The work of the Holy Temple will continue once again as we see from the Prophet Jeremiah:
“ Behold the days are coming says YHVH I will perform the good thing which I promised to the house of Israel, and to the house of Yehudah. In those days at that time, I will cause an offshoot of righteousness to grow up for David and He shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days shall Yehudah be saved and Jerusalem shall dwell safely and this is the name whereby she shall be called YHVH is our righteousness. Thus says YHVH David shall never lack a man sitting on the thrown of the house of Israel. Neither shall the Cohen and Levites lack a man before me to offer Burnt offerings and to burn Meal offerings and to do sacrifice for all days ” (33:14-18)
Life within the the Temple is quite different than any place else. The Temple is our meeting place with God. Within the Beit HaMikdash (the Temple), wool and linen can be combined, must be combined, this is forbidden in every other place. The Temple is a place of unity, on both the territories of Yehuda, son of Leah, and Binyamin, son of Rachel. Here, brothers are united.
Recently, the Jewish people have begun to reassert their rights to the Temple Mount. They have been aided by technical progress and archaeological discoveries in solving the once insurmountable problem of determining the areas that can be visited by Jews even in a state of impurity, and which areas remained off limits. Modern technology such as laser cutting tools can solve the problem of constructing an altar without metallic tools.
However, the most important development has not been technological, but spiritual. The emergence of a Jewish religious leadership in the form of a renascent Sanhedrin Initiative has provided the breakthrough. A group of rabbinic leaders has summoned the courage to revive Jewish legal thought and authority in the framework of a renewed Jewish sovereignty. The new Sanhedrin Initiative is in the forefront of the drive to renew the Korban Pesach. It assumes responsibility for ensuring that the commandments are performed in conformity with Jewish religious law, and will also coordinate the practical details with the appropriate Israeli governmental authorities.
This year in Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin Initiative is calling upon the Jewish people in Israel and throughout the world to participate in the Korban Pesach. The Sanhedrin Initiative will choose sheep to be offered in the Korban Pesach, and all preparations will be made in the expectation that we can renew this ancient, traditional offering. In the event that political or other obstacles intervene, the Sanhedrin Initiative has taken halakhic precautions to ensure that the monies for purchasing the sheep can still be used for charitable donations.
Any person wishing to participate in the Korban Pesach can enroll himself and members of his family for the price of seven shekels per person –the estimated cost of a Kezayit of meat, the minimum portion necessary for fulfilling the commandment. The process will be supervised by licensed accountants, whether the monies will be used for the original purpose or will be donated to charity.
We realize that this approach is as controversial as it is courageous; passivity always appears the safer course, even if appearances are deceiving. The controversy is part of a fundamental debate whether the Jewish people must passively await their redemption which will be a one-shot deal or they are enjoined to make preparations and sacrifices in both senses of the word to prepare the stage for their redemption. If you subscribe to the second approach, then one can hardly find a cause more worthy than restoring the Korban Pesach to its pride of place as a symbol of Jewish unity.
The annual attempts to resume the Passover sacrifice received a first significant rabbinical backing recently. Safed’s Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, a prominent Orthodox Zionist leader, has called on the public to perform the sacrifice mitzvah on the eve of the Jewish holiday, in about two weeks.
The annual attempts to resume the Passover sacrifice received a first significant rabbinical backing recently. Safed’s Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, a prominent religious Zionism leader, has called on the public to perform the sacrifice mitzvah on the eve of the Jewish holiday, in about two weeks. Speaking during a Halacha lesson in Jerusalem last week, the rabbi warned that Jews evading the mitzvah were risking “Kareth” – a supernatural punishment for transgressing Jewish Law. According to Rabbi Eliyahu, there is a halachic, legal and public possibility to offer a Passover sacrifice these days. During the lesson, he quoted senior rabbinical authorities, adding that Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalisher – one of the founders of modern and religious Zionism – had asked the Turkish sultan to allot an area on the Temple Mount for the erection of an altar for a Passover sacrifice. The Safed rabbi went on to say that the Passover sacrifice could be slaughtered in front of the Dome of the Rock plaza, although the Temple no longer exists and the people of Israel are defined as “tameh met” (in a status of impurity which comes from contact with a dead body). In order to overcome the greatest obstacle, beyond the political problem, an altar must be erected, the rabbi said. He also called for the preparation of “priesthood clothes”, which are the only ones in which Kohanim (priests) can perform their work at the Temple. Mission possible Addressing the legal aspect, Rabbi Eliyahu claimed that every person has the right to perform the commandment of his religion according to his own understanding. He added that petitions filed with the High Court of Justice against the sacrifice were accepted only because the police were unprepared to secure the ceremony. “It’s perfectly clear that if the public pressures its representatives in the government or in the Knesset, everything will change. If the judges have ruled that the police must secure simpler protests, why not the Passover sacrifice?” Eliyahu rejected the claim that it was impossible to resume the mitzvah publicly. Addressing the international diplomatic ramifications, he said, “We are being threatened that any movement on our part on the Temple Mount will launch the third world war… (But) we can free our souls of the horror of the gentiles, just like we freed ourselves before the Exodus.” He rejected the internal opposition too. “Some fear the public echo of the Passover sacrifice – how will the seculars view it? What will the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals say? The truth is that this should not even be discussed… “We have already been scorned for the circumcision mitzvah, persecuted and condemned to death for that. Today the UN’s health organization recommends that all men undergo circumcision in order to avoid illnesses.” Rabbi Eliyahu said the Torah had predicted that some would mock the sacrifice mitzvah. Such a person, he noted, is called in the Passover Haggadah, the “wicked son”, who cleans his hands and says, “This doesn’t belong to me, this blood and primitiveness. I am an enlightened person. I respect animals. I don’t slaughter them barbarically.” The rabbi estimated, based on the Bible stories, that those who oppose this mitzvah would eventually change their mind and join the Temple work. ‘Break spiritual barrier’ In order to increase the motivation to offer a Passover sacrifice, Eliyahu noted that this is one of two “active mitzvot” (along with the circumcision), and that those evading it risk supernatural punishment and “cause great damage to themselves and to the entire world”. He added that his father, former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, wrote that this custom may still exist these days. “These things should make us break the spiritual barrier preventing us from thinking about offering the Passover sacrifice,” Rabbi Eliyahu concluded. He said his remarks were not lip service, but laws being learned “as a real demand and real preparation for the Passover sacrifice. Although we are not used to it, and have gotten used to living without a temple, we must change our ways.”
In the year 5017 (1257), several hundred Baalei Tosafos, led by Rav Yechiel of Paris, headed for Eretz Yisroel. An almost-contemporary gadol, the Kaftor VaFarech, records a fascinating story (Vol. 1, page 101 in the 5757 edition). Rav Ashtori HaParchi, the author of Kaftor VaFarech, had gone to Yerushalayim to have his sefer reviewed by a talmid chacham named Rav Baruch. Rav Baruch told the Kaftor VaFarech that Rav Yechiel had planned to offer korbanos upon arriving in Yerushalayim. Kaftor VaFarech records that at the time he was preoccupied completing his sefer and did not think about the halachic issues involved, but afterwards realized that there were practical halachic problems (that we will discuss shortly) with Rav Yechiel’s plan.
I think we can assume that Rav Yechiel’s plan to offer korbanos failed, presumably because Yerushalayim was under Crusader rule at the time. His community of Baalei Tosafos settled in Acco, as we know from a report of the Ramban about ten years later. (The Ramban reports that he spent Rosh HaShanah with the community of the Baalei Tosafos in Acco and delivered to them a drasha that was recorded for posterity. This is quoted in Kisvei HaRamban, Vol. 1 pg. 211. Rav Chavel, who edited on this essay, concludes that this drasha was delivered either in 1268 or in 1269, based on the fact that the Ramban was in Eretz Yisroel for three years from his arrival until his passing, and that he spent the first Rosh Hashanah in Yerushalayim, which had no community at the time.)
Let us fast forward to the nineteenth century. Rav Tzvi Hersh Kalisher, the rav of Thorn, Germany, who had studied as a youth in the yeshivos of Rabbi Akiva Eiger and the Nesivos HaMishpat (Rav Yaakov of Lisa), published a sefer advocating bringing korbanos in the location where the Beis HaMikdash once stood in Yerushalayim. Rav Kalisher considered it not only permissible to offer korbanos before the Beis HaMikdash is rebuilt, but even obligatory.
As one can well imagine, his sefer created a huge furor. Rav Kalisher corresponded extensively with his own former roshei yeshiva, Rabbi Akiva Eiger and the Nesivos, and other well-known luminaries of his era including the Chasam Sofer and the Aruch LaNer. All of them opposed Rav Kalisher’s opinion, although not necessarily for the same reasons.
We can categorize the opposition to Rav Kalisher’s proposal under three headings:
There was almost universal disagreement with his opinion that we have a requirement to try to offer korbanos before the reconstruction of the Beis HaMikdash.
Some rabbonim, notably Rav Yaakov Ettlinger, the author of the Aruch LaNer, prohibited offering korbanos before the reconstruction of the Beis HaMikdash even if we could resolve all the other halachic issues involved (Shu”t Binyan Tzion #1). However, we should note that this question did not bother either Rav Yechiel of Paris or Rav Ashtori HaParchi. Furthermore, Rabbi Akiva Eiger asked his son-in-law, the Chasam Sofer, to request permission from the ruler of Yerushalayim to allow the offering of korbanos. Presumably, Rabbi Akiva Eiger felt that his son-in-law, who had a close connection to the Austro-Hungarian royal family, might be able to use their influence to gain access to the Ottoman Empire who ruled over Yerushalayim at the time. The Chasam Sofer responded with great respect to his father-in-law, but pointed out that the Beis HaMikdash area is unfortunately covered by a mosque that is sacred to its Moslem rulers who will not permit any non-Moslem to enter (Shu’t Chasam Sofer, Yoreh Deah #236). Thus, we see that both Rabbi Akiva Eiger and the Chasam Sofer agreed with Rav Kalisher that we are permitted to bring korbanos before the reconstruction of the Beis HaMikdash.
Numerous halachic hurdles need to be overcome in order to offer korbanos. The discussion of these issues forms the lion’s share of the debate.
Rav Kalisher responded to the correspondence, eventually producing a sefer “Derishas Tzion” (published many years after the demise of Rabbi Akiva Eiger, the Chasam Sofer, and the Nesivos) and subsequent essays where he presented and clarified his position. I know of three full-length books and numerous essays and responsa that were published opposing Rav Kalisher’s thesis.
Before quoting this discussion, we need to clarify several points. First, can we indeed offer korbanos without the existence of the Beis HaMikdash?
MAY ONE BRING KORBANOS WITHOUT THE BEIS HAMIKDASH?
The Mishnah (Eduyos 8:6) quotes Rabbi Yehoshua as saying, “I heard that we can offer korbanos even though there is no Beis HaMikdash.” The Gemara (Zevachim 62a) tells us a story that provides us with some background about this statement. “Three prophets returned with the Jews from Bavel (prior to the building of the second Beis HaMikdash), Chaggai, Zecharyah and Malachi, each bringing with him a halachic tradition that would be necessary for the implementation of korbanos. One of them testified about the maximum size of the mizbeiach, one testified about the location of the mizbeiach, and the third testified that we may offer korbanos even when there is no Beis HaMikdash”. Based on these testimonies, the Jews returning to Eretz Yisroel began offering korbanos before the Beis HaMikdash was rebuilt.
Obviously, Rav Kalisher and Rav Ettlinger interpret this Gemara differently. According to Rav Kalisher and those who agreed with him, the prophet testified that we may offer korbanos at any time, even if there is no Beis HaMikdash. Rav Ettlinger, however, understands the Gemara to mean that one may offer korbanos once the construction of the Beis HaMikdash has begun even though it is still incomplete. But in the view of Rav Ettlinger, after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash we may not offer korbanos until Eliyahu announces the building of the third Beis HaMikdash.
An earlier posek, Rav Yaakov Emden, clearly agreed with Rav Kalisher in this dispute. Rav Emden, often referred to as “The Yaavetz,” contends that Jews offered korbanos, at least occasionally, even after the second Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, which would be forbidden according to Rav Ettlinger’s position (She’aylas Yaavetz #89). This is based on an anecdote cited by a mishnah (Pesachim 74a) that Rabban Gamliel instructed his slave, Tevi, to roast the Korban Pesach for him. There were two Tannayim named Rabban Gamliel, a grandfather and a grandson. The earlier Rabban Gamliel, referred to as “Rabban Gamliel the Elder” lived at the time of the second Beis HaMikdash, whereas his grandson, “Rabban Gamliel of Yavneh,” was the head of the Yeshivah in Yavneh and was renowned after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. Thus, if we can determine which Rabban Gamliel is the protagonist of the mishnah’s story, we may be able to determine whether Jews offered korbanos after the Churban. This would verify Rav Kalisher’s opinion.
Rav Emden assumes that the Rabban Gamliel who owned a slave named Tevi was the later one. He thus concludes that Rabban Gamliel of Yavneh offered korbanos after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. Although the Yaavetz brings no proof that the Rabban Gamliel in the above-quoted mishnah is Rabban Gamliel of Yavneh, he may have based his assumption on a different Gemara (Bava Kamma 74b), which records a conversation between Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabban Gamliel concerning Tevi. Since Rabbi Yehoshua was a contemporary of Rabban Gamliel of Yavneh, this would imply that the later Rabban Gamliel indeed offered the Korban Pesach after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash.
However, this does not solve the numerous halachic issues that need to be resolved in order to allow the offering of korbanos. Although Rav Kalisher responded to these issues, the other gedolim considered his replies insufficient.
KORBANOS ON THE MOUNTAIN
The Brisker Rav, Rav Velvel Soloveichek, raised a different objection to Rav Kalisher’s proposal. Basing himself on several pesukim and halachic sources, he contended that the Beis HaMikdash site only has kedusha when it is a high mountain. Since the Romans razed the top of the original mountain and it is no longer the prominent height it once was, it is not kosher for offering korbanos until the mountain is raised again to its former glory (quoted in Moadim U’Zemanim Volume 5, pg. 222). Thus, according to this approach, one of Moshiach’s jobs will be to raise the mountain to its former height. Presumably, Rav Kalisher felt that although the mountain should and will be raised, korbanos may be offered before that time.
I will now present some of the other questions involved in ascertaining whether we may bring korbanos before the coming of Eliyahu and Moshiach.
MAY A TAMEI PERSON ENTER THE BEIS HAMIKDASH?
Virtually all opinions agree that it is a Torah prohibition to offer korbanos anywhere in the world except for the designated place in the Beis HaMikdash called the mizbeiach. This creates a halachic problem, because it is a severe Torah prohibition to enter the Beis HaMikdash grounds while tamei, and virtually everyone today has become tamei meis through contact with a corpse. (Someone who was ever in the same room or under the same roof as a corpse also becomes tamei meis.) Although other forms of tumah can be removed by immersion in a mikvah at the appropriate time, tumas meis can be removed only by sprinkling ashes of the parah adumah (the red heifer). Since the ashes of the previously prepared paros adumos are lost, we cannot purify ourselves from tumas meis. Thus, we would be prohibited from bringing most korbanos because every cohen is presumed to be tamei meis.
Gedolim have discussed whether a new parah adumah can be prepared before the arrival of the Moshiach, but I am refraining from citing this discussion because of space considerations.
However, although we have no available tahor cohanim, this would not preclude our offering Korban Pesach or certain other public korbanos (korbanos tzibur).
WHY IS KORBAN PESACH DIFFERENT FROM MOST OTHER KORBANOS?
Most korbanos cannot be brought when either the owner of the korban or the cohen offering the korban is tamei. However, the Torah decrees that korbanos that are offered on a specific day must be brought even when every cohen is tamei. Thus, the Korban Pesach, the daily korban tamid, and the special mussaf korbanos that are brought on Shabbos, Yom Tov and Rosh Chodesh may be offered by a cohen who is tamei meis if necessary.
Other korbanos, however, may not be offered by a tamei cohen even if this results in them not being brought at all. Thus, since there is no tahor cohen available today, we would assume that Rav Yechiel only planned to offer one of the above korbanos (Shu”t Chasam Sofer, Yoreh Deah #236).
LOCATION OF THE MIZBEIACH
As mentioned above, the debate over Rav Kalisher’s proposal concerned other halachic issues that must be resolved before we may offer korbanos. The Kaftor VaFarech raised two of these issues over five hundred years before Rav Kalisher. How could Rav Yechiel offer korbanos when we do not know the exact location of the mizbeiach? As the Rambam writes, “The location of the mizbeiach is extremely exact and it may never be moved from its location…. We have an established tradition that the place where David and Shlomoh built the mizbeiach is the same place where Avraham built the mizbeiach and bound Yitzchak. This is the same place where Noach built a mizbeiach when he left the Ark and where Kayin and Hevel built their mizbeiach. It is the same place where Adam offered the first korban, and it is the place where he (Adam) was created.
“The dimensions and shape of the mizbeiach are very exact. The mizbeiach constructed when the Jews returned from the first exile was built according to the dimensions of the mizbeiach that will be built in the future. One may not add or detract from its size,” (Hilchos Beis HaBechirah 2:1-3).
As noted above, prior to building the second Beis HaMikdash, the prophets Chaggai, Zecharyah and Malachi testified regarding three halachos about the mizbeiach that were necessary to locate the mizbeiach and reinstitute the korbanos. If so, how can we offer korbanos without knowing the location of the mizbeiach?
Rav Kalisher offered an answer to this question, contending that the prophets’ testimonies were necessary only after the destruction of the first Beis HaMikdash because the Babylonians razed it to its very foundations. However, Rav Kalisher contended that sufficient remnants exist of the second Beis HaMikdash to determine the mizbeiach’s precise location, thus eliminating the need for prophecy or testimony to establish its location.
Rav Kalisher’s correspondents were dissatisfied with this response, maintaining that the calculations based on the Beis HaMikdash remnants could not be sufficiently precise to determine the mizbeiach’s exact location. Thus, they felt that we must await the arrival of Eliyahu HaNavi to ascertain the mizbeiach’s correct place.
YICHUS OF COHANIM
Do we have “real” cohanim today? Only a cohen who can prove the purity of his lineage may serve in the Beis HaMikdash (see Rambam, Hilchos Issurei Biyah 20:2). The Gemara calls such cohanim “cohanim meyuchasim.” Cohanim who cannot prove their lineage, but who have such a family tradition, are called “cohanei chazakah,” cohanim because of traditional practice. Although they observe other mitzvos of cohanim, they may not serve in the Beis HaMikdash.
An early source for the distinction between cohanim who can prove their lineage and those who cannot is the story found in Tanach about the sons of Barzilai the Cohen. When these cohanim came to bring korbanos in the second Beis HaMikdash, Nechemiah refused them because of concerns about their ancestry (Ezra 2:61-63; Nechemiah 7:63-65). The Gemara states that although Nechemiah permitted them to eat terumah and to duchen, he prohibited them from eating korbanos or serving in the Beis HaMikdash (Kesubos 24b). Similarly, today’s cohanim who cannot prove their kehunah status should be unable to serve in the Beis HaMikdash. This would eliminate the possibility of offering korbanos today.
However, Rav Kalisher permits cohanei chazakah to offer korbanos. He contends that only in the generation of Ezra and Nechemiah, when there was a serious problem of intermarriage (see Ezra, Chapter 9), did they restrict service in the Beis HaMikdash to cohanim meyuchasim. However, in subsequent generations, any cohen with a mesorah may serve in the Beis HaMikdash.
Chasam Sofer (Shu”t Yoreh Deah #236) also permits cohanei chazakah to offer korbanos, but for a different reason, contending that although using a cohen meyuchas is preferred, a non-meyuchas cohen may serve in the Beis HaMikdash when no cohen meyuchas is available.
Other poskim disputed, maintaining that a cohen who is not meyuchas may not serve in the Beis HaMikdash (Kaftor VaFarech).
The question then becomes – If only a cohen who can prove his kehunah may offer korbanos, and there are no surviving cohanim who can prove their kehunah, how will we ever again be able to bring korbanos?
The answer is that Moshiach will use his Ruach HaKodesh to determine who is indeed a kosher cohen that may serve in the Beis HaMikdash (Rambam, Hilchos Melachim 12:3). However, this approach preempts Rav Kalisher’s proposal completely.
VESTMENTS OF THE COHEN
Before korbanos are reintroduced, gedolei poskim will have to decide several other matters, including the definitive determination of several materials necessary for the cohen’s vestments.
The Torah describes the garments worn to serve in the Beis HaMikdash as follows: “Aharon and his sons shall put on their belt and their hat, and they (the garments) shall be for them as kehunah as a statute forever,” (Shmos 29:9). The Gemara deduces, “When their clothes are on them, their kehunah is on them. When their clothes are not on them, their kehunah is not on them,” (Zevachim 17b). This means that korbanos are valid only if the cohen offering them wears the appropriate garments.
One of the vestments worn by the cohanim is the avneit, the belt. Although the Torah never describes the avneit worn by the regular cohen, the halachic conclusion is that his avneit includes threads made of techeiles, argaman, and tola’as shani (Gemara Yoma 6a). There is uncertainty about the identification of each of these items. For example, the Rambam and the Ravad dispute the identity of argaman (Hilchos Klei HaMikdash 8:13). The identity of techeiles is also unknown. Most poskim conclude that Hashem hid the source of techeiles, a fish known as chilazon, and that it will only be revealed at the time of Moshiach. Thus, even if we rule that our cohanim are kosher for performing the service, they cannot serve without valid garments! (It should be noted that several great poskim, including the Radziner Rebbe, the Maharsham, Rav Herzog and Rav Yechiel Michel Tukochinski contended that we could research the correct identity of the techeiles. I have written other articles on the subject of identifying the techeiles.)
Rav Kalisher himself contended that the garments of the cohen do not require chilazon as the dye source, only the color of techeiles. In his opinion, chilazon dye is only necessary for tzitzis. (He based this approach on the wording of the Rambam in Hilchos Tzitzis 2:1-2.) Therefore, in Rabbi Kalisher’s opinion, one may dye the threads of the avneit the correct color and perform the service. However, other poskim did not accept this interpretation but require the specific dye source of chilazon blood to dye the vestments (Likutei Halachos, Zevachim Chapter 13 pg. 67a).
Rav Kalisher did not discuss the dispute between the Rambam and the Ravad about the color of the argaman. Apparently, he felt that we could determine the answer and dye the avneit threads appropriately.
The other poskim raised several other issues concerning Rav Kalisher’s proposal. One question raised is that Klal Yisroel must purchase all public korbanos from the funds of the machatzis hashekel, which would require arranging the collection of these funds. However, this question would not preclude offering Korban Pesach, which is a privately owned korban.
Rav Kalisher’s disputants raised several other questions, more than can be presented here. The gedolei haposkim of that generation rejected Rav Kalisher’s plan to reintroduce korbanos before the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash.
However, we have much to learn from his intense desire to offer korbanos. Do we live with a burning desire to see the Beis HaMikdash rebuilt speedily in our days? If, chas v’shalom, we are still not able to offer Korban Pesach this year, we should devote Erev Pesach to studying the halachos of that korban. And may we soon merit seeing the cohanim offering all the korbanos in the Beis HaMikdash in purity and sanctity, Amen.
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