Ask the Rabbi

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Dr Raymond Apple.

THE TEMPLE MOUNT

Q. Is it permitted for a Jew to enter the Temple mount in Jerusalem?

A. The Temple mount is the hill on which the sanctuary stood. The Kotel is the surrounding wall on the western side. It extends far beyond the open area where the crowds come to pray every day. The Temple was located within the compound on the hill but not so much in the centre as on the north-western side. The mount retained its sanctity even after the destruction of the Temple because it was not the stones but the Divine Presence that made it holy.

Hence, just as in Temple times, anyone who is ritually defiled may not enter the area. But since we have detailed records of the measurements of the Temple, entry to part of the surrounds could be possible provided a person has ritually immersed and so long as they have taken off their shoes (Mishnah B’rachot 9:5).

The chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, Rabbi Chayyim David Halevi, stated in 1976 that there is definitely a permitted area which a Jew can enter subject to the above provisos. There are obviously additional political considerations, but they are outside the scope of this answer.

TALK IN THE FAMILY

Q. It has come to my attention that a member of the family is telling other relatives terrible things about me, and I am feeling very hurt. What should I do?

A. Family dynamics are always a touchy subject and I hope the people to whom your relative passes on such comments can stand up for themselves and refuse to believe what is said, and indeed to suggest that the person who is talking to them should check their facts and reconsider the wisdom of purveying this gossip.

The rule in Jewish ethics is that a person who utters slander hurts three people – the one about whom it is said, the one who hears it, and the one who says it (Talmud Arachin 15b).

The question for you yourself is whether to get directly involved by confronting the one who is spreading the comments. This is probably not a smart thing to do because they are sure to deny any wrongdoing and/or to tell you what a terrible person you are for even suspecting that they would do such a thing. Unfortunately, as the sages say, slander can be worse than using a weapon against you: weapons hurt from nearby, whilst slander hurts from afar (Talmud Yerushalmi Pe’ah 1:1).

Even if other members of the family try to handle the problem themselves the odds are that the air will remain a bit cloudy and restoring “shalom bayit” might take a long time or even never fully happen at all.

WAGNER’S MUSIC

Q. Should Jews listen to the compositions of antisemites like Wagner?

A. In Israel, music lovers often debate whether to ban Wagner’s music from public performance.

Was Wagner worse than other antisemitic composers?

My answer is yes. His ideology was crucial to the German nationalist movement. Hitler saw Wagner as his predecessor as leader of the Nazi revolution. Wagner argued that Jews were the enemies of humanity. Previously they had been branded Christ-killers; now they were so hungry for world domination that they would crucify mankind as a whole.

Despite the fact that Wagner died in 1883, 50 years before Hitler came to power, there is a violence in Wagner’s music that is almost Nazi in its intensity.

It is because of what Wagner symbolises that many in Israel want his work to be banned. Outside Israel it is a matter of personal judgment. No-one is forced to attend a Wagner concert.

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Dr Raymond Apple. Rabbi Apple served for 32 years as the chief minister of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, and was Australia's highest profile rabbi and the leading spokesperson for Jews and Judaism on the Australian continent. He is now retired and lives in Jerusalem. Rabbi Apple blogs at http://www.oztorah.com

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Q. Is it permitted for a Jew to enter the Temple mount in Jerusalem?