Monday, October 20, 2008

Biblical Ceremonies on Temple Mount

2000 Years of Silence Come to an End:
Hakhel Ceremonies Performed on the Temple Mount and in the Old City of Jerusalem
Chag Sukkot
Tishrei 18, 5769/October 17, 2008

While the nations of the world are being rocked by financial turbulence and meteorological volatility, in the holy city of Jerusalem history is being written with a steady hand amidst increasing signs that the long awaited redemption is at last drawing near. October 15th, the first day of Chol Hamoed, (1st day of the intermediate days of Sukkot), the designated day for the Biblically commanded "gathering" ceremony:

The unique commandment recorded in the book of Devarim - Deuteronomy - known as the Hakhel (literally, "gather together") tells us that the King of Israel is to gather together the entire nation of Israel - men, women and children - to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem once every seven years, during the intermediary days of the Festival of Sukkot, at the conclusion of the seven year Sabbatical cycle. There, he is to read the Torah before the entire congregation, from selected passages in the book of Deuteronomy. The purpose of this special gathering is to inspire the people to walk in the ways of G-d and cling to His Torah:

"'At the end of [every] seven years, at an appointed time, in the Festival of Sukkot, [after] the sabbatical year, when all Israel comes to appear before HaShem, your G-d, in the place He will choose you shall read this Torah before all Israel, in their ears.'" (Deuteronomy 31:10)

After months of quiet but intensive behind the scenes meetings with Israel's Internal Security Minister, top Jerusalem police officials, members of Israel's Knesset, and relevant parliamentary committees, (all the tireless effort of Yehudah Glick the Temple Institute's Director), word went out across the length and the breadth of the land of Israel that a Hakhel ceremony would be taking place on Biblical schedule upon the Temple Mount.

On Wednesday morning over 1000 Jews arrived at the Temple Mount's Moghrabi Gate entrance in order to perform the once-in-seven years commandment. To learn more about this historic event and to see photographs, please click here.

At the very same time, while conducting an on-the-Temple Mount Hakhel ceremony for the first time in 2000 years, the Temple Institute's entire staff was also busy with last minute preparations for a second Hakhel gathering, this one in the Gan Tekuma park adjacent to the Jewish Quarter inside of Jerusalem's old city walls. This Hakhel ceremony included, along with the appropriate Hakhel readings from Deuteronomy, a presentation of many of the Institute's accomplishments from the past (5768) year.

Included were newly fashioned silver trumpets, the golden crown - tzitz - of the high priest, the first time wearing of bigdei kehuna - priestly garments for the lay priests, by five distinguished kohanim - priests, and the official unveiling of the just completed Kiyor Nechoshet - Brass Laver for the sanctification of the hands and feet of the priests before they begin their daily service in the Holy Temple. The two ton Kiyor had been transported by truck prior to the first day of Sukkot from the northern Israeli city of Akko, where it was manufactured by the Buchbut Metalworks Factory. It spent the night in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Choma. Following the conclusion of the first day of Sukkot the Kiyor was then delivered to the Temple Institute. Arriving in the old city at two in the morning, it was lowered by crane into Gan Tekuma, where it was guarded throughout the night by a number of dedicated volunteers.

Meanwhile, the sound and lighting systems and the main stage for the ceremony were being put in place. The ceremony was scheduled to begin at 4:30 PM, but already hours before curious onlookers, intrigued by the massive Kiyor, now covered by a blue tarp, began to gather round.

By the time the Hakhel ceremony began, thousands of spectators had already gathered, spilling out of Gan Tekuma into the adjacent open areas. The road above Gan Tekuma filled with people making vehicular traffic impossible. The old city wall which ran high above behind the stage likewise filled with onlookers.

A very moving evening ensued. Each of the five kohanim, (Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Avi Kahane, Menachem Cohen, Ariel Reigel and Micha Katz), took turns reading Hakhel verses from a Torah scroll, after which they stood and sounded the silver trumpets. The golden tzitz was placed upon the head of one of the priests. A description of the details of the priestly garments followed, and as a grand finale the Kiyor was unveiled.

The enthusiastic assembly crowded around the Kiyor. Children touched and explored the Brass Laver, while parents described to them how the laver works and how the priests much sanctify their hands and feet each day. The Hakhel ceremony had officially concluded, but for well over an hour people thronged around the Kiyor, savoring, as it were, the magic of the moment, beholding the unfolding of history, the march of destiny. To see photographs from the Hakhel ceremony, please click here.

After emerging from the cleansing, powerful experience of Yom Kippur, we enter into the Sukkah to experience the loving embrace of the Divine Presence. "Armed" with the unique commandment of the Four Species (etrog, lulav, hadasim and aravot), we celebrate the "season of our joy," a time of renewal and the ingathering of our strengths and potentials. But Sukkot is even more than all that it brings with it the promise of Divine Inspiration and even the renewal of prophecy. Join Yitzchak Reuven and Rabbi Chaim Richman in this special Sukkot edition of Temple Talk for a tour de force of this incomparable season of pure joy.

To learn how Sukkot is observed in the Holy Temple, please click here.

This week features the latest Bat Melech video teaching by Rabanit Rena Richman, entitled, "Rachav: Profile in Repentance, Part II: Rachav, the women of "ill-repute" who lived in the wall of Jericho not only hosted the two spies sent by Joshua, but used the opportunity their presence afforded her to repent of her past deeds, and become herself a righteous woman of valor." Click here to view.

Today also features the new Light to the Nations teaching by Rabbi Chaim Richman, entitled, "The Sukkot Special: Deep secrets of the joy that characterizes the holiday of Sukkot." Both part I and part II are currently online. Click here to view.

Chag Sameach - a joy filled Sukkot to all,

Yitzchak Reuven
PO Box 31876
Jerusalem, Israel 97500

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