What is rebuilding in Judaism

The temple in Jerusalem Only the Western Wall has survived

The building has not existed for almost 2000 years. But the temple has not been forgotten.

Jews are still praying for its reconstruction, for example in the Amida, the most important Jewish prayer. Amida means according to the posture: standing prayer.

"Have pleasure, Eternal, our God, in your people Israel and in their prayer, and bring the service back into the hall of your house, and receive the sacrifices of Israel and their prayer in love and pleasure, and the service of your people be ever for pleasure. "

Since 1948, when the State of Israel existed, no one has seriously tried to rebuild the temple. If someone wanted to restore it to its original dimensions, two important buildings of Islam would have to give way today: the Al Aksa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, one of the most important shrines for Muslims.

"Wait until God will do that"

Hardly anyone seriously thinks of tearing down the two buildings in order to rebuild the temple there and reinstate the sacrificial cult and the priesthood. Jizchak Ehrenberg, Orthodox Rabbi in Berlin:

"Are there extreme people today who think that this Al Aksa mosque has to be demolished and built, they are very extreme, that is impossible, impossible. Most of the Jewish spiritual leaders are of the opinion that we will wait until God becomes that do."

The hope in the rebuilt temple in Judaism is directed to the messianic time, the end times.

The Messiah, so the idea, will bring the Jews back to their land of Israel, rebuild the temple and re-establish the sacrificial cult. So Jews still pray as if the State of Israel didn't exist.

"And let our eyes see it when you return to Zijón in mercy. Praise be to you Eternal who brings his presence back to Zijón."

But today almost everything is different than at the time of the Jerusalem Temple: There are no longer any clergy who perform the religious ceremonies. The synagogue service is organized democratically. Every man can pray, in liberal Judaism every woman too. And basically there are no more animal sacrifices.

The temple is present almost everywhere in Judaism

Laypeople can enter any part of today's synagogue. There are no longer any districts reserved for the clergy, and certainly no sanctuary. In the almost 2,000 years without a temple, Jews have made their religion more enlightened and more democratic than it was in the days of the temple.

And yet the temple is present almost everywhere in today's Judaism: The times of prayer are based on the ancient times of sacrifice in the temple, the rules for kosher slaughter are based on the sacrificial rituals in the temple.

The descendants of the priests and temple servants, the Cohamin and Leviim, enjoy a special position in Jewish worship. For example, they are the first to be called in front of the open Torah scroll to recite a blessing.

And then the Torah scrolls themselves: Jews revere the handwritten scrolls in today's worship. They solemnly carry the Torah scroll, which is wrapped in an ornate cloth cloak, through the synagogue. The scroll is reminiscent of the core of the temple: the Ark of the Covenant.

"The Eternal said to Moshe as follows: Speak to the children of Israel. They are to make a sanctuary for me, and I will live among them, as I show you in the picture the model of a dwelling and the model of all its utensils."

In the Bible, the temple first appears as a portable sanctuary that the Israelites carry through the desert: as a mishkan, tabernacle, tabernacle or temple tent.

This sanctuary is supposed to be the central place of communication between God and the people of Israel. Moshe represents the people in the tabernacle.

"They are to make an ark of cut in the wood. In the ark you put the testimony, the tablets of the law, which I will give you."

It is noticeable how detailed the Bible describes the structure of the temple tent.

The tabernacle as the central place

The corresponding passages sound as if God is dictating instructions for use, specifying exactly where which ring and which rod made of which material should be attached.

"The length shall be two and a half cubits, the breadth one and a half cubits, and the height one and a half cubits. You are to overlay it with pure gold, inside and out, and make a gold wreath around it attach ... Make poles of wood too. Cover them with gold. Then put the poles in the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark with. "

Some today, somewhat disrespectfully, call such passages the "Ikea passages" of the Bible. - In addition to the Holy of Holies, in which the tablets of the commandments are located, the furniture also includes pots and pans, i.e. objects that indicate the cult of sacrifice.

The tabernacle is the place where God and Moshe communicate. Apart from Moshe, only a few prominent people are allowed to enter this place - for example Moshe's brother Aharon, the first priest, and his sons. The sanctuary is not intended for normal mortals. The descendants of Levi performed the temple service, as the only tribe of Israel did not receive any land ownership.

"They are to be with you to guard the tabernacle so that no ordinary person approaches you. But you have to guard the sanctuary and the altar, so that no more anger breaks out against the children of Yisrael. I give you the priesthood as a gift Office, and the common man who enters shall be dead. "

The same applies to the monastery tent as it did later to the stone-built temple: only authorized persons have access, only specialists are allowed to perform the ordinances. Otherwise a wrong move can lead to a disaster.

For the religious scholar Rudolf Otto, the sacred is always something uncanny and threatening. This also applies to the temple.

However, the threat is contained. If the people selected for this do the right moves, disaster can be avoided.

A permanent temple is mentioned for the first time in the Book of Kings, but the place of the temple already plays a role in the patriarchal stories in the Book of Bereshit or Genesis. Namely, there is talk of Mount Morija - the mountain on which the temple will later be built.

Morija - according to tradition, this is the place where Abraham almost killed Isaac. Only at the last moment does he give up and sacrifice a ram instead of his son. Morija means: He will show himself. So Morija is the mountain on which God shows himself.

The first book of kings tells how King Solomon or Schelómo in Hebrew had the first permanent temple built there. The ark of the covenant also forms the center of Solomon's temple. It is located in the area called the Holy of Holies, in the kodesch ha kodaschim. This literally means: In the holy of the holy.

Only the priests entered the holy place, the holy of holies only the high priest, and that only once a year, on the day of atonement, Yom Kippur. Then the high priest sprinkled the blood of sacrificial animals in the Holy of Holies and, according to the Talmud, pronounced the name of God. The only occasion in the year that someone has uttered the name of God, if one believes the Jewish sources.

If something is taboo in Judaism, it is pronouncing the name of God. The word was made up of the letters Jud, Hey, Wav, Hey, so JHWH. Jews still don't use the name to this day - at least if they adhere to the rules of their religion.

In the meantime, the exact pronunciation has even been forgotten. Jews today paraphrase the name and say, for example, adonai, my lord.

After the Babylonian exile

In 587 BC, the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar conquered the country, kidnapped the Israeli elite to Babylon and destroyed the first Temple of Solomon. According to Jewish tradition, this was the punishment for the Israelites failing to obey God's commandments.

After the Babylonian exile, reconstruction began in 538. The Holy of Holies in the new temple was probably empty, the ark of the covenant had meanwhile been lost.

King Herod the Great, a contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth, later had the temple renewed magnificently and on an enormous scale. Josephus Flavius ​​describes this building as follows:

"Its front was gilded everywhere, and if you looked through, you had the full view of the actual temple house, which was also the tallest structure of the temple."

After an uprising by the Israelites, the Romans destroyed this second temple in the year 70. The Romans built the city "Colonia Aelia Capitolina" on the ruins of Jerusalem. The aim was to erase all memory of the Israelites' holy city in this way.

Jews were now expressly denied access to this city. All hopes for a third temple were dashed and were finally shifted to the messianic time.

What remains of the second temple is only part of the western wall, which is also known as the Western Wall. But even after the temple was lost in Judaism, the idea of ​​the temple continued to be dealt with.

Although it was clear that there would be no new sanctuary, the rabbis in the Mishnah meticulously record what sacrifices should be performed when and how in the temple.

A part of the Mishnah is even dedicated to the subject of temples. "Mishnah" means repetition and this rabbinical set of laws forms the basis of the Talmud. The Berlin Judaist Tal Ilan describes the rabbis' intention as follows:

"We want the temple to be built again as soon as possible. And since it is now clear that no new temple will be built in our world, that means that the end of the day is to be expected with the temple, and we want it as soon as possible. "

Anyone entering a synagogue today will no longer see an altar there. The offices of priests and Levites have been abolished. There is no doubt that Judaism has long been a lay religion.

The rabbis and their debates, which have shaped Judaism for centuries, used to have nothing to say in the Jerusalem temple, but rather emerged from the Pharisee movement.

But despite all the contrasts between temple and synagogue, a continuity is noticeable: the Ark of the Covenant was in the holy of holies in the tabernacle, behind the curtain in the synagogue the handwritten Torah scrolls are kept as the centerpiece of the synagogue.

The names for both are similar: the ark of the covenant is called "aron habrit" in the Bible, meaning cabinet of the covenant, the Torah shrine in the synagogue is called "aron hakodesch" - holy cabinet.

This example shows that in Judaism the appreciation for letters has been preserved for thousands of years.