Thank you all for agreeing to participate in this forum. Let's jump right in, and then I will recede into the background. The conversation should be open ended, and the question a springboard for the discussion.
How are we to assess the dramatic growth, in recent years, of the number of Jews who visit the Temple Mount?
The return of the Jewish people to Eretz Yisrael in the past century and a half can be described, to the best of my understanding, as a miraculous G-dly phenomenon as part of the redemption process as described in the words of the Torah and the prophets.
According to these descriptions one of the major milestones of this process is the return of Am Yisrael and of the nations to Har Bet Hashem" - The mount of His House in order to connect to His words.
Just as the process of the return of Am Yisrael to the land didn't materialize and become a reality in one day, rather it was a process which we are still witnessing with our own eyes, so too the return to the Place where He chose to rest His Divine Presence will apparently happen gradually.
Ladies and gentlemen - I am so overwhelmed to inform you that the process has begun! This does not mean that there won't be more obstacles on the way - but it seems the train has left the station.
Just like the return of the People to Eretz Yisrael began by the initiative of private people and was only afterwards joined by the Rabbinical leaders it seems (unfortunately, in my opinion) that the return to Hashem and to His chosen venue is occurring in front of the eyes of the Rabbis who are simply not getting the point. Either way - we are proceeding and I am happy to invite all believers of Hashem to hop on!
Leaving alone, for the moment, the questionable idealism underlying in the Temple Mount movement, it may be alright in the eyes of Judaism for you to do something questionable that puts yourself in physical and spiritual danger.
It is not alright for you to do something questionable that puts a boy in Ramat Bet Shemesh in physical danger and a policeman on the Temple Mount in spiritual danger.
Was it OK on behalf of Ben Gurion to declare the State of Israel against the word of President Truman, of the USA? And on 6,000 Israelis (1% of the population. 70,000 in numbers of today) who paid their lives in the War of Independence?
Everything done by the organizations involved in the Temple Mount that I am connected to are 100% clarified and agreed-upon by the Israeli security forces mainly Shabak.
Yes, it was, as history had compellingly indicated the necessity of the establishment of the Jewish State and it had been ratified by both the League of Nations and the nascent UN. There has been no such indication concerning the Temple Mount.
Of course the Shabak protects you. It does not protect the poor fellow in Armon HaNetziv who may have died on your account.
Thank you for beginning the conversation. Your short comments are founded on many unsubstantiated and, in many ways, problematic assumptions. So before I respond I need to clarify a few points. First, Zionism as “miracle” is not self-evident nor can it ever be substantiated one way or the other. To found a position of certainly on an unsubstantiated claim is problematic in any reasoned argument. Second, even if I grant you the “miraculous” nature of the founding of the state, its messianic import is far from self-evident. Mind you, this is not questioning the sanctity of the land for Jews. One needn’t be a Zionist to affirm that. The Satmar Rebbe affirmed that the land of Israel was sacred territory for the Jews and yet he rejected the notion that Zionism is in any way a concretization of that sanctity. In fact he argued the opposite.
In any event, from a halakhic perspective there is a lot of evidence that ascending Har Ha-Bayit for Jews is forbidden. We all know that. To set aside those adjudications (which I am open to doing) would require a claim. Your claim is that this is the unfolding of the final redemption. I reject that claim and thus the exception you are suggesting has no foundation to stand on from my point of view.
So now the question of whether Jews should be allowed to pray there is no longer a question of a messianic exception but one of justice and Realpolitik. In theory, if one wants to set aside the overwhelming evidence of the halakhic prohibition I am open to an argument that Jews, like Muslims, should be able to pray there. But now we enter into questions of precedent, safety, and the claims of injustice from the other side in terms of citizenship, rights, resources, etc. Here Yosef’s point is relevant.
Changing the status quo is an act that will invariably have consequences. Those potential consequences must be weighed against the benefits. The consequences are the exacerbation of an already volatile situation, one strong reading might be a case of pikuah nefesh (the primacy of preserving life). The benefits are that some people who have a burning desire to pray at Har Ha-Bayit will be able to do so. I respect your burning desire although I reject it as based on anything more than your own imagined notion of Zionism’s messianic import, which I, and others, reject. The desire of a few should not endanger the safety of the many. More relevant, though, is that changing the status quo is simply another indication that any just compromise in regards to territory and political rights of the Palestinian becomes less possible. That will certainly cause a reaction from those whose rights are being erased. Now, given that I see in you a quasi-apocalyptic orientation (I do not say that judgmentally) you may welcome that development. But many, perhaps, most Israelis would not. The Sicarii in Temple times acted out against the rule of law for similar reasons. Their fate is well known.
So it seems to me the argument for Jewish presence at Har Ha-Bayit is based on two premises: First, a messianic one which I reject. Second, an argument based on “justice” or even “civil rights” which I have more sympathy for in principle except for the fact that in regards to Arabs in Israel and the West Bank, for Jews to argue that their civil rights are being violated in Israel (a common argument in the settler community these days) is based on a premise that I do not agree with, to wit, that the land belongs to the Jews (by what right I am not quite sure) and thus we should have more natural and legal rights than the Arabs who dwell there. For those who do not accept the premises of that claim (and there are many, inside and outside Israel) the cry of injustice does not resonate as a convincing argument. What then is your argument for changing the status quo on Har Ha-Bayit?
If I understood correctly it seems that we can put our finger on a few points which it seems we do not agree upon. I would put it this way - we have different perspectives as to assumptions and facts:
a. YGB writes: "It is not alright for you to do something questionable that puts a boy in Ramat Bet Shemesh in physical danger and a policeman on the Temple Mount in spiritual danger." and then again: "Of course the Shabak protects you. It does not protect the poor fellow in Armon HaNetziv who may have died on your account."
Shaul writes: "The desire of a few should not endanger the safety of the many", and "Changing the status quo is an act that will invariably have consequences. Those potential consequences must be weighed against the benefits. The consequences are the exacerbation of an already volatile situation, one strong reading might be a case pikuah nefesh."
These are assumptions which I totally disagree with. I think that anyone who knows the situation on the Temple Mount knows that violence is a one-way direction - It is the radical muslims who are attacking the innocent Jews. I fully condemn any kind of justification of this terrorist behavior. I totally disagree with any effort to put a blame on the victims and I see it wrong in any aspect. The one to blame for violence is the violent terrorists and any other way of looking at it, and blaming innocent, non-violent, human right activists for this is unacceptable. In what world is a person who speaks about freedom, respect to others, and liberty considered a provocative person and the people who kill and stab and harass as the "victims" of this behavior. This claim should be immediately dismissed and removed from the table in a civilized society.
b. Shaul writes: "In any event, from a halakhic perspective there is a lot of evidence that ascending Har Ha-Bayit for Jews is forbidden. We all know that."
I don't know that. The Rambam (Maimonides) didn't know that, the Radvaz didn't know that, nor did the Me'eri or Rabbi Chaim Alfandari or the Hida or any of the Jewish scholars from the time of the Mishna until the past few generations. This Halacha was made up by rabbis in the 20th century who could not find any evidence for this in any traditional Halachic sources.
Just for example, the Me’eri in his commentary on Shavuos 16a directly addresses the question of entering Har Habayit and writes that the practice in his day, according to what he had heard, was to enter the entire area. I do not know of any Halachic source that argues this opinion until the 20th century. If you do, please bring it to my attention. Since this is the case it is the obligation of those who forbid it to convince me why. Well they haven't. I am happy that more than 300 rabbis today have publicly encouraged ascending the Temple Mount in the past few decades.
c. re: The "Messianic" aspect mentioned in your responses which I am not sure I clearly understand. I was asked by Elli at the beginning of this exchange: "How are we to assess the dramatic growth, in recent years, of the number of Jews who visit the Temple Mount?" I was not asked at all about the reasoning for my activity. I will be happy to answer that too, if asked, but I answered the question I was asked and that only!
In my eyes I was not appointed by G-d to promote miracles. He has good reasoning for not appointing me for that! There is no quasi-apocalyptic orientation whatsoever in my activity or in any of my considerations. I act 100% by Realpolitic reasoning. When I look and analyze history from a retrospective angle and try to assess it I see no problem in referring to God's fingerprints in history!
I will try to elaborate what I mentioned in my first statement. In the history of mankind to the best of my knowledge there has never been a nation who left it's homeland and returned to it. Not only after 2000 years but not even after 20 years. Here in front of our eyes we see a one time in history phenomenon of a nation returning to it's homeland and restoring the language, the culture, the geographical and historical orientation. What is more amazing than that is that this process is described so many times in The Book written more the 3000 years ago - Dvarim (Deuteronomy) and in the words of the prophets so many times. I believe that anyone witnessing such an amazing occurrence and does not refer it to the Hands of God in History is sort of blind and lacking genuine sincerity.
a. The assumption of violence as only from one side is a mistaken assessment. You have a very narrow definition of violence. When Sharon visited Har Ha-Bayit with dozens of security police and helicopters etc., that was a violent act. Occupation is violence. Every single day. Violence is the excessive exhibition of power and force, being overlords of and controlling another people, even if no one is bleeding. Humiliation can be a violent act, as Freud has taught us in his story about his father being humiliated in the streets of Vienna. There is an entire body of literature on violence that would undermine your narrow definition.
Both sides are being violent. We are not innocent here (even if individuals may be innocent). As a society we are perpetrating violence against the Palestinians and have been for a long time (however we understand how this conflict began). They are also perpetrating violence against us. To deny that is, in my mind, to misunderstand something basic about human nature and society.
Human rights activists? Who are the human rights activists exactly? We, the occupiers are now innocent human rights activists? This is a common trope, I know, but it is more than mistaken, it is craven. Our policies regarding the occupation (or even denying the term “occupation”) are, in many cases, human rights violations. To now turn us into human rights “activists” is macabre.
b. We can get into a halakhic debate here but that is best left to the halakhists. For me, the halakha doesn’t matter either way. I understand you may differ about that.
c. The first assumption is incorrect in my view but besides the point. Even if it were true, it would not matter. Again, the inferences to biblical prophecy as the legitimacy to act immorally (in my view) toward another people may be fine for the synagogue (even in the synagogue I do not think it is fine) but certainly not in the political sphere.
Here I am a Leibowitzean, “We have no right to link the emergence of the state of Israel to the religious concept of messianic redemption…There is no justification for enveloping this political-historical event in the aura of holiness. Certainly, there is little ground for regarding the mere existence of this state as a religiously significant phenomenon.” (Yeshayahu Leibowitz, “The Religious Significance of the State).
a. This is very nice rhetoric, but it is sheer speculation on your part, not grounded in any source other than your own idealistic perspective.
b. The source for the Rambam's ascent is equivocal.
The dismissal of Rav Shmuel Salant, Rav AYH Kook et al as if they were mere "20th century rabbis" who "made up" the prohibition indicates a lack of respect for Torah giants of great acumen and piety, which brings into grave question any Avodat Hashem motivation in the ascent.
>>"I do not know of any Halachic source that argues this opinion until the 20th century. If you do please bring it to my attention. Since this is the case it is the obligation of those who forbid it to convince me why. Well they haven't. I am happy that more then 300 rabbis today have publicly encouraged ascending the temple mount in the past few decades."
If you know of no such sources, you have not done even basic research. Please see Tzitz Eliezer vol. 10 p. 19 for such prohibitions from the 17th century R' Ovadia of Bartenura and Maharam Chagiz.
c. For the time being I will refrain from addressing the Messianic issue.
A large audience is very much enjoying the conversation, which has spawned other conversations across the Jewish world. Thank you again.
In my opening question, I asked about the dramatic growth in the number of Jews who ascend the Temple Mount. It is worth noting that this does not entail a change in the administrative status quo, under which Jews who wish to visit the site without praying are accommodated. That is, the present situation is not a result in the change of the status quo (though attempts to change the status quo, and the opposition to such attempts, certainly may have contributed to the unrest).
With this in mind, I pose a question to each of the participants:
Rabbi Bechhofer: You oppose Jews visiting the Temple Mount on the grounds that it endangers other Jews, but that the Zionist project, which also endangered other Jews, was justified by necessity and enshrined in international agreements. In fact, Jewish access to the Temple Mount is specifically provided in Article 9 of the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty, and UN Resolution 194 likewise protects “the freedom of access of the members of the different religions to the places sacred to them.” I understand your opposition to Jewish ascent on the Temple Mount during tense times, when the slightest disturbance can set off a chain reaction. However, does your opposition extend to times of relative stability, and to cases in which the visiting Jews do not pray while there? If so, why?
Rabbi Glick: You view the return to the Temple Mount as part and parcel of the Zionist project and as the unfolding of a miraculous, if not messianic, process. One need not be an expert in Jewish lore and liturgy to know that this process, as classically understood, culminates with the reconstruction of the Jewish Temple on the site currently occupied by the Dome of the Rock. Does this not explain, if not justify, the perception that increasing Jewish rights on the Temple Mount is an act of aggression that cannot be divorced from the ultimate vision of rebuilding the Temple? Does this not undermine the anchor of those expanded rights within basic rights and liberties?
Professor Magid: Among other things, you are a scholar of Jewish mysticism. You undoubtedly know that the messianic impulse has played a significant role in Zionism since its inception, and that the State of Israel is, in some important ways, a sublimation or domestication of that impulse. At some point—perhaps in 1948, perhaps in 1967—pragmatic Zionism no longer had any use for the messianic impulse, and began to regard it with suspicion. The Temple Mount movement, like the Greater Land of Israel movement before it, demonstrates that the impulse is alive and well. You invoke Leibowitz’s argument against imbuing the state with any religious or messianic-redemptive significance. Do you, then, believe that the Jewish messianic impulse (including, but not limited to, the Temple Mount movements) must remain in opposition to the state (and thus inevitably as a destabilizing force within it), or do you think the pragmatic side of Zionism can find a new way to domesticate it?
Beyond the legal and security issues of ascending to the Temple Mount, my opposition is based on several perspectives that apply at all times. Very briefly:
While many of the individuals who ascend the Temple Mount are meticulous in undergoing proper purification and in limiting their perambulations to the areas in which the Temple itself definitely did not stand, their going up: a) Necessitates security forces being in place, who are not going to be meticulous on either point. b) Sweeps along other TM activists who are also not going to be meticulous. Particularly in regards to women, the issues are complex.
Thus, the ascent to the Temple Mount involves the issue of causing others to sin, Lifnei Iver Lo Titen Michshol.
As I previously noted, Rabbi Glick's dismissal of great Rabbinic figures is problematic, to say the least. As great Rabbis across the entire spectrum have either outright banned or greatly discouraged the ascent, they clearly believed that Ahavat Hashem and Yirat Shamayim do not mandate (and perhaps counter-indicate) the ascent. The activists are tacitly promoting a new path of Avodat Hashem - one that also jumps (and not necessarily forward) the accepted levels of growth in Avodat Hashem. Yet their path is inchoate and ambiguous, hence confusing and distracting.
The great tragedy of the Dati-Leumi world is its focus for decades on Land. This has alienated this world from secular Israel. All the resources spent on Yesha would have been better spent doing Kiruv on the streets of Haifa and Tel Aviv. The Temple Mount is an extreme manifestation of misplaced priorities. I believe that in Heaven we will be held accountable for the existence of secular Israeli society, as we have alienated them, and shown more concern for land than for life, for narrow purposes than broad influence.
(I dedicate these words to Richard Lakin who was a man of peace and was needlessly murdered because of senseless hatred. May his memory be a blessing to all those who knew and loved him and may his dream of co-existence and justice be realized in our time)
Elli: The role of messianism in modern Zionism is a big question and I can’t do it justice in a short post. But I will at least begin. I think messianism in one form or another informs all of Zionism, religious and secular. It functioned under the radar in the early years of the state, perhaps the result of the needs of state-building. But the absorption of Jews from around the world (Europe, Morocco, Iraq, Yemen, etc.) was very “messianic” in tenor. 1967 certainly raised the messianic volume and people like Gershom Scholem, who remained a Zionist (albeit a complex one) was very worried about that. He viewed the emerging settler movement as potentially a form of neo-Sabbateanism and a very destructive force. Leibowitz’s language was harsher. He saw it as idolatry. And he meant it. And that was in the mid-1970s!
I think the messianic impulse, as you say, has a dialectical relationship with Zionism. Zionism succeeds on the global stage the extent to which the messianic is controlled. But it is never extinguished, nor can it be. Here Zionism becomes something like what Scholem thought about Hasidism in its relationship to Sabbeateanism; it neutralizes messianism to survive. We can see a similar “neutralizing” element of post-rebbe Habad in my view. Habad leaders knew they had to control the messianic impulse or it would cause Habad to implode. But they didn’t give up on it; they just transformed it into a Jewish social gospel (“do good deeds to bring Moshiah). In my view, in Habad today there are two groups: messianists and crypto - messianists. Perhaps this is true of most Zionists as well.
I think the Temple Mount movement is a complex phenomenon that has at least three components. First, it represents a rising to the surface of a new form of apocalyptic messianism – force the conflict to bring the rapture (the Jewish Underground 2.0 without the explosives). Second, it is also Kahanist (Kahane was not a messianist in my view) and more about nekama (revenge) and an expression of anger. Third, it is being presented in the language of liberalism, i.e. human rights, civil rights. This is a very clever move to mask the radical nature of the movement in liberal politics and it is an extension of what we have seen in Yesha for the past half-decade. “Human rights” language is a mask that enables messianism to function undetected.
The state may one day have to make a choice if it sees that it is losing control of its radical constituents. But I am not sure it has the power to do so. I think the Temple Mount people are really right-wing post-Zionists, they are not wed to the basic tenets of Zionism but have created a political theology out of a mix of Zvi Yehuda Kook and Meir Kahane. On the one hand you have the spiritual language of Kook and on the other hand the practical tactics of Kahane (Kahane by the way, had almost no interest in Kook, father or son, they hardly appear in his writings). I do not think at this point the state can control that or that it necessarily wants to “domesticate” this messianic-nekama ideology. It may simply want to co-opt it to achieve its goals, which are not that different in the end, in order to make sure it doesn’t explode in the news. But even there, look how the Zionist media is still entertaining the idea that the Duma murders were perpetrated by Arabs and not Jews. It doesn’t matter what the IDF or police say. The settler movement may now too politically powerful in the Knesset. In a sense, they are running the country. Netanyahu represents an old-school revisionist mentality (remember, Kahane was a member of Jabotisnky’s Betar as a young man) so he is part of the equation, without the overt messianic ideology (Jabotinsky was one of the least messianic figures in his time).
I would say this in closing. The settlers have won. Occupation is all-but over, we are arguably now in a state of de-facto annexation. I have been advocating that we on the left should stop using the term “occupation” because that implies the possibility of ending it (I fervently hope otherwise but one must also sometimes take reality seriously). The Israeli people have democratically chosen otherwise. Maybe the Palestinians have too. So why over-extend yourself to the Temple Mount? Leave it be. You basically got what you want. Why add insult to injury? It is precisely here where messianism can be the most destructive. As I said to you in a Facebook message, in some way the Palestinians may see the Temple Mount as their Alamo. We have survived as a people and a religion for centuries without praying on the Temple Mount. In the language of the messianists, let this last piece be the work of the messiah. Leave her at least something to do. If the prophets are right, whoever she will be she will be more honest and compassionate than those trying to change the status quo so they can daven mincha on the ruins of the Temple.
a. I repeat once again, the fact that the return of the people of Israel to the Temple Mount is part of the redemption process has nothing to do with the activity that I am involved in. I am not sure most of the Zionist seculars referred to their activity as one of Geula even though it was.
b. I don't think that the fact that we have our dreams is a reason to take away our human rights! The Arabs want to take away the entire land of Israel and turn it into a big Palestinian state, so does that mean they are not entitled to human rights?
c. In my eyes, building the Mikdash cannot be done by any private group but rather by all am yisrael, just as the establishment of the State of Israel. The only way to reach that is by encouraging more and more Jews to ascend the Temple Mount. The state of Israel was announced despite the Rabbis (unfortunately) so too will the Mikdash be built (unfortunately). Already in the time of Moshe there was a situation in which 10 of 12 tribe leaders opposed entering Eretz Yisrael.
I read Rabbi Bechhofer's answers and I am thrilled to know that he has a direct connection to what is happening in heaven to the point that he knows "we will be held accountable for the existence of secular Israeli society, as we have alienated them, and shown more concern for land than for life, for narrow purposes than broad influence." I just wonder why is it that all those who have these connections in heaven always know that it is all because others' sins and never because of their own! Maybe we will be accountable for the Lashon Hara of the charedi press, maybe for the fact that so many religious Jews insist on staying in Golus and not making Aliya!! It is the Torah that spends so many more psukim about Eretz Yisrael and Mikdash and very few if at all about kiruv! The biggest sin of Am Yisrael in the Torah was that of the spies even worse than that of the golden calf!
I read Professor Magid's words and I find them very insulting. He is actually saying, I don't trust you. That when you speak of human rights, you really mean it is just a tricky, foxy tactic. I could actually say the same you don't really care about a two state solution you just hate the settlers or actually you want the two state solution because you want to destroy Israel, and you have a smart mask so you ask for a two state solution knowing it will be the end of the State of Israel. I do not refer to that as a legitimate, respectful way to run a debate. I trust you that you genuinely mean what you say and I expect my opponents to act similarly and not to use haughtiness and arrogant statements.
There is nothing farther from me than messianism. I believe that Judaism is anti-messianism! Judaism demands us to do, to act, and not to wait for miracles. Hashem will do what He decides when He decides. This was the secret of the Zionist movement - stop the sin of awaiting some kind of Messiah and take our destiny in our hands and not sit and wait and blame the Messiah for not coming and flying us there on eagles' wings.
Rabbi Glick repeats his assertion that "rabbis" opposed the State and were contradicted by history, and that the same holds true for ascent to the Temple Mount. To the best of my knowledge, by the time the war was over, the overwhelming majority of rabbis were for the founding of the State - including the Mo'etzet Gedolei HaTorah of Agudath Israel. Yet Rabbi Glick audaciously compares the many great and righteous rabbis who oppose the ascent to the Temple Mount to the ten wicked spies! This leaves very little common ground for us to share!
That we are accountable for secular Israeli society is not some novel revelation. "Kol Yisrael areivim zeh la'zeh," the core principle of Jewish mutual responsibility, tells us that this is the case. Moreover, the Torah says that one who does not rebuke the sinner perforce detests him (although "rebuke" is a poor translation of what should be a warm and empathetic process, it is the colloquial translation). The Sinat Chinam -- baseless hatred -- for which the rabbis (perhaps Chazal were also Meraglim?) tell us the Temple was destroyed, and the elimination of which is the essential precondition - as opposed to the ascent to the Temple Mount that is never encouraged in and of itself by our sages -- for the rebuilding of the Temple.
I am sorry to see Rabbi Glick furthering the divisiveness that impedes the rebuilding of the Temple by innuendo against "Charedim," and against religious Jews who reside in Chutz La'Aretz. Evidently large segments of the Jewish people can be dismissed as "spies."
I note that Rabbi Glick did not respond to the Lifnei Iver question, and only obliquely (by branding them "Meraglim") to the Avodat Hashem issue.
As our week comes to a close, so does this conversation. Thank you all for taking the time to participate and articulate your thoughts and responses.
Of course, this does not mean that the larger conversation has ended. If anything, this discussion has already sparked a great deal of conversation around the Jewish world.
Shabbat shalom - in the truest sense, a Shabbat of peace and rest - to all of our participants and readers.
Thank you Elli for the invitation and thank you Yosef and Yehudah for the conversation. May it bring clarity and may we find just peace.
Shabbat Shalom to all!
Thanks! We'll send you an update as soon as a new conversation starts.