Allen S. Maller
Allen S. Maller

9Av: Restore animal sacrifice or reform the Jerusalem Temple into a synagogue

Several years ago several right-wing nationalist organizations devoted to the Temple Mount commissioned a poll that found 30 percent of Israeli Jews supported rebuilding the Jerusalem Temple on the site of Solomon’s Temple. The survey was financed by a fund called the Israel Independence Fund, and had only 523 Israeli Jewish participants.

The last dozen years have seen changing attitudes to the Temple Mount among the national religious and ultra-Orthodox sectors. There are currently dozens of fringe movements working to change the status quo at the holy site. Some are reconstructing ceremonial objects used in the Temple in the past, while others are making practical preparations for its rebuilding, including a renewal of animal sacrifice.

The poll, reported in the July 12, 2013 issue of the Israeli newspaper HaAretz, asked Israeli Jews, “Are you for or against erecting a Temple on the Temple Mount?” only 30 per cent answered YES, while 45 percent said NO, and 25 percent were unsure. The poll did not say anything about the renewal of animal sacrifice. It should have because animal sacrifice was central to the Jerusalem Temple’s holiness.

The Hebrew Bible itself is equivocal about animal offerings. The Torah of Prophet Moses also includes the expansive priestly Torah of his brother Prophet Aaron; which supports the Korban (animal sacrifice) way of providing different ways of reconciling flawed, impure, guilt racked humans with their God:
ויקרא ז:לז זֹאת הַתּוֹרָה לָעֹלָה לַמִּנְחָה וְלַחַטָּאת וְלָאָשָׁם וְלַמִּלּוּאִים וּלְזֶבַח הַשְּׁלָמִים: ז:לח אֲשֶׁ֨ר צִוָּה יְ-הֹוָה אֶת־מֹשֶׁה בְּהַר סִינָי בְּיוֹם צַוֹּתוֹ אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לְהַקְרִיב אֶת קָרְבְּנֵיהֶם לַי-הֹוָה בְּמִדְבַּר סִינָי: (Leviticus 7:37-8)

“This is the Torah of the burnt offering, the meal-offering, the sin purification offering, the reparation offering, the offering of ordination, and the offering of well-being/peacefulness, with which the Lord charged Moses on Mount Sinai, when He (God) commanded that the Israelites present their offerings to the Lord, in the wilderness of Sinai.” (Leviticus 7:37-8)

But many of the Prophets in later generations were opposed to animal flesh and blood offerings. 1 Samual 15:22 states: “To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” Prophet Hosea says 6:6: “For what I desire is mercy, not sacrifices, knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” And Prophet Amos 5:21-24 proclaims: “I take no pleasure in your solemn assemblies. If you offer me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; nor will I consider the peace offerings of your stall-fed cattle. Spare me the noise of your songs! I don’t want to hear the strumming of your lutes! Instead, let justice well up like water, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

Prophet Micah’s rejection of sacrificial worship has become a definition of ethical monotheism. Micah 6:6-9: “With what can I come before the Lord to bow down before God on high? Should I come before him with burnt offerings? with calves in their first year? Would the Lord take delight in thousands of rams with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Could I give my firstborn son to pay for my crimes, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? “Human beings, you have been told what is good, what the Lord demands of you — only to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God””.

Prophet Isaiah states (1:11-15), “Why are all those sacrifices offered to me?” asks the Lord “I am fed up with burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened animals! I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls, lambs and goats! Yes, you come to appear in my presence; but who asked you to do this, to trample through my courtyards? Stop bringing worthless grain offerings! They are like disgusting incense to me! When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; no matter how much you pray, I won’t be listening; because your hands are covered with blood.”

And Orthodox Rabbinic opinion actually discourages nationalistic attempts to physically rebuild the Jerusalem Temple. According to the majority of Rabbinic opinion, the Temple will be rebuilt not by man but only by God’s Messiah; so we can only pray and wait. (Based on Rashi and Tosephot on the verse “The Sanctuary, O God, which your (God’s power) hands have established.” Exodus, 15:17.

And, since all Jews are in an ongoing state of ritual uncleanliness due to the absence of a “red heifer” it is forbidden for Jews to even enter the area where the Jerusalem Temple was located. Also in the absence of precise information as to exactly where the Jerusalem Temple was located, a general ban was imposed on access for Jews to the entire Temple Mount. (Based on the verse “you (Israelites) shall build (for) me a sanctuary.”; Maimonides, Code of Law, “Hilchot Bet Ha-Bechirah,” Chapter 1, Paragraph 1.

Finally, a Muslim Shrine presently occupies the site called, The Dome of the Rock. Often erroneously called the Mosque of Omar, it is not a mosque and it was not built by Omar. It was built in 691 by Abd-Al-Malik and it is regarded by Muslims as the third holiest site in the world. Any attempt to replace the Dome of the Rock would provoke a Muslim Holy War of cataclysmic proportions.

There is, however, a peaceful way to restore the Jerusalem Temple by using a small area of vacant land on the Temple Mount to erect a hologram of a Jewish house of worship that could broadcast its Torah services worldwide from a small space adjacent to the Dome of the Rock provided the Muslims would cooperate. This would fore-fill the words of Prophet Micah: “It shall come to pass in latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, and many nations shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Micah 4:1-2)

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 450 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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