I am so grateful to speak and commune with You three times a day, but I have never written directly to You before. Who am I to do so? Please forgive my boldness in an attempt to achieve ethical and spiritual integrity. I believe that you have created us to think critically and to bring full integrity to our religious lives.
I fasted this week on the tenth of Tevet, as I do on all fasts that mourn the destruction of Your two holy temples. I recognize that Your light existed in the world in magisterially mysterious and powerful ways unknown to us today. We Jews, indeed all people of Your world, mourn these historical losses and yearn for Your increased presence and closeness.
I know that you challenge us to evolve and grow so that we can perfect ourselves and the world, which You have entrusted to us Your children. I am but a cog in a greater wheel. As a Jew, I continue to pray for a third temple as our traditional liturgy stipulates. But, in truth, my heart is not so certain.
Of course, if it is Your will to have a third Temple, I am prepared to serve, but I humbly submit this prayer asking: Is the rebuilding of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem what is best for us?
- The holiness of space has been eclipsed by the holiness of time. The Sabbath, which you have gifted to us, has become honored and sanctified: the most powerful vehicle for transformation. Could it be that becoming excessively connected to physical space spiritually endangers any return to hallowed space and the sabbath itself?
- I have become skeptical of centralized authority for it only acts as a cordon to contact with the Divine. As the Jewish people saw during the first two temples, a corrupt central authority jeopardized the integrity of the institution. The Jewish people have proliferated too much philosophically to agree on a singular set of practices and customs. Is it not detrimental to return to a monolithic model that dismisses the plethora of views and practices we have cultivated today?
- Your holy servant Maimonides, considered the greatest Jewish philosopher in Jewish history, taught that animal sacrifices were only commanded to the Jewish people as a concession because it was the only type of Divine worship known in that era; it was progress from the pagan standard of human sacrifice. He also taught that prayer was evolution from animal sacrifice and a more silent meditative type of worship will eventually supersede prayer with words. Further, Rav Kook, the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel, taught us that in the Messianic era, we would all be vegetarians and only bring offerings of flour. To be sure, these great thinkers were complex with seemingly contradictory perspectives (some of which shine brighter than others). While livestock was once our primary resource and a meaningful sacrifice, today Your world operates in a different model of commerce. We would have new and more powerful contributions to sacrifice. Your people must be a light to the nations, not a source of darkness by returning to a practice once deemed honorable but now perceived by the global masses as barbaric. The Jewish people have transitioned in our own existential consciousness and our spiritual relationship to our animal’s slaughter has been altered irrevocably.
- The dreams of Your people are immense. Your holy prophets taught that we must prioritize kindness and justice over sacrifices. They taught Your people to dream of a world where poverty is eradicated, equality is spread, and injustice is wiped out. I yearn with every fiber of my being for this world. I modestly work every day to bring this dream about under Your great partnership. Is it my responsibility to teach future generations of children that our foremost dream is a physical structure governed by centralized authority that calls for mass animal sacrifice?Bringing forth enlightened teachings that transcend the zeitgeist are the lessons of Your prophets. May the day come soon where all hear their voices again.
Thank You for hearing a humble prayer. If it should be Your Divine will to have a Third Temple, I will openly and lovingly embrace it. I have neither the power nor the temerity to change the beautiful, traditional liturgy I am so grateful to have inherited. Yet, I believe You have created us to think with all our cognitive capacities, feel with all our affective capabilities, and pray with all of our spiritual potentials. I believe that in giving us prayer, You have asked us to take our requests to You very seriously. Forgive me if my prayer may seem to break with many traditional authorities that are far more pious, wise, and holy than me. My prayer is guided by Your Torah, my conscience, and my spiritual relationship that I try to elevate with You with my whole body and soul. I only seek to represent myself here, though there may be others among Your people that may agree with me. Nevertheless, I will continue to pray for the third temple with unique intentions while concomitantly yearning for a utopian society that achieves a grand vision in line with Jewish values and my spiritual and ethical integrity.
With true love from a humble servant,
Shmuel Micha ben Avraham v’Chana Sarah