Rabbi Richman: People Want a New Status Quo

Temple Institute's Director says that despite the reluctance of many Jews, there is a "national awakening" over Passover offerings.

Gedalyah Reback ,

Temple Institute Cohanim at practice Korban Pesach
Temple Institute Cohanim at practice Korban Pesach
Temple Institute

“There would be millions of people coming. How would the city prepare itself? This touches on a number of subjects and the blueprints of the Temple or the influx of so many people and being considered,” says Rabbi Chaim Richman, International Director for the Temple Institute in the Old City of Jerusalem.

“The initial step we're talking about here is renewing the interest in the Korban Pesach (Passover Offering) itself.”

This Friday, the 14th of the Hebrew month of Nissan, Jews would normally be obligated to bring a special sacrifice to the Temple – a lamb. That lamb would then be roasted, given back to the person who brought it to the Temple court, then brought home or to wherever his family might be staying for the Festival of Matzahs Seder (what we conventionally call Passover).

But Passover – Pesach in Hebrew – gets its colloquial name primarily to the sacrifice that is brought the day before Seder night. In absence of the Temple itself, only a bone (sometimes not even lamb) is left on the Seder plate.

“Of all the offerings that could be brought, according to a number of authorities there is Halachically nothing hold us back – we can bring it even now,” proclaims Rabbi Richman, whose organization famously advocates for the restoration of the Temple service on the Temple Mount.

“A very small, minimally-sized alter could easily be built and very quickly. You can even be brought in a state of impurity, out of obligation.”

One common argument used against activists who regularly visit the Temple Mount and hope to restore its centrality in Judaism is that given the ritual state of impurity all Jews are presumed to have in our day and age – and with the Catch 22 that the tools are not available to remedy that impurity – resuming Temple services is impossible. Rabbi Richman is of a growing number of religious authorities who reject that as an illogical assumption.

Rabbi Richman emphasizes that the Passover offering is unique in Judaism because only it and the commandment to circumcise males carry with them the stiff penalty of karet – spiritual excision – for not performing them.

“To say we cannot bring the Korban Pesach – can you imagine the State of Israel saying you are not permitted to circumcise your male sons? That’s the Passover Offering.”

“It’s the same thing.”

Rabbi Richman chastises any rabbinical authorities who oppose resuming Temple services on Mount Moriah, without naming names.

“We need to get out of our comfort zones. Why are they choosing which mitzvot (commandments) are still relevant and which are no longer relevant? Or, some people say that we can’t do it ourselves and that it will fall out of the sky. I don’t believe the Torah would command something that we would not be able to do.”

We need to understand what our role in this world is. The Korban Pesach represents Israel’s role in the world to combat idolatry - it's about facing the pagan gods in other parts of the world. We're faced with this incredible threat at same time of question whether or not to bring KP.

Rabbi Richman speaks of a 19th century dispute among some of the more well-known names of the period. Rabbi Zvi Kalischer openly advocated for the bringing of new Temple offerings. In the debate that ensued, it was the famed Rabbi Akiva Eiger asked his son-in-law, the Hatam Sofer to intercede with the Ottomans and enable the sacrifices to happen.

Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff explains, “The Hatam Sofer responded with great respect to his father-in-law, but pointed out that the Temple area is unfortunately covered by a mosque that is sacred to its Muslim rulers who will not permit any non-Muslim to enter. Thus, we see that both Rabbi Akiva Eiger and the Hatam Sofer agreed with Rabbi Kalischer that we are permitted to bring offerings before the reconstruction of the Temple.”

Over the years, campaigners have requested the reboot of Passover offerings above all others on the Temple Mount. These requests are routinely rejected.

“What has meaning now is that there is a tremendous and enthusiastic response to the idea. The Jewish people is making a reassessment and seeing that something is seriously wrong with this situation, with this status quo.

“This is part of our national awakening.”

When asked if he felt it would be problematic to see so few Jews taking advantage of a (however unlikely) ruling in favor of the ritual, Rabbi Richman chuckled, “In the meantime let's bring one and I'll be satisfied.”