Sunday, March 11, 2012

When is a Temple not a Temple?


It's time for a history lesson --

When the Children of Israel were wandering in the dessert for 40 years, beginning in the year 2448 from the creation of the world (1312 BCE) until 2488 (1272 BCE), they worshiped (including bringing sacrifices) in the Mishkan (Tabernacle -- the Hebrew word comes from the same root as the Female aspect of G-d). But once they entered Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel), the Mishkan was moved to Shilo. This was designed to be temporary (though it stayed in Shilo for 369 years). During this time, Bamot (personal altars) were permitted.

When David became King of Israel, he needed to consolidate his rule and, therefore, he was required to fight wars. So, when he asked G-d if he could make a place for G-d's Shekhina (the Female Aspect of G-d) to rest. But G-d wanted peace to be associated with His/Her Home, so, despite his intense desire to build this Home, David had to leave this monumental construction job to his son, Shlomo (Solomon).

Once Shlomo built the Beit HaMikdash (The Holy Temple), no other altars were permitted, no one was permitted to bring an animal sacrifice to G-d anywhere else.

The first Beit HaMikdash lasted from 957 BCE (when Shlomo built it) until 586 BCE (when Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylonia, destroyed it and exiled the two remaining tribes (Sancherev of Assyria exiled 10 tribes in 720 BCE and they were lost to history from there), Yehuda (Judah) and Binyamin (Benjamin).

After 70 years in exile, Cyrus the Great, King of Persia, who defeated Balshazar, son of Nebuchadnezzar, and conquered Babylonia, allowed the Jews to return to Israel and encouraged them to rebuild the Beit HaMikdash. The construction was complete 70 years after the destruction of the First Temple (516 BCE) during the rule of Darius the Great.

To fast forward, the Second Beit HaMikdash was rebuilt by Herod in 19 BCE (this is the Temple that is modeled in Jerusalem's Holyland Hotel Model of the Temple.

In 70 CE, though, the Romans destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash. The Romans brought the vessels from the Temple to Rome. This was commemorated in the Arch of Titus. This represents the saddest day of the Jewish calendar, Tisha B'Av (the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av).

When the Moshiah (Messiah) come in the future, one of the things (s)he will do is build the Third Beit HaMikdash.

But, until then, the place we pray and worship is called a synagogue, shul in Yiddish, esnoga in Ladino, and Beit HaKnesset in Hebrew. This is why Orthodox synagogues do NOT refer to themselves as "Temples". Reform and Conservative Jews believe that the synagogue has replaced the Temple, this is why they DO use the term "Temple" to refer to their house of worship.

As an Orthodox Jew, it bothers me when the news refers to an Orthodox synagogue as a "Temple" because there is only one "Temple", the Beit HaMikdash, which will be rebuilt once again. When that day comes, we will all be able to use the term "Temple". Until then, I pray at a synagogue, shul, esnoga, Beit HaKnesset, not a "Temple".