Saturday, March 28, 2009

Temple Mount, Tendler, Cont'd

You saw (here) the video clip of Rav Moshe Tendler on the Temple Mount.

The story is not over:

Clip of U.S. rabbi on Temple Mount reignites debate

A YouTube video released one week ago depicting a prominent American rabbi visiting the Temple Mount in Jerusalem has sparked a new round of controversy about whether it is permitted for Jews to enter Judaism's holiest site, which is believed to have been the location of the Holy Temple.

...Within a week of the video's appearance it has been watched more than 7,000 times, prompting both approving comments and harsh criticism...At the American-Haredi news Web site Voz Iz Neias, which reported the posting of the clip, more than 110 readers commented on the film - some calling Tendler a "complete heretic" who is liable, according to Halacha, to karet, or premature death.

...The popular yeshiva head and Jewish medical ethics professor maintains that Jews have been visiting the site throughout history and that, if properly prepared, they can do so in accordance with Jewish law.

...Tendler also says his father-in-law knew about the practice and never opposed it. Yet, leading rabbinic authorities - including both Israeli chief rabbis - prohibit going up the Temple Mount as they rule that the exact location of the holiest parts of the former Temple is unknown and that it is forbidden to defile their holiness...Observant men who visit the Temple Mount immerse themselves in a ritual bath and abstain from sexual relations until they return from the site. They also avoid wearing leather shoes. Orthodox women follow yet more complex rules.

For much of Israel's religious establishment, however, these precautions are not sufficient.

"I firmly oppose those who ascend the Temple Mount, and so do all important rabbis and halachic authorities in Israel," Rabbi Schmuel Rabinowitz, who is in charge of the Western Wall, told Anglo File. "Not only are they possibly transgressing a Torah prohibition, those who see these actions learn from them and imitate them, without being careful about the necessary preparatory steps and will certainly transgress this prohibition."

Rabinowitz reject's Tendler's interpretation of Rabbi Feinstein's silence on the issue. "Had Rabbi Feinstein written that it is permitted, we would all go up. But he never did, and it is certainly forbidden. Rabbi Tendler is not in a position to decide otherwise."

Well, so what did Rabbi Moshe Feinstein write?


HaRav Moshe Feinstein zt'l on the Permissibilty of Jews Ascending the Temple Mount

The following excerpt is a halachic response written by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt'l, considered by world Jewry as a gadol hador - that is, among the outstanding halachic (Jewish legal) authorities of his generation. The direct question he is relating to is not whether it is permissible halachically for Jews to enter the Temple Mount. However, in the course of his response he finds it necessary to address the issue of Jews ascending to the Temple Mount. It becomes clear by Rabbi Feinstein's words that he held that areas on the Temple Mount situated outside of the Temple courtyard boundaries are absolutely permissible for entry by Jews, after having first immersed in a mikve.

The excerpt below has been translated by Rabbi Chaim Richman. Bracketed words were added by Rabbi Richman for the purpose of helping to convey Rabbi Feinsteins's thoughts, which, in the Hebrew original, are expressed in the terse legalistic style typical of halachic literature. Bolded words represent aspects of Rabbi Feinstein's responsa most relevant to the subject of Jews entering the Temple Mount.

The original, untouched Hebrew text appears directly below the English translation.


"Concerning that which you answered"

Now concerning that which you answered regarding the question raised in the book Omer HaShik'ha, regarding the fact that in both the Tur and Shulchan Aruch there is no mention of a law stating that in our time, it is forbidden to spit on the Temple Mount:

[You offered as a possible answer] that in any event, such a case is only hypothetical because such a possibility could never occur since it is forbidden for tamei meitim (those rendered impure by exposure to death) to enter into the area of the Temple Mount, and [after all] we are all in that category today [and this would be the reason that the aforementioned codes of law did not mention this principle - namely, because it has no practical bearing] -

But observe, there is a place on the Temple Mount where entry for tamei meitim is permissible, even according to [the stricter] rabbinical ordinance - that is, up to the cheil, which lay within the soreg. Now, as far as that which the Rambam cites (Hilchot Beit HaBechira, Ch. 5,3) that the soreg encompassed all around, it is possible that the cheil was also encompassed all around. The Tosafot Yom Tov (Midot 2,3) explains it this way in the name of Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov - according to this, it is permissible for tamei meitim to enter into the Mount until the soreg (which was a number of cubits wide - I have not been able to determine how many) from all sides, even from the west. And according to the opinion of the Rosh (ibid) who maintains that the soreg was only on the eastern side from north to south, perhaps the cheil was also only to be found there, and if that were the case, perhaps on the other sides the ten cubits of the cheil were past the Women's Court - and thus, it would even be permitted (for the tamei met) to enter from the west.

Now regarding other forms of impurity [that may effect an individual], after all, it is possible to immerse [in a mikveh, and thus be purified of these other types of impurity, therefore the issue of other forms of impurity other than that of death is not an issue that could prevent one from entering into those areas of the Temple Mount which are permissible for tamei met to enter]. If one is concerned [about the more severe state of impurity - not common in our times - ] about zivah, then that individual can count seven clean days, and immerses in a spring (or other natural source of fresh water) and afterwards wait until the following day [and that process would be sufficient even to allow a zav, a person with an unnatural flow, to enter into the Temple Mount as described above]. And even though such an individual is still in the category of mechusar kapara, [a halachic category referring to one who has now been rendered pure but is still missing an element of atonement because he did not bring a required offering - that is not problematic, for] the Rambam cites in Hilchot Beit HaBechira 3,5 such an individual may still enter, even into the Women's Court - [which possesses a higher level of sanctity] - and may certainly enter into the other areas of the Temple Mount.

Thus we find that the law which forbids spitting on the Temple Mount in the areas in which entry is permitted to tamei meitim, is indeed applicable...and thus, the question raised by the Omer HaShicha is a valid one.

[Rav Moshe now offers a possible explanation, in order to suggest an alternative answer to the question of the Omer HaShicha, as to perhaps why the issue is not addressed by the Tur and Shulchan Orech]. Now perhaps it is somewhat unclear as to which wall (this is) - was there a clear tradition that it is the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, or was it perhaps the wall of the Azara behind the location of the Holy of Holies - and if that were so, indeed entry for tamei metim into that area would be forbidden, as you have postulated. Alternatively, it is also possible that this is the wall of one of the cells, an area that would be forbidden even according to the opinion of the Rosh.

I seem to recall that in the book She'alat Dovid by the Gaon, Rabbi Dovid of Karlin, the author expresses doubt as to which wall this is. Perhaps this is the reason why it is related that the Gaon of Brisk Z'tl did not visit the Kotel Ha Maarivi out of concern for impurity.

But I find this strange: in that place of our prayer, there is certainly a well established tradition that it is permitted to go there, dating from the time of our early sages - and how is it possible to differ with them?

With esteem,
Moshe Feinstein

See you on the Mount.

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