'He who ascends the Temple Mount needs to repent'

Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef strongly opposed ascending the Temple Mount on the anniversary of Rabbi Kook's passing.

Hezki Baruch,

Jewish visitors on Temple Mount
Jewish visitors on Temple Mount
Zac Wajsgras/Flash90

Chief Rabbi of Israel Yitzhak Yosef participated last night in a night of Torah study held near the gravesite of Rabbi Abraham Yitzhak Hakohen Kook, on the anniversary of Rabbi Kook's passing.

Rabbi Kook was the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi in Israel during the British Mandate. A Torah luminary, poet, philosopher and leader, his thought has provided the basis for "Religious Zionist" ideology within Israel.

At the event, Rabbi Yosef addressed a number of issues pertaining to the application of Jewish law in modern Israeli society, and invoked Rabbi Kook to support his views.

Rabbi Yosef addressed the issue of "agunot" – women whose husbands will not or cannot grant them a Jewish bill of divorce, and criticized rabbis who "make noise" and are lenient in freeing agunot from their married status. "Rabbi Kook didn't jump to be lenient like rabbis today. Files of "agunim" [the male counterpart of "agunot"] and agunot come to me, there are a lot of agunim which the press doesn't talk about – they only talk about agunot.

"Men come to me and tell me that their wives are extorting them, and I sign for them and they take another wife. By us Sephardim, it is allowed to take another wife when a religious court allows it; this allowance comes from Rabbi Kook," he said.

Rabbi Yosef also addressed the question of conversions, saying: "I had an argument with one of the lead politicians who was trying to get me to be lenient in conversions. Rabbi Kook fought against this."

Addressing the issue of religious youth groups in which males and females participate together, Rabbi Yosef said: "Rabbi Kook demanded separation between males and females in youth groups and at school."

Rabbi Yosef also opposed Jews ascending the Temple Mount, invoking Rabbi Kook in the process: "How often did Rabbi Kook say not to ascend the Temple Mount; the rabbis as a whole, too, strongly opposed this practice. In a judgment on the matter by the Rabbinical Committee it was decided that most Rabbinical Authorities of the generation oppose Jews ascending the Temple Mount."

"There are some who allow it, but majority rules. It is a serious prohibition. He who ascends the Temple Mount – now is the time [before the High Holidays of repentance] – he needs to repent," Rabbi Yosef said.

The reasons to prohibit ascending the Temple Mount are based on the controversy over the exact locations of areas that it is forbidden to be walked upon, such as the Holy of Holies, on pain of karet - death meted out bybg-d.. There are rabbis who feel that this has been settled, and Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren measured and believed he knew what was allowed. Other Religious Zionist sages, including Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook and Rabbi Avraham Shapira disputed those conclusions and forbade ascending. All would have preferred the area closed to all until excavations could determine the truth, but when IDF CoS Moshe Dayan, who cynically called the area the Jewish Vatican, gave the Arabs control of the site at the end of the 1967 Six Day War, those hopes were dashed. The Muslim Wakf has dug illegally and destroyed priceless remains and does not allow for any archaelogists to probe the site.

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