Question: Is it permitted to enter into Har HaBayit biz'man hazeh, nowadays, when everyone is considered to be tomei met (defiled from contact with a dead body)? [Actually physical contact is not required to make a person impure. If he is in the same room, and sometimes even in the same building with even a part of a dead body (such as a skull, or flesh in the quantity of 30 cc's - one fluid ounce- and possibly less).  For instance in every hospital there is a morgue, and unless very specific steps were taken to keep the rest of the hospital from becoming defiled, every person who enters the hospital becomes impure.]  How can we arrange matters so that no Halachic catastrophes will occur (chas v'shalom)?

Answer: There is an argument among the Rishonim (The Medieval Rabbinic Sages from roughly the 10th to the 14th century CE) as to the status of the Temple Mount at a time when the Temple is destroyed and has not been rebuilt. Is the original Kedushah (Holiness) still in place, with all of its restrictions, or did the Kedushah and the restrictions become nullified when the Temple was destroyed and defiled by the wicked conquerors.

The Rambam [Born 1138, died 1204. Spain and Egypt.] (Maimonides) writes [Mishneh Torah Beit Habechira 6:14] :

 כל מקום שלא נעשה בכל אלו (שלא נתקדש עם אורים ותומים, מלך, נביא וכו') וכסדר הזה לא נתקדש קדוש גמור. וזה שעשה עזרא שתי תודות זכר הוא שעשה ולא במעשיו נתקדש המקום. שלא היה שם לא מלך ולא אורים ותומים. ובמה נתקדשה, בקדושה ראשונה שקידשה שלמה שהוא קידש העזרה וירושלם לשעתה וקידש אותן לעתיד לבא.

Every place which was not done with all of these [i.e. was not sanctified in a ceremony which included the Urim V'tumim, the King, a prophet, etc.] and according to this procedure is not completely sanctified. And that which Ezra did - [the ceremony with] the two loaves of the Thanksgiving Offering was only a [symbolic] reminder [of the original sanctification ceremony] and the Place was not [actually] sanctified through his actions. Because there was no King and no Urim V'tumim there. And by what means was it sanctified? With the original sanctification with which King Soloman sanctified the 'Azarah [The inner courtyard of the Temple which has the same status of the courtyard of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) which is the sanctity of the Machaneh She-chinah (Camp of the D-ivine Presence).] and Jerusalem for his time and for the future.

The Ra'avad [Born 1120, died 1198. Posquieres, France.] in his notes on the Rambam writes:

א"א סברת עצמו היא זו ולא ידעתי מאין לו ובכמה מקומות במשנה אם אין שם מקדש ירקב ובגמ' (ב"מ נג:) אמרו דנפול מחיצות אלמא למ"ד קדושה ראשונה לא קדשה לעתיד לבא לא חלק בין מקדש וירושלם לשאר ארץ ישראל ולא עוד אלא שאני אומר שאפילו לר' יוסי (יבמות פב:) שקדושה שנייה קדשה לעתיד לבא לא אמר אלא לשאר א"י אבל לירושלם ולמקדש לא אמר לפי שהיה יודע עזרא שהמקדש וירושלם עתידים להשתנות ולהתקדש קידוש אחר עולמי בכבוד י"י ליראיו לפיכך הנכנס עתה שם אין בו כרת.

This is his own logic [i.e. not based on traditional textual sources] and I don't know where he gets it from, and in many places in the Mishnah [Early codification of the Oral Torah. Written down by Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi in 189. CE] "If there is no Temple let the [sanctified food] rot [i.e. it may not be eaten if the Temple is not standing]. And in the Gemora [The Gemora is the Talmud, which was a later codification of the oral law, finalized by Ravina and Rav Ashi in Babylonia around the year 427 CE.] [Tractate Bava Metsia 53b.]  they said "that the walls fell". Thus we see that according to the opinion [in the Gemora] that the original sanctification was not forever does not distinguish between the Temple and Jerusalem on one hand and the rest of Israel on the other. And not only that, but I say that even Rabbi Yossi [Gemora Yebamot 82a.] who says that the second sanctification [i.e. by Ezra] was an eternal sanctification, only said it about the rest of Israel, but he did not say it about Jerusalem and the Temple because Ezra knew that in the future the Temple and Jerusalem will change and be sanctified differently. [To give just one example, in the second Temple, the area up to 11 amot (cubits) on the west side of the Heichal (main Temple building) had the sanctity of the 'Azara (inner courtyard) and in the Third Temple, that area will have a lower level of sanctity.] Therefore, one who enters there [i.e. to the place of the 'Azarah nowadays is not punished with caret (being cut off from G-d).

There are those who try to interpret the Ra'avad that one who enters the area of the 'Azarah nowadays is not punished by caret, but that it is nevertheless forbidden to enter there. Let us see:

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The Meiri [Born ~1249, died ~1315.] quotes the opinion of the Rambam and the Ra'avad and adds:

 והמנהג פשוט להיכנס שם לפי מה ששמענו, וכן יראה שלא לאכול מעשר שני במקום שאין חומות, ממה שכתבנו בהרבה מקומות בענין מחיצה לאכול ומחיצה לקלוט.

And the custom is simply to go in there, according to what we have heard, and so it seems [proper] for one may not eat Ma'aser Sheni [The second tithe, which can only be eaten in the sanctified parts of Jerusalem.] in a place [or perhaps situation] where there are no walls [which can be seen] from what we have written in many places in the matter of "walls to allow eating and walls to forbid taking out [Once Ma'aser Sheini is brought into the sanctified part of Jerusalem, it may not be brought out again.]”.

It is possible that the Meiri interprets the words of the Ra'avad to mean that nowadays (that the Temple is not standing) there is no prohibition whatsoever to enter the inner precincts of the Temple, or that the Meiri is introducing a third opinion that there is no prohibition at all, and he says that that is the custom. In any case, whether this is the Ra'avad's opinion or the Meiri's, it is clear that the custom was to allow to go in to any part of the Temple Mount.

The Radvaz [Born 1479 in Spain, died 1573 in Israel. Sh'elot U't'shuvot Haradvaz 691.] wrote:

  ומ"מ יש לי לתת טעם למנהג שנהגו כל העולם לעלות באותם עליות לראות משם את הבית כלו ולא שמענו ולא ראינו מי שמיחה בידם...

In any case I can give a reason to the custom which everyone has, to go up into those upper stories to see from there the entire Temple, and we haven't heard or seen anyone rebuke them....

The Radvaz was speaking about going into upper stories and onto roofs, which according to his estimation were in the inner precincts of the Temple area. He explained that the reason for the custom or the reason that no one rebuked the people was because of a s'pheik s'pheika (double doubt). First, a doubt as to whether the Halachah is according to the opinion of the Ra'avad or the Rambam, and second a doubt as to the status of those places.

We see clearly that the Radvaz also understands that according to the Ra'avad, it is completely permissible to go into the 'Azarah nowadays.

Up until about 150 years ago, for a period of a few hundred years, the Moslem rulers did not allow any non-Moslems to go into Har HaBayit. Because of that, the custom mentioned by the Meiri of going freely into Har HaBayit was forgotten. In addition, people didn't pay much attention to the tradition as to the exact borders of the 'Azarah. Therefore, when the Moslems reopened the Temple Mount to non-Moslems, most Jews refrained from entering.

In 1948, Jews were banned from entering the entire Old City of Jerusalem. In 1967 the Jewish people reconquered Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

Because the issue of how and where (and if it was allowed at all) to enter Har HaBayit had not been a practical question for hundreds of years, the Rabbis did not examine precisely the places and the situation on the Temple Mount. When the opportunity to enter Har HaBayit once again was presented, some Rabbis were concerned that serious violations of Jewish Law and the sanctity of the Holy Place could occur if Jews went into the Temple Mount, either through ignorance of the borders of the 'Azarah, or because the forbidden areas weren't fenced off, so that even someone who knew could forget and enter a forbidden area.

Therefore a proclamation was publicized in the late 1960's, signed by many major Rabbis from all the streams of Orthodoxy, saying that it is forbidden to enter the entire area of the Temple Mount.

Because of this, the public at large thinks that anyone who enters any part of Har 'HaBayit is punishable by caret (being cut off from G-d) because we are tomei met (defiled from contact with a dead body).

This is in fact an error, for even at a time when the Temple was standing, that is not in fact the Halacha. The 'Mishnah says [Keilim 1:8]:

לפנים מן החומה [של ירושלם] מקודש מהם שאוכלים שם קדשים קלים ומעשר שני. הר הבית מקודש ממנו. שאין זבים וזבות נדות ויולדות [ארבע אלו וגם בעל קרי הם הנקראים מי שיש לו טומאה שיוצאת מגופו] נכנסים לשם. החיל מקודש ממנו. שאין עובדי כוכבים וטמא מת נכנסים לשם. עזרת נשים מקודשת ממנו. שאין טבול יום נכנס לשם. ואין חייבים עליה חטאת. עזרת ישראל מקודשת ממנה. שאין מחוסר כיפורים נכנס לשם. וחייבין עליה חטאת וכו'

Inside the wall [of Jerusalem] is more holy than them [other walled cities in Israel] for one may eat there the lesser sacrifices [Such as the Passover lamb and free will offerings. and Ma'aser Sheini.] Har HaBayit is more holy than it, for people who have impurity from bodily emissions such as menstruants, those with venereal disease, [seminal emissions] and those who gave birth may not enter [until they were purified in the Mikveh (ritual bath) [The laws of a ritual bath are quite complicated and for purposes of entering the Temple Mount, one must ascertain that the Mikveh is under reliable rabbinical supervision. many men's Mikvas are not kosher.] The Cheil [A fenced area of 10 amot (cubits) ~4.5 meters or 15 feet surrounding the 'Azara and the 'Ezrat Nashim (Women's Courtyard).] is holier than it, in that neither Gentiles nor those impure from contact with a dead body may enter there. The 'Ezrat Nashim (Women's Courtyard) is holier than it in that a t'vul yom [Someone who had an impurity and only purified in the Mikveh that day] may not enter there, but one who did does not have to bring a Chatat (sin offering). The 'Ezrat Yisroel ('Azarah) is holier than it in that a m'chusar kippurim [Someone who purified himself but still needs to bring a sacrifice for his impurity] may not enter there and a violator of the 'Azarah is punished by caret.

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The Rambam [Beit Habechira 7:14 et seq.] poskens (decides the question of Jewish Law) in agreement with this Mishnah. Even though those with seminal emissions are not specifically mentioned in the Mishnah nor in the Rambam, the commentators add that a person who had a seminal emission [It must be noted that the laws of ritual impurity do not distinguish between the causes of a seminal emission, and therefore, a person who had legitimate intercourse with his wife is just as ritually impure as one who caused the semen to go out manually, even though in one case it was a mitsvah (a positive deed) and in the other an 'aveirah (a sin).] is also banned from Har HaBayit.

The Ra'avad points out that the stricture of the Cheil is due to Rabbinic enactment. The Radvaz opines that the Rambam would agree to this. There is some discussion among the commentators as to whether the prohibition for a Tomei Met to enter the 'Ezrat Nashim is Rabbinical, or whether there is a Torah prohibition which is not punished by caret.

The first mention by the Rambam of the punishment of caret in the halachot (laws) of entering the Temple is in regard to the 'Ezrat Nashim [Beit habechira 7:18.] (where he says that there is no punishment of caret). This strongly implies that an impure person (i.e. one who had a bodily impurity who is forbidden to enter Har HaBayit) who violates the Law and enters Har HaBayit [as opposed to the inner areas such as the 'Azarah] is not punished with caret.

There are those who say that according to Rash"i [Rabbi Sh'lomo Yitzchaki, born 1040, died 1105] a t'vul yom [Someone who had an impurity and only purified in the Mikveh that day] is forbidden midirabbanan [By Rabbinical enactment] to enter Har HaBayit, while others say that this is not a compelling interpretation of Rash"i. See also Talmud, Pesachim 92a and Rash"i there as well as Tosaphot (s.v. t'vul yom). Both Tosaphot and the Rambam hold that a t'vul yom may enter Har HaBayit.

As we said above, according to the Meiri, the accepted practice was in accordance with the opinion that nowadays there is no prohibition to enter any part of Har HaBayit, and even the place of the Kodesh Hakodoshim [Holy of Holies] is not more restricted than the rest of Jerusalem. He did not distinguish between a bodily impurity and impurity from contact with a dead body. According to the Radvaz, even though in general he rules that one should follow the strict opinion, which is the Rambam, in regard to places which are doubtful whether or not they are prohibited, one can rely on the opinion of the Meiri to go there. And in this regard he did not distinguish between types of impurity.

A zav [A man who had an emmission or flow other than a seminal emmission] [Many modern interpreters associate the term zav with someone who has venereal disease, though this association is not certain] can not be purified in a regular Mikveh. Rather he must immerse himself in a natural spring or a spring fed mikveh. It would be very useful if the Gedolim would rule officially whether in fact a regular, healthy man needs to be concerned with the possibility that he might be a zav. The more probable answer is that a regular, healthy person need not be concerned. [Per discussion with Rav Dov Lior, sh'lita] Someone who had or has a venereal disease should definitely consult with an authoritative Rabbi. Someone who wishes to be strict on this matter can immerse himself in the Shiloach spring which is not far from the Temple Mount.

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When selecting a Mikveh, one must ascertain that it is under proper rabbinical supervision, because the laws of Mikveh are quite complicated and not all men's Mikvas are kosher. Even if they say that it is kosher for a ba'al keri [One who had a seminal emmission], many times this is just for the t'villa mandated by Ezra [Ezra made an edict that one who had a seminal emission may not pray, say a blessing or study Torah until he has immersed] [According to most authorities, this edict was not universally accepted or it was repealed. Therefore, those who wish to be stringent to require the immersion do not insist that it be in a kosher Mikveh.], not the t'villa required by the Torah for one entering Har HaBayit.

Therefore according to all of the earlier Rabbinical authorities without exception, someone who immersed in a Mikveh to remove any bodily impurity (according to Rash"i this should be done before sunset the day before) is allowed to enter all of Har HaBayit up to the Cheil with no prohibition whatsoever, neither from the Torah nor from our Sages.

When the Temple was standing, there were walls and fences or other markers dividing between the areas of greater and lesser holiness (with corresponding restrictions). This made it easy to comply with the restrictions and hard to make an error. To our great sorrow, the Temple is not standing and the fences and markers are not there. Therefore we must see if it is still possible to arrange the 'Aliyah [Literally means going up. Here it means a pilgrimage. to Har HaBayit] in a way that no Halachic problems will arise.

One who enters the Temple area in order to offer a sacrifice [This applies only to an obligatory sacrifice with a fixed time such as the Tomid (daily offering), Musaph (additional offering for Sabbath, New Moon and Holidays) and the Passover sacrifice] is allowed to enter even into the area of the 'Azarah. This is based on the principal that when the majority of the Jews are impure due to contact with a dead body, certain sacrifices may be brought anyway. Of course he must immerse to remove any bodily impurities.

The Tosephta [Collection of additional material from the Rabbis of the Mishneh, which was not codified in the Mishneh., Keilim 1:9] says:

  הכל נכנסין לבנות לתקן ולהוציא את הטומאה. מצוה בכהנים. אין שם כהנים נכנסין לוים. אין לוים נכנסין ישראלים. אין טהורים נכנסין טמאים. מצוה בתמימים. אין שם תמימים נכנסים בעלי מומין.

 All may enter [the Temple area including the 'Azarah] to build, to repair and to remove impure things. Mitzvah [i.e the preferred way] is with Cohanim, if there are no Cohanim then the Levi'im go in. If there are no Levi'im, then the Israelites go in. If there are no pure people, then the impure ones go in. It is preferable to do it with unblemished people. If there are none, then those with blemishes go in.

 The Talmud [Eruvin 105a] states two opinions: 

תנו רבנן הכל נכנסין להיכל לבנות לתקן ולהוציא את הטומאה ומצוה בכהנים. אם אין שם כהנים נכנסין לוים. אין שם לוים נכנסין ישראלים. ואידי ואידי טהורין אין טמאים לא... מצוה בתמימים. אין שם תמימים נכנסים בעלי מומין. מצוה בטהורין. אין שם טהורין נכנסין טמאין. אידי ואידי כהנים אין ישראלים לא.

Our Rabbis taught: Everyone may enter to the Heichal [the main Temple building, in which the Holy of Holies was located] to build, to repair and to bring out impure things. Mitzvah [i.e the preferred way] is with Cohanim, if there are no Cohanim then the Levi'im go in. If there are no Levi'im, then the Israelites go in. But in any case, pure people yes, impure ones no... It is preferable to do it with unblemished people. If there are none, then those with blemishes go in. It is preferable to do it with pure people. If there are none, then the impure ones go in. In any case, Cohanim yes, Israelites, no

The Rambam [Beit Habechirah 7:23] rules according to the Tosephta that impure people and Israelites may enter in order to build the Temple. It is logical to say that this includes not just the actual construction, but also any inspections and survey needed to accomplish the building.

So too, one who enters Har HaBayit in order to conquer it, is like one who goes in to remove impure things or prepares for the building. Therefore he can can go to any part of the Temple Mount even if he had contact with a dead body.

There are those who claim that since the Jews are struggling with the Arabs about control of Har HaBayit, and the matter will improve for the Jewish side through Jewish presence on the Temple Mount, then any Jewish entry should be viewed as part of the conquering and therefore entry would be permitted to all parts (i.e. even to the 'Azarah.

It is true that Jewish presence does improve our situation, but since the police forbid us to pray on the Temple Mount, and we are restricted in various other ways, it is difficult to say that we are conquering. Perhaps this theory could be combined with other theories for leniency, but for the time being we are recommending that this not be relied on to enter the 'Azarah area.

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The 'Azarah is entirely located on the central, raised platform on which sits the Dome of the Rock. The Cheil around the 'Azarah is also on the platform. The police inform any religious Jew that it is forbidden by Halacha to go on the platform. We should also take responsibility for educating the public in the location of the Mikdash. The Women's Courtyard is east of the platform. We recommend that Jews who go on the east stay close to the eastern wall of the temple Mount. There are Rabbis who say that after the destruction one may go into the area of the Women's Courtyard even though one may not go into the 'Azarah, and it seems that that is the 'opinion of the Radvaz. 'Following these simple guidelines, there is not a likelihood of a serious error.

In conclusion, a Jew who has properly immersed in the Mikveh is allowed to go into most of Har HaBayit. By doing so, he can become closer to G-d, increase his yir'at shomayim, and can establish a Jewish presence which we believe will bring the time of building closer.

A special note for women: Married women who regularly go to the Mikveh, in order to go into Har HaBayit must not have sexual relations for three days, and then must immerse again after the separation, even if they are not Niddah [That is they have immersed since their last period or even if they are post menopause]. This means that either they can immerse at the regular time, but not be with their husbands and then go to Har HaBayit the next day (or according to Rashi's opinion they should wait an additional day and then go to Har HaBayit) and only afterwards rejoin their husbands, or alternatively, they can immerse at the regualr time, be with their husbands, then separate for three days, immerse again, and then go to Har HaBayit. Women on the Temple Mount

 A special note for unmarried girls and women: From the time of the middle ages, in most Jewish communities, unmarried girls do not immerse in the Mikveh. An exception is that in many communities the custom is for all women and girls to immerse on 'Erev Yom Kippur. When the Temple is rebuilt and the Cohanim once again eat T'rumah [A portion of the agricultural produce of the Holy Land which is give to the Cohanim. It is considered kadosh - Holy, and has many restrictions. Among them that if the T'rumah has become impure it may not be eaten, and only a Cohen (or his immediate family) who is pure may eat it.] and Kodoshim [Parts of the sacrifices, here referring to the portion which is eaten by the Cohanim], I am certain that the unmarried girls in the Cohen families will immerse regularly in the Mikveh. So I believe that in order to go up to Har HaBayit, unmarried girls may also immerse. Unmarried Women on the Temple Mount

Rav Dov Lior, Rav of Kiryat 'Arba' disagrees. He believes that unmarried girls immersing in the Mikveh could lead to immoral behavior, and therefore recommends strongly that unmarried girls not go to Har HaBayit at this time. Even someone who agrees with Rav Lior might make an exception for a bride on her wedding day, since she immersed and everyone knows it, and it won't lead to immorality. Of course if they do not immerse, they may not enter Har HaBayit.

I recommend that they not even enter the additional areas added by King Herod, because the borders of the additional areas are very unclear and are the subject of legitimate debate. I recommend that even young girls should not enter Har HaBayit without ritual immersion. This is because of the possibility that she did have a flow of a small amount of blood due to a change in hormone levels [For instance when the baby is in the womb, she has her mother's hormone levels. When she is born, she stabilizes with her own hormone levels. This change can cause a flow of blood, even if minute. According to our Sages, even a day old girl can be a niddah.]. Even a drop of such blood would render her ritually impure.

An unmarried girl who immerses should not let it be known to her male acquaintances.

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