Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Rabbi Hirschensohn and the Temple Mount

Transplanted to New Jersey from Jerusalem, Rabbi Chaim Hirschensohn, an amazing figure who held that "There is nothing in biblical law and Halakha which contradicts in any way progress or common sense. The objective of my research is to show that Halakha does not pose any obstacle to the development of private life or the life of an entire nation", also dealt with the subject of the Temple Mount which he viewed as 

"a national and religious center"

Here is from David Ellenson's "Rabbi Haim Hirschensohn: An Orthodox Rabbi Responds to the Balfour Declaration":-

In his first two responsa in Malki Bakodesh, Hirschenson addressed the questions of kingship and temple sacrifices. He acknowledged that some might think that restored Jewish national sovereignty in Eretz Yisrael might demand the restoration of the kingship and the temple cult. However, Hirschensohn argued against these positions, asserting that nothing “in biblical law and in the Halakhah is opposed in any way to the progress of civilization or logic [s’vara].” This meant that the teachings Maimonides expressed in the Guide for the Perplexed, where he maintained that sacrifices were an outmoded form of worship, had to be followed. As he wrote, “To reinstitute these practices would make us the object of ridicule before all the nations of the world. Instead of being a light to the nations, they would think of us as an unenlightened people who walk in darkness.”44

At the same time, Hirschensohn was not completely sanguine about adopting this position. After all, “If, upon our being in the Land, we agree not to build the Temple nor to offer sacrifices, will we not transgress the positive commandment of building the Chosen House?”45 As an Orthodox rabbi, Hirschensohn could not abide violating the positive duty to rebuild the Temple and restore sacrificial worship without halakhic justification. From the Orthodox standpoint, obedience to the changing standards of civilization was insufficient without authority from the Halakhah.

Hirschensohn found this authority by constructing a rather straightforward halakhic argument. He noted that Jewish law demanded that there was no obligation to rebuild the Temple without the appointment of a king...Hirschenson wrote, “The commandment to appoint a King to rule over us,” even if the Jewish people desired to do so, is impossible of fulfillment at present...Hirschenson stated, “And now, [in an era like ours] when we do not have a prophet, it is forbidden to appoint a king to rule over us, and since we do not have a king, we are not able to build the Temple to offer sacrifices, for the selection of a king must precede the building of the Temple.”48
44. Malki Badoesh, 11.45. Ibid.48. Ibid., 56

But this does not do justice to his position.

He wrote to Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook but could not obtain agreement for his outlook and that opposing viewpoint

Rav Kook, OrotThe Third Temple, the place of Israel’s light, will not be built through victory, not by a call to defeat another, a call to overcome an adversary, but rather through its deserved majesty, in the spirit of beauty and holiness, with many nations searching for God at Mount Zion [referring to the Temple Mount, not the peak that is currently called Mount Zion], through their own internal recognition that this is the proper way to express the majesty, the majesty of the just and wise King. All the world will want to worship under His flag out of love and the exaltation of the soul. 

 is held until this day in the Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva:

The responsum of Hirschensohn:


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