Sunday, July 04, 2010

Temple Mount

Entering the Temple Mount

By: Meoros HaDaf HaYomi

In our Mishna Rabbi Meir says, “All the goats serve to atone for the defilement of the Temple and its holy objects.” In other words, all the goats of the additional sacrifices (musafim) served to atone for prohibitions of defilement committed in the Temple by eating kodoshim (parts of sacrifices) while being defiled (tamei) or by entering the Temple when being tamei.

Does the sanctity of the site of the Temple depend on the Temple’s existence? A defiled person (tamei) who enters the site of the Temple transgresses a prohibition of the Torah and is punished with kareis. According to Rambam (Hilchos Beis HaBechirah, 6:16) and many Rishonim (Tosfos, Yevamos 82b, s.v. Yerushah; Rash on Shevi‟is 6:1; Semag, ‘asin 163; Yereiim Hashalem, 277; Ritva, Megillah 10b and Shevuos 2b; Sefer HaChinuch, mitzvos 184, 362 and 363), the prohibition and the resulting kares are still valid after the Temple’s destruction as “the first sanctification sanctified the place in its time and for the future.” In other words, the site of the Temple was consecrated forever with an unconditional sanctity, independent of the existence of the Temple.

Raavad (ibid) disagrees and believes that once the Temple was destroyed and the gentiles conquered the Temple Mount, its sanctity was rescinded.

Some hold that even according to Raavad, it could be that only the punishment of kares was revoked whereas the Torah prohibition to enter remains (see Responsa Binyan Tziyon, 2, and Responsa Mishpat Kohen, 96). Even if not so, all agree that Chazal decreed that we mustn’t enter the site of the Temple after its destruction because of two reasons: (a) so that when the Temple will be rebuilt, everyone should remember that a tamei must not enter; (b) to preserve the respect for the Temple. Indeed, leading authorities testified that after the destruction of the Temple Jews were always careful to avoid entering the site as the prohibition to enter is also valid in our era from the Torah (d’oraisa) and those who enter are punished with kares (Rabeinu Ovadyah Bartenura in his letter from Eretz Israel of 5248; Maharam Chagiz in Parashas Mas’ei; and see Binyan Tziyon, that that is the ruling of all the poskim).

Rambam’s letter that caused a sensation: A letter sent by Rambam during his visit in Eretz Yisroel (printed in Sefer Chareidim, 65) aroused a great commotion when he wrote that on coming to Yerushalayim, he prayed in the “great and holy house.” Some interpreted this as meaning a synagogue built on the site of the Temple – a contradiction to his ruling that one mustn’t enter there in our era. Still, poskim reject the attempt to present the letter as proof that Rambam changed his ruling, and proved that he referred to a large synagogue called Midrash Shlomo, located near the Temple Mount, whose windows faced the whole area of the site of the Temple (see Responsa Minchas Yitzchak, V, 1, and Responsa Tzitz Eli’ezer, X, 1, and XI, 15, in the name of HaGaon Rav Y. Chai Zarihan).

Montefiore’s visit to the Temple Mount: 136 years ago, in 5627 (1867), Sir Moses Montefiore visited Eretz Israel, accompanied by his private secretary, Dr Levi. To the great surprise of the Yerushalayim community, the two entered the Temple Mount with a special permit issued by the Sultan in Istanbul, attained by the Pashah of Yerushalayim who had been well paid by Montefiore’s aides. The Jerusalemites were shocked and HaGaon Rav Yosef Moshe of Lissa, the son of the author of Nesivos HaMishpat and Chavos Da’as, even blew a shofar in the streets and excommunicated Montefiore. Being deeply religious, the latter rushed to the rabbis and scholars of Yerushalayim and apologized, claiming that he had acted sincerely, having been misled by a certain rabbi that Raavad’s opinion was accepted as halachah. He then accepted certain orders of teshuvah and the commotion subsided (Responsa Tzitz Eli’ezer, XI, 15:5).

May non-Jews enter the Temple Mount?

Now that we know that the Torah’s prohibition to enter the site of the Temple and the penalty of kares are valid in our era, we should examine the halachah pertaining to gentiles. The Mishna in Keilim 1:8 explains that non-Jews must not enter further than the cheil (the fence around the Temple) – i.e., the area of the Temple Mount (except for the cubits adjacent to the surrounding wall) – and Rambam (Hilchos Bias HaMikdash, 3:5) rules accordingly, that “at the cheil gentiles should be sent away.”

The halachos of defilement are only for Jews: The Torah does not apply halachos of defilement (tumah) to non-Jews (Nazir 61b; Rambam, Hilchos Tumas HaMeis, 1:13), just as animals do not become tamei. As a result, the Torah’s prohibition that temeiim must not enter the site of the Temple refers only to Jews. Nonetheless, Chazal decreed tumah on gentiles and the Mishna therefore explains that they must not penetrate the cheil.

May a non-Jew enter the Temple Mount? Some explain (Magid Meireishis in Kuntres Derech HaKodesh) that though non-Jews are allowed to enter the site of the Temple, we are commanded by Chazal to prevent their entry, as Rambam states: “gentiles should be sent away.”Still, the Maharit (cited in Derech HaKodesh by Rav C.A. Alfandari) indicates that Chazal also actually forbade them to enter the site of the Temple (Chazon Nachum on Keilim 1:6).

How the Greeks defiled the oil of the Temple: Every year on Chanukah we praise Hashem for the miracle of the single sealed jug of pure oil found remaining from all the other oil defiled by the Greeks. Apparently, since non-Jews are never tamei, we must understand how they managed to defile the oil.

Tosfos (Shabos 21b, s.v. Shehayah, and see Maharsha, ibid) indicate that the decree to apply tumah to gentiles could have been very early, even before the Mishnaic era, whereas the Re’eim (on the Semag at the beginning of Hilchos Chanukah) remarks that the Greeks defiled all the oil when they entered the Temple because of their garments which were tamei.

Buying water from a well on the Temple Mount: Sdei Chemed (Ma’areches Vav, Kelal 26, os 33) refers to the question of the Jerusalemites as to if they may buy water from Arabs who draw it from a well on the Temple Mount, as they suspected that their demand for water caused the Arabs to go there. He replied that as the water-drawers stay on the Mount all day anyway, there is no prohibition to buy the water. On the contrary, the demand for water causes them to leave the site of the Temple when they bring water to the Jews.

Inserting fingers in the Western Wall: Over three years ago we treated the topic of putting one’s fingers in the cracks of the Western Wall. In that article we cited the Aderes (Mishkenos L’Abir Ya’akov, II) who forbids such for fear of entering the site of the Temple while being tamei. On the other hand, some believe (Maharil Diskin, cited ibid, etc.) that the walls of the Temple Mount were never sanctified and that there is no prohibition (see sefer Meoros HaDaf HaYomi, Vol. II, p. 249).

Permission by the Avnei Nezer: Still, it is interesting to note that the Sochatchover Rebbe zt”l, author of Avnei Nezer (Responsa Avnei Nezer, Y.D., II, 450-51), writes that even if the walls were consecrated, there is no prohibition to put one’s fingers therein because of two halachos: (a) The prohibition to enter refers to the normal manner of entry whereas entry in an unusual fashion is allowed; (b) the prohibition to enter is only for the ways of access to the Temple. Putting a finger in a hole in a wall is not considered a normal manner of entry and is therefore allowed and even if we say that it is a form of entry, that place cannot be reached from inside the Temple and is not regarded as entering a sanctified place (see other reasons ibid).