Pros and Cons for Building the Temple.

Dr. Yitzhak (Isaac) Hayut-Ma'N, Cyber-architect

The Academy of Jerusalem and Hi-Or Inc.


Introduction: Who needs the Temple?
1. The Meaning of the Temple for Observant Jews
2. The Possible Meaning of the Temple for Reform and Conservative Judaism
3. The Possible Meaning of the Temple for Secular Jews
4. The Temple as a National Enterprise
5. The Possible Meaning of the Temple to All Peoples

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The Possible Meaning of the Temple for Reform and Conservative Judaism

Since Halakhic Jews are not clamoring for the building of the Temple, it is difficult to base the hope for the building of the Temple on the prospect that when all the Jews embrace the Halakha, they will quickly rise up for the building of the Temple. Thus, it makes sense to ask: Is it possible to evoke the desire for the Temple among those circles who do not keep the Halakha and who comprise, for example, the majority among American Jewry and who gave, and are still giving, most of the Jewish assistance for the building of the State of Israel and its educational, cultural, and welfare institutions?

It is well known that the Reform Movement has explicitly expunged from its prayer book all prayers for the rebuilding of the Temple and the resumption of sacrifices. It seems that to the above-mentioned question of the prophet, "Has the Lord a great delilght in burnt offerings and sacrifices?" this movement gave an emphatic negative answer. According to the book by (Reform) Rabbi Professor Manfred Vogel, Towards a Theology of Judaism <check> *, Judaism regards the relationship to God not necessarily through a "vertical connection" of man to God, that is, achieved through mitzvot (commandments) between God and man, but mainly and rather through the "horizontal connection" of fulfillment of the mitzvot between man and man, which is expressed in the functioning of the whole community on a high moral and spiritual level. Thus, according to the Reform opinion, there is simply no need for the Temple, and perhaps not even for the revelation of the Shekhinah (the Divine presence). In any case, the social unit, of the nation in general and the community in particular, is the right place for the Divine service and its (or His) revelation through the relationship between humans. (If we continue along the way of Buber, as Vogel does, we might say that the place for the revelation of the Shekhinah is in the Other.) The religious arguments that are acceptable to these circles and to Conservative Jews, who lie along the entire continuum between Reform and Orthodoxy, will be social-rational arguments.

Is it at all possible to deal with the Temple from this framework? In my opinion, it is entirely possible. The Temple could be regarded from an understanding of its social-spiritual role. According to extra-Talmudic sources, the Second Temple definitely served such social purposes. From the writings of Josephus Flavius and Filo of Alexandria, as well as from anthropological literature about Temples and pilgrimages, we can derive a mental picture of the tremendous social importance which the Temple of Jerusalem had in strengthening national cohesion.

My assumption is that if we succeed in translating this social-national function to contemporary social-global, spiritual terms, we shall be able to view the Temple of Jerusalem as a focal point for the spiritual and social ascent of the people of Israel and even of all humankind. Such a Temple could, in the most practical terms, draw people close to each other. It is a truism that the problems of the world, including economic and political problems, derive less from objective lack of resources and means than from the human limitations of fear, animosity, pride, vengeance, etc. Thus, the Temple we envision would address the heart of the world's problems by applying the meaning of "korbanot" (sacrifices) as inner sacrifices that people commit to in order to reach "kirvah" (nearness) to the Other. Through this nearness they would draw close to the Divine, as well. The pilgrimages to the Temple, charged with an atmosphere of festivity, elation, and awe, could, and should, inspire a person to make the sacrifice of his/her animal-soul qualities, such as fear, animosity, pride and competition, which alienate him/her from others and from the Divine. The human being thus brings him/herself up as an Olah (sacrifice, but literally "ascent") in the sense of a spiritual and social ascent. This is congruent with the seminal event of Judaism, the sacrifice of Isaac, where God commanded Abraham to bring his son up as an olah; at the climactic moment God Himself elucidated that He did not intend the actual physical slaughter of the boy. Thus, Judaism originated as a religion which demands human sacrifice, in the spiritual, rather than physical, sense of the term.

Another possible religious answer to the need for the Temple, apart from the issue of the sacrifices, is that this is the locus for the revelation of the Presence (the Shekhinah ) of the Divine, and that through the Temple will manifest the connection between God and man. This connection is certainly weak or even severed in this era.

Here we come to the next outlying circle of people who may have an interest in building the Temple: secular Israelis.


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The Possible Meaning of the Temple for Secular Jews

On the face of it, this is a contradiction in terms. Why would Jews who chose to distance themselves from the religion and adopt instead national values desire the Temple, which is the ultimate religious symbol in Judaism?

We should analyze, however: Is the Temple really less a national symbol than a religious symbol? We know that in the days of its glory -- the hundred years before its destruction -- the worship in the Second Temple was a national issue of contention. The Essenes opposed it, while the Pharisees opposed the Zadokite priesthood. Yet, despite such large-scale misgivings, this period witnessed an unparalleled identification with the Temple. The majority of theJewish people were already living in the diaspora, yet they undertook great pains to perform the pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. This was not only a religious act; it was their way of showing national identification.

Is there a way to turn the Temple once again into the focal point of national identification?

In his book Alteneuland , Theodore Herzl envisioned that when Jerusalem would be restored from its ruins, the Temple would also be rebuilt. Not instead of the structures sacred to Christianity and Islam, but alongside them. (On his way to the Temple for the Shabbat eve prayer, the hero sees the Holy Sepulcre church and the Dome of the Rock.)

In his book Cosmotheism - Israel, Zionism, Judaism and Humanity towards the 21st Century, Mordekhay Nesiyahu, one of the foremost ideologists of the Israeli Labor Movement and a lecturer in its college Beit Berl, bids his readers to select a unique project as "a national-universal enterprise," in which the People of Israel may distinguish itself. According to Nesiyahu, we should "invent" God and offer God to humankind. The conceptual revolution that Nesiyahu proposes is not to assume the existence of God, His being "prior to all that was created," but to hypothesize His existence as a result of the development of the world and the consciousness of humankind. (In Hebrew, he refers to the hamtsa'ah of God, which means both "invention" and simply "making accessible and available.")

There is no need for the traditional-religious symbols and terms to make God accessible. It is enough if we use the term "Divine" to express that which is beyond the mundane and much superior to it.

It seems to me that there are two basic levels of being through which the Divine can be perceived: the physical-biological level and the social-ethical level. Nesiyahu, in the above-mentioned book, follows both avenues. He is amazed by the cosmic processes of the formation of the world and the development of life; he also expresses yearning for a just and benevolent global social order. The development of the Divine (or what the believer would qualify as "the revelation of the Divine") is, in his opinion, both the condition for a more exalted human functioning and the fruit that comes out of it.


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The Temple as a National Enterprise

Let us determine whether the "secular-Divine plan" of Nesiyahu may be realized through the building of the Temple. In order to realize this plan, we must actualize two things: an exhibition of the intricate cosmic processes of the formation of the world and its creatures, and a demonstration of the ethical-social processes at the basis of benevolent human action.

This is precisely what temples were in the ancient world. Anthropologists and ethnologists have established that every sacred locus, in every traditional culture, was considered by its devotees to be the center from which the heavenly order issued over chaos. The foundation ritual for the sacred locus was a recapitulation of the cosmogony, the world-formation.

People of this modern age, too, try to recapitulate the process of the formation of the world. Nowadays, however, this is the function not of temples, but of science museums. Whereas in first generation science museums, exhibits were displayed, and the visitor was a passive observer observing the "priests" who do science, in second and third generation science museums, the visitor has become an active participant. The next generation of science museums are presently being planned, in which the visitor will take an active part in scientific experiments and discoveries.

Yet we still lack a "museum," or an analogous facility, for social-ethical-spiritual experimentation.

Israel is becoming integrated into the world-system and is taking an honorable place in the development of science museums. But if Israel would focus on the development of a grand social-moral project, Israel could become a leader in the promulgation of a new science, which nurtures two sets of values: awed exaltation at the cosmological process, and human partnership in the responsibility to the world and to the whole of creation. The pinnacle of this development would be a facility in and through which it would be possible to observe the comprehensive physical and spiritual processes which form worlds, to participate in them, and to experience in detail their genesis anew each day. The participant would also experience the microcosmic genesis of the human body and psyche, because all the wondrous processes which take place among the galaxies, in the depths of the seas, and in the domain of chemical and biological reactions are also occurring incessantly within our bodies, and interact with the processes of the mind, the sensations, and cognition. We generally are not aware of these processes; the new facility -- namely the new Temple -- would facilitate such an encounter.

Such a Temple would enable an experiential continuum of participation in the grand creation, from the dance of the elementary particles, their association into atoms and molecules, through the formation of living cells and their metamorpheses, until they become brain cells, the dwelling for cognition and intellection, which in turn transform into the joining together of all the thoughts of a collective of people, who then overcome their selfish desires and sacrifice them for the building of a greater whole. In the very act of giving up, of sacrifice, the participants will be able to experience the Divine in the other and the Divine within the whole, collective pattern.

It is possible, of course, to build such a facility anywhere. Jerusalem, however, because it comprises such a variety of (often warring) cultures and religions, seems like the ideal place to develop such an interpersonal and intercultural Temple-facility. Jerusalem, in turn, could be the global focus of a network of such facilities in other places around the world.


The mission of building such a Temple, whose connection to the Mitzvot would be innovative and original, would doubtfully appeal to the orthodox religious Jew. It seems thus appropriate that this challenge, just like the preceeding Zionist challenge of building the State, should be shouldered by secular pioneers.


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The Possible Meaning of the Temple to All Peoples

Rabbi Sh'ar-Yashuv Cohen, in a personal discussion with me, posited that the Temple will not rise up over the ruins of the institutions of another religion. Rather, he claimed, the Temple will be built when the Moslems ask us to build it. He recommended that we strive for the fulfillment of the prophet's vision: "Then I will convert the peoples to a purer language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent." (Zephaniah 3:9) This means that for all the peoples of the world, no less than for the People of Israel, there is a role in the building of the Temple.

As shown at the beginning, even before the fraternity of the nations became a slogan, much before McLuhan likened the globe to a village, the prophets of Israel have already regarded the inter-national role of the temple. Also the Jewish rabbis and interpreters have not overlooked this vision. Thus, for example, the RaMBaN (Nachmanides) in interpreting the conflict over the wells that the patriarch Isaac had with the Philistines and the king of Gerar. Each well, according to his exegesis, is analogous to one of the temples. The first two wells were destroyed by them just like the first two temples were destroyed. The third well - Rehovot , about which Abraham said "for now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land" - parallels the Third Temple. There there was already an evident cooperation between the Children of Abraham and the people of the land (or, more specifically is you like, with the Philistines), and the expression "and we shall be fruitful in the land" is interpreted by the RaMBaN as a hint to the passage we quoted from Zephaniah 3:9 that all the nation will serve him with one consent.

Also the RaMBaM (Maimonides) in Hilkhot Melakhim writes that that time, when the temple will be built, will be an age when "there will be no more Jealousy and hatred and competition in the world". In the whole world and not just in Israel.

And indeed, whereas the observant Jew has actual difficulties with the temple, and has found a substitute - in the Torah study of the temple rulings - it is among the fundamentalist Christians, whose number reaches scores of millions, there is a growing conviction that that the time has come to realize the Biblical prophecies once for all. There are among them Americans and Europeans, and there are others from Japan and Asia, who regard themselves as Zionists and are expecting the building of the temple soon in our times.

In Europe there is nowadays a growing interest in the secret societies which were persecuted for centuries by the Inquisition - the Knights Templar - the knights of the Order of the Temple who ruled the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and their heirs "The Free Masons" who attribute their organization and teachings to the builders of Solomon's Temple. For all these there must be an interest in the restoration of the temple - and especially in Jerusalem - soon in our lifetime.

We should recall who were the heralds of modern Zionism. It is true that the movement of Hovevei Tsion has started to operate in Russia in the 80's of the last century, but it was proceeded by Millenerian Christians, mainly British, who sought precisely this: that in the year 2000, after two millennia from the time of their Messiah, the Jews will return back to their land, because this was a precondition for a Messianic revelation. Books like "Daniel Deronda" by the English authoress George Elliot have contributed to the restoration of Israel no less than Ahavat Tsion of the Jew Abraham Mapu.

And lastly, there is a point in remembering who was the "Messiah" who gave the order to build the Second Temple: the Persian emperor Cyrus (who saw himself as given "all the kingdoms of the earth" by the Lord God of heaven who chose Jerusalem). When all the peoples, including the Moslems, understand the global benefit for building the temple in Jerusalem, they will ask Israel to build it.


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