We enter our fourth year with funds available for the maintenance of the Holy Temple.
And what a year it has been!
From within the year it seemed that things were moving so slowly that it was almost imperceptable, like the moving of the hour-hand on a clock dial. Looking back at the net results of last year's endeavors, a quantum leap has in fact taken place.
The Trumat HaLishka ceremony of Erev Rosh Chodesh Nisan 5760 was performed at the House of Harrari's courtyard as in times past; Brinks made the pick-up and delivered the Hekdesh to the Office of the Chief Rabbinate, depositing the lock-box into the vault.
As we neared Rosh Chodesh Sivan three intersecting needs (or in Jerusalem language - angel intervention) took us from the "early period" to the next stop along the way. First, the Harrari's moved their gallery from Nachalat Shiva, the picturesque, 120 year old neighborhood where it had been, to the beautiful moshav Ramat Raziel, tucked into the flowing hills surrounding Jerusalem. We lost our housing for the Chest for New Shekels. Secondly, The vault at the Chief Rabbinate's Office was stuffed with lock-boxes full of Hekdesh, and I feared that adding one more would cause them to wake up and throw the whole lot back at us, a scenario to be avoided at all costs, as there must always be a seperation between those producing the Half-Shekels and those safeguarding their collection. Third, more mundane, I lacked the funds to hire Brinks that particular week. Necessity, or G-d's timing, sprang us to action.
As you recall from a previous UPDATE, we had proposed to Otzar HaMikdash that they take responsibility for the collection of the Hekdesh and its guarding, as a precursor to overseeing its allocation according to the Temple's needs. This would include transferring the Chest for New Shekels (and the soon to be completed Chest for Old Shekels) to Otzar HaMikdash, having Oztar HaMikdash house Moked Hekdesh, the public access center for people to approach the Chests for New and Old Shekels to depsoit their coins, and to suitably store and safeguard the proceeds of Trumat HaLishka, Shearith HaLishka and other forms of Hekdesh.
The group as it was, ceased to meet at that point, those afraid to look beyond the self-perpetuating confines of Halachah for Galuth unwilling to associate themselves with anything that dared to call itself REAL, mumbling that we do 'Zecher' (Rememberance) to comfort themselves. But that was not the end of the story. In fact, it gave birth to two different stories, both running concurrently. It's the first story we'll confine ourselves to here. As soon as I realised that we needed to scramble to have everything in place and ready for the Trumath HaLishka ceremony for Rosh Chodesh Sivan, I called Gideon Charlap, the chairman of Otzar HaMikdash, and explained the urgency we were facing. He informed me that "Otzar HaMikdash had just received its certification from the State of Israel", the culmination of a process that took several months to complete. Otzar HaMikdash was now registered and recognized legally by the State of Israel and "you bet, come see me immediately."
Fifteen minutes later, Gideon showed me a beautiful room, in his restored 100 year old architect's office, which he made immediately available to Otzar HaMikdash as the first Moked Hekdesh. He installed a vault into the wall to store the proceeds of the Trumath HaLishka ceremony, and just like that, Moked Hekdesh was born.
The last of the "Early Period" Trumath HaLishka ceremonies was performed on Rosh Chodesh Sivan, at the Harrari's, and the proceeds and the Chest for New Shekels were transferred to Oztar HaMikdash, Moked Hekdesh.
Once again, our dear friend Woody Murray of Alabama, sponsored the flight for Levite Michelle Kemp to carry over the Hekdesh donated in the US, and the hundreds of Half-Shekels were festivally deposited into the Chest for New Shekels prior to the third and final Trumath HaLishka ceremony for last year, on Erev Rosh Chodesh Tishrei.
We would like to honor Mr. Murray by acknowledging that this year, for the fourth year in a row, he has made Half-Shekels available to everyone in his congregation, and that in the merit of this one man, and with the continued support of the congregation's rabbi, everyone in his congregation has sent in their Half-Shekels, this their fourth year in a row. May Am Yisrael be blessed to see one son or daughter of Israel do likewise in every congregation throughout the world.
Born of necessity, a fundamental change took place last year. Though we still have to oversee everything, and constantly maintain a relationship of counsel, the actual physical collection process has been sucessfully removed from our court to the court of a group of 'others', not related by friendship or marriage. This is a significant breakthrough. Whereas we had involved the Chief Rabbinate during the last three years, it was done without their active participation. It was sort of like this wart just appeared on their nose, got bigger and bigger, and then just disappeared.
Prior to Rosh Chodesh Adar, on the counsel of Oztar HaMikdash and others, we called Brinks, called the Chief Rabbinate's Office, and informed them that we were coming to retrieve all nine lock-boxes and transferring them to the vault of Oztar HaMikdash. No one objected, and as easily as we placed the nine lock-boxes in their vault, we went in, and took them all out of their vault. The Cohanim of Brinks carried the lock-boxes to the Brinks Armoured Truck, with a Fox-TV film crew catching every delicious minute of the entire transfer on film. A short time later the lock-boxes joined the two others already in Oztar HaMikdash's vault, and, mission completed, once again.
This Erev Rosh Chodesh Nisan, coming on Shabbat, forced us to move the Trumath HaLishka ceremony ahead by two days, and it was performed on Thursday, Erev Erev Rosh Chodesh Nisan. The proceeds of previous years that are in a state of 'Motar' will be combined into single large lock-boxes for easier storage.
What does all this mean? Heaven gave me a glimpse that I would like to share with you.In my apartment in Jerusalem there is a central heating system. It runs on gas. At the end of the winter you push a cut-off button; and at the beginning of the winter, in order to use it again, you have to first re-light the pilot. This is accomplished by pushing a pilot button and holding it in, while applying a lit match to the pilot. As long as you hold the button in, and it takes considerable pressure to hold it in, the pilot holds the flame. To check if the pilot has caught, you lessen the pressure on the pilot button. If the flame shrinks, its not yet caught and you have to push the pilot button down harder for a little longer. Half a minute later you take your finger away from the pilot button, and the pilot flame remainlit. Now you can turn on the heater, and when you do, you here the elements catch from the pilot flame with a big woosh.
This is the nature of our work. We hold the button down, awaiting the time that the pilot will remain lit, without our 'holding down the button'. Once this happens, that the pilot flame is holding its own, and we remove 'our finger', then and only then, will we hear the woosh and see the flame of universal participation.
Transferring the collection of Hekdesh into the hands of 'others' is a first step towards taking our finger off the button, and seeing the pilot retain its flame.
At the first Trumath HaLishka ceremony held at the office of Otzar HaMikdash several modest signs of progress were noted. First and foremost being the establishment, now made solid by taking on responsibility for the Chest for New Shekels and the collected Hekdesh, of Otzar HaMikdash. Next was the participation of HaRav Yosef Elbaum of HaTnua L'chinoon HaMikdash, who expounded on the Mishnah, and most significantly, the participation of Gershon Solomon - and the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement - who not only gave his first Half-Shekel but introduced a new custom to the existing ceremony and corrected an existential oversight on our part.
It has been our custom, since the first Trumath HaLishka ceremony four years ago, to begin by reading from the Mishnah, tractate Shekalim, chapter 3, wherein is described the Trumath HaLishka ceremony of the Second Temple Era.
As we were about to begin, Gershon interjected that we should begin with the reading of the Torah, from Parshat Ki Tissa (Ex:30:11-16) where we are given the commandment. How obvious! How typical. And herein lies the challenge before us.
It is a known fact that the Torah world puts an inordinate emphasis on Talmud study and neglects, almost to the point of shunning, study of Tanach. Once again this year I anticipated, as we approached the Torah reading of Ki Tissa, that I would be invited to speak on the Half-Shekel by every community that is aware of our work on the Half-Shekel. With the sole exception of HaRav Baruch Horowitz, Rosh HaYeshiva of Dvar Yerushalayim in Har Nof, not one of the hundreds of rabbis that know of my work invited me to speak during that week. Unbelievable!Some responded to my being flabergasted by such disbelief with "when we get to Shekalim we'll invite you." Here, reference is made to the Daf Yomi learning of the entire Talmud in multi-year cycles. When tractate Shekalim comes around then I'll be invited. And why not during the annual week of the Torah portion, when the energy of the topic of the Parsha is at its peak? What is this purposeful distancing from Torah in favor of Talmud?Gershon Solomon's simple question; "Aren't you going to read from the Torah first?" caught us with our "Geulah" down - we had carried a subconscious Galut mentality into the ceremony. That was immediately and for henceforth corrected and the ceremony began with Gershon's reading of Exodus 30:11-16.
We have continued our research into the silent world of the Zionist Shekel. In the last year we have aquired 52 different "Shekels" from 22 different countries, as well as all seventeen promotional posters thus far known to us. We have made some very interesting discoveries, some very disturbing revelations, and one absolutely amazing fact. Please enjoy with us this all but forgotten world of the Zionist Shekel.
We have added some new questions to the list we are circulating to rabbis around the world. Please print this out and ask your rabbi to answer the questions, and foward the answers to us (good luck! - we have been amazed that in three years we haven't found one Rav, anywhere in the world, who will arouse himself and attempt to answer these questions. What's at stake is this; when the Talmud was closed all discussions ceased. Since then we have been merely rehashing what's already been said before. By answering these questions one would be re-opening the discussion, and that's a bit scary, so better to hide one's head in the sand and pretend not to hear the question.) In the interest of creating responsa, to enable the collection of Halachot to instruct Israel in the proper performance of the Mitzvah of Netinat Machatzit Hashekel, I humbly submit the following questions:
1) a) What is the last day to give the
Half-Shekel each year?
2) When are the funds withdrawn from Shearith HaLishka?
3) Is there a similar ceremony for withdrawing Shearith HaLishka?
4) What Bracha is said at Trumat HaLishka by the Torem?
5) If a package containing Hekdesh is sent through the mail, may the canceled stamps on the packaging be enjoyed?
6) Would it be proper to make silver trumpets for the Beit HaMikdash with the Motar Trumat HaLishka in the Chief Rabbinate's safe, come Rosh Chodesh Nissan 5759 (if the Temple is not built before then)?
7) Is there a limit to how many make-up shekalim one can put into SHEKALIM YESHANIM?, i.e. this year I gave my Half-Shekel for the first time, and I was 39, which means from age 20 till 38 I didn't give. Can I now give 18 coins to make up for the years I missed?
8) Is there a Chovah to make up those years?
9) Motar Trumat HaLishka L'Klei Sharet; If silver trumpets are to be made from funds of Motar Trumat HaLishka, must the trumpets be made from mundane money - and then the Kedusha transferred to the trumpets thereby releasing the silver Half-Shekels to Chulin?
10) By what process is the Kedusha transferred from the silver Half-Shekels to the silver trumpets?
11) May those Half-Shekels, after the Kedusha has been transferred from them, then be resold?
12) From the time of the Midbar through the entire First Temple Era, the commandment was fulfilled by giving a fixed weight's worth of silver bullion, in nugget form, weighed on a scale against stone weights. With the introduction of coinage to the world in the sixth century BCE, and its appearance in the Middle East in the fourth century BCE, the custom was adopted in the Second Temple Era to be fulfilled with a particular coin, comprising the necesary weight and silver purity. Because of the demand for the necesary coin to fulfil the commandment, the coin commanded a premium beyond its bullion value. The following question relates to how Hekdesh may obtain maximum value when exchanging the silver Half-Shekels for goods and services;We have established that the Half-Shekel today is 7.8 grams of .999 silver, with an approximate intrinsic value of $1.50 U.S., a production cost of aproximately $3.40 U.S., and a retail sales value of $10. U.S., with wholesale values at $8. or $7. depending on quantity. The question is, at what rate does Hekdesh exchange the coins for goods and services?
13) May Hekdesh counter-stamp the coins and sell them directly to collectors at a premium?
14) If Hekdesh exchanges the Half-Shekels for goods and services, may the person receiving them sell them for more than the value they were calculated at; i.e., if Hekdesh were to sell a large quantity of coins and they were exchanged based on intsrinsic value, production cost, or wholesale value of new coins - may the recipient sell them for more and keep the profit?
15) What is the first day of the year to give the Half-Shekel?
16) On what day is the chest for NEW SHEKELS emptied of coins that were deposited between Rosh HaShanah and Rosh Chodesh Adar?
17) If someone were to place their Half-Shekel for the new year into the chest for NEW SHEKELS before the coins were removed from last year, does that person fulfil their obligation for the current year?
18) Does the existance of a Half-Shekel given as a NEW SHEKEL among coins of Motar Shearith HaLishka have any effect on their disposition, or must that coin be removed from Motar Shearith HaLishka and transferred to NEW SHEKELS?
19) Must that particular coin be removed or may any identical coin be removed in its stead?
20) May the proceeds from Trumat HaLishka Aleph, Bet, & Gimel be combined when they are in a state of Motar Trumat HaLishka, (i.e., may the proceeds from the three lock-boxes of Half-Shekels from last year be combined into one box marked Motar Trumat HaLishka)?
21) Must the three Gizbarim, seven Amarcolin, and two Katlikin who are over Hekdesh all be Kohanim?
22) If a non-parental relative gives a Half-Shekel on behalf of a nephew or niece who is a minor, must they continue to do so until the child reaches the age of 20, as would a parent?
23) a) If coins were delivered to a Shaliach as Shekalim Chadashim, and the Shaliach only arrived to Jerusalem after the following Purim, would they place the coins in Motar Shearith HaLishka from the previous year or Old Shekels of the current year?
b) If someone delivers a Half-Shekel to an agent in Cheshvan, after the 3rd and final Trumat HaLishka for that year, and the agent delivers the Half-Shekel only after Pesach the following year, does the Half-Shekel go to Motar Shearith HaLishka from the previous year, or to Old Shekels in the current year?
24) If Rosh Chodesh Nisan falls on Yom Rishon, would Trumat HaLishka be performed on the preceeding Yom Chamishi?
25) If someone gives a larger or smaller amount of silver than what everyone else gives - does that person fulfil their obligation (seeing as we're all to give the same amount)?
26) It happened that someone attempted to give silver coins
larger (9 gm vs. 7.8 gm) than what everyone else had been giving
for the last three years. The Chest for New Shekels itself
refused the coins, as the aperature of the chest was designed to
accept the new standard 7.8 gm coin. The three larger coins were
stuck in the aperature, with no part of the coins entering the
'airspace' of the chest. Seeing that they can not be considered
Half-Shekels for fulfilling the Commandment because they differ
from what everyone else is giving:
27) If a parent gave Half-Shekels for a child until that child reached the age of 20, may he stop giving on behalf of that child - if he knows that that child will not continue to give on their own responsibility?
28) a) Can someone give on another's behalf, and have it
accounted as if the person in whose name it was given, fulfilled
29) If a father of 10 gave Half-Shekels on behalf of some of his children, and come the next year he doesn't remember on how many children's behalf he gave, must he now give for all his children, since having begun to give on behalf of a number of them, he may not desist?
A funny thing happened on the way to the Temple . . .
For the last few years we have been in touch with a Holy Jew in Italy who has asked us to find and send him everything and anything new related to the Temple. A week before last winter's lecture tour, he called me and asked me to purchase and send him a new book that had just appeared in the U.S. entitled The End of Days - Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount, by Gershom Gorenberg, 2000, The Free Press. No problem. I'm in Cody's on Telegraph Avenue in Berkley, and sure enough there it is. Standing in the checkout line I decide to open up to the index and take a peek. No Beged Ivri! Disappointment. I look up my co-workers and sure enough Gershon's there, Rav Ariel's there, how could it be no Beged Ivri?! On the way to closing the cover I pass through the P's and sure enough there it is; Prager, Reuven, 150-155. Yes! I was even given a "you're in the book" discount by the amused cashier.
With the publisher's permission, here is what we found;
Construction Workers of the Lord
A lonesome wail sounds over the streetcorner, like a saxaphone in mourning. A Brinks truck is pulled up on the downtown Jerusalem sidewalk. Next to it stand two blue-uniformed guards, a balding man with a ponytail who holds a long corkscrew horn that once belonged to a beast, a woman with a nightblack mane over the shoulder of an azure dress that says everything necessary about her figure, and Reuven Prager, master of ceremonies, wearing his recreated Temple-era tunic and shoulder-length sidecurls and big white smile. The man with the curling addax horn lifts it again, and lets loose with that wail, and a passerby says, "All right, Satchmo." As per Prager's request, the Brinks men are both kohanim. Despite the stench of a weeklong garbage strike, the guards and Prager and the dark-lipped woman named Lior and the musician all look happy. The Brinks men have just made their thrice-yearly pickup of a lockbox full of sacred half-shekel coins, guaranteed .999 pure silver and dedicated to the unbuilt Temple, and are about to deliver it to a safe in the Chief Rabbinate building. Everyone here has one foot into a different, imagined era where, presumably, city workers never need to strike for better pay.
The horn player lives a few blocks from me, a reasonable fellow, or so I thought thirteen years ago when he blew a lovely sax at my wedding. At the last shekel ceremony he gave me a book explaining how the Council for Foreign Relations was behind the Oslo Accords and the Rabin assassination - a strange Israeli adaptation of the usually anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of America's rabid right. At the moment it seemed that the appropriate soundtrack was not a shofar blast but the music I remember from childhood right before Rod Serling appeared on screen to tell us we were in the Twilight Zone. But conspiracy theories have a natural draw for those awaiting history's last act: They live in a great drama, and want to find the elusive villain.
The Brinks men mark the end of Prager's production, which began earlier, up one of the narrow nineteenth-century streets gentrified into crafts galleries and cafes, under the vine-covered arbor in the courtyard of the House of Harrari harp shop. The Harraris, Micah and Shoshana, met as "seekers after the truth," as she puts it, in a Southern California beachtown in the early seventies, and later started reading the Bible in Colorado when a blizzard imprisoned them in a log cabin where they lived ten thousand feet up in the mountains. They discovered, she says, that they were "descended from kings and holy men and beautiful women" and that the prophets had foretold the ingathering of the exiles, so they ended up in Israel. The Aquarian dream of wandering footloose and naive into the Garden flowed seamlessly into the fantasy of a rebuilt Temple. In the shop are the biblical harps that Micah makes from maple and cypress, twenty two-string triangular ones and ten-string ones whose sides look like two uplifted arms. A print spread covers a bamboo couch; incense vainly fights the smell of burning garbage; a painting shows a Temple courtyard where rows of Levites play harps and horns. In a framed photo, Shoshana Harrari is kneeling in a field of anemones, playing a harp and wearing a flowing white dress that looks lifted from one of E.M.Lilien's drawings and was actually made for her by Reuven Prager. Like Lior's getup with the dark blue harp design on the chest and his own tunic, it's part of his concept that to make "the production" of rebuilding the Temple seem plausible, proper costuming is essential.
Prager began minting coins in 1997. When the Temple stood, every Jew was required to give a silver half-shekel annually to pay for sacrifices and upkeep. Prager, a coin collector in his Miami childhood, decided to revive the custom, with the idea that the Temple would come into existence the moment it owned something, before one stone was in place. A gilt-painted wooden chest sits in the Harraris' shop; coin customers are supposed to drop them in - or send them back, if they buy via the internet, as most do. "The Exile Has Ended," Prager announced in a Jerusalem Post ad after the first coins were donated. In 1998 he sold five thousand coins, but admits that only 10 percent came back. One reason: "A lot of Christians have bought them," he says. "There's a tremendous gentile interest in the Third Temple."
For the ceremony the gilt chest comes out into the courtyard. Prager begins reading an ancient description of how half-shekels were donated when the sanctuary stood. To remove the coins from the chest, you have to be descended from the tribe of Levi; Lior qualifies and Prager asks her foward - the first time in history, he proclaims, that a woman has performed the sacred task. A feminist revolution. She crouches at the chest's low opening, asks the group's permission according to a traditional formula, and shovels a pile of silver coins into a wicker basket and then into the lockbox, while Prager and the ponytail play a duet on corkscrew horns. At the Korean restaurant that shares the courtyard, a woman covers her ears. The well-armed gentlemen from brinks arrive for the pickup.
Prager's face is picking up wrinkles; gray has touched his trim beard. He talks quickly, giggles too much, is sure he's at the center of world-changing events. He lives alone, months behind in his rent. It would be easy to laugh at him, but it would be like laughing at Job, a Job sans grandeur, who never had his children restored.
In 1977, a college kid from a nonreligious home, he came to Israel to study at a yeshivah of the Chabad hasidic movement, whose campus rabbis sought spiritually adrift Jewish students. Prager leapt into the new life; at twenty he was married. Within three years, he and his wife had three children - all sickly. "I buried the first and the third," he says. "By the time I was twenty-three, I was like an eighty-year-old man."
His marriage broke up. He kept Jewish dietary laws, but maintained little else of Jewish tradition. When the summer month of Av began, he had to decide whether to follow the Orthodox ban on shaving, in mourning for the Temple, or publicly show he'd left religion. That night, he says, "I raised my hands to Heaven and said 'OK, You want to fight, You're on.'" He had decided that the Lord Himself was complacent, too willing to accept the ultra-Orthodox style of serving Him. For Prager, that kind of religion had become terribly insufficient. He would convince both God and the Jews that it was time for final redemption. The Jews had already returned to their land and regained sovereignty, so now it was time for the Temple. Prager decided to take the memories of Temple practices and make them real. He started with the fact he was descended from the tribe of Levi, a semi-priestly status with virtually no content since the Temple's destruction. He declared himself a "Levite on duty," responsible for revived rituals.
It was a one-man enactment of how messianism and millennialism often develop. Struck by upheaval, he could no longer accept religion as usual. It was inconceivable to go on worshiping God as if nothing had happened, and unimaginable that God would continue to allow such unfairness in His world. But he didn't want to give up faith. One part of the answer was to declare that God would simply have to establish His kingdom on earth. The second part was that religion would have to be returned to a pristine state appropriate for the messianic time. He could thereby insist that he was more loyal than anyone else to true faith - and rebel against conventional religion. The same logic has led Christian millennial movements to leave established churches and claim to restore Christianity to its original form.
Prager says politics don't concern him. It's a common "seeker" perspective: on the way to spiritual satisfaction, wordly problems will evaporate. "The Muslims believe in serving God. When God makes clear that it's time to build His house...the Muslims are going to dance [the Dome] off," he tells me. He says he takes part in all the meetings of Temple activists, though he adds: "God has not put together a very good marketing team for the Temple" - it includes too many "unthinking blow-up-the-mosque folks." He describes that as putting the cart before the horse. First one should create everything necessary for the Temple. Like the incense; he says he's identified all the ancient ingredients. Or like the right clothes: He started producing his Beged Ivri - "Hebrew Clothing" - fashions in the eighties, men's garments based on ancient sources, women's on his imagination. A marketing photo on the wall of his apartment shows a woman in a handwoven dress, trimmed in gold brocade, with a deep decolletage: sacred cheesecake. He admits that ultra-Orthodox Jews have occasionally complained that his work is immodest, but he makes each piece to the customer's request. But the real point, it seems, is that his chesty model is posing pastorally beneath a spreading tree. Prager presents the illusion of an idyllic, sensuous past - and future.
Shoshana Harrari, who says politics is "a very low form of spirituality," is a natural partner. Of late, she contributes a natural-healing column to the English-language Your Jerusalem, a former tourist monthly turned fringe-right tabloid, complete with front-page conspiracy theories. Harrari describes the time of the rebuilt Temple as a "restored Garden of Eden"; she doesn't know how it will be achieved, but the harps her husband makes will be used there. Four of them are in the Temple Institute's collection.
Harrari is unusual among Temple enthusiasts: most are male. Even Prager's desire to involve women in a ritual is exceptional. Ariel's Temple Haggadah stresses the point: a two-page painting shows a group eating a paschal offering at a Temple-time Passover meal - and all are men. Modern Judaism, including Orthodoxy, is an arena for women's demands for equality. To idealize the Temple era is to long for Judaism at its most patriarchal.
But there may be a subtler reason for the milieu's maleness: People who think the Temple will bring redemption offer an engineering solution to existential problems. Human evil? The potential for cruelty? The need for meaning? Let's locate where the altar stood, breed a red heifer, weave the priest's clothes. The idea that the Temple will bring world peace bears a family resemblance to, for instance, a claim that the Internet will end human loneliness. The techno-fallacy isn't burnt into the Y chromosome, but in modern society, it is more common among men.
The desire to recreate the Temple fits another pattern, known from another part of the globe. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, millennial movements known as "cargo cults" appeared among South Pacific islanders. Assaulted by European rule, by the ideas of Christian missionaries, by the sight of material wealth brought from afar, islanders turned to a vision: A new age would dawn with the arrival of great vessels, carrying their dead ancestors and Cargo - the wealth they deserved. Islanders built "docks" or "landing strips," assuming they would thereby bring the Cargo-bearing ships or planes. In his study of the phenomenon, The Trumpet Shall Sound, sociologist Pete Worsley stressed that the islanders weren't irrational: They reached reasonable conclusions from fragmented information. The Europeans they saw never worked; manufactured goods simply arrived at their docks and landing strips. And the powerful knowledge of the whites, conveyed by Christain missionaries, told of the millenium.
For some fundamentalists, Jewish and Christian - often educated people - the Temple has become the great Cargo ship. Looking for the lost Ark with radar, or minting silver half-shekels, is akin to building the dock. So are the scholarly prophecy conferences of Christain fundamentalists, the "intelligence briefings" and newsletters that line up verses of scripture with geopolitical developements. The outward form of practical action - even of think-tank-style analysis - is applied to salvation. Here, too, there's rational reasoning from misread facts: A mix of step-by-step activism and political forces has already brought developements that look like fulfilled prophecy. Therefore, more of the same will fulfil the rest, and bring (please check one) the Redemption of Israel or the Second Coming. The problem arises when you want to build your landing strip on the political mine field known as the Temple Mount, when you insist that the mines will vanish of their own accord.
I'm sitting in reuven Prager's living room. He's told me we'll be interrupted; someone's coming to film him. He's showing me the Temple-period bridal sedan chair he spent nine years making, with the velvet interior and the draping of silk and gold brocade bought for him in Damascus by a non-Jew at $400. a meter from stock made for the Saudi royal family. To market the Temple, he believes in being theatrical. There's a knock. when Prager opens the door, Yehudah Etzion enters with a cameraman. He's making a film on Levites and kohanim. It's one more way to make the Temple seem real to people. Prager speaks to the camera.
So the Movement Grows.
This is a small, radical minority. Its members see themselves as standing at the gate of redemption, and are stunned that most Jews don't want to join them in crossing the threshold. Its growth matters not because it is about to become a mass movement, but because numbers and enthusiasm increase its potential to aggravate conflict at the spot that symbolizes the dispute between Jews and Arabs.
But the Temple movement has another audience. For premillenialsit Christians, what Reuven Prager calls the "production" of rebuilding the Temple seems more than plausible. For them, indeed, the Temple activists are stars of a drama they do not understand themselves. (pp.150-156)
Now the last book report I did was somewhere back in the fog of high school, but I have to tell you - its a shame this book was not written by someone of faith, someone who really understands what the facts laid out before him mean. The Holy Temple a CARGO CULT?! Does the author dare to compare the fulfilment of G-d's prophecy, the return of Am Yisrael from the far corners of the earth to once again rule as a sovereign nation in its ancient homeland, against all historical odds after a two-thousand year hiatus of wanderings and persecution, with the imaginings of a 19th century stone-age tribe whose heads were filled with nonsense by missionaries who knew less about the Will of G-d then the mosquitoes that bit them? Does he really think for a moment that anyone would believe such dribble? I can only imagine what this author would have said about Herzl's plans for redeeming our people from the killing fields of Exile, had he lived 100 years ago.
And then the bizarre . . .
As soon as Rosh Hashanah let out I received a phone call from a young rabbi in the neighborhood who very excitedly told me that he had been studying a book over the holiday and I would not believe what he found! He was right. I didn't believe it - until he brought the book to me and I saw it with my own eyes.
The book is entitled Orchot Haim, the commentaries of the Tosfot Yom Tov on the "Rosh". Written 351 years ago, it clarifies the inner text which was written one thousand years ago. On page 44 we find the following:
"You may not give less than a Half-Shekel, every year, at one time" [One may not give the Half-Shekel in parts; a quarter shekel now and a quarter later in the year. Ed.]
The Tosfot Yom Tov comments as follows; "A Half-Shekel every year" [What is it? Ed.] "It is the equivalent of Prager's silver Half-Shekel."
[The Levite responsible for the restoration of this generation's Half-Shekel is named Reuven Prager. Ed.]
We are pleased to announce the new address for delivery of Half-Shekel Hekdesh to Jerusalem.
For delivery directly to Jerusalem
via Postal system:
via Couriers (UPS, FEDEX, or to hand deliver):