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Shavuot 5769

By: Rav Ari Shames

Shavuot/ Nasso 5769- Rav Shames (Please note that since Shavuot in Israel is on Friday only while outside of Israel it is on Friday and Shabbat we enter a few weeks of a difference in the Parsha between Israel and the Diaspora. In Israel we will read Nasso this Shabbat while in Chutz L'aretz they will read the reading for the second day of Shavuot and will read Nasso the following week. This lag will remain until July 4th when there will be a double parsha (Chukat Balak) in Chutz Laretz and only Balak in Israel. The email shiurim of the Midrasha will follow the parshiot in Israel.) In this week's shiur I would like to outline the position of those who allow Jews to go to Har Habayit today, a topic that combines Shavuot one of the three regalim anad Parshat Nasso. May the shiur be our effort to partake in the mitzvah of aliyah leregel, at least on paper. This is a topic that touches on many different levels of halacha, politics and hashkafa. In the shiur at present I will focus on only one element- the level of purity one need to achive in order to enter Har Habayit according to halacha, as this is generally seen as the main obstacle. I would like to show that it is fact not a major problem at all and objection to having Jews go to Har Habayit today stems from other parameters (halachic public policy, politics and a passive attitude towards the building of the Mikdash) all of these are important issues that need to be addressed, but are beyond the scope of a short email shiur. The Torah, in parshat Nasso (Bamidbar 5:1-4) tells us that Moshe was commanded to send all of those who were tamei (impure) out of the camp. The Torah lists three types of people- Tzarua (leper), Zav and one who has come in contact with the dead. Rashi, based on the gemara in Pesachim explains that as opposed to the simple reading of the passuk, that all three types must be sent out of the entire camp, actually, each type of tuma is prohibited from entering specific areas of the camp. There were three different camps in the desert: The area that the Mishkan was in, known as Machane Shechina (God's camp) The area that the Levites lived in (Levite camp) The area that the remainder of the nation lived in (Nation's camp) The three types of tuma are viewed in terms of the severity of the tuma: The Metzora The Zav The Tamei l'met The Gemara concludes that the limitations on those who are impure are a function of the severity of their condition. The result is that the Metzora (the most impure) is banished from all three camps, while the Zav is banished from the Levite and God's camp only and is allowed in the Nation's camp, while the Tamei L'met is allowed in the Nation's and the Levite camp and is only prohibited from entering God's camp. At first glance this seems a bit strange as we are accustomed to view the tamei L' met as the most severe type of tuma, however the Gemara clearly states that the order is as we have noted. (we have treated this issue in previous shiurim). In other places the Gemara expands the definition of the category of Zav to include five people: Zav Zavah Nidah Yoledet Baal Keri In short anyone who is deemed as impure as a result of some sort of internal tuma (as opposed to having come in contact with some item that rends one impure). In practical terms this means that any male who has had a seminal emission or a female that has menstruated, given birth, or has had sexual relations within the last 72 hours is considered tamei, and may not enter the Levite camp (and of course God's camp). From the Desert to Yerushalyim- The definitions of the three camps in the desert were transferred to areas in Eretz Yisrael as the Jews eventually built the Bet Hamikdash. God's camp- The area of the Mikdash itself Levite camp- Har Habayit Nation's camp- any walled city in Eretz Yisrael Therefore if an individual is making his pilgrimage to the Mikdash on Shavuot (or any other time) he must ask himself, before entering Yerushalayim (a walled city)- "am I a metzora?". If not then he may enter and his next ""purity roadblock" would be at the entrance to Har Habayit where he would have to make sure that he was not tamei due to any internal tuma. In the event that he was he would need to go to the mikveh, which solves this entire category of impurity. The next stage would be to make sure that he was not in contact with any dead body, if he had been, he would need to begin the 7 day process with the ashes of the red heifer (para adumah). Given all of the information above we can safely say that today we would not be allowed to enter God's camp, as we lack the ashes of the para adumah, but we have no problem of entering the area of Har Habayit as long as one goes to the mikveh first (and in the case of women the mikveh must be preceded by a seven day period of cleanliness "shiva nekiim"). [Whether or not the rules have changed as a result of the destruction of the Bet Hamikdash is a debate between the Rambam and the Raavad (Hilchot Bet Habichira, at the end of the 6th perek). I have written the more stringent position, that of the Rambam; that the rules remain the same as always.] Now that we have determined the limitations given the halachic definitions we must try to figure out what corresponds today to the area of Har Habayit. The area that we today call Har Habayit is made up of two sections, the original Har Habayit and additions to it, primarily by Herod. The original, halachic area of Har Habayit is 500 amot (cubits) by 500 amot. Depending on how large an ama is will determine the original boundries and the areas that are of a later addition. Even according to the largest estimate of the ama there is approximately twice as much area today than there was at the time of the pre-Herodian temple. In addition the area today is a rectangle and not square as reported in the mishna clearly pointing to additions made alter. In short a large portion of the section now known as Har Habayit is according to the halacha to be considered Yerushalayim and requires no special preparations at all to enter. The area of the original 500X500 can be accessed after going to the mikve and the site of the actual mikdash itself within the 500X500 must be avoided until we have the red heifer. (I would not recommend entering the Har Habayit of today without going to the mikve, due to practical considerations that the available routes clearly enter part of the original Har Habayit) We are provided with a fairly detailed floor plan of the Mikdash in the Mishna and all that is left is to match the present picture to the floor plan of the mishna. This a point that has produced a few different opinions that are beyond the scope of this shiur. For further reading please see: and for detailed explanations and maps. Conclusion: In order to enter Har Habayit one must take into account their state of purity and see to it that they satisfy the criteria as we have stated earlier. In general immersing in a mikve is sufficient to solve these issues. One should not go alone as the route that one takes depends on the issues detailed in the articles that are linked above, and one should only go with someone who is familiar with the boundaries. In addition there are other halachot that must be observed if entering Har Habayit, such as not wearing (leather) shoes. In order to clarify the issues one should consult people who have been before to get the exact requirements. As it is generally not the practice of single women to go to the mikve the discussion above remains theoretical for single women. May our study of the issues and their implementation help bring us step by step closer to being able to spend this and every chag in the rebuilt Mikdash. Chag Sameach Rav Shames


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