In his prophecy, Isaiah lamented over the waywardness and resulting fate of the House of Israel. They had failed in the mission G-d had given them, to bring about the Divine Presence in the world through the adherence to His laws. Isaiah, however provides a glimmer of hope for Israel through his lamentations, the eventual redemption, the return to the Eretz HaKodesh (Holy Land), and the reconstruction of the Beis HaMikdash (Temple).
The language that Isaiah uses to describe the future Beit HaMikdash is iconic, he describes it as “Beit Tefillah L’Kol Hahaamim’ – A House of Prayer for All Nations.
This makes perfect sense, of course, the Beit HaMikdash will be a component of the Messianic Age, the time whereupon ‘Nation will not lift up sword upon Nation, nor will they learn war’, in other words a time of world peace where the peoples of the world will know and worship the greatness of the one G-d. It only makes sense that the center of this new global unity and worship will be that of the dwelling place of the HaKodesh Baruch hu on Earth, the Third Beit HaMikdash.
But, perhaps, more can be inferred from this prophecy than the logistical impacts of Mashiach’s coming. Not so long ago, my chevrutah and I had a discussion on the possibility of arranging some form of interfaith affair here in Wellington. A much wiser and learned man than myself, I rarely feel it is for me to disagree with my chevrutah but on this, we differed in views as he felt that little could be gained from praying with Muslims due to the differences in prayer styles and theological beliefs. I felt that this was a moot point. Earlier this year photographs went viral from across the United States of Jews and Muslims coming together for one brief moment of prayer. The powerful symbolism conveyed in a photo of Jews in tallis and tefillin davening shacharit (morning prayers) alongside Muslims prostrating on prayer mats and doing their own morning prayers was inspiring to all. The tefillah needn’t have been the same, the content of each groups’ beliefs or worship needn’t have been adulterated by the others’. A simply act of reverence to the G-d we both worship, together in co-existence and acceptance.
A similar occurrence took place in 2014 when Pope Francis gathered then-Israeli President, Shimon Peres, and Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas together with him for a joint prayer. Seeing these leaders of men, on opposite sides of a pivotal global conflict and from two of the most influential religious groups in the world, putting aside those differences and praying together for peace spoke volumes to those who observed it.
Humanity can gain so much from these images, two of the most influential religious groups attempting to reconcile in the name of peace, in doing so leading the world from the front and setting the example for others. It demonstrates that, although the political and theological differences do remain, the two groups have hope for a future with co-existence and peace. In light of the political climax between Jewish and Muslim groups, what better way to start breaking down those barriers than beginning with what we have in common, a belief in the one G-d, a hope for peace and a desire to put aside conflict. Furthermore, when Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas met and prayed together, it meant a lot symbolically. However these men are politicians. How much more would be conveyed to religious followers of the two faiths if it were Jewish and Muslim religious leaders that came together to pray. What more meaningful a message could be conveyed to humanity, and to G-d, if such leaders came together in a sincere gesture of hope for a better world, a world where nation doesn’t lift up sword against nation, where the futile wars of man are a thing of the past and where the nations of the world coexist harmoniously, the Messianic age. And where better to hold such a phenomenon, to announce to the world that, although these aims are not yet in being and are not likely to be for some time, that these two monotheistic peoples of G-d are aspiring for such a time, than the Temple Mount – the place of Al Aqsa Mosque and the place where the Beit HaMikdash once stood… Truly, a House of Prayer for All Nations.