Temple in Jerusalem

The Jerusalem Temple (Hebrew: beit ha-mikdash) was the center of Jewish worship, located on Jerusalem's Temple Mount.

According to the Bible, the First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians; a second Temple was rebuilt decades letter, but eventually destroyed again, this time by the Romans. The destruction of both temples, five hundred years apart, were central points in Jewish history, the first marking the beginning of the Babylonian Exile, the second marking the beginning of the Diaspora.

Table of contents
1 Etymology
2 First and Second Temples
3 Rebuilding the Temple today
4 External links

Etymology

The word Temple is derived not from the Hebrew but from the Latin word for place of worship, templum. The name given in Scripture for the building was Beit Yahweh or "House of Yahweh" (although this name was also often used for other temples, or metaphorically). Because of the prohibition against pronouncing the holy name, the common Hebrew name for the Temple is Beit ha-Mikdash or "The Holy House", and only the Temple in Jerusalem is referred to by this name.

First and Second Temples

Two distinct temples stood in succession on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem:

  1. Solomon's Temple, from approximately the 10th century BC, replacing the Tabernacle, destroyed by the Nebuchadnezzar and by the Babylonians in 586 BC.
  2. The Second Temple, built after the return from the Babylonian Captivity, around 536 BC (completed on March 12, 515 BC).
  3. Herod's Temple, was an expansion of the Second Temple. A small number of people refer to this as the third temple, but this is not standard terminology. Herod's expansion project began around 19 BC by Herod the Great. It was destroyed by Roman troops under Titus in 70 AD.

There was an aborted project by the Roman emperor Julian (331-363 CE) to allow the Jews to build a Third Temple.

Rebuilding the Temple today

Standing today in what Jews believe is the historical location of the first two, is the Al-Aqsa Mosque - the third holiest site in Islam. To recognize it as the only possible rebuilt Temple, or to even seriously attempt to tear it down to replace it, both constitute seemingly unresolvable religious and thus political problems. Nonetheless, the idea of rebuilding some Temple somewhere is difficult to abandon entirely:

For the last 1900 years, Jews have prayed that God would allow for the rebuilding of the Temple. This prayer is a formal part of the thrice daily Jewish prayer services.

However, not all rabbis agree on what would happen in a rebuilt Temple. It has traditionally just been assumed that some sort of animal sacrifices would be reinstituted, in accord with the rules in Leviticus and the Talmud. However there is another opinion, beginning with Maimonides, that God deliberately has moved Jews away from sacrifices towards prayer, as prayer is a higher form of worship. Thus, some rabbis hold that sacrifices would not take place in a rebuilt Temple. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first chief rabbi of the Jewish community in pre-state Israel, holds that sacrifices will not be reinstituted.

A few very small Jewish groups today support constructing a Third Temple today, but most Jews oppose this, for a variety of reasons. Most religious Jews feel that the Temple should only be rebuilt in the messianic era, and that it would presumptuous of people to force God's hand, as it were. Further, there are many ritual impurity constrictions that are difficult to resolve, making the building's construction a practical impossibility.

Additionally, many Jews are against rebuilding the Temple due to the enormously hostile reaction from all Arab and Muslim nations that would likely result - even were the building to be complementary to those holy to Islam, there would be high suspicion that such a building project would ultimately end with the destruction of these and the rebuilding of the Temple on its original spot.

Some fundamentalist and evangelical Christian groups, especially those who follow a dispensationalist theology, believe that the Jewish people will build the Third Temple shortly before, or perhaps after, "true" Christians have been raptured. These beliefs include rather unpleasant fates for believing Jews, however, including the extermination of all but 144,000 of them, and the conversion of those to Christianity.

Rebuilding the Temple in Jewish prayerbooks

Orthodox Jewish prayer books call for both the restoration of Temple and resumption of animal sacrifices.

Conservative Judaism has modified the prayers; their prayerbooks call for the restoration of Temple, but do not ask for resumption of animal sacrifices. Most of the passages relating to sacrifices are replaced with the Talmudic teaching that deeds of loving-kindness now atone for sin. In the central prayer, the Amidah, the Hebrew phrase na'ase ve'nakriv (we will present and sacrifice) is modified to read to asu ve'hikrivu (they presented and sacrificed), implying that animal sacrifices are a thing of the past. The petition to accept the "fire offerings of Israel" is removed.

Reform Judaism calls neither for the resumption of sacrifices or the rebuilding of the temple, although some new Reform prayerbooks are moving towards calling for the latter as an option.

Later monuments:

See also: Western Wall

External links




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