Portal to the divine

The Temple Institute will host the 3rd annual ‘Temple Mount Awareness Day’ to promote the site’s ‘universal significance.’

Rabbi Chaim Richman 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Rabbi Chaim Richman 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The popular Internet social medium known as Twitter might be a 21st-century phenomenon, but according to Rabbi Chaim Richman, the international director of the Jerusalem-based Temple Institute, the world’s first “tweet” took place way back in biblical times.
According to Richman, when the Children of Israel were wandering through the desert following the Exodus from Egypt, “they sent a message, or a ‘tweet,’ to the entire world that ‘a nation lives in the midst of God’s world.’” That message, says Richman, manifested itself by adhering to God’s commandment to build the desert Mishkan, or Tabernacle, as a house of worship during their extended travels toward to the Land of Israel.
Richman is adamant that his life’s work through his organization is to teach believers, both Jews and non-Jews alike, that the Tabernacle, the two Temples in Jerusalem, and the eventual Third Temple are the ultimate “portals for human beings to transcend physical boundaries, elevate their purpose, and connect to the divine.”
It’s in that context that on Sunday, March 25, Richman and The Temple Institute will be hosting the third annual “International Temple Mount Awareness Day” by conducting a live, six-hour streaming video broadcast over the Internet on the organization’s website. According to Richman the event will feature a series of lectures, Torah classes, political messages, archeological seminars and musical entertainment all “as a means to celebrate Temple consciousness and renewal and to offer an open window onto the multifaceted world of the Temple Mount and the universal significance of the Holy Temple.”
The date for the event coincides with the beginning of the Hebrew month of Nisan, which is the anniversary of the dedication of the desert Tabernacle, and the inauguration of that structure as the temporary house of service to God. Richman says that last year nearly 10,000 people from around the world tuned in for the event, and expectations are even higher this year.
According to Yitzchak Reuven, the Temple Institute’s director of multimedia, the event will focus on “the celebration of the centrality of the Temple in Jewish thought, and will serve as a call for equality amongst non-Muslims to worship as they see fit on the holy site.”
In fact, Richman is calling on “Jews and gentiles around the world to make March 25 a day of solidarity with the Temple Mount and the prophetic vision of a ‘house of prayer for all nations.’”
According to literature produced by the Temple Institute, which was established 25 years ago as the primary authority on all Temple matters while Israel claimed sovereignty over the Temple Mount in 1967, the Muslim Wakf (Islamic Religious Authority) which oversees the day-to-day maintenance of the site, not only forbids non-Muslims from worshiping at the site, but for years has carried out illegal excavations destroying the spot’s Jewish historical remnants.
Richman says that while the Supreme Court has upheld the rights of non-Muslims to pray on the Temple Mount, the police reinterpret the law, citing “security concerns,” forbidding any forms of expression of prayer by other groups.
“Jews as well as Christians who I take on tours are treated differently – with prejudice and suspicion,” says Richman. He says that “Jews must register with the authorities and must be escorted by a policeman and a Wakf official on all visits. And if a Wakf guard catches you in any form of prayer, you will be in trouble with law enforcement.”
While Richman says that some police officers are sometimes more sympathetic and cooperative toward religious sentiments of Jews, overall there is only great sensitivity towards Muslim worshipers, but not towards Jews.
Yisrael Medad has been a veteran Temple Mount activist for over 40 years and is one of the most acknowledged experts on the Temple Mount as a supreme Jewish holy site. Medad, who will be a featured lecturer on the March 25 webcast, says that his goal in participating in the event is “to raise the consciousness of viewers all over the world, and to generate action.”
He says that “Jews have become unidentified aliens on the Temple Mount in that while we can ascend, we can’t do anything Jewish – we can’t pray, learn or even carry Hebrew books.” Medad says that viewers who are concerned with religious freedoms as well as those who are disturbed by the archeological destruction taking place by the Wakf should “contact their Israeli consulate or embassy and voice their concern.”
IN ADDITION to problems with the Wakf, Richman says that his efforts to allow Jewish worship on the Temple Mount have been thwarted by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. He says that recently (and not for the first time), “The rabbinate all of a sudden declared that visiting the Temple Mount for Jews is forbidden, claiming that they are unaware of exactly where the areas are which housed the Holy of Holies.” According to tradition, only the Jewish High Priest was allowed into that area, once a year during the Yom Kippur service.
However, Richman says the rabbinate has politicized the issue. He refutes its ruling, saying that “Jewish law is well defined. You don’t proclaim something forbidden without explaining why that’s the case. The text of their declaration failed to do that.”
Richman also criticizes those that have branded the Temple Institute as “a right-wing, nationalistic” organization. “We have no intention of putting the Knesset on the Temple Mount,” he says. “But it is the destiny of the Jewish people to bring divine blessing and spiritual balance to the world – for all nations and all people; it is not a statement of Israeli or Jewish sovereignty. If the other nations of the world had understood this, they never would have destroyed the Temple.”
When asked why the Third Temple is not currently being built, Richman is adamant that “from a religious perspective there is no reason we shouldn’t be building. It’s simply a political obstacle.” Also, Richman denies that the Torah ever says that the Jewish People must wait for the Messiah to build the Third Temple, but insists that “it [the Torah] says over and over that if we first build it, then redemption will come.”
Talking again about the importance of his organization’s upcoming event, Richman says that, bottom line, “we are all very passionate about the Holy Temple and what it means for the Jewish People. The Temple is the secret to the survival of the Jewish People and the survival of the world. What this event is really about is a call to come home and to connect to who we are as a people, and to establish our relationship with God. What can be more exciting than that?”