29 February 2008

Shabbat Shalom

Parashat Vayakhel (Shabbat Mevorchin)
by Rabbi Nachman Kahana

Part One: Time & Space

The Almighty created for us mortals a two dimensional world of Time and Space; each independent of the other and each with its own "natural" laws. Time can exist without a spacial entity, and space is not measured by time unless a change occurs within the space (in the absence of all change the concept of time does not exist, and it for this reason that HaShem is beyond time because He is totally unchanging).

Time has no influence on space and, conversely, space has no influence on time, because they do not intersect. Although, theoretically, it could be said that at the absolute edge of the universe, which most physicists claim is expanding, the beginning of time meets the beginning of space, and where beyond that point there is no time nor space.

Einstein theorized, and it was later proven, that speed influences time, so that the closer one travels to the speed of light; time passes more slowly (if a twin was to travel in a space ship close to the speed of light, upon his return to earth he will be younger than his twin brother.)

But even if it has been proven that speed influences time, no such proof exists that space influences time.

Comes Parashat Va’Yakhel to prove otherwise.

Our parasha begins with two mitzvot adjacent to each other - Shabbat and the Mishkan (synonymous with the Bet Hamikdash.)

Shabbat is the absolute, ultimate sanctity of time. It occurs in seven day cycles independent of all human involvement, contrary to the holydays of the year whose dates are determined by a bet din when declaring the time of the new month (rosh chodesh.) The sanctity of shabbat would be in affect even if there were no Jews to observe it.

The site of the Bet Ha’Mikdash on the Temple Mount in Yerushalayim is the absolute sanctity of space. It was declared so at the moment of creation, as the Gemara (Yoma 54b and many other sources) states, that the earth expanded from a primordial point which was later called Har Habayit.

The sanctity of Har HaBayit is eternal and absolute, as the Rambam states (Hilchot Bet Habechira 6,16) that the sanctity of the site is derived from the presence of the holy Shechina which never departed.

The Gemara (Shabbat 49b) explains the reason that the Torah positions the mitzva of Shabbat together with the building of the Mishkan.

This is the Torah’s directive that the creative activities which were necessary to construct the Mishkan are the activities which are prohibited to perform on Shabbat (The Zohar explains that these same 39 major activities were performed, as it would be, by HaShem when creating the universe.)

So here we find the dimension of space (Mishkan and Mikdash) influencing the dimension of time.

But there is a more spectacular example of how the Mikdash slows time, in the spirit of Einstein who showed that speed influences time.

One of the 365 prohibitions of the Torah is to leave the meat of a korban (sacrifice) beyond the time which was specified for eating it or its being consumed in flames on the holy altar (notar) i.e., the meat of a korbam oleh (burnt offering) must be burnt on the altar before sunrise of the day following the animal’s shechita. However, this prohibition is not in affect when the meat is brought up to the head of the altar even if it is not burnt for an extended period of time; the reason being that time stops at the head of the altar; there is no today and no tomorrow.

How huge is the magnitude of the sanctity of Har Habayit, that it dominates the absolute dimension of Time?

Now, come with me, my friend, for a little walk from my home in the Old City towards the ultimate sanctity of space in the universe from where the Shechina has never departed - Har Habayit.

What do you see?

An enormous mosque called Al Aksa at the southern end of the Mount, and a large domed building called Kipat HaSela - The Dome of the Rock, which the experts are undecided if it is standing on the place of the Kodesh Kedoshim (the Holy of Holies) or on the place of the Miz’bayach (the large altar.)

These buildings are there because we were absent for 2000 years. However, we have, with the grace of HaShem, returned to a part of Eretz Yisrael, and are sovereign over all Yerushalayim for the first time in over 2000 years.

A Jewish head and heart would assume, without question, that the foremost place in our consciousness is Har Habatyim. One would assume that the leading contemporary rabbinic figures, especially of the Yeshiva world, would demand that every Jew ascend the mountain daily, but certainly at least three times a year - Pessach, Shevuot and Succot - after immersing in a mikve and wearing appropriate shoes. And if, for various reasons, we cannot demolish these two Moslem abominations, there would be a huge bet knesset on the Mount, housing a yeshiva with the foremost Torah minds of the nation.

That’s what one might assume. However the bitter reality is far far different.

The Chareidi rabbinate despite its overwhelming negation of everything the Israeli Chief Rabbinate of Israel stands for, are in agreement in their negative attitude towards Har Habayit.

The great rabbis who accompanied Rabbi Akiva to Yerushalayim after the Temple’s destruction (Tractate Makot 24a) were devastated when seeing foxes walking freely on the Mount, and were comforted by Rabbi Akiva only because of the future which he predicted. They would rend their clothing and pull out their hair if they knew that there would be rabbis who would one day prohibit Jews from ascending the Mount, while being totally indifferent, passive, blase, aloof, unmoved, unconcerned, apathetic and phlegmatic to the fact that the worst enemies of our people do as they please in the holiest place in the world. Never a demonstration, never a protest - total absolute capitulation.

I, and the hundreds of other rabbanim of the dati-leumi school, and the thousands of our adherents who do ascend the Mount, are enraged by the reality of what we see. The Moslem Wakf (religious council) by consent of the Israeli government, which is empowered by the Chareidi rabbis and the hand chosen chief rabbis , are the "masters" of the Mount. A Jew who enters the Mount is identified and checked against a master list of "provocateurs." Then the Jew is lectured by a Jewish policeman on the prohibition to pray, or even to move one’s lips on the Mount.

The Chareidi prohibition does not stem from a fear that one might enter the prohibited area of the Temple compound, because if we do not know where the Temple was, we do know where it was not, and we are careful to walk in a wide perimeters near the edges of the Mount.

To add insult to injury, whenever an ancient Byzantine cemetery is uncovered hundreds and even thousands of Chareidim will demonstrate violently if it is not treated as a Jewish one.

If appears that in the cosmic competition between Time and Space, between Shabbat and the Har HaBayit, Shabbat emerges victorious. Probably because the promise of Shabbat is kugel, kishka and cholent, while the promise of Har Habayit is struggle and mesirat nefesh.


Part Two: The Sanctity of the Temple Mount

Thoughts on what makes Har Habayit the eternal repository of sanctity.

Our rabbis taught that Moshe beseeched HaShem 515 times to enter eretz Yisrael, the gematria (numerical equivalent) of the word va'et'chanan. Moshe did not request a homestead of lush rolling land, nor did he request a palatial home befitting the first king of Israel - Moshe requested to simply enter the land for one purpose, as the Gemara (Sota 14a) says: "Was it to eat of its fruit or find pleasures of the Land that Moshe wished to enter? No! It was for one reason. Moshe prayed for the opportunity to keep mitzvot in Eretz Yisrael."

It would appear that the Gemara is at odds with the description of Moshe's prayer to Hashem as related in Midrash Raba.

The midrash relates that HaShem refuses to permit Moshe to enter the Land, and Moshe begs: "If i cannot enter in a live state let my body be brought into the land". No! "Let me enter in the form an animal so I can tread on the Land". No! "Then let me enter as a bird without touching the Land". No!

Now, if according to the Gemara, Moshe wanted to enter the Land to keep its mitzvot why would it satisfy him to enter as an animal or a bird?

We must therefore conclude that there is a mitzva that even an animal or a bird can perform - just being present in the land even if one does nothing else, is the fulfillment of a mitzva - and this even an animal or a bird can do.

Now, if the Land is so holy that even its air space is sanctified (the Zohar says that Eretz Yisrael is directly under the kisay ha'kavod (Heavenly Throne of Glory) and the earthly Yerushalayim is directly under the heavenly Yerushalayim) and influences the spirit of all who are present here, the question arises: how can we live as "normal" human beings, doing the things which people must do in order to maintain our personal and national lives? How do we get up in the morning and go to work, deal in commerce and industry, fix our cars when they break, eat, sleep and attend to our bodily needs? the whole Land should be as the Kodesh HaKadashim of the Temple, if even an animal is stirred by the sanctity of the Land?

I suggest the following:

Newly grown crops in Eretz Yisrael are designated as "Tevel" and no part may be eaten because of their sanctity, the punishment being the termination of one's life prior to the time allotted to him at birth. The prohibition is annulled by separating the required tithes as stated in the Torah. One of the tithes is "Terumah Gedola" which is given to a kohen. The amount of teruma from the Torah is one grain of wheat from an entire crop. Not being a farmer, I would give a wild guess that there are close to a billion grains in a decent size wheat crop, which would make the Teruma Gedola totally insignificant in terms of quantity. Nevertheless, this (and the other tithes) are the factors which determine if one lives his life through or dies earlier.

We can conclude that this one single grain concentrates in itself the sanctity of the entire crop, for in the spiritual world size, space, numbers etc., are irrelevant (the heavens have a different set of physics and chemistry.)

Accordingly, I suggest we live and function in Eretz Yisrael despite its inherent sanctity because HaShem has seperated a piece of "teruma" which concentrates in it that necessary amount of kiddusha rendering the rest of the country still kadosh but not enough to give it the status of the Holy of Holies.

That "piece" of teruma is Har Habayit - the Temple Mount.

Rambam states that even if the halachic status of Eretz Yisrael in terms of the agricultural laws was changed by the destruction of the Temple, the halachic status of the Temple Mount has not changed since the time of King Solomon, and hence we may offer up sacrifices even in our times (if we can overcome several halachic obstacles such as the exact place of the altar as well as who is a real kohen etc., but these obstacles have nothing to do with the sanctity of the mount).

The Temple Mount is the holiest area in the Jewish world, and proof of this is in the words the great Ramban wrote to his son after arriving in Yerushalaim, "Whatever is more holy is more desecrated; Yehuda is more desecrated than the Galil and Yerushalayim is the most desecrated of all".

If you are shuddering at the thought of how many "karet" trangression one performs when ascending the Mount, permit me to fill you in on a little halachic geography.

Har Habayit is made up of two areas, the center is solid bed rock, which is surrounded by land fill made by Herod when he turned the Temple Mount from a square into a rectangle. The building of the Bet Hamikadash was 100 amot high (50 meters) equivalent to a 25 story building. Herod did not build with steel and aluminum but with huge stones, like those in the Kotel, so the sheer weight of the Bet Hamikdash was too heavy to be held up by land fill. Meaning, that even though we do not know the exact point of the Azara, we do know where it is not, and so we tread only on the land fill. Indeed the Kotel is no more than a supporting wall for the land fill to prevent slippage.

Were it in my power, I would close off the Kotel to the public and hang a big sign on it saying "All this because of sin'at chinam (baseless hatred)", and then direct the people to Har Habayit.

Shabbat Shalom
Nachman Kahana