You will have to cooperate with me as you read this. It is an exercise in imagination.
The time: Many decades into the future
The place: Jerusalem
The scenario: The United Rabbis of Israel, a splinter group from the Union of Orthodox Rabbis, has decided to build the Third Temple on an artificially built extension of the Temple Mount (Haram esh-Sharif), with the agreement on the United Sunna and Shia Islamic League.
An underground tunnel built on a 45-degree angle links the new Holy of Holies to the Foundation Stone, granting the new Temple legitimacy according to the national-religious followers of the Priestly Crown white-robed Levites.
• Bloody clashes between followers of the United Rabbis and the ultra-Orthodox Nachmanites, and between followers of the United Rabbis and the super-ultra-Orthodox Menachemites, have rocked Jerusalem. Each of the two ultra-Orthodox groups is demanding that construction begin only when its deceased rabbi returns and approves the Third Temple project. The Architects Union has declared a strike of all its members in protest.
• Fifty ambulances have been ferrying the injured to all hospitals in the area of the Holy City.
• Live fire has been exchanged between opposing units of the Nahal Haredi, and military police have arrived by helicopter and by motorized riot-crushing equipment to stop the shooting. The final casualty count has been wrapped under a gag-order.
• The United Muslim States has offered to mediate the dispute, and warns that no violence will be allowed to spill over onto the existing Temple Mount. Nepal has offered medical aid, and Haiti is ready to rush a field hospital.
• The United Nations, the European Union of Islamic States, the Hispanic American Union, the former United Chinese States and the India-East Asia League, in a precedent setting step, have jointly condemned the violence, and pleaded for calm.
• From the papal balcony, Pope Catherine II has offered to mediate. She has ordered the papal secretary of state, the former president of the Order of Homo Sentiens, Monsignor Guido Pomposo to fly to Israel immediately.Decades afterwards:
The Israel government supported by the combined financing of oligarchs from the failed United States of America, diamond merchants and casino and slot-machine czars has built the Third Temple. This was made possible after Nobel Prize winners Shoshana Gittelle in Jerusalem and Lee Dror in Rehovot were able to find the mathematical logarithmic formulas which ensures that even if Temple-goers feel crowded while standing, they yet have lots of room when prostrating themselves.Newsflash:
• Rioting has broken out in the Temple. The high priest, who was nominated in a compromise agreement among the various Knesset factions hammered out by the Joint Arab List and the various United Torah Front splinters, is accused of not slaughtering the sacrifices in accordance with Chabad practices.
Shouts of “Go back to Maccabim where you came from.” The media are already calling it “the Jerusalem Night of the Long Knives.”
• Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef III has demanded that the high priest be trained in accordance with the Beit Yosef procedures only. United Torah Front splinter groups have reunited to object. Mutual etrog-tossing has injured 43, and eight are in a serious condition.
• The Orthodox Rabbinate and Priestly Assembly are debating whether male Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Jews may be admitted to the Court of the Israelites, or as heretics, only in the Court of the Gentiles. The looming compromise will enable only registered Orthodox Jews and card-carrying members of the Jewish Atheists and Agnostics association to be recognized as Israelites.
• The United Front of non-Orthodox rabbis, rabbas and maharats is debating whether watching CCTV coverage can be considered as fulfilling the biblical commandment “to show one’s face.” Women of the Wall are also divided: some are ready to accept praying in the Court of the Women as a starting-point for eventual penetration of the male side, while others reject the offer out of hand. The LGBT are demanding an additional court be provided for them. Demonstrations in support of their demands have erupted in Sydney, Australia, and San Francisco, California.
• The Druse Temple police guarding the services have been supplemented with Cretans. Gazans claiming descent from the Philistines demand to be added to the guard. They base their claim on the Davidic precedent of both Cretan and Philistine soldiers in the Royal Household Guards.A decade later:
• Residents of all quarters of Jerusalem’s Old City have complained to the Ministry of Health over the slow collection of cow, sheep and goat droppings from the area. Some entrepreneurs have been importing made-in-former-China “genuine Lapland” snowshoes.
Further complaints have come up: The cooing and billing of the sacrificial doves has added a sound hazard to the odor hazard of their coops at the foot of the Southern Wall.
• The Chief Priesthood has launched an investigation of the bird and animal suppliers’ price-setting cartel. Crime societies are reputed to have maintained control in order to launder money from their defecation-gathering operations.
• Sleep specialists have been called in to study the effect of hundreds of animals being herded into the area in the early morning hours. The lowing of the animals before dawn has lowered the abilities of the thousands of students living in the dormitories around the yeshivot which occupy the Jewish Quarter.
The students are demanding doubled tax-free stipends to enable them to study better, as well as deodorized kindergartens and schools for their kollel families.
• No fly has been seen in the Temple. They are just all around it, on every side. The World Health Organization’s chief scientist for entomology, Professor B.U. Grim, has urged aerial spraying with chemicals certified as not made in Iran.
• A special panel of Hebrew University and Weizmann Institute specialists has proposed building giant wind towers on mountain tops near Ma’aleh Adumim, east of Jerusalem, and above Shoeva, to the city’s west, in order to end the air pollution and stench from burning animal carcasses. The panel has received an open-ended grant for the study from the Reinhard Foundation.
• The Supreme Court has issued a restraining order against the Israel Society of Vegetarians and Vegans, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Women of the Wall, and non-Orthodox rabbis, and any other suspect persons from holding protest watches, demonstrations, signs of any description or making rude gestures or sounds within the wall of the Old City. The left-wing parties have demanded the attorney-general resign due to his support of these bans, and have called it “the end of free speech.”
• The Jerusalem Municipality has asked for an additional hundred million shekels a year to finance garbage clearance from the Temple Mount. The Priests Union has refused to use any of the Temple treasury for such non-holy purposes. It has also refused to permit the use of bird or animal bones in any fashion, and has rules that the remnants should be brought to burial in the Azazel Desert. The Ministry of the Environment has objected, and minister has threatened a coalition crisis, “since the bones pollute the pristine desert.” Meanwhile, the Akirov and Azrieli companies are bidding for the excavation contract for the desert site.
• The state comptroller is investigating the Temple Authority for demanding “special contributions” on top of the sky-rocketing cost of tickets for the Temple services. There is an 18-year waiting list. The attorney-general has indicted the head of La Pamalia de Beitar for cornering the market in ticket futures.
Well, dear readers, you get the point.
History shows that the first two Temples led to corruption, conspiracies, ugly political power plays, chicanery, physical clashes and even murder. The idyllic descriptions of the Temple service in our Yom Kippur prayers are pink-painted and beautiful memories of Mishnaic law. The true sights, sounds and smells have drifted away, wafted across the centuries.
Now that the sadness, symbolism and nostalgia of Tish’a Be’av have passed, we should be mindful of what we really wish for.
Let’s pay heed to what we say.
Know what you are praying for! And thus, dear reader, I have recounted only some of my second thoughts about the Third Temple. To me, it is clear why the Messianic vision will only be realized at “the end of days.” Always and ever ahead of each generation, always in a far-off undefined future.
Avraham Avi-hai is a Jerusalem author, a former member of the senior staff of prime ministers David Ben-Gurion and Levi Eshkol, and a member of the World Zionist Organization-Jewish Agency Executive. His Jewish studies took place in Orthodox yeshivot, and at the Jewish Theological Seminary and Hebrew University. Comments to [email protected]