20:38 Feb 08, '05 / 29 Shevat 5765
Just one day before the summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, a different sort of meeting of the minds convened in Jerusalem – the reestablished Sanhedrin convened to hold their monthly meeting.
The major issue that was set before the group’s consideration in this session was a discussion of the precise location of the Holy Temple.
The recently reestablished Sanhedrin of 71 rabbis and scholars convened Monday in Jerusalem to solidify logistical aspects of the Jewish legal body and hear expert testimony on the various opinions as to the exact part of the Temple Mount upon which the Holy Temple stood.
The fact that there has never been an archaeological expedition or dig on the Temple Mount, coupled with continuous Muslim efforts to destroy historical evidence of the Holy Temple at the site have made determining the exact location difficult.
The accurate location of where the Temple stood is a matter of controversy among scholars and has serious Jewish legal ramifications for those wishing to visit the Temple Mount as well as for the renewal of the Passover sacrifice – and ultimately, for the building of the third and final Holy Temple. While numerous opinions have been expressed throughout the years, these can be distilled into three main opinions which convey that the Temple:
- Stood on the spot currently occupied by the gold-topped Dome of the Rock
- Stood due north of that spot
- Stood due south of that spot
Currently, Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount undergo strict preparations in accordance with halacha (Jewish law) such as immersion in a mikveh (ritual bath) prior to ascending the Mount. Once on the Mount they adhere to a specific route, based upon the accepted positions of rabbinical authorities. (A map of the permitted area which reflects the most central and widely-accepted route can be viewed by clicking here).
During Temple times, the 71 members of the Sanhedrin, the center of Jewish jurisprudence, were seated in a semi-circle within a special chamber in the courtyard of the Temple.
“It is appropriate that the Sanhedrin convened to discuss this lofty matter this week,” Sanhedrin spokesman Rabbi Chaim Richman told Arutz-7’s Ezra HaLevi, “as the Torah portion is Terumah – the portion of the Bible which begins to deal with the preparations for the Tabernacle. Though seemingly esoteric, the preparations for building a Tabernacle and the Temple are at the center of who we are as a people.”
Richman also said that it was heartening to see that despite talk of withdrawal from parts of the Land of Israel and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s declaration that Israel has “given up its dreams,” the Sanhedrin is being strengthened and is moving toward strengthening the nation of Israel. “As all these things happen all around us, the Sanhedrin is researching ways to renew the deepest roots of our faith – to renew Temple service, reunite Jewish legal tradition and inspire the Jewish people to aspire to greatness. Our people have one path before us, and we will continue to march toward our destiny.”
Following testimony from rabbis, professors and archaeologists who are experts in the matter of the Temple Mount a final presentation to the Sanhedrin before an eventual decision will be given by a subcommittee now in formation which will thoroughly examine the various opinions.
Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, one of the paratroopers who took part in the 1967 liberation of the Temple Mount and the founder of the Temple Institute said: “People today say, ‘who are we in this generation to even consider building the Temple?’ But in this week’s Torah portion we see that the commandment to build a Temple was given to Jews who had just stumbled and committed idolatry – they had just worshipped the golden calf. The fact is that what God requires in this world is for regular people to do their best. That is what we are trying to do.”