The Temple Mount on Tisha B’Av
For those who fasted, I hope your fast went well.
I went up on the Temple Mount with my neighbors.
There, I committed a crime-I said the Shema. The Israeli police, tireless guardians of the law that they are, missed it, and so my undermining of the public order went unpunished, thank God.
Very strong mixed feelings.
The bottom line of my thoughts is this:
The human mind operates in terms of symbols. So does history. Our species’ incredible success at grasping underlying realities suggests that, on some level, the universe does as well.
Unless the key premises of the Torah are true, we have no right to live here, in Israel. Neither is our national existence particularly meaningful. Okay, we’re a people with a long history and have produced lots of individuals with accomplishments to their name. So what? Same can be said for the Greeks, the Parsis, you name it.
Those key premises are that God exists, relates to humanity, has chosen the nation of Israel as a vehicle for this relationship, given us the Torah and this land in which to implement it in order to fulfill His relationship with humanity, and that the lynchpin of this relationship is the third Temple, to be rebuilt on the Temple Mount.
In other words, the Temple is the key symbol in the whole system.
Until we take the Temple Mount and rebuild the Temple (and win the ensuing war, if one ensues,) we have won nothing permanent. We’ve had many tactical victories, and won breathing space, but that is it. In the eyes of the world, we are no different than the Crusaders. Our stay here has no particular moral backing-”it’s nice that you guys have a 3,000 year old book, join the club.” Our enemies are made uneasy by our presence-if we’re here, then their claim of supercession is falsified-but only if we are here in a permanent, irrevocable way. Building a bunch of bungalows in Herzliya is nice, but not very symbolically meaningful.
Similarly, the Maccabees’ victory was not complete until they had removed the Greek garrison from the Temple Mount and purified it.
When I went up to the Temple Mount, I saw a platoon of Israeli police, dedicated to preventing Jews from even praying there. Most of these policemen, wearing a flag with the Star of David on their uniform, were Arabs or Druze. But some of them, including their commander, who read us a little speech before we went up, and one who was sitting there eating a sandwich as we entered the Mount, were Jewish. Joining the Israeli police is in itself a morally questionable decision, but the thinking of a Jew volunteering to arrest other Jews for such crimes as praying on the Mount or kneeling there is something I can’t imagine. How do you tell your kids what you do for a living?
Unfortunately, as we see from the Book of Maccabees and many other instances in our history, we’ve never had any shortage of Jews willing to make common cause with our enemies for a modest paycheck. So I was not particularly disturbed by the Israeli police. But what bothers me is that the Jewish people as a whole seem to find no use for the Temple Mount. Today a record number ascended: 1200. That’s out of six million Israeli Jews, on a day when we have nothing to do but mourn the loss of the Temple, when no religious prohibitions keep us from going to Jerusalem and ascending.
I understand the thinking of those who are opposed to going up for religious reasons. For instance, the Hasidic gentleman who yelled at us, while we were standing in line, that it was completely forbidden for us to go up, and that we were liable for karet (a Litvish yeshiva boy who was waiting to go up instantly lit into him.) But most of the Jews do not seem to care one way or the other. We are apathetic. It’s a national spiritual paralysis. I’m no different-if my neighbors had not invited me to come, I would not have gone up. It was a hot day and a hard fast.
I do not know how we can wake up from this slumber. I am sure that we will have no peace until we do. I’m also worried that G-d will punish us with increasing calamities in order to wake us up.