While most Israelis were celebrating Independence Day by having family barbecues, a small group gathered in the Old City of Jerusalem and began chipping away at stones, preparing them to be used to build the prophesied Third Temple.
The event was organized by Rabbi Aryeh Lipo who envisioned it while on his way to the funeral of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky in March. Lipo ascends to the Temple Mount on a daily basis (when the Israeli police permit Jews to enter) but was deliberating with a friend which was more important: to attend the funeral of a tzaddik (righteous Jew) or to ascend to the Temple Mount.
To honor Rabbi Kanievsky, he and a friend were learning a halachic (Torah law) ruling written by Rabbi Kanievsky in which he stated that the stones for the Temple had to be cut by Jews with the intention of honoring God’s name.
“We have a mitzvah (Torah commandment) to build the Temple. This mitzvah is not conditional or time-bound. We have this requirement at all times. So it is a pity that we are not actively engaged in it. Right now, it is politically complicated for us to begin building on the Temple Mount but that does not exempt us from this mitzvah.”
Rabbi Lipo realized that it was possible to begin to actually perform this mitzvah by preparing the stones that will be used to build the Third Temple. He explained that Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, the medieval Torah authority known as Maimonides or by the acronym Rambam, taught that the stones for the Temple building were cut outside of the Temple Mount and transported to the Temple Mount. Once on the Temple Mount, it was forbidden to use iron tools to form the stones. It was, of course, forbidden to use iron tools at any stage to form the stones for the altar.
As an aside, Rabbi Lipo has already begun collecting stones for the altar. Rabbi Lipo cited Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook who, in 1937, wrote an article relating to Ezekiel’s vision of the Jews’ return to Zion:
And I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit into you: I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh; Ezekiel 36:26
“There are hearts and there are hearts,” Rabbi Kook wrote. “There are human hearts, and there are hearts of stone. There are stones and there are stones. There are silent stones, and there are stones which are hearts. These stones, remnants of our dwelling on high, “retain their holiness even in desolation” (Megillah 3:3), for “the Shekhinah has never left the Western Wall” (Tanhuma Shemot 10)…. These stones are our hearts!”
In order to perform the mitzvah properly, Rabbi Lipo had to consult with several rabbis who were expert in issues concerning the Temple. Because of its politically sensitive nature, an aspect some rabbis consider when ruling about the Tempe Mount and Third Temple, there are normally vastly divergent views regarding such issues.
“All of the rabbis we consulted agreed that we should begin preparing the stones,” Lipo said “This wasn’t just a physical action to produce dressed stones. We had to be very careful about our intentions. Of course, this was not a political statement. The intention was to unify the Jews and all of the world in making God One and His Name One.”
It was for this reason that they chose to begin forming the stones for the Third Temple on Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. Rabbi Lipo cited commentaries that explained that when God appeared to Moses at the burning bush, He told Moses that the reason for bringing the Jews out was in order to serve Him in Jerusalem:
And He said, “I will be with you; that shall be your sign that it was I who sent you. And when you have freed the people from Egypt, you shall worship Hashem at this mountain.” Exodus 3:12
“The unifying identity of the Jewish people is expressed in the Temple in Jerusalem,” Rabbi Lipo explained. “On this day, 74 years ago, Israel became a state but the essence of the nation is the Temple in Jerusalem.”
Most quarries in Israel are operated by Arabs and they preferred not to use stones from those locations. They collected 23 sizable stones from a field near the community of Eish Kodesh (holy fire) in Samaria. A contractor from Judea transported the stones to an area near the Hurva Synagogue in the Old City. Lipo’s mother, who was born with the State of Israel 74 years ago, took part, enthusiastically helping to chip away at the stones.
Lipo plans on holding more events of this type to prepare more stones for the Third Temple.
Joshua Wander took part in the event. While cutting the stones, Wander wore tefillin (phylacteries) and had his sidearm ready, personifying the prophecy of Nehemiah:
As for the builders, each had his sword girded at his side as he was building. The trumpeter stood beside me. Nehemiah 4:12
“This was an important act unto itself and a message to the nation as well as to the world, but it was also message to Hashem that we were not just sitting around waiting for the Messiah,” Wander told Israel365 News. “We had the intention to show that we are actively working to bring the Third Temple, as prophesied and as commanded.”
The current situation in which Israel is a beautifully developed country while the Temple Mount is under the control of the Palestinians is similar to the situation described by the Prophet Haggai:
Is it a time for you to dwell in your paneled houses, while this House is lying in ruins? Haggai 1:4
The Israel Bible explained a message that is equally relevant today:
Addressing the Jews who returned to the Land of Israel after seventy years of Babylonian exile, Chagai’s mission is to motivate them to resume construction of the second Temple. He begins by challenging them to reflect on their priorities, and to consider what is more important: Their comfort, or God’s? While they dwell in paneled houses, Hashem’s house lies in ruins. The Hebrew term for ‘paneled’ is sefunim (ספונים). According to some, the panels were made out of cedar wood, imported from Lebanon. Chagai is accusing the people of not learning from King David, who said to the prophet Natan, “Here I am dwelling in a house of cedar, while the Aron of Hashem abides in a tent!” (II Samuel 7). David longed to overcome that disparity and build the first Beit Hamikdash, while the Israelites in Chagai’s time are unconcerned. Chagai tries to break their complacency.
The stones are being stored for their intended purpose.