In response to Dr. Lynette Nusbacher’s post expressing her opinion that prayer on the Temple Mount is not a central part of Judaism, I beg to differ. Indeed as Dr. Nusbacher pointed out, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai and other sages of his time did make rabbinic modifications to reduce the dependence on the Temple in order to enable Judaism to survive the destruction of the Temple, and this is what enabled us to still be here practicing Judaism as a living religion after 2000 years of exile.
However, they by no means did away with the holiness of the Temple or its centrality to Judaism, and to Jewish prayer in particular.
Throughout those 2000 years of exile, the Temple has remained the heart of the prayers of Jews throughout the world.
All Jews the world over have been praying three times a day, every day for 2000 years, for the rebuilding of the Temple in order to be able to bring sacrifices AND TO PRAY at the Temple:
“Look with favor, L-rd our G‑d, on Your people Israel and pay heed to their prayer; restore the service to Your Sanctuary and accept with love and favor Israel’s fire-offerings and prayer; and may the service of Your people Israel always find favor. ” – from the daily Amida prayer
In addition to praying for the opportunity to pray in the Temple, Jews the world over for 2000 years have been praying towards the Temple and focusing their prayers on the Temple. This is an inherent part the Jewish prayer service, as defined by the Shulchan Aruch (the most universally accepted code of Jewish law) in his laws of prayer:
“When one rises to pray, if he is standing outside of Israel, he should face Israel and concentrate on Jerusalem the Temple and the Holy of Holies, if he is standing in Israel, he should face Jerusalem and concentrate of the Temple and Holy of Holies, if he is standing in Jerusalem he should face the Temple and concentrate of the Holy of Holies…” Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 94:1
“[when praying] one must bend his head slightly so that his eyes face downwards towards the ground, and think as though he were standing in the Temple, and focus his heart upwards toward heaven” Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 95:2
Thus the prayer of King Solomon upon dedicating the First Temple:
“Any prayer, any supplication, which will be (made) by any man, (or) by all Your people Israel, who shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house; And You shall hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart You know, for You, alone, know the hearts of all the children of men.” – I Kings 8:38-39
and the prophecy of Isaiah:
“for My House will be called a House Of Prayer For All Nations” (Isaiah 56:7)
have been maintained as a central component and belief of Judaism throughout the ages and they are as relevant today as they ever were, and more relevant than they have been for nearly 2000 years because now, after 2000 years of exile, “the Temple Mount is in our hands” and we have the ability to fulfill the prayers of Jews for 2000 years and pray at the Temple Mount, the holiest place in the world.