The Temple Mount: The Holy and the Profane

The reverence with which Jews treat the Temple Mount:

Ascending the Temple Mount today entails several halachic problems. The central issue is the problem of purity and impurity. Halacha distinguishes between two kinds of area on the Temple Mount: The general area, which we will call the Temple Mount, and smaller area on the Temple Mount called the Temple, which consisted of the Temple building and its court yards. Entering the Temple Mount is permissible only for someone who has been purified of impurities caused by impure emissions such as semen or menstrual blood. Anyone who enters the Temple Mount without being cleansed from these impurities violates a Torah prohibition.

Even one who has been cleansed from the above impurities, but is impure from contact with a dead body, is not permitted to enter the Temple area. This area includes the Temple courtyard, the Holy Room, and the Holy of Holies. Anyone entering this area, called “the camp of the Shechina”, violates thereby a severe Torah prohibition, punishable by karet. A rabbinic prohibition increases the prohibited area to include the rampart, the grid and the area within.

Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (known as The Rambam (1135-1204)) and Rabi Avraham ben David (known as the Raavad (1120-1198)) disagreed as to whether or not these prohibitions are currently in effect. The Rambam and most of the poskim maintain that the holiness of the Temple area has remained intact even after the destruction of the Temple – “the initial sanctity [of the Bet HaMikdash] was sanctified for its time and for all future time”. The Raavad, a minority opinion, holds that the original holiness is not in force after the destruction of the Temple (Mishne Torah, Hilchot Beit Habchira, 6, 15).

Since Maimonides’ and the majority opinion is the accepted view today, one who wants to enter the Temple Mount must purify himself or herself from impure emissions. This can be done by immersing in a mikveh (Jewish ritual bath), which can be done easily today. By way of contrast, entering the Temple area, requires purification from impurity contracted from dead bodies. This requires a ritual in which water mixed with ashes of a red heifer is sprinkled on the ritually impure person. This is not possible today, since such ashes have not been prepared properly.

The reverence with which palestinian Arabs treat the Temple Mount:

If you can’t tell who truly sees it as their holiest place versus who sees it just as another place to keep off the Jews, you must have rocks in your head.


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

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