On Tisha B'Av, Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau speaks to Haaretz about the Temple Mount
Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi, do you still believe a Third Temple will be built?
Certainly. We believe in that. We pray for that three times a day. It says in a Mishnah in the fifth chapter of "Pirkei Avot": "May the temple be rebuilt soon and in our days." That's one thing. The second thing is that all the Prophets spoke about the fact that [the Temple] had been destroyed by fire and would be rebuilt in fire in the future. Of all the prophecies of calamity that took place and everything [the Prophets] said, none of their words fell to the ground. That's also the way to understand their prophesies about consolation.
Why has it not happened to this day, 1,940 years since the destruction of the Second Temple?
That takes us back to the Talmudic tract Yoma 9 that tells us that the First Temple was destroyed because of idol worship, sexual immorality and bloodshed. These are the three most serious sins about which it is said that no matter what happens, these sins must not be committed. Then after 70 years we were forgiven and we had the privilege of getting the Second Temple just as Jeremiah had prophesied. But from the Second Temple that was destroyed - according to the same Yoma tract, because of unwarranted hatred - to this day the Third Temple has not risen, which teaches us that this sin has not yet been forgiven. We have not yet weaned ourselves off this sin. Apparently this sin is still haunting us to this day.
...Do you feel that the secular public's interest in Tisha B'Av has grown in recent years?
There has been greater interest in recent years. The issue of hatred that we discuss so much has grown so much. From a low point like this we can only improve. Everyone feels that there is too much hatred - the cup of hatred has run over and so there is a feeling that we must do something to fix the situation...
...There is a trend, mainly among religious Zionist rabbis, to go the Temple Mount on Tisha B'Av. What do you think of that?
There are explicit instructions in halakha [Jewish religious law] that have not changed. They say it is forbidden to tread on most of the area [of the mount], and we have been made impure by the dead and the dust of a red heifer is not available to purify us. And it is impossible to have an inspector to tell everyone who goes there where they can tread and where not. Rabbi [Shlomo] Goren, who knew the boundaries, used to recite the afternoon prayer on Tisha B'Av on the Temple Mount. The vast majority of us do not know the boundaries, so it is forbidden to go there...