It seems that cracks are appearing in the Haredi consensus, which used to be firmly against setting foot on Temple Mount, for fear of violating the holiest Jewish site. According to Maariv, Rabbi Meir Mazuz, head of yeshiva Kisseh Rachamim (Seat of Mercy) in B’nei B’rak, has responded to a public question on his institutions’ official website with the psak (decision): “min hadin mutar” – meaning that it is legally permitted. However, he said that one must restrict one’s movements on Temple Mount to the areas which are not problematic.
The entrance to the Temple before the destruction was restricted to Jews who had cleansed themselves of the impurity of the dead, a 7-day process requiring two sprayings with water containing the ashes of a red heifer. Since we are no longer in possession of these means, we are unable to cleanse our impurity and so, should we set foot on an area where the holy sacrifices were being made, or, even worse, the holiest sanctuary, we would be defiling them.
But there are today many religious-Jewish experts who offer clear instructions as to where the “safe” area for walking is, mostly the perimeter of the compound.
Rabbi Mazuz’s decision comes a scant few months after the passing of Rav Ovadia Yosef, who staunchly objected to Jewish ascent to Temple Mount. Rabbi Mazuz’s stature in the Sefardi Haredi community might usher in a new era in mainstream religious Jewish approach to the Temple Mount.
Rabbi Mazuz is considered one of the senior Sefardi rabbis in the world, but has always been to the right of the late Rav Ovadia. He was actively opposed to the Gush Katif deportations, including adding his name to the list of rabbis who at the time called on IDF soldiers to refuse an order to evacuate.
Needless to say, Shas, the Haredi Sefardi party which may suffer a setback come next elections due to the passing of Rav Ovadia, is not happy with the public defiance being shown by Rabbi Mazuz these days. Their spokesman has already criticized the Rabbi’s decision, and the question Shas seems to fear is not so much about Temple Mount but about the possibility of dissent in the Sefardi ranks over more critical issues, like politics.