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The Return of the Sacrificial Rite in the Modern Era, and the Technology Adoption Lifecycle

February 11, 2015

Dear *****,

Thank you for sharing this link with me.
I would present the issue thusly:
1. The sacrificial service has not been part of Jewish life for millennia.
2. Today, like in years past, many scholars, most notably the Hafetz Hayim, have made claims to the effect that there are numerous and critical halachic impediments to reinstitution of the sacrificial rite.
3. Yet there also exists a growing movement among other scholars to reinstitute the sacrificial rite, as well as to rebuild the Temple.
4. So, how is it that those scholars so fundamentally disagree with what is both the halachic status quo and apparently the proper halachic conclusion as drawn by the other scholars?
The answer, I believe is like this:
The halachic objections that may exist can all be classified as arguments based on what I have termed Muntz’s Fallacy, or the Appeal to Created Doubt. The Torah and Talmud give very clear and detailed instructions about how to conduct the Temple service. They likewise explicate the necessity thereof. For us, those who live centuries after the laws were last put into practice, we can either try to follow those laws, or get stopped in our tracks by questions about how to apply those laws.
I will go through the usual arguments individually:
1. The sanctification of the Temple: You know that Maimonides believed that the sanctity of the Temple mount is eternal, and that the Ra’avad believed it had been removed. The claim is that if the Ra’avad is correct, then the place at which we intend to build the Temple is not ritually fit, and therefore what ever one would do there would not count. However, even according to the Ra’avad, we are not precluded from rebuilding the altar and/or the Temple because, and this is the ironic, part, because even according to the Ra’avad, the rebuilding of the Temple and or the/altar would re-sanctify those places! The Ra’avad only mentioned the removal of the sanctity of the Temple precincts to explain why, in his opinion, there would be less of a prohibition and a punishment for those who enter the areas of the Temple that would be off limits were the Temple still standing. This is because Maimonides ruled that the Temple’s various levels of sanctify still apply after the destruction, and therefore all the rules governing entry still apply, whereas the Ra’avad felt that as long as the Temple was in a state of destruction, the rules and penalties do not fully apply. This is the point of the last sentence of his comment on Laws of the Temple, 6:14.
2. Finding qualified priests: if we can not assume that today’s kohanim are not qualified, then we can not assume anything about our own Jewish lineages. You are already familiar with R’ Schachter position on this issue, namely, that since the Hatham Sofer’s time, we assume that our kohanim are valid, and the special standards for proving the priests’ pedigrees during the Second Temple period were an innovation in order to maintain order back then.
3. The place of the altar: the altar of the Second Temple had a base of 32 by 32 ammoth. That’s about 2300 square feet, the floor size of two houses in our yishuv. That’s huge. Those who know the layout of the Temple Mount know that there is a very large open area to the east of the Dome of the Rock that is certainly within the area that includes all the various legitimate opinions about where the Altar had been. It comes out to about half the size of the altar, but that’s all they need. An altar can be as small as the five ammoth by five ammoth altar made for the Tabernacle, or even smaller.
4. The necessity for a prophet to issue the order to build the Temple: There are two main arguments against this: a. That is only before the fact, but if it comes of our own initiative, it’s also good, especially when prophets can not be found. This is the explicit opinion followed by Judas Maccabaeus and his brothers. b. That rule applies to the original building of the Temple, because they needed prophets to show them where to place the Holy of Holies and the altar, but once those places were revealed, the commandment to build the Temple there would be eternal in force. The proof for this is the book of Haggai. The Jews had been sitting around and waiting for the divine command to rebuild the Temple, and instead of coming and giving their leaders the green light, he came and rebuked them for not having already finished the job! Today, we do not even need a Haggai to tell us that we were already supposed to have built the Temple.
As this article incidentally shows, throughout history, Jews sought to rebuild the Temple whenever they got the chance, and they did not wait to resolve the issues we bring up today, because they were not issues back then.
The idea of bringing up halachic doubt is one that both Maimonides and Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan saw through. Maimonides would say that we should either follow the laws as he describes them, or to establish a new High Court and follow its instructions, and Kaplan imagined that even if the doubts create a roadblock, it is perfectly within our capabilities to get together and resolve them if we truly wanted to. (See his last essay in The Real Messiah.)
There is a silver lining to this cloud of opposition to Temple-related commandments.
Here is the link to the Wikipedia article on the Technology Adoption Lifecycle. Because people are human, they follow this model not only with regard to technology, but also with regards to other facets of culture, and because our people are characteristically stubborn, we are also averse to accepting new things and even to revert to the way things used to be and should be.

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This curve illustrates how the issue of settling the land of Israel fared: The innovators who came to the land of Israel in the centuries before the advent of Zionism were the extremely idealistic and small minority, who often risked their lives just to get here. Then, despite the opposition, opposition which was voiced in the name of God and halacha by some of the greatest rabbinic leaders, we got to the point where there was already an early majority immigrating to Palestine shortly before statehood, and now it is an everyday matter that people like us and even those without a Religious-Zionist upbringing pick up and move here. With regards to t’cheileth, we are still at an earlier stage. The innovators have done what they did, and now that more mainstream rabbis are jumping on the bandwagon, we are approaching the early majority stage. With regards to temple issues, we are at the innovator stage.
Now, take a moment to think about that pulpit rabbi or rosh yeshiva who does not encourage wearing t’cheileth or ascending the Temple Mount. He does not realize it, but had he been alive in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s, he would have been among those pious individuals opposed to making aliyah. It was seeing that kind of misguided attitude which led Rabbi Soloveichik in the late 1940’s to throw all his energies into the Mizrachi movement, when he saw the errors of the anti-Zionist crowd, the errors of his rabbeim and colleagues.
Rabbi Soloveichik also wrote about how he saw, back in the 1960’s, religious reform taking place on both his right and his left. To his left, he saw the Conservative and Reform movements that had announced that they did not hold of Maimonides’s 9th principle (“I believe with perfect faith that this Torah will not be exchanged, and that there will never be any other Torah from the Creator”) by denying the eternal applicability of many of the commandments, while on his right he saw those who also showed their lack of belief in this principle through their denying that the portions of the Law that deal with Jewish statehood and society had applicability in the modern era. By now, I hope we can say that at least the latter of those to whom he was referring have mostly come around, and do politically advocate for a strong State of Israel and the primacy of Torah laws within her borders. 
70 years later, we have to step back and ask ourselves to identify what the next big thing will be, and join the ranks of the innovators or early adopters. Jewish history has shown that victory goes to the innovators and the early adopters of what is God’s will. It has also shown that the vast majority do not join the flow at the beginning, or even before it is too late. Aliyah is no longer enough, and political Zionism is no longer enough. Also, because we believe that the Torah is eternally applicable, we do not want to be among those who advocate the position that says that parts of the Torah have no applicability. The next challenge is awaiting us on the Temple Mount, and that is the future of Judaism.

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