Visiting the Temple Mount in Our Time
Based on a shiur by Harav
The issue of visiting the
The issue of visiting the
Is there any
prohibition whatsoever to enter the
Assuming that such a
prohibition exists, with what restrictions, if at all, is visiting the
Generally speaking, there are a number of questions and issues regarding the
THE VARIOUS ZONES OF THE
A. the kodesh ha-kodashim
Entry into the Kodesh ha-Kodashim is permitted solely to the High Priest and only on Yom Kippur.
B. THE HEIKHAL
As for the Heikhal, needless entry, as it is termed by Chazal, is forbidden. There is, however, a question about the Rambams position on this issue. The Rambam states (Hilkhot Biat ha-Mikdash 2:1-2):
High Priest did not enter the Holy of Holies except on Yom Kippur; but an
ordinary priest would enter the
priests were admonished not to enter the
These laws are based on the Gemara (Menachot 27b). The Rambam seems to
imply that the prohibition to enter the
THE AZARA (THE
In various places in the Torah, the term Kodesh refers to both the Kodesh ha-Kodashim and the Heikhal. The next level of sanctity is that of the Azara. While it too is endowed with a certain sanctity, the term Kodesh does not apply to it.
The Rambam describes the area of the Azara as follows (Hilkhot Beit ha-Bechira 1:5):
These are the things that were essential in the construction of the
Regarding the Azara, there is no prohibition of needless entry. There are, however, certain types of conduct that are forbidden there. The guiding principle is that when a person enters the Azara, he should not feel overly relaxed, as if he were sitting in his living room. This finds expression primarily with regard to sleeping and sitting in the Azara. There is a famous halakha that is mentioned in several places:
Sitting in the Azara is permitted only to the kings of the House of David.
It should be noted that it is unclear whether these prohibitions are by Torah law or only by rabbinic decree. This issue is subject to a dispute in the Gemara (Zevachim 16).
HAR HA-BAYIT (THE
The wall of the Azara constitutes the border separating between the
priestly and levitical camps. The next level of sanctity (in descending order),
below that of the Azara, is the sanctity of the
The source of these prohibitions is a Mishna (Berakhot 9:5):
man should not enter the
The Gemara on this Mishna specifies additional prohibitions, but adds nothing to the basic principle. The Gemara explains that the command is to refrain from conducting oneself in the sanctuary as if one were in ones own home.
The Rambam adds something that does not appear in the Mishna and the Gemara (Hilkhot Beit ha-Bechira 7:1-2):
It is a positive commandment to revere the Sanctuary, for it is said: You shall revere My sanctuary (Vayikra 19:30). This does not bid you fear the Sanctuary itself, but Him who commanded that we revere it.
What does reverence entail? That one might not enter the
Rambam adds the last line, according to which even a ritually clean person is
forbidden to enter the
that which he wrote: One may not enter it at all except to perform a religious
duty in chapter Benei ha-Ir (Megilla 28b) we say this about a
synagogue. All the more so should this apply to the
Regarding the sanctity of a synagogue, the Mishna states (Megilla 28a):
Rabbi Yehuda said further: If a synagogue has fallen into ruins, it is not right to deliver funeral orations therein nor to wind ropes nor to spread nets nor to lay out produce on the roof [to dry] nor to use it as a short cut. As it says: And I will bring your sanctuaries into desolation (Vayikra 26:31), [which implies that] their holiness remains even when they are desolate. If grass comes up in them, it should not be plucked, so as to excite compassion.
Regarding this Mishna, the Gemara says:
For instance, Ravina and Rav Ada bar Matana were once standing and asking questions of Rava when a shower of rain came. They went into the synagogue, saying: We have not gone into the synagogue because of the rain, but because the discussion of a legal point requires clarity, like a clear day.
It follows from this passage that one is forbidden to enter a synagogue for
extraneous purposes. The Kesef Mishneh invokes a kal va-chomer,
arguing that a similar prohibition applies to the
It may be suggested that the Rambam understood by way of logical
reasoning that the command to revere the sanctuary, which applies also to the
It may further be suggested that, according to the Rambam, the prohibition of
needless entry to the
the Lord said to Aharon, You and your sons and your fathers house with you
shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary: and you and your sons with you shall
bear the iniquity of your priesthood. And your brethren also of the tribe of
Levi, the tribe of your father, bring you near with you, that your sons with you
shall minister before the tent of the Testimony. And they shall keep your
charge, and the charge of all the tent: only they shall not come near the
vessels of the sanctuary and the altar, that neither they, nor you, die. And
they shall be joined to you, and keep the charge of the Tent of Meeting, for all
the service of the tent, and a stranger shall not come near to you. And you
shall keep the charge of the sanctuary, and the charge of the altar: that there
be no wrath any more upon the children of
Rambam, based on the mishnayot dealing with this mitzva, rules in
Hilkhot Beit ha-Bechira 8:8 that the mitzva applies also to the
Where did the Levites keep guard? At the five gates of the Temple Mount; at its four corners inside; at the four corners of the Azara outside, since it was forbidden to sit within the Azara; at the five gates of the Azara outside the Azara, since the priests kept guard [within] at the Gate of the Hearth and at the Gate of the Flame. There were thus eighteen posts.
It is possible to argue that there is no proof from here that the mitzva
of safeguarding the sanctuary applies also to the
II. THE MITZVA OF REVERING THE SANCTUARY
Practically speaking, the mitzva of revering the sanctuary has
ramifications regarding the manner in which one is permitted to enter the
First of all, as we saw above, one is forbidden to enter not for the sake
of a mitzva. Obviously, we must clarify the precise definition of for
the sake of a mitzva. This question arises in various contexts, and in
each context, the answer is different. What is the law regarding a person who
wishes to enter the
An additional prohibition governing entry into the
The Ramban writes in his commentary to the Torah that wherever there is a
revelation of the Shekhina, one may not go about in shoes, and it is for
this reason that the priests would perform the
Alternatively, we may understand that the prohibition to enter the
III. RITUAL PURITY AND IMPURITY
An additional obstacle to entering the
Rav Chisda said: If a leper entered within his barrier (i.e., within the Israelite camp), he is exempt [from lashes], because it is said: He shall dwell solitary; without the camp shall his dwelling be (Vayikra 13:46) - Scripture transformed [his prohibition] into a positive command. An objection was raised: A leper who entered within his barrier [is punished] with forty lashes; zavim and zavot who entered within their barrier (i.e., within the levitical camp) are punished with forty lashes; but he who is unclean by the dead is permitted to enter the levitical camp. And they said this not only [of] him who is unclean by the dead, but even [of] the dead himself. For it is said: And Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him (Shemot 13:19), with him implying within his barrier.
leper, then, is sent out of
Today, we are all considered ritually impure because of coming into
contact with a corpse, but this does not prevent us from visiting the
was permissible for one unclean by the dead, and even the dead corpse itself, to
The problem of ritual impurity only arises in relation to people who are forbidden to enter the levitical camp those who are ritually unclean because of ritual impurity that originates in their own bodies: a man suffering from gonorrhea (zav), a woman ritually impure because of menstrual (nidda) or other bleeding (zava), and a woman who has recently given birth. In our context, a nidda or a new mother is clearly forbidden by Torah law to visit the Temple Mount before she goes to mikve.
As for men, ziva is a rare phenomenon, and it has no practical ramifications. A question arises regarding a baal keri (a man who has emitted semen). The aforementioned Gemara (Pesachim 67b) states:
was said: And every one that has an issue is to include a baal keri.
This supports Rabbi Yochanan. For Rabbi Yochanan said: The cellars [under the
The Gemara states that a baal keri is sent out of the levitical camp. The Rambam, however, rules as follows (Hilkhot Biat ha-Mikdash 3:1, 3):
was a positive commandment to banish all unclean persons from the Sanctuary. For
it is said: Command the children of
and women who had an issue, and women in their menstrual period and after
childbirth, were banished outside two camps; that is, outside the
The baal keri does not appear on the list of those who are sent out of the levitical camp. It would appear that a baal keri is indeed permitted to enter the Temple Mount, for the Rambam defines those who are sent out of the two camps - i.e., the camp of the Shekhina and the levitical camp - as those who render objects ritually impure by sitting or lying upon them, and a baal keri does not do this.
From the Gemara, on the other hand, it would seem that a baal keri is indeed sent out of the two camps. The Mishneh Lemelekh deals with the difficulty posed by the contradiction between the Rambam and the Gemara. The Gemaras guiding principle in identifying those who are sent out of the two camps is similar to that set down by the Rambam those who render objects ritually impure by sitting or lying upon them. But the Gemara reformulates this category as those whose ritual impurity originates in their own bodies, who are generally subject to the stringency that they render objects ritually impure by sitting or lying upon them. Once this group has been characterized as a separate group governed by greater stringency, the entire group is banned from the two camps, even if a particular member of the group does not render objects ritually impure by sitting or lying upon them. Specifically, a baal keri falls into the category of those whose ritual impurity originates in their own bodies, and therefore, even though he does not render objects ritually impure by sitting or lying upon them, he is nevertheless forbidden to enter the two camps.
IV. THE RITUAL IMPURITY OF A BAAL KERI
The Tosafot (s.v. ve-itkash) relate to a question that arises in tractate Nidda (22a): When a woman experiences menstrual bleeding, the menstrual blood is indeed an av ha-temuma an original source of ritual impurity. But the womans impurity does not stem from the fact that her body came into contact with this blood, for were this the case, the woman should only be regarded as a rishon le-tuma the first degree of ritual impurity, and not an av ha-tuma. We must, therefore, distinguish between two phenomena: the experience of menstrual bleeding turns the woman herself into an av ha-tuma, and independent of that, the menstrual blood is also an av ha-tuma, so that a person who comes into contact with such blood becomes a rishon le-tuma. We find a similar discussion with respect to a baal keri: Does a mans emission of semen define him as ritually impure, or does his ritual impurity stem from his coming into physical contact with his semen? The Gemara argues that this question has two practical ramifications.
1. What is the law governing a man who emitted semen that did not come into external contact with his body? Internal contact is regarded as impurity in the concealed parts of the body (tumat beit ha-setarim), which does not impart ritual impurity. If the impurity of a baal keri is based on his experience of emission, such a person should be ritually impure. But if the baal keris impurity is based on contact with the semen, such a person should not be ritually impure.
2. Is a minimum amount of semen necessary? If the baal keris impurity stems from his experiencing an emission, any amount of semen should suffice. But if his impurity is based on his coming into contact with the semen, a minimum amount of semen must be present.
The Gemara draws a connection between these two ramifications. The Tosafot conclude that the ritual impurity of a baal keri falls into the category of ritual impurity imparted by contact, and it stems from the baal keris coming into contact with the semen. This assertion is relevant to two questions that are connected to our discussion.
1) What is the status of a baal keri? If the impurity derives from contact, he is a rishon le-tuma; but if the impurity stems from the experience of emission, he is an av ha-tuma.
2) If the impurity derives from contact, a baal keri needs only to be sent out from the camp of the Shekhina (i.e., the Temple and Courtyard); but if it stems from the experience of emission, he must be sent out from the levitical camp (i.e., the Temple Mount) as well.
The Tosafot conclude that the matter is subject to a dispute between two talmudic passages (Nidda 22a and 42a). However, the Tosafot do not make explicit mention of the first ramification mentioned above, that this disagreement is relevant to the question whether a baal keri is regarded as an av ha-tuma or a rishon le-tuma.
The Rambam, in his commentary to the Mishna, understands that a baal keri is a rishon le-tuma. It would seem that if he is only a rishon le-tuma, he should be barred only from the camp of the Shekhina, but permitted to enter the other camps. In the Rambams rulings, however, this point is a bit problematic. In Hilkhot Shear Avot ha-Tuma (5:1), he writes:
Semen is one of the avot ha-tuma Whether a man touches it or ejects it from his flesh, he is a rishon le-tuma by Torah law.
The Rambam rules that one who experiences an emission of semen and one who comes into contact with it are both considered a rishon le-tuma, but he mentions them separately. And indeed, despite the fact that both are a rishon le-tuma, there is a difference between them regarding the minimum amount of semen that is required in each of the cases:
For one who touches it, a lentils bulk; for one who ejects it, any quantity whatsoever.
We see then that a baal keri is a rishon le-tuma, but he becomes ritually impure with any amount of semen. If we understand that according to the Rambam a baal keri is ritually impure because of his having come into contact with his semen, then it is possible that he omitted the law of sending a baal keri out of the Temple Mount, because he is merely a rishon le-tuma, and need not be sent out of the two camps.
Let us summarize, then, that the Rambams rulings present two difficulties:
1) If a baal keri is ritually impure because he came into contact with semen, why doesnt the Rambam require a minimum amount of semen to impart the impurity?
2) How can the Rambam be reconciled with the Gemara that states explicitly that a baal keri is sent out of two camps?
Practically speaking, we find one commentator the Mei Naftoach (p.
87) who explains that according to the Rambam, a baal keri is only a
rishon le-tuma, and therefore permitted to enter the
Practically speaking, then, a baal keri is forbidden to enter the
[Ed. note: Another consequence of this is that not only may a nidda or
yoledet not enter the
V. TEVUL YOM (ONE WHO HAS IMMERSED HIMSELF DURING DAY)
How much time must the baal keri wait following his immersion before
he is permitted to enter the
1) On the Torah level do we say that those who are ritually impure with impurity that originated in their own bodies and who immersed themselves, are no longer categorized as being ritually impure with impurity that originated in their own bodies? In other words, if a ritually impure person underwent immersion, but is still impure, is he now in a separate category governed by its own laws? Or perhaps he is simply not pure yet, and he is governed by the very same laws as one who has not immersed himself at all? If immersion moves a person into a new category, then following immersion he should be regarded as having ordinary impurity that does not originate in his own body, and therefore he should be permitted to enter the levitical camp. Even if we understand that the status of a tevul yom is identical to that of one who has not undergone immersion, it is still possible that the prohibition to enter the Temple Mount only applies when the ritual impurity is in full strength, and not when it is about to disappear on its own. It is also possible that a distinction should be made between a baal keri and a zav.
2) On the rabbinic level the Gemara (Zevachim 32b) states that a tevul yom is forbidden by rabbinic decree to enter the levitical camp. The Rambam rules (Hilkhot Biat ha-Mikdash 3:6):
person who immersed himself the same day was banished from the Ezrat Nashim
(the Court of Women, which is part of the
It should be noted that the prohibition of entry in the case of a tevul yom does not apply to the entire levitical camp, but only to the Ezrat Nashim.
VI. The Chail
In addition to the prohibition of entry discussed above, there is another
rabbinic prohibition of entry into the area of the Chail (the wall
surrounding the Azara). The Mishna in tractate Kelim (1:8) defines
the various areas of the
Today we are all regarded as having contracted the ritual impurity imparted by a
corpse. Therefore, we are rabbinically forbidden to enter the area of the
Chail. Obviously, defining the various areas depends upon archeological
understanding of the
Generally speaking, then, the concern about visiting the
1) Entry into the Azara is a possible violation of a Torah prohibition. Stringency is, therefore, required.
2) A place which is certainly not the Azara, but may possibly fall within the bounds of the Chail, involves a possible violation of a rabbinic prohibition.
VII. Communal Responsibility for the
As we saw earlier in the words of the Rambam, non-Jews are barred from
entering particular areas of the
The Gemara (Makkot 14b) discusses a negative precept that is preceded by a positive commandment (i.e., a negative precept whose violation requires that the transgressor must already have violated a positive precept):
Rabba bar Bar Chana said: Any prohibition preceded by a positive commandment is subject to lashes.
In the end, however, the Gemara asserts after a detailed discussion that a negative precept that was preceded by a positive one is considered like a negative precept whose violation can be rectified by the fulfillment of a positive commandment. Lashes are, therefore, not administered for the violation of the negative commandment.
A number of Rishonim object to this assertion: An explicit Mishna
states that lashes are administered for entering the
It may be suggested that the negative precept barring entry into the
was a positive commandment to banish all unclean persons from the Sanctuary. For
it is said: Command the children of
term that the Torah uses with regard to the prohibition of entering the
According to this, we may understand the prohibition of non-Jewish entry
viii. The Sanctity of the
The entire preceding discussion is only relevant if we assume that the
sanctity of the
The Rambam (Hilkhot Beit ha-Bechira 7:7) rules:
Even though the Sanctuary today is in ruins because of our iniquities, we are obliged to revere it in the same manner as when it was standing. One should not enter except where it was permissible; nor should anyone sit down in the [site of] the Azara or act irreverently while facing [the place where stood] the East Gate; for it is said: You shall keep my Sabbaths, and revere My Sanctuary (Vayikra 19:30). Now just as we are obliged to keep the Sabbath for all time to come, so must we revere the Sanctuary, for all time to come; for even though it is in ruins, its sanctity endures.
The Rambam relates here to the commandment of revering the sanctuary, but it would seem that his words are equally applicable to the prohibition of entry in a state of ritual impurity.
In the Gemara, we find many discussions as to whether the first and
second sanctifications of the
at any time the rite of hallowing did not include all of the above provisions
and in the order stated, the hallowing was not complete. And when Ezra prepared
two thanksgiving offerings, he did so merely as a memorial [of the rite]. The
site was not hallowed by his ceremony, since neither a king was present nor did
the Urim and Tumim function. How then was the site hallowed? By
the first sanctification which Shlomo had made, for he had hallowed the Azara
first sanctification of the
is it my contention that as far as the Sanctuary and
contrast, the obligations arising out of the Land as far as the Sabbatical year
and the tithes are concerned had derived from the conquest of the Land by the
people [of Israel], and as soon as the land was wrested from them, the conquest
was nullified. Consequently, [after the Bablyonian exile,] the Land was exempted
by the Law from tithes and from [the restrictions of] the Sabbatical year, for
it was no longer deemed the
When Ezra, however, came up and hallowed [the Land], he hallowed it not by
conquest but merely by the act of settling it. Therefore, every place that was
possessed by those who had returned from
Clearly, then, if we follow the rulings of the Rambam, all the restrictions on entering the Temple Mount should be fully in force even in our day. The Raavad disagrees with this position:
This is his own argument; I do not know from where he got it. [We find] in
several places in the Mishna: If there is no Sanctuary, let it rot. And in the
Gemara, they say: That the barriers fell down. This implies that according to
the one who says that the first sanctification did not hallow them for all time
to come, there is no distinction between the Sanctuary,
In effect, the Raavad disagrees with the Rambam on two points:
1) The first sanctity did not remain valid for the future.
The distinction between the sanctity of the
The Tosafot put forward a third opinion, according to which there is no
distinction between the sanctity of the
The Raavad concludes his words as follows:
Therefore, one who enters there at this time is not liable for karet (excision).
A discussion of the Raavads position must take a number of considerations into account.
First, why does the Raavad say that there is no excision for entry into the
The Meiri (Shavuot 16) says that the prevalent custom is to enter
the site of the
Furthermore, it is possible that the Raavad relates solely to the problem of ritual impurity, which according to him does not exist today. But even according to him, the mitzva to revere the sanctuary applies even today.