Courtesy of Machon Hamikdash
You are presently standing at the entrance to the Temple
Mount, the site of the Holy Temple. According to Jewish tradition, this is the holiest
place on earth.
Through these gates,
festival pilgrims used to enter the Temple to appear before G-d, and it is here that the
Jewish People will come in the future, together with all those who desire to approach the
Divine Presence. These are the gates of G-d's everlasting Temple.
According to tradition,
Adam, the first man, was created from the earth at this very site. It was here that our
forefather Abraham brought his son Isaac to the altar (see Genesis 22, II Chronicles 3:1).
The holiness of this site was revealed to King David, who brought an offering here to G-d;
G-d responded with fire from heaven. King David then bought the site from the Jebusites,
as it is written (II Samuel 24:24):
for fifty pieces of silver."
Ever since then, the
Temple Mount has been the eternal possession of the Jewish People (see II Samuel 24; I
Here, in the year 832
BCE, King Solomon built the Holy Temple as a center for worshipping G-d, for jurisprudence
and for prayer. Solomon declared as follows (I Kings 8:38,41-43):
prayer or supplication be made by any individual or of all Your people Israel, each of
whom knows the infirmity of his own heart, and shall spread forth his hands toward this
house.... Moreover concerning the stranger that is not of Your people Israel, who has come
from a far country for Your Name's sake.... When he shall come and pray toward this house;
hear You in heaven Your dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calls to
This house is the place
that G-d chose for His Divine Presence to rest and become manifest, as it says, "For
G-d has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation" (Psalms 132:13).
The First Temple stood
for four hundred and ten years, until it was destroyed by the Babylonians. Even during the
seventy years of the Babylonian exile, the Jewish People retained their faith and devotion
to the Holy Temple. Sitting by the rivers of Babylon they swore, "If I forget you,
O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning" (Psalms 137:5). And so indeed,
with the end of the Divinely decreed seventy-year exile, the Jewish People returned to the
land of Israel and Jerusalem and built the Temple a second time.
About two hundred years
after the construction of the Second Temple, the Holy Land was overtaken by the Greeks.
They took control of the Temple and of the priests serving there. They profaned the Holy
of Holies the innermost chamber of the Temple and placed an idol in the courtyard of G-d's
house. The conquerors' attempt to prevent the observance of Torah law and stop the Temple
service greatly agitated the people of Israel. Led by the High Priest Mattathais and his
son Judah Maccabee, the Hasmonean family spearheaded a rebellion against the Hellenistic
The victory of the
Hasmoneans over the Greeks, after which the Temple was purified and the candelabrum
miraculously lit for eight days, was commemorated as the holiday of Chanukah. To
this day, Jews celebrate Chanukah by lighting candles in their homes for eight
Another two hundred
years later, the land was once again conquered, this time by the Romans, whose oppressive
regime likewise provoked a national rebellion. When this rebellion failed, the Romans
destroyed the Second Temple, bringing to an end a period of nine hundred years during
which the Temple Mount was the living heart of the service of the G-d. With the Temple's
destruction, over nineteen hundred years ago, the Jewish people were once more exiled from
the land of Israel and dispersed amongst all the nations.
Since then, the Holy
Land has changed hands many times, yet throughout the generations, a small number of Jews
always succeeded in keeping a foothold here. The day upon which both the First and Second
Temples were destroyed, the Ninth Day of the Jewish month of Av, was marked as a
special day of mourning. Even today, Jews the world over observe this day by fasting for a
full twenty-four hours, sitting on the earth, weeping, and reciting the Book of
Lamentations, Jeremiah's dirge over the Temple's destruction, which contains the following
words (Lamentations 5:1-2,16-18):
Remember, O L-rd,
what has come upon us;
Behold, and see our reproach.
Our inheritance has turned unto strangers,
Our houses unto aliens....
The crown of our head has fallen;
Woe unto us for we have sinned.
For this our heart has become faint,
For these things our eyes have become dim:
For the mountain of Zion, which is desolate,
Foxes walk upon it.
This profound dirge
concludes with a prayer of hope:
Return us to You, O
L-rd, and we shall return.
Renew our days as of old.
The prophets of Israel,
who envisioned the future redemption of Israel with the coming of the Messiah, declared
that the Holy Temple would once more be rebuilt. These Divine prophesies instilled in the
nation the yearning, faith and trust that Israel is destined to return to its former
glory. Faith in redemption, for Israel and for the entire world, is indeed one of the most
important marks of Jewish culture, passing like a burning torch from generation to
generation. Even now, in the period following the destruction of the Temple, a Jew,
regardless of where he stands on earth in prayer, turns towards the land of Israel and the
Temple site, beseeching G-d to speedily redeem us and reconstruct the Holy Temple.
The day is not far off
when G-d will accept our prayers and tears. In recent generations we have merited to
witness the Divine providence of the beginning of the return of our people to our homeland
and to Jerusalem, the Holy City. So too will we soon merit witnessing the coming of the
Messiah and the reconstruction of the Holy Temple, through which the Divine Presence will
reside in our midst forever.
The Messiah will bring
the word of G-d to all the nations of earth. The Divine light and truth inherent in his
teachings will at once enlighten all of mankind and bring about universal peace and
blessing. Then, all nations will ascend to the Holy Temple to serve the G-d of Israel, and
behold of His Divine splendor. As foretold by the prophet Isaiah (2:2-4):
And it shall come to
pass in the end of days,
that the mountain of G-d's house
shall be established as the top of the mountains,
and shall be exalted above the hills,
and all nations shall flow to it.
And many peoples shall go and say,
"Come and let us go up to the mountain of the L-rd,
to the house of the G-d of Jacob;
and He will teach us of His ways,
and we will walk in His paths."
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the L-rd from Jerusalem.
And He shall judge between the nations,
and instruct many peoples.
And they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.
From these words it is
apparent that the seed of universal peace finds its fertile soil in the aspiration of all
the nations of earth to worship the G-d of Israel in His Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
According to the law of
the Torah, which addresses both Jews and non-Jews, the Temple's holiness, which stems from
G-d's eternal presence at this site, is not nullified, even when the Temple lies in ruin
and foreign powers control the Temple Mount. This holiness thus obligates us to relate to
the Temple Mount with supreme reverence, even today.
Jews possess special
laws that permit them to enter the Temple Mount gates only after undergoing a specific
process of purification.
In order to enter
further inside, to the area called the "rampart," further purification, which is
unavailable to us today, is required.
Non-Jews, as well, are
allowed to enter the Temple Mount up to the rampart, and for them no purification process
As one penetrates
further inside, greater and greater strictures apply. To the Holy of Holies, the innermost
chamber of the Temple, none but the High Priest, the holiest person of all mankind, is
allowed entrance. Yet even he may enter there only if the Temple is standing, and only on Yom
Kippur (the Day of Atonement), the holiest day of the year. At that site stood the Ark
of the Covenant, in which were contained the tablets that Moses received from G-d at Mount
- One's visit to the Temple Mount should be
characterized by solemnity and reverence.
- Today, the Temple Mount is chiefly a place of
prayer. Lift your voice in prayer to the L-rd, G-d of Israel.
- Do not enter the Temple Mount in immodest
- Do not wear leather shoes (cloth and synthetic
leather, or just socks, are permissible).
- One must be careful not to enter the area of
the "rampart" and, of course, the holier areas within it.
- These laws apply to all of mankind, men or
women, children or adults
- Jews, male or female, must be careful not to
enter even the above-mentioned areas of the Temple Mount unless they first undergo a
special purification process according to Jewish law.
As stated above, we
earnestly look forward to the coming of the Messiah and the return of the Divine Presence
in all its majesty to this wondrous place, with the rebuilding of the Temple.
It goes without saying
that this site is not to be related to merely as a historic site where we encounter
vestiges of the past, but as a place where the present draws on the past, and which
constitutes the preparation for an even greater future. The holiness of the site lives in
this place and in our hearts like whispering embers conceal their flame.