The “Holy Temple”- in Hebrew, Beit Hamikdash was a large (approximately football-stadium-sized), multi-level, indoor-outdoor structure that was and spiritually still is the nucleus of Judaism. Its most sacred site. It stood atop Jerusalem’s Mount Moriah.
The First Temple called Solomon’s Temple was built in 957 BCE and was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 or 586 BCE.
The second Temple was completed in 515 BCE and was destroyed by the Romans during the Siege of Jerusalem in the year 70 CE.
Many projects to build a Third Temple have not yet come to fruition, but the Temple still features prominently in Orthodox and Conservative Jewish services alike.
Today, to our sorrow, the Temple Mount is the site of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
But with all that, we the Jewish people are yearning and praying and remembering the Holy Temple or Beit Hamikdash, or Beit-Habchira. Why? Why do we dwell on something that existed over 2000 years ago?
The Holy Temple of Jerusalem or as we will call it here The Holy Temple was, is, and will always be the center of Jewish life all over the world.
But let us first look at some Historical interesting events, no I will not bore you with the whole history I promise.
We all know what the holiday of Hanukkah is, or so we think, we know it as this holiday you get gifts every day for 8 days, and Hanukkah Gelt, and the dreidel.
But what is really the story of Hanukkah? It is the story of the Holy Temple.
According to Jewish sources, another demolition of the Temple (apart from the two mentioned above) was somehow avoided in 332 BCE when the Jews refused to acknowledge the self-deification of Alexander the Great of Macedonia, but Alexander was somehow convinced at the last minute by smart diplomacy and flattery. After the death of Alexander on 323 BCE, and the dismembering of his empire, the Ptolemies came to rule over Judea and the Temple. Under the Ptolemies, the Jews were given many civil liberties and lived content under their rule. However, when the Ptolemaic army was defeated by Antiochus in 200 BCE, this friendly policy changed. Antiochus wanted to convert the Jews to Hellenism and attempted to make the Holy Temple into the Greek Pantheon. Moreover, a rebellion started and was brutally crushed, but no further action by Antiochus was taken, and when Antiochus died in 187 BCE, his son was his successor Sleucus IV Philopator .
However, his policies never took effect in Judea, since he was assassinated the year after his crowning, it was Antiivhus IV Epiphanes that succeeded his older brother to the throne and immediately adopted his father’s previous policy of universal Hellenisation. The Jews rebelled again and Antiochus, in a rage, retaliated in force. Considering the previous episodes of discontent, the Jews became even more upset when the religious observances of Shabbath and Circumcision were officially outlawed. When Antiochus erected a statue of Zeus in the Temple and Hellenic priests began sacrificing pigs (the usual sacrifice offered to Greek Gods of the Hellenic religion), the anger of the Jewish people began to spiral. When a Greek official ordered a Jewish priest to perform a Hellenic sacrifice, the priest – Mattathias (Mathityahu in Hebrew) killed him. In 167 BCE, the Jews followed and went behind Mattathias and his five sons to fight, they won their freedom from the Seleucid authority. Mattathias’ son Judah the Macabee re-dedicated the temple in 165 BCE and the Jews celebrate this event to this day as the central theme of the non-biblical festival of Hanukkah. The temple was rededicated under Judah Maccabee in 164 BCE.
Around 20 BCE, the building was renovated and expanded by Herod the Great and became known as Herod’s Temple. It was destroyed 90 years later by the Romans in 70 CE.
During the Bar Kokhba Revolt against the Romans in 132–135 CE, Simon Bar- Kokhba and Rabi Akiva wanted to rebuild the Temple, but bar Kokhba’s revolt failed, and the Jews were banned from Jerusalem, by the Roman Empire, except on Tisha B’Av. Julian the Emperor allowed the Temple to be rebuilt, but the Earthquake of Galilee in 363 ended all attempts ever since.
After the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in the 7th century, Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan ordered the construction of an Islamic shrine, the Dome of the Rock, on the Temple Mount. The shrine has stood on the mount since 691 CE; the al-Aqsa Mosque, from roughly the same period, also stands in what used to be the Temple courtyard.
Jordan occupied East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount immediately following Israel’s declaration of independence on May 14, 1948. In 1967 during the Six-Day War, Temple Mount, along with the entire Old City of Jerusalem, was captured from Jordan by Israel, allowing Jews once again to visit the holy site.
Today the Jewish Holy Site is the remains of the walls of the Holly temple which is the Wailing Wall / the Western Wall, / Hakotel in Hebrew.
Even though the Muslims claim that the Temple mount was always theirs and they were first, and the stone in the center of the Omar Shrine is where Abraham was going to Sacrifice Izaak, the Jewish people will always claim, as we should, to have the first right on the Moriah Mountain or as we call it now temple mount, there are more than enough archaeological evidence backing up this fact.
The Temple’s centrality to Jewish existence is reflected in the fact that many of the Jewish mitzvot are Temple-related: daily and weekly offerings; holiday pilgrimages and offerings; personal, voluntary, and obligatory offerings; qualifying criteria for the Kohanim and Levites; Temple rituals; and the dos and don’ts for all the above. There are around 180 mitzvot (good deeds) out of a total of 613 related to the Holy Temple.
When the Temple stood, G_D was real to everyone. The Holy Temple was a place of spirituality, a place where you can feel and sense G_D’s presence. A place that when you wanted to be close to G_D you went to Jerusalem to find Him at His Temple. The Temple was a symbol of G_D and all the things that “G_D” means responsibility, morality, ethics, love, compassion, and humility. It was a place where one found spirituality:
You didn’t have to be Jewish to go to the Temple; kings and peasants from every country and culture traveled long distances just to experience it all. The Temple was the single most important structure in society, offering structure to society. Then it was destroyed.
Since the destruction of the Temple, G_D was removed from its geographic location and placed itself within us. Instead of traveling to Jerusalem, G_D wants us to find Him in our inner Jerusalem.
At the times of the Temple, G_D was in principle reaching down to His world, and now in the times of our exile, it is us reaching up, from within that world back to G_D.
When you go and visit the Western Wall for the first time, please put both your hands on its stones and just close your eyes and you feel it, you feel the Holiness of the place, you feel the presence of G_D right there. If you ever doubted G_D’s presence you will know it exists when you are at Temple mount at the Kotel.
This is the place that G_D chose for us to feel its presence, it is the place where we come to celebrate and mourn, we come to request and pray for others and ourselves, just the same as it was over 2000 years ago.
The Holy Temple with its very Symbolic history is the History of the Jewish people. It’s our core existence our past and our future, our roots are there and our strength as a nation comes from there. Our unity comes from Traditions and Mitzvot that exist for thousands and hundreds of years.
And that is where we are all connected, any Jew worldwide knows that the Holy Temple was and will be rebuilt in Jerusalem.
That’s why we mourn the fall of the holy temple on Tisha B’Av, which is the culmination of the Three Weeks, a period during which we mourn and mark the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
These days usually fall on the months of July and August.
So as you can see The Holy Temple has a big influence on Jewish lives, and the connection of the Jewish people to the Holy Temple is our Spiritual connection to our G_D All-Mighty.
Next Year in Jerusalem!