Kenneth Cohen

The Temple and Purity

We often speak of the great loss that we have by not having a functioning Beit Hamikdash. The Temple served as a place of inspiration for the entire Jewish nation.
The pilgrimage festivals were very uplifting for the people. They were able to feel G-d’s Presence and closeness.

There is another aspect to the Temple era that is often overlooked. This refers to the care that needed to be taken in terms of טומאה וטהרה, purity and impurity. Every Jew needed to be aware of his personal status at all times.

Aside from the prohibition of entering the Temple in a state of impurity, there were many other situations, where people needed to be aware of their status.
One needed to be in a constant state of awareness regarding contamination. There were necessary quarantines if one had come in contact with the dead, or one who had leprosy. A dead reptile also made a person Tamei.

There was also the problem of food or garments that could be contaminated by having come in contact with certain impurities. The Mikva was needed regularly in order to attain purification for people and vessels.

The point here is that one was not able to stray very far from his Jewishness. There was a constant state of awareness of one’s status. The combination of the existence of the Temple as well as these laws of purity and impurity allowed Jews to live a very spiritual life. How we long for those days!

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at