Har HaBayit, the Temple Mount, a mere 35 acres at the top of a very small hill in Jerusalem, is the most hotly contested real estate on earth. It’s a political hot potato, to the degree that when Jerusalem was fully liberated in the 1967 “Six-Day War”, this tiny plot, the holiest place on the planet for the Jewish people, was immediately returned to the political and religious control of the Jordanian Waqf, a Muslim institution which has continued, to this day, to make it almost impossible for Jews to even visit and on which it is completely impossible for a Jew to pray. A venue for picnics, soccer games and, quite often, violent anti-Jewish riots, while at the same time it has remained the focus of Jewish prayer for two thousand years (the Amida, the essential core of each of the three daily prayer services, is recited by Jews all over the world facing that single point), it’s really the prize all the superficial arguments about a Palestinian capital in “East” Jerusalem is really about.
While I suspect that the main function the two mosques on Har HaBayit serve the Moslem world is keeping it out of Jewish hands, this tiny plot of land has been our obsession ever since our Holy Temple was destroyed. When our daily prayers call for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, we really mean the Holy Temple, the Bet HaMikdash. When we plead, three times a day, for the Shechina, the feminine Divine presence to return to Zion, we mean to a rebuilt, rededicated and re-functioning Temple. Even though the sacrificial service has been suspended for millennia, not only have we preserved descriptions of it in great detail, we recite many of these descriptions daily. In fact, Tefilla, the prayer service itself, is largely an attempt to reproduce the spiritual benefits that used to flow to earth via these Temple services. (I’ll not here discuss the question of whether restored Karbanot, “sacrifices” will include animal sacrifice (largely a means of approaching God (karbon is based on the Hebrew word קרוב, karov, which means close, and, in verb form, to approach) by imitating God as Giver by providing food for the landless Kohanim, priestly class) or will only include the meal and grain offerings.)
Not only are most people outside the living practice of daily Jewish prayer unaware of and largely disinterested in the holy flow of transcendent life energy that animated and nourished the entire planet through our service, even those of us who do maintain the prayer and study practice only understand the tiniest hint. While we can, and do, talk about it daily, none of us, Jewish and non-Jewish, are able to actually experience the world in such an elevated state.
Our literature uses metaphors such as the light being cut off and our current existence is described as stumbling around in the dark. It’s like the “giant antenna” that received all the energy needed to sustain existence and give it meaning was destroyed and now only a trickle of very dim light gets through. It’s so dark and we’re all so weakened that most of us, most of the time (myself certainly included) are usually unaware that we’re wandering, blind and aimless and that a higher reality is even possible. We can tell ourselves that not only we, but the entire world once existed on an entirely elevated level of experience, but those are only words and promises that too many of us no longer believe in at all. To a very real degree, the universe limps along in “artificial life support” mode.
When we pray for a rebuilt Jerusalem and a restored Temple, it’s not so we can deny and deprive any other group or religion. As Isaiah teaches (56:7), כִּי בֵיתִי בֵּית־תְּפִלָּה יִקָּרֵא לְכָל־הָעַמִּים, “For My House shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples”. Without diminishing the contributions other peoples and other spiritual traditions make to the betterment of mankind, it is our unique and exclusive responsibility to restore and operate this “gate” through which flowed, and can flow again, the greatest bounty of Divine energy we, all mankind and the entire universe can handle.
May we soon see the world in all its vibrancy, hear its song in all its beauty, taste our food with all its true flavor, love each other with all our passion. May all mankind be reunited with the Creator and bask in love. May it be soon.