The Temple Institute in Jerusalem's Old City succeeded on Wednesday in arousing a spirit of longing for the Holy Temple amongst a crowd of thousands that gathered for a re-enactment of the Hakhel ceremony.
Of the two once-every-seven-years Biblical commandments - Shemittah and Hakhel - the first lasts for a whole year, while Hakhel takes only an hour or two, but packs a great burst of inspiration into that short period. Binding only when the Holy Temple is standing, it involves a public Torah reading by the King of Israel for the entire nation - men, women, and children - for the purpose of rousing all to stand in awe of G-d and follow the Torah's statutes.
The word Hakhel (pronounced Hock-hel) literally means, in fact, "Gather the people together" (Deut. 31, 10-12).
The Temple Institute held a smaller-scale re-enactment of the event in an Old City park on Wednesday, the first day of the Intermediate Days of the Sukkot holiday following the Shemittah year. Though only 500 people had been expected, several times that amount arrived. The event began with a procession of Kohanim, wearing priestly garments of the type used in the Temple and sounding of silver trumpets of the type sounded in the Temple, making their way through Old City streets until their arrival at the central stage.
Following the afternoon Mincha prayer, Rabbi Yehuda Glick of the Temple Institute introduced the rabbi-priests who were to read from the Torah. Among them were Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat, Rabbi Menachem Cohen of Jerusalem's Nachlaot neighborhood, and Rav Avi Kahane, as well as Rabbi Azariah Ariel - the head of the Temple Institute's kollel - and Yeshivat Shilo head Rav Araleh Harel.
The passages read aloud included Deut. 1 ("Behold, I have given you this Land; come and inherit this Land promised to your forefathers to give their descendants"), Deut. 11 (about the rewards for fulfilling the Torah and the negative consequences of not doing so), and others.
New Temple Vessel Serves 12 Priests at Once
The ceremony also featured the unveiling of the just-completed Kiyor HaNechoshet, the water source to be used for washing by the Priests several times a day. Built to replicate the Kiyor used in the Holy Temple, it is about nine feet high, weighs two tons, and is made mostly of copper. It comes complete with a computerized system that enables heated water to be used on weekdays, and non-heated water on Sabbaths and festivals, when heating the water is not permitted. Twelve priests can wash their hands and feet at once; each one presses one of two buttons to indicate whether he wants a large amount of water, such as after completing preparing an animal offering, or a small amount to merely purify his hands and feet.
The kiyor was built by Moshe Buchbut, a budding Torah scholar and a member of the family that owns Buchbut Metal Industries in the city of Akko (Acre). He repeated his explanations countless times to the many excited vistitors who asked how he built it and how it works. The Buchbut's decided to build the kiyor during the Second Lebanon War. "From the moment we made the decision," a family spokesman said, "we have been blessed, both in terms of Katyushas that seemed to stop hitting us during the war, and financially."
The actual faucets are expected to be installed in the coming weeks. The kiyor is now standing in a plaza in the Jewish Quarter, and is expected to be placed inside a protective glass container, as is the Temple Institute's Menorah. It had been hoped that the kiyor would be placed in the Western Wall Plaza, but this will apparently not occur in the near future.
A short film describing the Simchat Beit HaShoevah water pouring festival - a mainstay of the Sukkot ceremonies in the Holy Temple - was also screened. The film was prepared, as were the Temple vessels and clothing, by the Temple Institute.
Rabbi Glick explained that though the vessels were prepared in fulfillment of the Biblical commandment to fashion them - "we even recited the blessing 'He Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to fashion the tzitz [Priestly headplate],' for instance" - the vessels have not been consecrated to the Holy Temple and may therefore be used for other purposes, such as education.