Monday, December 2, 2013

The Chief Rabbinate's Decision to Forbid Visiting the Temple Mount (Again) Really Does Matter

Kipa is reporting that the new Chief Rabbis, Rav David Lau and Rav Yitzchak Yosef, recently reaffirmed the decades-long psak halachah forbidding Jews to ascent to Har Habayit. The reasoning behind the prohibition is beyond the scope of this blog post, but dates back to the time of Rav A"Y Hakohen Kook, who explicitly forbade any efforts to asend to Har Habayit. (I recently heard a shiur from Rav Mordechai Greenberg on the underlying reasoning of Rav Kook, and at some point I'll try and post it. Just not now.)
Here's the psak:


The reaction of many on the left wing of Religious Zionist community will be to yawn, and see this as yet another example of the growing irrelevance of the Chief Rabbinate, who seems to want to reaffirm that we're still living in the past, that nothing has changed, blah blah blah. Moreover, this reaffirmation will do nothing to stop those people who visit Har Habayit from continuing to do so, as they are leaning on solid halachic shoulders which permit visiting very specific areas of the Temple Mount, and feel that their position is based on solid archaeological studies.
So, if non-religious people were going anyway, and religious people were relying on a different psak, why then did the Chief Rabbis issue their "reaffirmation"? Does it really matter?
Actually, it does matter a great deal.
For those following Knesset committee proceedings, for months the Knesset has been discussing the issue of the rights of Jews to pray on Har Habayit. (If you're looking to waste a couple of fun minutes, you can watch MK Ahmed Tibi freak out at one of these meetings - something he does quite regularly.) Legally, Jews are supposedly allowed to pray on the Temple Mount, but practically, the police prevent people from doing so, and arrest anyone who makes any type of Jewish religious declaration whatsoever. After Rabbi Yehuda Glick was banned from visiting and leading groups to Har Habayit, he later learned that the "crime" he committed which got him banned was the recititation of the Prayer for the State of Israel and the Prayer for the Safety of the Soldiers of the IDF. Those provocative acts got him on the "Do-Not-Visit-Temple-Mount" list, which led him to begin a hunger strike, which led the police to back down for now, and the saga continues.
Not surprisingly, with the recent resurgence of the Religious Zionist Bayit Hayehudi, the issue of the freedom of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount has taken on greater significance in the halls of the Knesset. In the committee meetings, Rav Eli Ben Dahan, the Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs, asked the Chief Rabbis to change the official stance on the law, in order to allow his office to proceed with the proposed legislation. At the same time, he made it clear that while he personally doesn't think that it's a problem for Jews to visit and pray on the Temple Mount, he would not support pushing legislation to that effect against the wishes of the Chief Rabbis. So, while Jews continue to visit and silently pray on the Temple Mount (under the watchful eye of the police), they have really been hoping for legislation that would force the police to stop harrassing them and allow them to pray in peace (at least until the Arabs started rioting). Now, with the recent reaffirmation of the Chief Rabbis, the Bayit Hayehudi will not act against their will and push legislation they feel is against halachah (although in truth, the Chief Rabbis were also against the Tzohar law).
So don't expect Chabad to open a shtiebel and tefillin stand on Har Habayit anytime soon.