On this past Monday, the date on the Jewish Calendar was the 6th of Cheshvan which marked the 850th Anniversary of the Rambam/Maimonides’ ascent to the Har HaBayit/ The Temple Mount where he prayed. Maimonides’ trip was not an easy one as it was taken during extremely dangerous times. Maimonides requested of his family and future generations, that this day, the 6th of Cheshvan, be remembered as a celebration of his ascent and accompanied by a joyous, evening meal.
The night before, Sunday, I was unusually agitated and restless. I wanted to ascend Har HaBayit the next day, but due to my work schedule, I was going to be unable to do so. As I sat at the kitchen table, a fleeting, intuitive thought gently passed through my mind, “Double check. You don’t start the new caregiver job until next Monday.” I quickly called the woman for whom I would be assisting, and she confirmed that, yes, I start the following Monday! I was thrilled, because this meant that I would be able to ascend Har HaBayit in the morning.
I glanced at the clock and made a mad dash to take care of my halachic preparations so I could ascend the following morning. I ran, hitched a couple of rides and finished all of my preparations with fifteen minutes to spare. As I sat at the bus stop waiting for my bus home, I thanked Gd for allowing me the opportunity to once again fulfill a mitzvah that is very dear to my heart. Just then, the skies opened and the rain fell. I would like to think that was a heavenly confirmation that I was indeed supposed to ascend Har HaBayit the next day.
Monday morning at 7:15, October 19, 2015 I arrived at the Mughrabi Gate with my rabbi and friends to fulfill the mitzvah of ascending Har HaBayit/The Temple Mount. As we waited, a nice, non-Jewish Englishman inquired as to why there were two different lines with the Jews in the front. I light-heartedly explained that our identification cards are taken by the police, and then we were made to wait off to the side while the tourists were allowed to enter first.It is a sad state of affairs when the Jews are treated like criminals in their own land, searched and interrogated before ascending Judaism’s holiest site. Once through the gate, awaiting our turn to ascend, this same Englishman was scolded by a police officer. I laughed and whispered to him that if he was naughty, they would put him in the Jewish line. He turned to me, smiled and replied, “I would be honored.”
It turned out to be a quiet morning without any yelling or explosives. The police, however, were hyper-sensitive, almost paranoid, and gave us a stern lecture as to the do’s and don’ts (mostly don’ts) of ascending Har HaBayit. My ginger candy, that I keep on hand in case of an upset stomach, was confiscated. I was told in Hebrew, “You can’t have any food on Har HaBayit in case you say a prayer over it.”
Right before our ascent, we were given the following list of “don’ts”:
- No praying
- No moving of the lips in any prayer
- No singing
- No eating or drinking (out of fear of saying a blessing on the food)
- No crying
We were also told that the police have no patience at all, and any offenders will be removed immediately. On that note, we began our ascent surrounded on all sides by heavily armed military police. As we enter the gate to Har HaBayit, the police smile and we all exchanged greetings, but the Waqf guards look solemn and angry by our presence. We didn’t say a word to them; not even a greeting. We follow the police orders and walk along quietly talking only to each other. We were allowed to stop at different places along our path to listen as someone in the group gave a brief history lesson or Torah teaching about Har HaBayit, but the police seemed nervous if too much time was spent talking, and hurried us along.
During these times of increased violence against the Jews in Jerusalem and other parts of Israel, it is especially important to ascend the Temple Mount. Why?
As the holiest site to the Jewish people, the place where creation occurred, and the home to the first two Temples, it is imperative to ascend (in accordance with Jewish Law) in order to ensure that there will always be a Jewish presence on the Temple Mount. Is that the only reason? No, of course not! We must ascend the Temple Mount as our avodah (holy service) to say prayers/tefillot (for now only in our hearts because it is forbidden to move our lips and utter prayers out loud). Prayers said on the Temple Mount are important, because the Temple Mount is the “gate of the heavens” (Genesis 28:17). The Shechinah is still there, also trapped in galut/exile. It is up to us to end the exile, rebuild Beit HaMikdash and usher in the Final Redemption with Moshiach to bring peace to the entire world.
Rebuilding the Beit HaMikdash is a collective mitzvah, incumbent upon every generation, for the entire nation to fulfill, and yet, every individual has his/her own unique mission to accomplish specifically relating to the rebuilding of Beit HaMikdash. We each have a special role in the national rebuilding of our Holy Temple. Think about that for a moment. Each one of you has a personal mission to help bring about the Final Redemption and world peace. What is your personal role in hastening the Final Redemption and the rebuilding of Beit HaMikdash? I would like to explore this question next time.
“The glory of this latter Temple will be greater than that of the first, said Hashem, and I will grant peace to this place.”