Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Spittle of Bibi, Rabbi Bibi, That Is

Up at the JPost.


But as the links aren't there embedded, here it is:

Despite the destruction of the Temple in the Great Revolt against Rome and the loss of political sovereignty as a result of the Bar Kochba Revolt, our sages insisted that Jerusalem and foremost, the Temple Mount, be treated with respect and awe as behooves a sacred location as well as, of course, the Land of Israel.

The Mishnah in the minor tractate Kelim, 1:6-9 gradates holiness in ten degrees. The Land of Israel is holier than any other land; then Jerusalem; The Temple Mount more; the Court of Israelites is still more holy and finally, the Holy of Holies. And that sanctity continued in various forms of observance or actionseven for those who considered the loss of effective political and religious control to signify a lessening of strictures that continue to this day as in the decision of Israel's Chief Rabbinate to prohibit entrance into the sacred precinct. The Conservative Movement's reasoned position in an official responsum, by the way, is pro-entrance. Many modern Orthodox do enter.

The Rambam, in his compendium of Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah, Laws of The Temple, 6:16 explains his logic :

"Why do I say that the original consecration sanctified the Temple and Jerusalem for eternity, while in regard to the consecration of the remainder of Eretz Yisrael, in the context of the Sabbatical year, tithes, and other similar [agricultural] laws, [the original consecration] did not sanctify it for eternity? Because the sanctity of the Temple and Jerusalem stems from the Shechinah, and the Shechinah can never be nullified. Therefore, [Leviticus 26:31] states: "I will lay waste to your Sanctuaries." The Sages declared: "Even though they have been devastated, their sanctity remains."

Nevertheless, he does permit entrance in certain circumstances:

7:15 - The Temple Mount is holier than [the city of Jerusalem]...[However,] a corpse may be brought into the Temple Mount and one has contracted ritual impurity from a corpse may definitely enter there.

7:21 - When builders [are required] to enter the Temple building to construct or repair it, or to remove an impure object, it is a mitzvah for the [craftsmen] who enter to be priests who do not possess any disqualifying physical deformities. If no [capable craftsmen meeting those criteria] can be found, priests with disqualifying deformities should enter. If none are found, Levites should enter. If none are found, Israelites should enter. It is a mitzvah for [those who enter] to be ritually pure. If no [capable craftsman] who are ritually pure can be found, impure [craftsmen] may enter.

The Talmud outlines in detail proper behavior customs when one is within the sacred portions of the Temple Mount and they are one should not enter with his staff in hand, shoes on his feet, his feet dusty and dirty, his wallet in his pocket as well as using the area for a short-cut nor can he spit there. The Rambam adds more details.

The question for today is - as we approach the Pilgrimage Festival of Succot when it was incumbent on all male Jews to be seen inside the Temple courtyards and women, too, especially at the time of Hakheil - are we exhibiting normative Jewish behavior? And not only in a personal sphere, as individuals, but collectively, as a nation.

* * *

Will the current round of peace talks touch on Jerusalem issues? Is Israel's government solid on a non-yielding stance? Do the ministers fully realize that any reference to a "Holy Basin" is an euphemism for ripping from Jewish control our most sacred religious, cultural and historical treasures, those sites that literally give life to Zionism and the idea of a Jewish state?

At the root of Israel's negotiating position must be proper understanding of what Jerusalem with the Temple Mount at its national and spiritual center, represents. Ever since 1967, our enemies, Arabs and their supporters, saw a lack of willingness to extend the rule of law to the Temple Mount. Jews can visit - but only as 'tourists'.

Any overt display of Jewishness such as reading from a prayerbook, Psalms or from the book of Kinnot on Tisha B'Av, for example, is prohibited. Waqf guards will get overly excited and call for the police to arrest or remove the offenders. Prayer is absolutely forbidden with lips moving being particularly suspect.

Ever since the International Commission appointed by the British Mandatory regime declared the Western Wall alleyway as part of the Haram in 1930, with no counter-protest except for the heroes who blew the shofar when it was 'illegal' between then and 1947, all assume, it appears, that Israel has no rights and worse, claims no primary rights that would override Muslim claims despite the fact that Islam regards the courtyard as its but third most import holy site.

In constructing two underground mosques since the Oslo Accords were adopted, the Muslims not only attempted to destroy archaeological artifacts from the First Temple period and later periods but almost succeeded on having sections of the Southern Wall crumble. And, as we all recently observed, when Muslims pray on the Temple Mount, their posteriors turn to the sacred stone. Which brings us back to the parameters of respect with which I began this blog post.

* * *
"R. Bibi said in the name of R. Simeon b. Lakish: If one spits in these times [i.e., even when the Temple structures are no long extant] on the Temple mount, it is as if he spat into the pupil of His eye".

Our current Prime Minister, nicknamed Bibi, is not a Rabbi (however, a grandson of one, Rabbi Natan Milikowsly) but nevertheless is well-steeped in Jewish sources with considerable consciousness of Jewish values and rights. It would behoove him not to cast spittle, in a metaphoric sense, in the direction of the Land of Israel, Jerusalem and above all, the Temple Mount. A freeze extension, a yielding of territory and a lessening of our Jewish historical connection to our homeland which even the nations of the world recognized in decisions of international law validity that acknowledged and guaranteed or rights of residency therein is not only wrong but quite counter-productive.

Not only is it unbecoming and uncouth but it is damaging. We do not go to elections to enable prime ministers to betray the trust we as individuals and as a people confer to them. That trust is sacred, as sacred as the Temple Mount and Jerusalem in our national heritage, whether we are religiously observant or secular nationalists. It is the same and must be preserved and protected.

No spit should be spat as that would be simply soiling ourselves. That is not the Jewish way.


And since the news is that

Senior Palestinian Authority negotiator Nabil Shaath has announced that the PA will never accept Israel as a Jewish state...Shaath said that recognizing Israel as Jewish state would undermine the PA's demand for the “right of
return,” which would grant Israeli citizenship to the millions of descendants of
Arab who fled Israel during its War of Independence...

Perhaps Prime Minister Netanyahu could decide to announce a new moratorium.

Not one that would extend a freeze on construction in Yesha communities but rather one which would be a moratorium on these theatrically staged and useless "peace" negotiations.
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