Rabbi Chaim Ozer Chait
An acquaintance recently told me that he attended a shiur on the Har Habayit and that one Rav spoke for forty-five minutes listing all the gadolim that say it is assur (prohibited) to ascend the Har Habayit. He wanted to know my opinion. I asked him if he said what the issur is? He stared at me for about a minute and said no, he did not. I explained to him that is because there is no issur. How can you have an issur on performing a mitzvah? That is an oxymoron. This is like putting an issur on purchasing a lulav, on the grounds that it might be from an asherah (a grove worshipped by heathens), such a decree is impossible. The Mitzvah of Mikdashe Terau (Vayikra 26:2 ) the 21 positive commandments according to the counting of the Rambam (and the 254th mitzva according to the Sefer Hachinuch) explicitly commands us to show awe and reverence to the Temple Mount. This Mitzvah applies for all times. The Rambam explains in Hilchot Beis Habechirah 7:1,2 Mikdashe Terau may only be accomplished by entering the Temple Mount in a manner that shows awe and reverence. For example, walking without shoes. Placing a violation on entering The Temple Mount is tantamount to abolishing the Mitzvah, which is a violation of the Torah (see Rambam’s Ninth Principle of Faith “One may not add to it nor delete from it, neither in the written nor oral Torah, as it is written “Thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it”). The Rambam points out (ibid Halacha 7) that the Mitzvah of holding the The Temple in awe and reverence applies even after the destruction of the Temple as it states in the Torah (Vayikra 19:30), “You shall observe My Sabbaths and you shall revere My Sanctuary.” Just as the observance of Shabbos applies for eternity so too the reverence for the Temple must be eternal. Even though it is in ruin, it remains holy”. Furthermore, all Mitzvot of the Taryag (613 commandments) are eternal. They never expire or are replaced (see third principle of the Rambam to Sefer Hamitzvot). See also Rambam Hilchot Melachim 11:3:
The general principle is : this law of ours with its statutes and ordinances is not subject to change. It is for ever and all eternity; it is not to be added to or to be taken away from. Whoever adds aught to it, or takes away aught from it, or misinterprets it, and strips the commandments of their literal sense is an imposter ,a wicked man, and a heretic.”
This is why there cannot be an issur to enter the Temple mount. (Note: one should not confuse this with the law that if Rosh Hashanah falls out on Shabbos, the Mitzvah of blowing Shofer is suspended. That suspension was under the authority of the Sanhedrin which obviously does not exist today. Furthermore, it was clear from the decree that the suspension of the shofar is only temporary and the Mitzvah will be carried the forthcoming year when Rosh Hashana comes out on a weekday. Whereas, regarding the Mitzvah of Mikdashe Tearu it has been suspended by the Rabbinate for over fifty years and from the prohibition of Rav Kook over one hundred years. This is a clear violation of removing a Mitzvah from the Taryag. [see Rambam Hilchos Mamrim chapter 2 Halacha 9])
For centuries the Jewish people have been ascending the Temple Mount whenever the ruling authorities permit- ted. We find the Gemara at the end of Makos page 24b where it relates the story of Rabbi Akiva and his colleagues walking on the Temple Mount. The Yerushalmi relates in Pesachim 7:12, that the Rabbis would place their sandals under the doorjamb of the Temple Mount when entering the Temple Mount. At the time of the Meerie the common practice was like the opinion of the Ra’avad and people would enter the Azara (Meerie Shevuos page 16a). (Note- there exists a basic debate between the Rambam who holds that the sanctity of the Temple is of the same Kedusha (holiness) as it was during the period when it was in full use. The Ra’avad maintains that the Kedusha is not of the same standing. The practical difference between them is that according to the Ra’avad one may enter any part of the Temple Mount, even the Kodesh Kodashim (the holy of holies) whereas according to the Rambam that is prohibited by penalty of Kares. At the time of the Meerie the practice was like the Ra’avad) (see sefer “Har Habayit K’halacha” by Rabbi Elisha Wolfson our Rosh Kollel of Drishat Tzion, siman 4 for a lengthy list of times when the Muslims permitted the Jews to ascend the Har Habayit).
The first major figure to place an issur on ascending the Har Habayit was Rav Kook ZT”L (1865-1935). He was appointed the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Palestine in 1921 who prohibited entering any part of the Temple Mount (see Photo above) . This behooves us to ask what made him feel he had the responsibility and the authority to place such a ban. This we leave for my next article.
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NOTE: One should not ascend the Temple Mount without proper Rabbinical instruction:
1) You should be informed of the various routes that are available according to the different Rabbinicial opinions.
2) You must immerse in a Kosher Mikvah that meets the standards to be kosher med’oriasa.
3) You must receive instructions for the proper prepara- tions for the Mikvah (Chafifah)