The Sanhedrin tasked Shimshon Elboim, head of the Temple Mount Organizations, with submitting a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu to perform the ritual korban Pesach (Passover sacrifice) in its proper place, the Temple Mount, and in its Biblically mandated time, Wednesday afternoon, the eve of the Passover feast.
“God forbid we should allow the coronavirus to strike His children with rising up to bring about the solution given in the Torah for epidemics,” the letter read.
The request comes in the wake of the government rejecting requests to perform a reenactment of the korban Pesach. The full-dress reenactment has taken place for the past nine years, drawing large crowds of the devoted, but this year, the request to hold the event was denied due to Health Ministry restrictions.
“The project is of the utmost importance for all of mankind,” Rabbi Hillel Weiss, spokesman for the Sanhedrin told Breaking Israel News. He noted that the original Passover sacrifice offered in Egypt on the night before the Exodus was intended to stop the final plague which was described as a נֶגֶף (negef: disease). In addition, King David purchased the Temple Mount, built and altar, and offered a sacrifice to stop a plague.
The ritual will include burning the incense that is prepared for the exclusive use by the Kohanim in the Temple Service. The incense is considered an essential element in ending epidemics.
Every year, the Israeli police stop several people attempting to bring sheep onto the Temple Mount for the purposes of personal sacrifices. Also, requests to perform the ceremony in the proper place and at the proper time have always been rejected. But the request from the Sanhedrin received an unexpectedly different response this year.
“Usually, this type of request is rejected out of hand,” Elboim told Breaking Israel News. “We were pleasantly surprised when we were informed that the request was forwarded to Gilad Erdan, the Internal Security Minister in charge of what happens on the Temple Mount.”
Even if the request is denied, the non-rejection signals a change of heart for the prime minister who stated one month ago that he rejected an agreement with the right-wing Otzma Yehudit party that would have permitted Jews to pray on the Temple Mount. Netanyahu admitted that he preferred to lose the election rather than give his permission to Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount.
But it is not only Netanyahu who is having a change of heart about the renewal of Torah rituals. The Hebrew language ultra-Orthodox news site, Kikar Shabbat, reported that a Haredi organization named Torat HaKedoshim is now calling for the renewal of the korban Pesach as a solution for the coronavirus. This is surprising since most ultra-Orthodox leaders have instructed their followers to avoid ascending to the Temple Mount despite an exponential growth in Jews appearing at their holiest site in recent years. This announcement in Kikar Shabbat is believed to be the first time any self-identified ultra-Orthodox group has made such a move.
“The success or failure of the Jewish return to its holiest site and to the Biblically mandated commandments is entirely dependent on the public and not on the government,” Elboim said. “Since we do not have a king, the government, after all, serves at the will of the people. We do not want a conflict with the government but at the same time, if the majority of the Jewish people demand equal rights on the Temple Mount, the government will have to listen, especially at a time when no side has a clear mandate.”
In addition to permission to perform the ritual on the Temple Mount, Elboim filed for permits to transport the altar from where it is being stored in Elkana in Samaria to Jerusalem. The Passover sacrifice can only be offered in one place; on the Temple Mount. The sacrifice does not require an actual Temple structure but it does require an altar that is built to adhere to the Biblical requirements. Such an altar was constructed last year and stands ready.
The square altar is nine feet square and five feet high and is constructed of aerated concrete. The material was ruled to be fit for use in the Temple. In the Talmud, it is explained that steel may not be used to cut the stones of the altar since the Temple Service brings life into the world and steel, as it is used in war, takes life. Stones for the altar may not be cut using steel since the Temple service brings life into the world and steel though not ideal, it is light and easily transported and sized to be loaded onto a truck. The altar was constructed on a metal frame designed also for purposes of transportability. The intent was to create an altar that could be taken to the Temple Mount at a moment’s notice should the need arise.
The Pesach offering has special significance as there are only two mitzvot (Biblical commandments) for which non-compliance receives the most severe punishment mandated by the Torah, karet (being cut off from the community, or excommunicated): brit milah (circumcision) and the korban Pesach .
All of the elements stand ready. The vessels have been prepared and merely need to be immersed in a ritual bath to be purified. Kohanim (Jewish men descended from Aaron the priest) are registered for service and their Biblically mandated clothes are ready. Wine and oil, prepared to the strictest requirements, are ready. A red heifer is being raised but lacking one, the halacha (Torah law) permits time-bound public sacrifices like the Korban Pesach and the Korban Tamid (twice daily offering) to be brought in impurity.
The Sanhedrin recently performed an intense study concerning the current status of the Passover offering and concluded that at this juncture, one sacrifice made at the Temple Mount brought in the name of the entire Jewish people would suffice.
“Despite various issues of Jewish law, such as ritual impurity and lack of a high priest, Jews are still required and technically able to bring the sacrifice,” Rabbi Weiss said. “The only thing preventing the Jewish People from performing the Passover sacrifice is the Israeli government.”
In the letter to Netanyahu, the organizations emphasized that they were requesting the government enforce equal freedom to all religions on the Temple Mount as legislated by Israeli and international law. Muslims are currently afforded free and unlimited access to the Temple Mount. Small groups of Jews are only permitted to enter the compound during restricted hours via one gate, and only after rigorous background and security checks. Once in the compound, Jews must follow a set route and are only permitted to stand in place for a few minutes at a time. Jews are not permitted to eat or drink and the water fountains at the site are for the exclusive use of Muslims.
The Sanhedrin emphasized that the plan to bring the altar to the Temple Mount was entirely consistent with President Trump’s recently released Deal of the Century which recognized Israel’s full sovereignty over the site.
“People of every faith should be permitted to pray on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, in a manner that is fully respectful to their religion, taking into account the times of each religion’s prayers and holidays, as well as other religious factors” the text of the deal reads.
Acknowledging the President’s role in helping the Jewish people move towards renewing the Temple, Rabbi Dov Stein wrote him a letter one month ago, asking for his intervention in allowing the korban Pesach to take place for the sake of healing the world.
No matter what the response from the Israeli government, a lamb has already been acquired for the sacrifice and stands ready.