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Reflections on the construction of a third temple Reflections on the construction of a third temple
by Joseph Gatt
2019-12-15 11:10:59
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Q & A on the possible construction of a third temple in Jerusalem.

Question: Why would we Jews build a third temple in Jerusalem in the coming years? Why would some Jews want to do that?

Answer: Let me reassure the Arabs who are worried about the destruction of Haram al Sharif or the Al Aqsa mosque. There are no serious talks or debates on building a third temple in Jerusalem.

thir01_400There are two reasons people would want to rebuild a third temple in Jerusalem. The first batch of people are those who say that now that there is a Jewish state, Judaism should go back to its roots. In today's world, Judaism is very different from ancient Judaism. In ancient times, people used to go to the temple and make offerings. The offerings were either rituals during festivals, or came in the form of punishment for violating the law. That is for example if you violated the Sabbath in some forms, you would offer a sheep or a cow to the temple. That is some people want to revive ancient traditions and want to observe Judaism as mandated in the Tanakh and Talmud, and they would need a temple for that. Such people often believe that a third temple and the observance of Judaism according to the correct principles of the Tanakh would accelerate the arrival of the Messiah.

The second reason is that some Jews want to build a third temple to bring not only the rituals back, but the entire political system back. That is they want Israel to become some kind of theocracy with a king, Sanhedrin or a group of 21 judges (that would be a mixture of the national assembly and Supreme Court), and priests who would serve as both civil servants, religious figures and “the police” if you will.

Question: Is building a third temple a possibility in the near future?

Israelis would be fired up over the debate. On the one hand, you would have those Orthodox Jews who want the third temple, who want to bring back Judaism to its roots, who want to practice Judaism like our ancestors 2000 years ago, because they believe the Messiah will come a lot sooner. They believe that if we don't build the third temple, the Messiah would never come.

Then there are those Orthodox Jews who believe that Jews are “sinners”, and that Jews have been wanderers to pay for their sins, that perhaps Israel should never have existed as a Jewish state, that terrorist attacks and hatred from the extremists and anti-Semitism is a punishment for Jewish sins, and that building a third temple will be an additional sin. Those Jews believe that the temple should only be built in honor of the Messiah, when the Messiah comes.

Now a quick side note on the Messiah. Most Orthodox Jews believe that the Messiah will be a male (very important) figure who will arrive in times of distress. The male figure will be a direct descendant of King David and will have memorized Jewish law flawlessly, that is will have the Tanakh and Talmud memorized by heart, and every Jewish law and ritual will be second nature to this Messiah. The Messiah will also be an example of integrity, some say he will be single, a virgin, and will behave with utmost integrity.

On the other hand don't forget that 40% Jewish Israelis are almost completely disconnected from Judaism, and I don't see those Jews wanting to give a sin offering, or donate a sheep for “baring false witness” or “coveting a virgin.”

Final question: What is your (Yossi Gatt) position on the issue or rebuilding a third temple

Answer: I'm torn and a little confused. To be clear, I wouldn't mind building a third temple if that would involve a “dual” legal system in Israel. One legal system for secular Jews like me or other religious minorities, and a legal system for those Jews who want to pray at the temple and give offerings and the temple and refer to the temple in case of disagreements. And basic laws that would apply to all Israelis in secular fashion. 

However, the realities of temple law are too complex. 2000 years ago for example, if a non-Jew lived for one year in Jerusalem, he was considered a Jew and Jewish law would apply to that “convert.” Converting was not an option (at least that is my understanding) and was mandatory for those non-Jews.

So if we were to build a third temple, secular Jews, non-Jews and those who want to build the temple would have to agree and clearly define the limitations of that temple. I don't want the Sanhedrin issuing the death penalty on me because I smoked a cigarette on Shabbat.  

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