Joe Yudin owns Touring Israel, a company that specializes in “Lifestyle” tours of Israel.
better way to celebrate Passover or Easter than by exploring the ruins
of the Second Temple in Jerusalem? Before doing so, however, one must
first understand the history of the Temple and the politics surrounding
Judaism has gone through major changes over the last 3,800
years or so. From Abraham to Moses it was all about personal
relationships between man and God; God revealing himself to man and
guiding him in the ways of morality with the promise of establishing a
new nation in a fertile land.
In the Jewish tradition it started
with the destruction of idols and the banning of child sacrifice. It culminated in the giving of the Torah, God’s laws and teachings, to all
the children of Israel and “a mixed multitude” at Mount Sinai. From
that point, the nation building began with a new generation, guided by
the Torah and God’s appointed judges and prophets into the Land of
According to the Hebrew Bible, God’s presence followed
the Israelites into the Land of Israel residing in the Mishkan, a
portable tent containing the Ark of the Covenant, and was eventually
brought by King David to Mount Moriah which, according to Jewish
tradition, is the place of the binding of Isaac and creation of the
King Solomon built a permanent house for him there in
Jerusalem and between the years 965BCE and 586BCE the Holy Temple stood
in Jerusalem and the Israelite people would bring their sacrifices up to
the mount three times a year as commanded in the Torah, singing songs,
heaping praise on the Lord and praying for peace and morality.
the destruction of Solomon’s Temple by Nebuchadnezzar and the
Babylonians in 586 BCE and the enslavement of the Jewish people, Judaism
again began to change its path.
In exile many Jews begin to
meet on the Sabbath in homes to discuss scripture, study Torah and sing
praise unto the Lord. The institution of the synagogue was formed not in
Israel, but Babylonia, and a new sect of Jews emerged from this time: the
Because of the relatively short period of exile this
new form of spiritual, cerebral Judaism did not replace the Temple but
upon the Jews' return to Israel grew alongside the cultic practice of
Judaism based in the Second Temple built around 515 BCE and administered
by the Sadducees.
Second Temple went through many periods of building and renovation.
Built first by Zerubabel out of wood, later expanded by Ezra and
Nehemiah, it was made grand by the Maccabees and completely renovated to
its grandest form by King Herod in the first century BCE. This last
version of the Temple is said to be the most impressive as the Talmud
states: "Whoever hasn’t seen Herod’s structure has never seen a
beautiful edifice" (Bava Kama 4a).
During the time of the Second
Temple the Pharisees would preach adherence to the moral code of the
Torah, using interpretation of Scripture, and oral traditions based on
the biblical writings and interpreted by generations of sages as the
shining light of Judaism.
The Temple was important to them as
God commanded them to bring the sacrifice there during Passover, Shavuot
and Succot, but these were deeds among the 613 commanded upon the
Jewish people and each one was as important as the other. For the Pharisees and their philosophical
followers, the rabbis, Judaism was about trying to bring man up to God’s
level by doing good and adhering to a higher moral code.
the Sadducees who controlled the Temple and made a living from the
pilgrimages to the Temple, their goal was to bring God down to man’s
level through the Temple sacrifices so he would dwell among us. Their
goal was to keep the political situation quiet and go through the
motions of the Temple cult. This form of Judaism would not survive the
second destruction of the Temple in the year 70 CE by Titus and the
Romans. Indeed the ruins of the Temple complex at the Davidson Center
just inside Dung Gate bears witness to this fact.
There are two
different ways to explore the Davidson Center: Buy a combination ticket
at the City of David and walk underground from the Shiloach Pool in a
system of tunnels, sometimes on the first century BCE street leading up
to the Western Wall inside the center, or you can enter inside Dung Gate
to the left down the stairs.
There are many recently excavated ruins inside the center and it is best to take a guided tour. Joe Yudin
became a licensed tour guide in 1999. He completed his Master’s degree
at the University of Haifa in the Land of Israel Studies and is
currently studying toward a PhD.
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