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Praying for a Third Temple

This issue came up in a Smyth & Helwys Uniform Series lesson currently being edited (on Ezra and the building of the Second Temple). In this Haaretz piece, Samuel Lebens explores his complex relationship with the Temple Mount and with those who want to rebuild the temple:

What does it mean to desire a third temple? It does not mean the reinstitution of animal sacrifices. Generations of scholars, from Maimonides to Rabbi Kook, have indicated that the next temple will be a completely vegetarian affair. The desire to build a third temple isn’t even the desire to impose Judaism upon others. The prophetic image of the messianic temple is that of a ‘house of prayer for all peoples’ (Isaiah 56:7). Thus, Rabbi Nebenzahl, the saintly Rabbi of the Old City of Jerusalem, has said that there can, of course, continue to be a mosque on the temple mount even once our temple is rebuilt. The prophets foresaw that we’d all be worshipping one God, but not necessarily in the same way. Perhaps the third temple complex will be a veritable interfaith fair where all of the monotheists of the world – including Hindu and Sikh monotheists – will converge in their diversity, retaining their distinct communal identity whilst directing prayers from the same place to the same God in different languages and modes.

Yes, it’s a dream. It’s a certain vision of a utopia. It isn’t to be forced upon anybody, but, progressive politics is all about dreams and aspirations. The dream that one day, amidst our religious diversity, the people of the world will be able to celebrate one another’s cultures and to pray together; the dream that one day, no religion will own the Temple Mount, forcing others not to pray within its precincts; that’s a dream that a progressive audience should embrace rather than ridicule. It’s a vision that has sustained the Jewish people for millennia.

It’s an interesting exploration for what the traditional prayers for a rebuilt temple, recited daily by Jews of all theological strains, might mean for mainstream Jews.

(H/T: Jim Davila)

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