Last week I felt compelled to explain why I fight for my right, for Jewish rights, on the Temple Mount. Depleted by the disdain directed towards us, the ascending Jews, for praying in the place where our Holy Temple twice stood – the place Hashem selected to dwell amongst us – warranted, in my humble opinion, a clear response.
This resulted in a well storm of controversy, contention, and a slew of death threats after an ill-intentioned Islamist posted my personal information online. The hostility and harassment was to be expected, although the breath at which it occurred exceeded my imagination.
Perhaps most bewildering of all, was the incessant repetition of a single question from friend and foe, the religious and non-religious, learned scholars and lapse laymen alike:
But why must you pray on the Temple Mount…?
The Talmud refers to prayer as, “the service of the heart”. But to pray on the Temple Mount is more than just service; it is far more than an act of devotion.
In fact there are five commandments which we fulfill when praying on the Temple Mount.
First, as Rambam explains, to seek His presence. As the verse says, “Only on the site that G-d your Lord will choose from among all your tribes as a place established in His name. It is there you shall go to seek His presence” (Devarim 12:5).
Second, as Rambam further explains, to serve Him. As the verse says, “The Lord your G-d you shall fear Him and you shall serve him” (Devarim 6:13).
Third, as the Torah states, “You shall observe My Sabbaths and revere My Sanctuary” (Vayirka 19:30). This, as the Sages derived, implies, “Just as we are to keep the Sabbath forever, so are we to revere the Temple forever” (Yevamot 6b).
Fourth, as the Torah demands, “Lo tekhonem” (Devarim 7:2), which is interpreted to mean, “do not give them a foothold in the land” (Avoda Zara 20a). As Rabbi Shlomo Goren notes, “our halakhic authorities established that loss of sovereignty is like destruction. It turns out that when the government forbids Jews from going up freely it is redestroying [sic] our Temple (Har HaBayit).
Fifth, as Rambam writes, “we should not leave it in the hands of the nations, or desolate,” for the verse says, “conquer the land” (Bamidbar 33:53). As Rabbi Elisha Wolfson elucidates, “when we go up to the Temple Mount we merit to fulfill the positive commandment of settling the land” (There You Shall Go To Seek His Presence: A Comprehensive Halakhic Analysis Regarding Ascending the Temple Mount).
But the obligations of the Torah – which for some are antiquated, mundane or irrelevant – are not the only justification for our ascendance.
In fact, for thousands of years the Jewish people have prayed towards Mount Moriah, the lofty home of the Temple Mount. For it is here, as Abraham tells us, Hashem is seen.
And for thousands of years Jews have prayed on Mount Moriah – before, during and after the time when the Beit HaMikdash stood. The act of prayer and worship, of ascension and sacrifice, of honor and hope, here on this hill, has continued consistently, unceasingly, and completely unbroken since the dawn of creation.
It is universally accepted, as Rambam teaches, that the Temple Mount is the exact location where Adam and Eve made the first sacrifice after their fall from grace; where Cain and Abel made offerings to Hashem; where Noah built an Altar after descending from the Ark; where Abraham bound Isaac; where Rebecca prayed; and where Jacob dreamt.
It is universally accepted that the land upon which the Temple Mount stood was purchased by King David, who built the first altar before his son, King Solomon, built the First Temple.
It is universally accepted that the Temple Mount is where the Prophets Chaggai, Zechariah, and Malachi attested to its authenticity and purpose, and where the exiled Ezra returned in order to revive Jewish life.