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Date: 97-09-21 21:23:10 EDT

my name is br luke anthony,bsg a religious brother in the episcopal church.

i am leading a bible study on exodus and we have gotten to point where God is explaining how the temple, altar etc are to be created and setup.

a question my group had, when the temple at jerusalem was destroyed,why was it not rebuilt....and if God wanted ritual sacrifices to be done...then why are there not any being done now?

would appreciate any response you may give


br luke anthony,bsg

Thanks for your question, Brother Luke.

The Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 C.E. during the Jewish revolt that began during Nero's reign and ended during Vespasian's. Jewish dissatisfaction with Roman domination had manifested itself in revolts since at least 6 C.E. and continued until the unsuccessful Bar Kochba revolt during the reign of Hadrian -- which ended with the razing of Jerusalem, the construction of a Roman city (Aelia Capitolina, named after Jupiter, and colonized by Roman veterans) on the site and a death penalty for Jews found there. In addition, they renamed the entire Roman province of Judea as Palestine (after the Phillistines, a long dead people for centuries) to emphasize the totality of the Rome's claim over The Land of Israel. Hadrian ended Israel's sovereignty in Eretz Yisroel (The Land of Israel) until 1948.  In the interim, a series of heirs to Rome occupied and exploited and abused our Land -- until it no longer resembled "a Land flowing with milk and [date] honey" to anyone but us.

Fuelling all the revolts against Rome were Jewish expectations that a divinely authorized leader (an earthly warrior/king/politician, not a supernatural being nor a part of the godhead), would arise and overthrow Rome as Cyrus had overthrown Babylon. Jewish tradition regards the exile (the loss of the Land and the Temple) as divine punishment for the sin of baseless hatred between Jews. As God's partner in the working out of His plan, we are individually and collectively working on mending the world and ourselves, thereby eventually meriting to be sent the Annointed. Prayers for the perfection of creation and the experience of the coming utopia -- when the godliness hidden in every element of creation will be openly manifest -- when the unity behind our illusory material reality will be apparent to all people -- including the restoration of Davidic leadership, the Temple, Jewish sovereignty over all The Land of Israel, and the divine Presence to Zion -- are said thrice daily ever since 70 C.E. In Jewish prayer and thought, references to the Temple have significance both as a paradigm for the ultimate experience of divine nearness/immanance/intimacy as well as a touchstone of the coming utopia.

Offerrings cannot be made today for several reasons -- some theoretical and some practical. Certain required resources for the vestments are extinct, certain required facts are unknown (e.g., who is truly a kohen?, where is the altar site?), It appears as though a restoration of prophecy and open miracles might be required to establish utopia. In fact, that is a traditional expectation, so without divine intervention few religious communities would take it on themselves to end the exile. (The founders of Medinat Yisroel (The State of Israel) were not religious.) Also: there is currently a mosque on the Temple mount, and those who use it don't seem ready yet to cheerfully tear it down.  

In the meantime the service of the altar (the communal maintenance of the system of offerrings) is replaced by the service of the heart (specific statutory prayers said collectively as a people) and by study. (The Temple service featured bidirectional communication, hence study is as likely as prayer to be the essence of worship.).

This is of course a very superficial treatment of part of a very rich and complex value system and culture, but I hope it is useful.

--- Jordan