While today, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, means long hours of intense prayer, the modern holiday service is really a stand-in for Biblical sacrifices performed by the High Priest as he entered the Holy of Holies in the Temple in order to beg forgiveness for the Jewish people. While the Temple was standing, thousands would gather to witness the holy offerings and pray for atonement. Though the Temple was not built this year, many significant events have brought us closer than ever before to its prophesied rebuilding, and all over the world, Jews are praying that this time next year, the Yom Kippur service will take place in the Third Temple!
In preparation for the High Holidays, the nascent Sanhedrin selected Rabbi Meir Kahane in August to perform the function of the High Priest, should the need arise. Rabbi Kahane has led many reenactments of the Temple Service, and is prepared to perform the service. If a Yom Kippur service is performed on the Temple Mount this year, Rabbi Kahane will not be acting alone. The Temple Institute has initiated a registry of Kohanim (priests) and an institute to educate them, bringing us closer than ever to actualizing our 2,000-year-old dream.
In a remarkable journey that took 1,100 years, a sardonyx was rediscovered in September that many experts believe is actually from the High Priest’s breastplate. The engraving of a Hebrew letter ‘bet’ floats below the surface and has baffled scientists, who have no idea how the engraving came to be. The stone was acquired in Jerusalem in 1189 by a French Templar Knight and was passed down from generation to generation. It has finally resurfaced, and a group of businessmen is working to bring it back home to Jerusalem.
A new attraction at the Kotel Plaza has Temple-minded tourists going wild. A project from The Temple Mount Heritage Foundation and ArchTour opened September 19, recreating the Second Temple in a virtual reality 3-D experience. The virtual tour begins in the Old City marketplace, entering the Temple courtyard through the southern gate, and brings the visitor right into the Temple, where he witnesses the Temple service, up-close and firsthand.
The nascent Sanhedrin jump-started the Torah commandment of counting the 50-year Jubilee cycle as Rosh Hashana went out last year. Not only did this give Jews an opportunity to perform an additional Torah mitzvah, but it officially marked the third arrival of the Jews in the Promised Land. The Sanhedrin counted the first year in a closed room with only a few people to witness it. This year, this special Torah commandment was performed by thousands of Jews, as they marked the second year of the 50-year cycle with its proper blessing, not heard for over 2,000 years.
A group of archaeologists and volunteers pieced together spectacular marble tiles from the Second Temple courtyard, giving incontrovertible proof that the Temple Mount was home to the Jewish Temples. The tiles were found in piles of refuse taken from the Temple Mount during illegal construction by the Waqf (Muslim Authority). A group of archaeologists and volunteers dedicated themselves to saving the irreplaceable artifacts endangered by the intentionally reckless actions of the Waqf. In September, they completed the painstaking process of piecing together the tile fragments. The result: a glimpse of the glory that once was the Temple.