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Let's Have Lamb This Night

By Yisrael Medad
4/17/2011, 12:00 AM

Yes, lamb.  And no broken limbs.

The lamb I am referring to is the Paschal Offering, commanded four times commanded in the Bible and the sole Temple Sacrifice that is totally dedicated to be eaten - not by the Kohanim but by those who have dedicated the lamb, or the goat, for the explicit purpose of the sacrifice and by those who have committed themselves to be part of the family seder unit (chavurah) on the festival night..  As reported, an initiative to raise the awareness of the centrality of the Paschal sacrifice is gaining momentum and even Hareidi Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky supports the project of arranging a possible korban pesach to be ready for this Passover, and encourages people to sign up and join a chavura.  The Chief Rabbi of Safed Shmuel Eliyahu has explained that it is possible to

work out the implementation of the biblical commandment of the Passover Sacrifice in cooperation with all religious, legal, and administrative authorities. Current proposals do not require any…Just as circumcision, the first commandment imposed on an individual Jew, our forefather Abraham brought us into the covenant as individuals, the commandment of Korban-Pesach, the first commandment imposed on the Jewish People as a collective - obligating men, women and even children - brings us into the covenant as a People.

This is, to be sure, a radical approach.  It realigns the conceptualization of Zionism from one predicated on “saving” Jewish lives or for the Jewish people to be “as all the nations” to one that facilitates the fulfillment of the potential of the Jewish people as a Covenantal Nation, a term promoted by Prof. Harold Fisch.  He was providing an understanding of the revolutionary reordering of the direction of Zionism propagated by Gush Emunim.   Yes, this could be considered almost as a subversive paradigm of action which could attract both Hareidi objections to this new form of Zionism as a ‘revolt against God’ as well as to the secular presumptions that view redemptive restoration theology as a revolt against humanism and simplistic nationalism.  That Mount Moriyah, site of the Temple Mount – Har HaBayit – would become a focal point of emotion and patriotism is for both groups nigh anathema if not quite unsettling.

Back in 2008, Israel's leading ultra-Orthodox rabbis were waging a renewed offensive against Jews visiting Jerusalem's Temple Mount, the first stage in a reawakening of the Jewish people's relationship with the element of sanctity and promoting a Temple-oriented outlook. It was a visit by Rabbi Moshe Tendler, the son-in-law of prominent Halachic decisor, the late sage Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, seems to have stirred things up although opposition from Rabbinuical quarters is not new (see here and here).

 

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The investigation of the delineations of the Temple Mount and the various other complex issues has made significant strides over the past four decades since Har HaBayit was returned to Jewish sovereignty.   Even English-language articles have been published.  Ari Z. Zivotofsky’s piece, What’s the Truth About…Har HaBayit? clarifies (and see pictures here) that

…although we currently lack the means to remove tumat met [impurity through contact with the dead], this is not really a deterrent for ascending Har HaBayit. Those who refrain from ascending do so because of other halachic or political concerns or because of archeological uncertainties…Those who forbid entering the area do so because of the fear of violating the laws pertaining to its sanctity. Advocates insist on extreme caution and intense reverence, but see a value in establishing a connection between the Jewish people and the awesome holiness of Judaism’s most sanctified site.

Another two authors, Gedalia Meyer and Henoch Messner, published Entering the Temple Mount—in Halacha and Jewish History and assert that

those who choose to enter Har Habayis under the guidance of an experienced and knowledgeable Guide…should keep in mind that entering Har Habayis is not another stop on the tourist trail in Israel…Entering Har Habayis is to pray in the holiest spot on the earth. It offers a unique opportunity to experience an awareness of Hashem that may not be attainable elsewhere...

and they continueL

it would seem reasonable to say that now more than ever there is a dire need to demonstrate Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount. During the Camp David negotiations, the Israeli government came within a hairsbreadth of relinquishing sovereignty to the Arabs. With pressure on Israel only mounting as the years go by to compromise more and more, we have to assume the Temple Mount will soon be on the table again to sweeten any deal. If Jews do not show their bond to the area by regularly entering it and holding it to be at least as essential to their religion as the Muslims do to theirs, why should any Israeli or foreign negotiators value it as sacred and non-negotiable? This political element, which may very well encompass the mitzvah of Kibush Haaretz, is all too frequently ignored in the never-ending debate about entering Har Habayis.


This is not an exclusive concern of the Orthodox stream.  Rabbi Reuven Hammer authored the Conservative Movement’s Responsum “Entering the Temple Mount In Our Time” and decided that many authorities were overly stringent, and that it is permissible to enter part of the Temple Mount in our time. This approach is based on the following:

 

1) …even if halakhah is according to Maimonides, there are a number of reasons to permit entry into a part of the Temple Mount.
2) It is known that from the Tannaitic period and at least until the fifteenth century, there were Jews who entered and even prayed on the Temple Mount.
3) As was stated above, the prohibition of the entrance of a t'mey met pertains only to the area of the Heil, the Ezrat Nashim and the Ezrat Israel, and not to the entire Temple Mount. Thus if we can determine the originally sanctified area of the Temple on today's Temple Mount, we can determine where one can enter.

…Most Rabbis and archaeologists agree on two main points: A) The area of the Temple Mount in our days is much larger than the one described by the Mishnah and Josephus. The southern part and the northern part (north of the elevated area of the Mosque of Omar) were added by King Herod, and are not part of the sanctified area. B) The rock situated under the Mosque of Omar (Dome of the Rock) is the "Foundation Stone" which stood under the Holy of Holies. Therefore it is permissible to enter the southern part of the Temple Mount, near the mosque of El Aksa, and the northern part, north of the elevated area of the Mosque of Omar…Therefore it is preferable not to enter the elevated area around the Mosque of Omar at all.

In the west, one should remain close to the Western Wall, in order to avoid the area of the Holy of Holies. In the east, one should stay close to the eastern side to avoid the Heil and the Ezrat Nashim.

 

A rich collection of scholarly articles favoring entry is at The Temple Institute site including this simple guide for those who ascend. There is even a scientific approach based on geophysics (for my own previous opinions, see here and here and here, among others.     

 
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Let us return to the eve of Pesach of this year.  There is no reason not to be engaged, with your family and relatives and friends in this 'raising of the consciousness' of the theme of the centrality of the Temple Mount and its significance for the ethos of the Jewish people, Thousands of Jews ascend the Mount as a religious act these days.  As Police Commander Avi Roif testified before the Knesset’s Interior Committee (in Hebrew) on March 29, this past 2010 saw a rise of 7% in the amount of Jews visiting the temple Mount in comparison to 2009 (over all, there was a 36% increase in visitors of all types).

I might be going out on a limb but that lamb offering is not too far in the future, with or without the rebuilt Temple, with or without the High Court of Justice.  This year, in addition to the matzah, the maror and the Seder, give thought to the lamb.