Sources about Jerusalem, Temple and
the Temple Mount
Name of Jerusalem
Avraham called it Yireh (See) as it says [in the scriptures], "And Avraham called the name of that place Yireh Hashem" (See G-d). Shem called it Shalem (Complete) as it says "And Malki Tzedek, King of Shalem." The Holy One, Blessed be He said "I will call it Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) like both of them called it - Yireh, Shalem - Yerushalayim
(Midrash: Bereshit Raba 56)
“And He said, Take now your son, your only son Yitzchak, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell you.” (Genesis 22:2)
“And the king and his men went to Jerusalem…And David dwelt in the stronghold (of Zion) and called it the City of David.” (2 Shmuel 5)
Beauty of Jerusalem
"Whoever did not see Jerusalem in its days of glory, never saw a beautiful city in their life."
(Talmud: Succah 51b)
"'Eternity' - this refers to Jerusalem"
(Talmud: Berachot 58a)
"Ten measures of beauty descended to the world, nine were taken by Jerusalem."
(Talmud: Kiddushin 49b)
“The world is like a human eyeball. The white of the eye is the ocean surrounding the world, The iris is this continent, The pupil is Jerusalem, And the image in the pupil is the Holy Temple.” (Talmud - Derech Eretz Zuta 9)
A betrothed girl in Jerusalem does not need to adorn herself with the scent of perfume (because of the beautiful scent in the air from the incense in the Temple). (Talmud: Yoma 39b)
“…[The Temple was] the most wonderful edifice ever seen or heard of, both for its size and construction and for lavish perfection of detail and the glory of its holy places” (Josephus, The Jewish War)
Significance of the Temple and Western Wall
“Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” (Exodus 25:8)
“Behold He Stands behind our wall,” (Shir HaShirim 2:9) namely the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Yerushalayim. Why? Because Hashem promised that it would never be destroyed. (Yalkut Shimoni, Shir HaShirim)
The shechina will never depart from the Kotel, as it says (Shir HaShirim 2:9), “Behold He Stands behind our wall.” (Shir HaShirim Rabbah)
The whole world was created from Tzion, which is why it’s called the “foundation stone” (Yoma 54b)
The sages state that anyone who prays in the Temple in Jerusalem, “it is as if he has prayed before the throne of glory because the gate of heaven is situated there and it is open to hear prayer” (Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer 35)
"One who stands [in prayer] in Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel) should direct his heart towards Jerusalem, if he was standing in Jerusalem, he should direct his heart towards the holy Temple."(Talmud: Berachot 27a)
Since this spot is where all spiritual forces come together to influence the physical world, this is indeed the "Gate of Heaven." It is from this spot -- between the two Cherubim on the Ark -- that prophecy emanates, and through there all prayers are channeled. This spot is the focus of all spiritual forces, and all communication that we have with these forces is through this location. It is thus taught that spiritual channels emanate from the Foundation Stone, bringing spiritual sustenance to all the world. (Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Jerusalem Eye of the Universe)
“for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Isaiah 56:7)
“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth. If I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy…” (Psalms 137)
The earliest account of the custom to put a written prayer in the Western Wall is recorded in Sefer Tamei Ha-minhagim U’mekorei Ha-dinim and involves Rabbi Chaim ibn Attar (aka the Ohr Hahaim) in the end of the 18th century.
The Muslims named the Wall the Wailing Wall in the Medieval times because of the custom of the Jews to cry there over the destruction of the Temple. After 1920, the Muslims began to refer to the Wall as the el-Baraq after the winged donkey that Muhammed flew on during his night Journey to Al-Aksa. Al Aksa - the name mentioned in the Koran - meaning the farthest mosque, is understood to be Jerusalem by Muslims.
What did the Temple look like?
The building itself was magnificent. It stood high above the rest of the city, with a glistening decorative golden crown which adorned the top of a marble and stone blue green shrine described in the Talmud as looking like the golden sun, shining on the green blue sea. The outer courtyards of the Temple filled with pilgrims, approximately 250,000 of whom came every year to celebrate the Jewish pilgrimage festivals in Jerusalem. They came from all over Judea to gather together and to offer sacrifices on the Temple Mount. Those from the Galilee would meet at the North of the Sea to walk together. They would sing songs from Psalms about their joy about coming to Jerusalem.
Why did Herod rebuild the Temple?
But how could Baba b. Butha have advised Herod to pull down the Temple [in order to refurbish it]? He [Herod] arose and killed all the Rabbis sparing Baba b. Butha that he might take counsel of him. He placed on his head a garland of hedgehog bristles and put out his eyes.
One day [Herod] came and sat before him and said: See sir, what this wicked slave [Herod] does.
What do you want me to do to him, replied Baba b. Butha.
I want you to curse him [Herod said]
He [the Rabbi] replied with the verse "even in thy thoughts thou should not curse a king".
Said Herod to him, but this is no king.
[The Rabbi] replied even though he be only a rich man it is written "and in thy bedchamber do not curse the rich...”He said I am afraid of him. But, said Herod, there is no one who can go and tell him since we two are quite alone.
[The Rabbi] replied "for a bird of the heaven shall carry the voice...” Herod then said: I am Herod. Had I known that the Rabbis were such remarkable people, I should not have killed them. Now tell me what amends I can make.
[The Rabbi] replied [You have extinguished the light of the world by killing the rabbis] Go now and attend to the light of the world...which is the Temple." [Talmud Baba Bathra 3b-4a]
Jesus and the Temple
"When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it..." (Luke 19:41)
"Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. When He was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while His parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the Temple courts, sitting among the teachers listening to them and asking questions. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why hve you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you."
"Why were you searching for me?" He asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2:39-52)
And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the Temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here" (Luke 4:9)
Jesus did a miracle of healing the blind at the Siloam pool (Shiloach in Hebrew, located at the bottom of the City of David).
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. (Matthew 21:12)
Why/How was the Temple destroyed (Rabbinic understanding)?
"Why was the Second Temple destroyed? Because of sinat chinam, senseless hatred of one Jew for another." (Yoma 9b)
It happened this way: A certain man had a friend named Kamtza and an enemy called Bar Kamtza. He once made a party and said to his servant, “Go and bring Kamtza.” The man went and brought Bar Kamtza.
When the man who gave the party found Bar Kamtza there he said, “See, you are my enemy; what are you doing here? Get out!” Said the other: “Since I am already here, let me stay, and I will pay you for whatever I eat and drink.”
Because of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, Jerusalem was destroyed
Said the host: “Absolutely not.”
“Then let me give you half the cost of the party.”
The host refused.
“Then let me pay for the whole party.”
Still the host refused, and took him by the hand and threw him out.
Said Bar Kamtza, “Since the Rabbis were sitting there and did not stop him, this shows that they agreed with him. I will go and inform against them to the government.”
He went and said to the emperor, “The Jews are rebelling against you.”
Said the emperor, “How can I know that this is true?”
“Send them an offering,” said Bar Kamtza, “and see whether they will offer it on the altar.”
So he sent with him a fine calf. While on the way he [Bar Kamtza] made a blemish on its upper lip (or as some say, on the white of its eye)—in a place where we count it a blemish but they do not.
“Because of the scrupulousness of Rabbi Zechariah, our House has been destroyed . . .” The rabbis were inclined to offer it in order not to offend the government. Said Rabbi Zechariah ben Avkulas to them: “People will say that blemished animals are offered on the altar.”
They then proposed to kill Bar Kamtza so that he should not go and inform against them, but Rabbi Zechariah ben Avkulas said to them, “Is one who makes a blemish on consecrated animals to be put to death?”
Rabbi Yochanan thereupon remarked: “Because of the scrupulousness of Rabbi Zechariah ben Avkulas our House has been destroyed, our Temple burnt, and we ourselves exiled from our land.”
Roman history version of Destruction of the Temple
Josephus tells a historical version of how the Temple was destroyed from the Roman perspective. He explains that Titus, the Roman general in charge did not order the Temple to be burnt. He preferred to keep the beautiful building for the Romans use. (Note: Other accounts including the Rabbis disagree with this account).
“Then, one of the soldiers, without waiting for orders…snatched up a blazing piece of wood and climbing on another soldier’s back hurled the brand through a golden aperture [in the Temple]…as the flames shot into the air the Jews sent up a cry that matched the calamity and dashed to the rescue with no thought now of saving their lives…A runner brought the news to Titus…He leapt up … and ran to the Sanctuary to extinguish the blaze…Caesar shouted and waved to the combatants to put out the fire; but his shouts were unheard…amidst the distractions of battle and bloodshed.” Josephus, (The Jewish War, Chapter 21)
Josephus himself shows here a different perspective of Titus: “So Caesar now ordered them to raze the whole City and Sanctuary to the ground, leaving the towers that overtopped the others, Phasael, Hippicus, and Mariamme…the towers to show later generations what a proud and mighty city had been humbled by the gallant sons of Rome. Josephus, (The Jewish War, Chapter 22.)
Prophecy to Return and Rebuild
Thus says the Lord: Again there shall be heard in this place, which you say is ruined, without man or beast - in the cities of Judea and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without men, without inhabitants and without beasts - the sound of joy and the sound of happiness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those saying, "Praise the Lord of Hosts, for the Lord is good, for His mercy endures forever," as they bring sacrifices of thanksgiving to the House of God. For I shall bring back the captivity of the land as in the past, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 33:10-11) The 6th wedding blessing of the “sheva brachot” is based on this verse from Yermiyahu.
How does Judaism continue without the Temple for almost 2,000 years?
Abba Sikra, the head of the Zealots in Jerusalem, was the son of the sister of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai. Rabban Yochanan sent to him saying, “Come to visit me privately.” When he came he said to him, “How long are you going to carry on in this way and kill all the people with starvation?” He replied: “What can I do? If I say a word to them, they will kill me.”
Rabban Yochanan said, “Devise some plan for me to escape the city. Perhaps I shall be able to save a little.”
“Pretend to be ill, and let everyone come to inquire about you. Bring something foul-smelling and put it by you, so that they will say you are dead. Let then your disciples carry your bed, but no others, so that they shall not notice that you are still light, since it is known that a living being is lighter than a corpse.”
He did so, and Rabbi Eliezer carried the body from one side and Rabbi Joshua from the other. When they reached the gate, some men (from the Zealot party) wanted to put a lance through the body. One of the disciples said to them, “Shall the Romans say, ‘They have pierced their master’?” They wanted to give it a push. He said to them, “Shall they say that they pushed their master?” They opened a town gate for them, and Rabban Yochanan got out.
When he reached the Roman camp he said to Vespasian: “Peace to you, O king; peace to you, O king.”
Vespasian said: “Your life is forfeit on two counts: one, because I am not a king and you call me king; and again, if I am a king, why did you not come to me before now?”
If I am a king, why did you not come to me before now? Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai: “As for your saying that you are not a king, in truth you are a king, since if you were not a king, Jerusalem would not be delivered into your hand, as it is written, ‘And Lebanon (a reference to the Holy Temple) shall fall by a mighty one.’ . . . As for your question why, if you are a king, I did not come to you till now, the answer is that the biryonim (zealots) among us did not let me.”
At this point, a messenger arrived from Rome to Vespasian, saying: “Arise, for the emperor is dead, and the notables of Rome have decided to make you head!”
Vespasian had just finished putting on one boot. When he tried to put on the other, he could not. He tried to take off the first, but it would not come off. He said, “What is the meaning of this?” Rabban Yochanan said to him: “Do not worry: the good news has done it, as it is written, ‘Good tidings make the bone fat.’ What is the remedy? Let someone whom you dislike come and pass before you, as it is written, “A broken spirit dries up the bones.’” He did so, and the boot went on.
Vespasian said: “I am now going, and will send someone to take my place. You can, however, make a request of me and I will grant it.” (Because I see from these two incidences that you are a wise and special person.)
“Give me Yavneh and its sages” Rabban Yochanan said.
(The Rabbis criticized that he ought to have said to him: “Let the Jews off this time.” Rabban Yochanan, however, knew that Vespasian would not grant so much, and even this little would not be saved.)
Story is in contrast to Masada approach. As a result of Rabbis such as Yohanan Ben Zakai, Rabbi Akiva and more of the “Yavne Generation,” Judaism adapted practices from the Temple to life without the Temple such as the Passover Haggadah, prayers and synagogue life till today, holidays, mourning for the Temple such as the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, breaking a glass at weddings, etc.
Rav Kook, says, in the Talmud those who mourn over Jerusalem will merit to see it's joy. Why not say they will merit to see it's rebuilding? Rav Kook says, “Today we see rebuilding of Jerusalem. Everyone sees the building. But to see the simcha/the joy of it, that's a special merit. Those who appreciate what we've lost will appreciate what we've gained.”
About Gates of the Temple (particularly Hulda Gates)
There were five gates to the Temple Mount – The two gates of Huldah on the South which were used both for entrance and exit. The Gate of Kiponus on the West which was used both for entrance and exit. The Gate of Taddi on the North which was not used by the Public at all. And the Eastern Gate over which was a representation of the palace of Susa and through which the high priest who burnt the red heifer and all those who assisted with it used to go forth to the Mount of Olives. (Misnah Middot 3)
All who entered the Temple Mount, entered by the right and went around by the right and went out by the left, save for one to whom something untoward had happened, who entered and went round to the left. [If he was asked] why do you go round to the left? [And he answered] Because I am a mourner. [They said to him] May he who dwells in this house comfort thee…
(Mishnah Midot 2:2)
Yerushalayim is like a city that people are friendly together - A city in which all Israel are friends when the tribes ascend there for the pilgrimage (Yerushalmi Chagiga 3)
According to Shammai, if a child was able to go from the pool of the Shiloah (at the bottom of City of David) to the Temple on his father’s shoulders, he needed to come to Jerusalem for the Festivals. According to Hillel, only if the child was able to walk the stairs holding his father’s hand.
Aliyah" means "going up." In the Torah we receive the mitzvah to go to Jerusalem for the three festivals of Pesach, Shavuot and Succot (Deuteronomy 16:16). The Mishnah in Hagigah 1:1 calls this "aliyah l'regel," which means "going up by foot.”
Aliyah l'regel was a literal ascent, to one of the highest places in Israel, and a spiritual ascent - to the holiest place in the world.
Being called to read from the Torah is called getting an "aliyah" (Talmud, Megillah 23a.) representing a spiritual ascent.
Immigrating to Israel is called "making aliyah." This is not just a smart marketing ploy of the Jewish Agency. For many halachic authorities, it is a positive mitzvah to live in Israel. (By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, October 28, 2008, Jewish Chronicle Online)
On ancient Jewish Literacy
and other meaningful sayings of the Rabbis
Rabbi Judah would say: Be careful with your studies, for an error of learning is tantamount to a willful transgression.
Hillel and Shammai were the leading rabbis in the time of King Herod.
Hillel used to say: He who aggrandizes his name, loses his name. He who does not increase his knowledge, decreases it. He who learns not, forfeits his life. He who makes unworthy use of the crown (of the Torah) shall pass away.
Hillel used to say: If I am not for myself who will be for me? Yet, if I am for myself only, what am I? And if not now, when?
Shammai said: Make your study of the Torah a fixed habit. Say little and do much, and receive all men with a cheerful face.
(Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa) He used to say: He whose works exceed his wisdom, his wisdom endures; but he whose wisdom exceeds his works, his wisdom will not endure. (Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers)
And you must make a lampstand of pure gold. Of hammered work the lampstand is to be made. Its base, its branches, its cups, its knobs and its blossoms are to proceed out from it. And six branches are running out from its sides, three branches of the lampstand from its one side and three branches of the lampstand from its other …And see that you make them after their pattern that was shown to you in the mountain. (Exodus 25:31-40)
Like the other vessels that were in the sanctuary, the menorah has symbolic value. It is a reflection of the way that the soul finds its expression in this world. The menorah reflects the fire of the soul and its unceasing desire to rise to the source. The seven branches represent seven channels of spiritual self-expression. – Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller (Aish HaTorah Website)
Josephus regarding the Menorah and other vessels taken from the Temple and the Jewish people.
“Most of the vessels were piled up indiscriminately, but more prominent than all the rest were those captured in the Temple at Jerusalem – a golden table weighing several hundred weight, and a lampstand similarly made of gold, but differently constructed from those we normally use. The central shaft was fixed to a base,and from it,extended slender branches placed like the prongs of trident, and with the end of each one forged into a lamp; these numbered seven, signifying the honor paid to that number by the Jews.” (Josephus, The Jewish War)
“So laden with plunder was every single soldier that all over Syria the value of gold was reduced by half” Josphus (The Jewish War, Chapter 21)