The Third Temple

Parashat Tzav specifiess the details of various sacrifices, and concludes (Leviticus 7:37-38):

“This is the law of the burnt offering, of the cereal offering, of the sin offering, of the guilt offering, of the consecration, and of the peace offerings, which the Lord commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, on the day that he commanded the people of Israel to bring their offerings to the Lord, in the wilderness of Sinai.”

One of the exciting intellectual challenges facing modern, traditional-minded Jews is our response to the substantial parts of Leviticus that are dedicated to the bringing of animal sacrifices to the Sanctuary as part of the sacral service and spiritual transcendence.

One of the interesting examples of the modern attempt to confront this issue is related to the founding of the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus, opposite the Temple Mount, and the spiritual ideas that accompanied the building of the campus on that particular site.

In 1913, the Zionist Congress discussed the establishing of the Hebrew University. On one hand, the creation of a university answered a functional academic need, particularly in light of the restrictions placed upon the admission of Jewish students to European universities. On the other hand, the desire to establish the university in Jerusalem expressed a symbolic national need.

The two central figures that addressed the issue spoke in similar terms.

Menachem Ussishkin, one of the leaders of Hovevei Zion and later the president of the Jewish National Fund, stated in his speech to the Congress in August 1913:

“…on the ninth of Av this year, we mark two thousand five hundred years since the foe and enemy came to the holy place and destroyed our Temple … Two thousand five hundred years ago, our national temple – God’s Sanctuary on Mount Moriah – was destroyed. Now we come full of faith and hope to build a new national temple, the sanctuary of wisdom and science on Mount Zion…”

Chaim Weizmann, president of the Zionist Organization, was of two minds in regard to the address he was to deliver on this subject. In a letter two his wife Vera, he confided some of his doubts:

“…I feel a sense of great responsibility in regard to the address that I must prepare for the Congress…While it is true that the Hebrew University and the Tomb of Jesus can hardly dwell under one roof, we cannot relinquish Jerusalem. We must take the risk! This is the only motto that, I believe, can resonate: “The Hebrew University – Die Zionsuniversität auf dem Berg Zion (The Univeristy of Zion on Mount Zion) – the Third Temple!”

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