Rabbinical Dispute on Ascent to Temple Mount

Haifa's Chief Rabbi She'ar-Yashuv Cohen has sent an urgent note to Chief Rabbis Amar and Metzger, protesting their signatures on the latest version of a ban on Jewish ascent to the Temple Mount.

, | updated: 12:24

A group of leading rabbis, at the initiative of Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz and Yeshivat Ateret Cohanim Dean Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, reiterated a long-standing Chief Rabbinate ban on entry to the Temple Mount. Biblical law states that anyone who is ritually impure by virtue of having come in contact with a dead person – as we are all now assumed to be – is forbidden from setting foot in the holiest areas of the site of the Holy Temple. "Over the years we have lost [knowledge of] the exact location of the Temple," the rabbis wrote, "and a person entering the Mount could unwittingly enter the area of the Temple and the Holy of Holies."

The signatories include the current Chief Rabbis Amar and Metzger and former Chief Rabbis Shapira, Yosef and Bakshi-Doron.

Rabbi She'ar-Yashuv Cohen, however, who is a member of the Chief Rabbinate Council, is up in arms. In a telegram to Chief Rabbis Amar and Metzger, he wrote that he was "surprised and saddened" to learn of their signatures on the "renewed ban on ascent to the Temple Mount [even] in areas that are clearly not the site of the Temple." He noted that the Rabbinate Council dealing with this issue had not yet come to any conclusion.

Rabbi Cohen said that the question is not a Halakhic [Jewish legal] one, but rather "a practical and scientific one. The thousands of yeshiva students, led by the Yesha Rabbis Council, are not suspected of violating Biblical commandments, and they deserve great credit for their selfless dedication and their ascent to the Temple Mount."

Arutz-7 asked Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the rabbi of the Western Wall, about the timing of the ban: "Headlines all over the world blared the rabbinical ban on Jews in the Temple Mount. Doesn’t this weaken our claim to Jerusalem at this critical time? Why did this ban have to be published specifically now?"

Rabbi Rabinovitch explained, "For one thing, we began gathering the signatures a year ago, when the Temple Mount was reopened to Jews after being closed for over three years, and it took until now to get all of them. Furthermore, we see that there are more and more religious Jews visiting the Mount, according to Halakhic precautions of where and how they are permitted, but it increases the dangers of others seeing them and going up themselves without being careful of the details of this so-stringent prohibition. In addition, it's not the diplomatic situation that weakens or strengthens our hold or claim, but rather our adherence to the Torah."

Rabbi Rabinovitch also said that leading rabbis of the past century, such as Rabbi Avraham HaCohen Kook and his son, forbade going to the Temple Mount, and "are we greater than them that we can say that we know where the Holy of Holies was located?... Let's leave something for G-d to do. Let's let Him build the Holy Temple, and we'll do what we're supposed to do; believe me, if we would have prayed more, the Temple would have been built long ago."

Rabbi Cohen, speaking with Arutz-7, said, "The difference between then and now is that now there have been studies and archaeological research that tell us where the permitted places are." He further said that in private discussions with the late Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, the latter implied that if we knew the location of the various Temple areas, we would be able to stay away from the prohibited areas and permitted to enter the other ones.