A historic first: Last week, during a special visit to the Temple Mount, the Priestly Blessing (Numbers 6:24-26) was recited there, for arguably the first time since the 1st-century destruction of the Second Temple.
The Blessing is recited daily in synagogues in Israel by descendants of Aaron the Priest, but only on festivals in most synagogues in the Diaspora.
The special visit was held to commemorate the 842nd anniversary of Maimonides's famous visit to the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site. A group of some 25 Jews, organized by the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, marked the special day with a commemorative visit. Giving extra-special meaning to the occasion was a spontaneous Priestly Blessing delivered to the group by Yehuda Katz, the lead singer of the Reva L'Sheva band, and Eliezer Breuer, originally of the former Soviet Union and now from Kiryat Arba.
Rabbi Chaim Richman, one of the organizers of the trip, said, "This was probably the first time since the destruction of the Temple [1,937 years ago] that the Priestly Blessing was delivered on our holiest site. At times like these, when there is talk of giving away our precious places, and when despair is sometimes in the air, events of this nature serve to remind us that G-d has not forgotten about us, and that He still has big plans for both us and the Holy Temple - and that the Temple will yet become the focal point of the world once again."
Another notable aspect of the visit was the welcoming attitude of the police. "In an unusual departure from standard procedure," one participant said, "we found that the police were particularly sympathetic to our needs. At one point, when the Moslem Wakf guards started yelling that we were praying, one of the policemen took our side and even threatened to remove them if necessary."
Maimonides, also known as the Rambam, made his historic visit to the Temple Mount on the sixth day of the month of MarCheshvan in the year 1166 (4926 in the Jewish calendar). Unanimously considered one of Judaism's greatest figures, the Rambam wrote that he put himself in danger to make a trip to Jerusalem, where he entered "the Large and Holy House [the Temple Mount] and prayed." Three days later, he also visited the Machpelah Cave in Hevron, and vowed to commemorate the anniversaries of those days as his personal festivals for years to come.
Last week's visit was also led by Rabbis Yisrael Ariel and Yehuda Glick. Rabbi Ariel is a former Yeshiva head, founder of the Temple Institute, and one of the paratroopers who took part in the 1967 liberation of the Temple Mount. Rabbi Glick made news briefly over two years ago when, as Director of the Absorption Ministry's Ashkelon region, he became the first public official to resign in protest over the plans to withdraw from and destroy Gush Katif.
Though the Chief Rabbinate disagrees, the Yesha Rabbis Council has ruled that one who ascends and visits the Temple Mount while adhering to three conditions - prior immersion in a mikveh; keeping the laws of Awe of the Temple (no leather shoes, proper respect, etc.); and knowledge of the precise permitted areas - is fulfilling a "great mitzvah [Torah commandment]."
To arrange a trip to the Temple Mount in accordance with the above requirements of Jewish law, click here.
"The more Jews who visit this holy site," Rabbi Richman told Arutz-7, "the more cooperative the police are with us and the more respectful they are of our needs - as some police officers have indicated to me. And the more we encourage Jews with stories like what happened last week, the more they will come."