By Rt. Wor. Bro. Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple, AO RFD, Past Deputy Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales & the Australian Capital Territory.Biblical scholars have investigated almost every aspect of Solomon’s Temple. The literature on the subject is enormous. The fact that we refer to Solomon’s Temple in our ritual should, however, not blind us to the fact that that sanctuary stood for only 410 years, Zerubbavel’s on the same site for 420 years, and Herod’s reconstruction of the Temple for 90 years. The structure was destroyed, except for part of the surrounding wall, in 70 CE. The destruction was perpetrated by the Romans, though Jewish tradition blames the people themselves for allowing internal conditions to make it easier for the enemy – they said the first Temple was menaced from within by immorality, idolatry and bloodshed, and the second by causeless hatred, one Jew against another.
The wall that survived is the Western (“Wailing”) Wall, now a major place of worship and assembly. Its survival was explained as due to the Holy of Holies being in relative proximity, as well as the fact that this wall was the result of the loving effort of the poorer sections of the community.
The people’s memory of the Temple remained evergreen. JH Hertz wrote, “The people loved the Temple, its pomp and ceremony, the music and song of the Levites and the ministrations of the priests, the high priest as he stood and blessed the prostrate worshippers amid profound silence on the Atonement Day.” Yet some feared that the sanctuary was becoming a “curtain of iron” between Israel and their Maker because the pomp and ceremony were in danger of developing into an end in themselves.
Nonetheless countless religious rituals arose to keep the memory alive. Services were held at times that recalled the Temple offerings, synagogues replicated aspects of the Temple, religious appurtenances bore decorative features such as the twin pillars and the lions of Judah, and the loss of the Temple was recalled by leaving part of one’s house unplastered and the groom breaking a glass at the end of his wedding ceremony.
Jewish liturgy made constant reference to the hope of the Temple being rebuilt and the descendants of the priesthood schooled themselves in the duties they would need top perform in the reconstructed sanctuary. One of those priestly descendants thought that as the Temple had been destroyed because of groundless hate, its rebuilding would require a mood of boundless love.
Since the reunification of Jerusalem many have suggested that the rebuilding should move out of the realm of mere theory. In line with rabbinic teachings that the third Temple would not be built by human hands but by God Himself, there are strong views that the rebuilding will require an express Divine revelation. Conditions on the ground require not only agreement about access to the site, which entails entering only in a state of ritual purity, but a universal Jewish spiritual revival and desire for a sanctuary, conditions of peace, and scrupulous adherence to the Biblical proportions, measurements and specifications of the Temple.
Even in pre-messianic times various interim proposals merit consideration. In 1965 Masonic sources urged the erection of a Temple of Peace somewhere in Jerusalem. After the Six-Day War in 1967 a similar suggestion was advanced by a leading rabbi, who said that even if a new Temple cannot yet be erected on the traditional site, perhaps Jerusalem could have a different kind of sanctuary on a suitable site – “a Temple of peace and worship in which a believing humanity could commune with their Heavenly Father… a place where His Divine presence could rest, which would become the rendezvous of all those who have immortal longings” (SM Lehrman).
Even such a spiritual centre is a difficult proposition, but it would be a wonderful step towards the day foretold by the Biblical prophet when “The mountain of the Lord’s House shall be established as the top of the mountains and exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow towards it, and many peoples shall go and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the House of the God of Jacob’” (Isaiah 2:2-3).
For more articles on Freemasonic issues by Rt. Wor. Bro. Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple, AO RFD, visit his Freemasonry webpage.
Rt. Wor. Bro. Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple’s book on the history, symbolism and teachings of Freemasonry, enlivened with personal reminiscences and humour.