, under the supposition that they are Amalek’s offspring. So this uncertainty presents another problem on our way to rebuilding the Temple.
In addition to these two hindering factors, the Beit HaMikdash can only be built upon a prophet’s instruction (Ramban on Deut. 12:5, according to the Sifre. See also, Mishpat Kohen 174). King David learned the details of the Temple’s construction from the prophet, Samuel, yet he didn’t set about to build it until the prophet, Gad, instructed him to begin (Samuel 2, 24:18-19). And he finally was thwarted in realizing his dream, once again by the prophet, who told him to stop gathering materials, for it was his son who was destined to oversee its construction (Kings 1, 8:19). Also, regarding the building of the Second Temple, the initiative was taken by Ezra, who was a prophet, recognized as Malachi by the Talmud (Megillah 15A). The Talmud teaches that three prophets returned with the Jews from Babylon, each with explicit instructions regarding the rebuilding of the Temple (Zevachim 62A). When the Persians ordered that work on the Temple immediately be stopped, the prophet Haggai ordered the building to continue (Haggai, 1:2). Everything was on the instructions of the prophets of Israel, not according to well-meaning activists, however fervent they might have been in their zeal for the Beit HaMikdash.
Of course, Hashem can bring things about however He sees fit: with a king in Israel or without one; with a prophet or without one. But as long as He lets things unfold in a seemingly natural developmental process, we have to go by the principles which our Sages established.
Furthermore, the “Sefer HaChinuch” states that the building of the Beit HaMikdash applies in a time when the majority of Jews are in Israel, for this is a mitzvah which is incumbent on the entire Jewish community, and not only a group of inspired individuals (Sefer HaChinuch 95).
The question can rightly be asked – if all this is true, how was the Second Temple built, since there were neither a majority of the world’s Jews in Israel at the time, nor a sovereign Jewish kingdom?
One answer is that upon a prophet’s instruction, as occurred with Ezra and Haggai during the time of the Second Temple, the Almighty is free to bring things about as He pleases. Nonetheless, our Sages teach that because the majority of Jews did not return to Israel from the fleshpots of the Babylonian exile, and because the Jewish kingdom wasn’t established at the time, the foundations of the Temple were weak from the start, and its destruction was just a matter of time.
Our Sages teach us that it was fitting that Hashem perform miracles for the Jews returning with Ezra, but that “sin prevented it” (Berachot 4A). What sin? The Maharasha explains, “Because all of the Jews didn’t return” (Yoma 9B). Because they didn’t all return like a “wall,” standing strong and fortified together to establish the Kingdom of Israel (Rashi, Ketubot 111A), the foundation was bound to rot and the Temple be destroyed. By the time the Hashmonaim dynasty established the kingship generations later, the seeds of destruction had already been planted through the Temple’s building in national division and weakness.
According to Resh Lakish, the Shechinah did not rest on the Second Temple in its full splendor because the majority of the nation remained behind in Bavel (Yoma 9b). When Rabbah Bar Bar Hannah came from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael, he saw Resh Lakish swimming in the Jordan River. Resh Lakish said to him: “I don’t return your greeting, for you Jews (who remained in Bavel) destroyed the Beit HaMikdash."
The “Kuzari” also attributes the Shechinah’s absence from the Second Temple to the sorrowful fact that the majority of Jews of the time preferred to remain in exile: “This is the sin which kept the Divine promise regarding the Second Temple from being fulfilled. Divine Providence was ready to restore everything as it had been at first, if they had all willingly consented to ascend. But only a part was ready to do so, while the majority and the community leaders remained in Babylon, preferring dependence and slavery, unwilling to leave their villas and business affairs” (Kuzari 2:24).
Without the unity of the nation that could have established Jewish sovereignty from the start, the Second Beit HaMikdash lacked the basis necessary for its continuance.
Finally, for the service in the Temple to begin, we need the Parah Adumah - the ashes of the “Red Heifer” to purify us so that we can ascend the Temple Mount proper with our sacrifices, at least up to the “Cheil,” and so the Kohanim can enter the holiest precincts of the Temple “Azarah” courtyard and Hechal. The “Cheil,” which surrounded the entire perimeter of the Beit Hamikdash, was either an open space ten amot wide or a wall ten amot high (Aruch Hashulchan Ha’atid, Beit Hamikdash 11:5; Rabbi Shlomo Goren, Sefer Har HaBayit, chap. 24).While several potential red cows have recently been sighted, none of them met all the requirements for the job. Cloning presents a new hope, but we’re still waiting for the first holy “Dolly.” In the meantime, while several esteemed Rabbis allow Jews to ascend the Temple Mount in areas remote from the site of the Temple proper, no one gives permission for anyone to come close to actual Temple Azarah courtyard and Hechal, where the Kodesh and Kodesh HaKodeshim were located. And since, without a prophet, we can’t know exactly where these boundaries lie, the official policy of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel still forbids Jews to go up to the Temple Mount at all, lest they mistakenly wander into a prohibited area and get themselves fried with the severe punishment of karet, being cut off before one’s allotted time (Bamidbar, 19:13, 20; Makkot 14B; Rambam, Beit HaMikdash 3:12-13; and Sefer HaMitzvot, negative commandment77, positive commandment 31).
Having written all this, I apologize for its briefness and for my lack of expertise on the very wide scope of the subject, hoping that I haven’t misstated any of the opinions of the esteemed and holy Rabbis mentioned.
A few days ago, on the 14th of Adar Alef, I went to the Mount of Olives, overlooking the Temple Mount, and recited some Tehillim by the grave of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, of blessed memory, in honor of his yahrtzeit.
When Rabbi Kook’s students occasionally suggested that the time had come to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash, he would respond in his usual straightforward fashion: “When people approach me with the proposition to build the Beit HaMikdash, I say: What you claim doesn’t come from an abundance of Torah knowledge on your part, but from a paucity of it.”
I will try to explain, blee nader, in the next few blogs, some basic things connected to this question, in as simple a manner as I can, according to the teachings of our Sages.
The Beit HaMikdash (Holy Jerusalem Temple) is not just a building. Something takes place within the building. The main goal of the Beit HaMikdash is not the courtyard and chambers and walls of the building, but rather the service of G-d which is conducted inside. Yes, we could construct the outer shell of the Beit HaMikdash today, but what would we do there?
Beit HaMikdash means the holy House of G-d. This is the intersection point of G-d’s Divine Presence, known as the Shechinah, with the world. The whole concept of the Beit HaMikdash is the fear and reverence for G-d. This means that a person, and the Jewish Nation as a whole, on ascending to the Beit HaMikdash, are to put the fear and reverence of G-d as the main goal and aspiration of our lives, with an utter commitment to the commandments of the Torah and its Divinely-given laws.
Now I ask you – is the Nation ready for this?
The Beit HaMikdash is the heart and center of the Nation of Israel. While the Kohanim perform the service inside the Temple, on behalf of the pilgrims who come there, it is a house of worship for all people. It isn’t enough that a handful of devout Kohanim are ready to do the L-rd’s bidding - the Nation as a whole must want and be ready to embrace all of the exalted responsibilities that go with it.
Now I ask you – is the Jewish Nation ready to bring animal sacrifices and slaughter them on the Altar in the worship of G-d? Is each and every individual ready to come up to Jerusalem in repentance over his sins and bow down in total submission to the teachings of the Almighty? Are we ready to make the Festivals in Jerusalem our highest joy?
May the day soon come, but it seems to me that we have a little more t’shuva to do before we reach that level.
King David asks: “Who will ascend the mountain of the L-rd, and who will stand in His Holy Place? He who has cleans hands and a pure heart, who has not taken My Name in vain and sworn deceitfully” (Tehillim, 24:3-4). Besides the Zohar’s teaching that “he who has clean hands” means someone who has not spilled his seed in vain, have we reached this exalted level of standing in G-d’s Holy Place?
Without the supreme reverence to G-d and total commitment to His Torah, the Beit HaMikdash is just a building like any other. As long as our inflated egos and passions rule over our lives, we have no place at all on His holy mountain.
In our daily morning prayers, we say: “May it be Your will, L-rd our G-d and G-d of our fathers, that the Temple be speedily rebuilt in our days; and grant us a portion in your Torah. There we will serve You in reverence, as in the days of old and as in former years.”
The people who demand that the Temple be rebuilt now, are they also ready to embrace the commandments of the Torah and to serve G-d with the utter reverence required? Are they ready to beg forgiveness for the past, confess that their errant ways were sinful, and promise never to return to their haughty flouting of the Torah in pursuit of their personal lusts?
It is important to understand that the Redemption of our Nation is a gradual developing process. When the L-rd gathers us to Israel from the far corners of the globe, as He is doing in our time, in a gradual historical process spanning decades, we first must cleanse ourselves and heal our minds from the pollution and trauma of the long exile amongst the nations. There are stages to this process of national healing and returning to our true Israeli selves, first in rebuilding the Land, which slowly leads to rebuilding ourselves into the Holy Nation of G-d, not only in our inner unique holiness as Jews, but also in practice, living in Israel according to all the commandments of the Torah.
I ask once again – is everyone ready for this right now?
As to the question – what does Tzvi Fishman himself do to further the building of the Beit HaMikdash? The answer is not enough. However, to point the way, here are a few things that I do to hopefully bring the day closer:
First, just by giving up the exile and living in Eretz Yisrael, I am adding my share in the rebuilding of the Nation of Israel in our Land, which all of the Prophets proclaimed was a necessary preliminary step to the building of the Temple (Sanhedrin 20B; Rambam, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, 1:1-2).
By marrying and raising my children in Israel, I am building the Nation in Israel and helping to pave the foundation for the Temple.
In all of our daily prayers, I pray for the rebuilding of the Temple, it being a tenet of our faith that prayer after prayer after prayer will fill up the cup of deliverance.
In accordance with the teaching of our Sages, I dutifully recite the Order of the Sacrifices before Shacharit and Mincha, which is considered like bringing the sacrifices themselves, thus adding to the purification of the Nation.
Following the teaching of the Chofetz Chaim, I study the chapters of Mishna dealing with the Temple service and study the laws of the Beit HaMikdash, in preparation for its building.
I try to rise from sleep several nights a week to recite “Tikun Hatzot,” the Midnight Lament over the exile and destruction of the Temple, a practice which the Sages of the secrets of Torah exceedingly praise as a forerunner to the Temple’s rebuilding.
For years, I have given up other activities on Motzei Shabbat to go to the Kotel and recite Psalms for the ingathering of the exiles and the Temple’s rebuilding.
I have made a film about the Mishkan and its construction that is a required part of the Israel Education Ministry program for high school students.
I have written a novel, “The Discman and the Guru” in which the longing for the Temple Mount plays the central part in the climax of the story.
On Tisha B’Av, I go to the Kotel to mourn over the Destruction and pray for the Temple’s rebuilding.
I often write about the importance of aliyah, which is a prerequisite for the Temple’s rebuilding (Rambam, Laws of Kings 1:1-2).
I write often about Shmirat HaBrit which is a prerequisite to the service in the Temple, for anyone with an impurity of “Keri” is not allowed in its holy premises. In my book, “Secret of the Brit,” based on the teachings of our Sages, I explained why the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem (Malchut) stems largely from sexual transgression, and explained the pathways of repentance which rectify the damage which our misplaced passions cause.
And, believe it or not, behind all of my blogs, is a sincere love for all of the Jewish People, with the hope of leading people who haven’t learned better, out of their errant ways and misguided beliefs, in accordance with the words of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook, “Just as the Second Temple was destroyed by gratuitous hate, it will be rebuilt through gratuitous love.”
As I said, all this is not enough. However, everyone living in Israel who takes part in the rebuilding of the Nation in our Land is working to bring closer the day when the Temple will be rebuilt, may it come soon.
On the other hand, everyone who idles in foreign lands and clings to the exile, prolonging its length and subjugation of our People, hampers in the Temple’s rebuilding and delays that awaited day when the Shechinah shall return in all of its splendor to Zion.
Who said you can't get decent pastrami in Israel?? This afternoon, I was riding down Beit Hadfus Street in Givat Shaul when I spotted a brand new corner deli featuring the world's best and holiest pastrami.
When I walked inside to take a few pictures, they gave me a free taste. Deeeeeeeeliciooooooooous!!!
No more excuses. As of today, the galut is out of business. Not only do we have the Kotel, we have the most kosher pastrami too!
Isn't Hashem the greatest?!