Photo Credit: Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90
Kohanim at this year’s Korban Pesach ceremony

Once again this year, the Temple Institute in Jerusalem conducted a symbolic Korban Pesach ceremony near the Kotel Plaza at the foot of the Temple Mount, complete with priestly-garmented kohanim and blaring silver trumpets.

The ritual slaughter of an animal, and the pouring of its blood from silver vessels on a model altar designed by the Temple Institute to meet halachic requirements was accompanied by detailed explanations and lectures.

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Rabbi Yisrael Ariel – founder of the Temple Institute, which is devoted to educating the nation about the Beit HaMikdash – has a special attachment to the Temple Mount as one of the paratroopers to capture Israel’s most holy site during the Six-Day War. Ever since, he has staunchly insisted that Israel must demonstrate its sovereignty over the Temple Mount in a concrete fashion by allowing Jews freedom to pray on the Mount and to offer the Korban Pesach.

The Jewish Press: What is the purpose of these annual Korban Pesach ceremonies?

Rabbi Ariel: On the first of Nissan, the Mishkan was inaugurated, but for a full seven days before that, Moshe, Aharon, and Aharon’s sons assembled the Mishkan, over and over again, until they were deft at the practice. They were like soldiers in basic training, learning how to perform the required tasks, so they would be ready when the real moment arrived.

This is what we’re doing each year in performing the exercises involved in bringing the Korban Pesach. We are learning and preparing.

But we are doing more than that. Since our world is connected to the spiritual worlds above, our physical actions relating to the mitzvot we so long to perform in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem create a ripple affect that reaches up to the celestial Jerusalem, stimulating exalted forces which help to bring the awaited day closer.

What stops us from offering a real Korban Pesach today?

The Korban Pesach has to be offered on the Temple Mount in the Azarah. Needless to say, this would arouse the wrath of the entire Arab world against us. But let’s say we could overcome this obstacle. We conquered the West Bank and the sky didn’t fall down. Perhaps we forget, but we also reconquered Har HaBayit in the Six-Day war, and there is no reason why we shouldn’t be in total charge there today.

Rav Yisrael Ariel standing next to Rav David HaNazir and Rav Zvi Yehuda Kook after Israel’s capture of the Kotel in 1967

We have just had elections in Israel. Hypothetically speaking, suppose a new coalition is formed that allows Jewish prayer and ritual observance on Har HaBayit. Let’s say that the prime minister, chief of police, minister of defense, the Suprme Court, and the Chief Rabbinate all agree. When that happens, we will be ready with the Korban Pesach.

Aren’t there halachic obstacles?   

As with every matter of halacha, there are authorities that say yes and others that say no regarding different elements involved in offering a genuine sacrifice.

A kosher lamb is available; 50 trained kohanim are waiting; the necessary priestly garments have been fashioned; the Temple Institute has constructed an altar that can be used; there are areas on the Temple Mount where it is permitted to walk, including a 10-by-10 meter area where the Altar can be placed in its halachic position.

Since the Korban Pesach is a communal public offering, it can be brought even when the congregation is in a state of spiritual impurity, like it is today. Therefore, the absence of a parah adumah is not a prohibiting factor.

I am simplifying the debate, but, in my opinion, the foundation to carry out the mitzvah of Korban Pesach exists this very moment.

Even in the absence of the Beit HaMikdash?

Of course, we yearn for the building of the Beit HaMikdash, may it be this year, but its absence does not prevent the Korban Pesach from being sacrificed. There are many historical sources informing us that the sacrifice was offered on the Temple Mount throughout the generations [despite] Jerusalem’s destruction, and leading poskim from the past and the present maintain that the Korban Pesach offering is not dependent on the existence of the Temple.

There is no need to argue this point or that. We have a positive Torah commandment to offer the Korban Pesach, just as we have a commandment to eat matzah on Seder night. The injunction is so important to the individual and the nation that the penalty for not obeying is karet – being cut off from the Jewish People, may Hashem have mercy, a severe, severe transgression.

Part of our weakness in many areas of our national life stems from our reluctance to perform this supreme national mitzvah, out of the fear of what the non-Jewish nations will say – even though this is the very mitzvah that Hashem gave us in Egypt to declare our national independence and separation from the nations.

Precisely because of the miserut nefesh (self-sacrifice) we showed in Egypt in defying the most powerful empire of the time, by slaughtering their god in the face of their wrath and retribution, we merited to leave Egypt and its idolatrous culture.

The same miserut nefesh is needed today in order to move Am Yisrael to a higher level in our national service of Hashem, strong not only economically and militarily, but strong in our national allegiance to Torah as well.

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