Sivan 5, 5767, May 22, 2007
When 600,000 souls, the forefathers of all who would accept the yoke of Torah upon themselves, stood at the foot of Mount Sinai, their commitment was unconditional: "We will do and we will listen." (Exodus 24:7) These are the first and last words of a Torah life. The first words because the oath of obedience is necessarily followed by a lifetime of study and exploration of how to perform the commandments we received at Sinai, how to make them real. The last words because only such a profound commitment awakens within us the resolve never to throw up our hands and say, "I just can't do it. I just can't bring myself to fulfill the commandments."
When the children of Israel said in unison the words: "We will do and we will listen," (ibid) they were voicing their commitment to both the Written Torah and the Oral Torah, both of which were handed down at Sinai. Without the discipline of the Oral tradition to shed light upon and explain the intricacies of the written commandments we would be hard pressed to keep our promise "to do." In order "to do" we first must "listen." However, we can only hear what the oral tradition has to instruct us after we have made the commitment "to do." A conundrum perhaps, but most definitely a way of life that has guided the nation of Israel for over three thousand years. This "unresolvable" "chicken and egg" dilemma is the very source of energy that drives us to pursue the truth of Torah and make it real in this world through the performance of the mitzvot - commandments - all 613 of them. "You shall have no other gods before Me... remember the Shabbat - the Sabbath day... honor your father and your mother..." (Exodus 20: 2-12) There isn't a single commandment of the 613 received at Sinai that doesn't require explanation in order to be fulfilled. And this explanation is the Oral Torah.
Ignorance has never been an excuse to forgo a mitzva. We don't back down from observing Shabbat - kehilchato - in accordance with the commandments - because we are uncertain about the nature of electricity. On the contrary, our sages spare no effort to understand electricity in the light of Torah and then apply it to the observance of the mitzvot in order to enhance our Shabbat experience. This has been characteristic of Jewish life throughout the millennia. So it is baffling that a disagreement over the observation and application of the commandment to ascend to the Temple Mount in order to perform the mitzva of "revering the Holy Temple" has been unresolved for forty years. Of course we are referring to the opportunity which presented itself before the Jewish people forty years ago when the Temple Mount was liberated by the Israel Defense Forces and returned to Jewish sovereignty after two thousand years. Once again having physical access to those areas on the Mount which are permitted to visit according to Jewish tradition, should surely satisfy the basic requirements for a resumption of the mitvza once the particulars of the commandment's fulfillment are reviewed and made known. However, there are those who have have claimed ignorance of the precise location where the Holy Temple stood as being an absolute impediment to the performing of the mitzva. This, in spite of two thousands years of precedent and literature at their fingertips. This, in spite of archeological evidence and other modern scientific methods of investigation which can aid in revealing the true historical location of the Holy Temple. And this, in spite of the fact that there are great Torah scholars in Israel today who do cite these sources and precedents and are calling upon Jews to ascend the Temple Mount, in accordance with halachah. There is no room for mystery in our need to perform each commandment to the best of our abilities. There is no room for raising our hands in defeat. "We will do and we will listen" precludes the easy option of inaction. Listening to the intellectual silence of self imposed "ignorance" is not a guide to Torah observance.
"We will do and we will listen." We will continue to visit the Temple Mount and, walking always within the parameters of the Written Torah and the Oral Torah, continue to move forward to the day when fulfilling the commandment to go up to the Holy Temple on the Festival of Shavuot and bringing our first fruits as offering of thanks to the G-d of Israel for the Land of Israel, in the spirit and word of the Torah of Israel, will be a performable reality.
Tune in to this week's Temple Talk, with Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven, as they discuss the spiritual qualities of the month of Sivan, the multifaceted nature of the festival of Shavuot, and the steadily growing phenomenon of Jewish faces being seen on the Holy Temple Mount.
On this week's Light to the Nations on the Universal Torah Network, Rabbi Richman continues to discuss the golden menorah that stands in the Holy Temple's Sanctuary: Holy Temple Studies 27: Details of the Menorah, Part I. To view this week's show, premiering Thursday, please click here. You can still view Rabbi Richman exploration of the holiday of Shavuot, entitled "The Festival of Shavuot: Spiritual insights into the inner meaning of the Shavuot holiday."
DVD collections of past Light to the Nations shows are now available for purchase at the Universal Torah Network's online store. If you are a member of the Temple Institute, please log onto our members area to receive the code you will need to receive your members discount on your purchase of any Light to the Nations DVDs. If you are a member but have never logged in or have forgotten your password, please contact us. If you are interested in becoming a member, click here for more information.
To learn more about the festival of Shavuot and how it was celebrated in the Holy Temple, please click here.
Click here to view the new Sivan calendar, the latest installment on our online A Year in the Light of the Holy Temple.
Be sure to view Rabbi Richman's five minute teaching on this week's Torah reading of Naso, (Numbers 4:11-7:89), also on the Universal Torah Network.
We wish to all a joyous Shavuot.