Friday, August 19, 2022

At the ceremony on the occasion of the dedication of the Beit Harav Kook and the Merkaz Harav flagship yeshiva of the religious Zionists, in 1923, the donor of the original structure housing the chief rabbi and the yeshiva made the following request and sacred commitment: As an architect and the leading Orthodox Jewish real estate mogul of his era (having also chaired the building committee of every building of the entity that ultimately became part of Yeshiva University through to the current main building at the main campus in the 1920s), Harry Fischel promised that if the Moshiach will come during his lifetime, “the chief rabbi is to send me a cable [for our younger readers, the equivalent of a text message or an email] and I will dispose of my real estate in New York and come to Palestine to help build the Temple, which is in my line of work. [He had actually built a replica as a child in Europe.] This was agreed to by the chief rabbi, also by all those who were there. Everybody answered ‘Amen’” (p. 447 of the augmented biography of Harry Fischel, 2012).

There is an even more concrete reference to a similar conversation recalled by a third person—actually, by Rav Kugel, may he live and be well, probably the only former member of the Machon Harry Fischel still alive who was a Machon fellow in the lifetime of Harry Fischel, regarding Chief Rabbi Isaac Halevy Herzog (Rav Kook’s successor, and grandfather of the current president of Israel), who didn’t have to send a telegram to Harry Fischel who by that time had made good on another unusual promise, though easier to fulfill: to make aliyah long before it became popular for “Americans” to do so). Rav Herzog offered to use his influence as chief rabbi to involve Harry Fischel in the construction effort of building the Beit Hamikdash. The offer was reportedly made at a Chanukah gathering in the Machon Harry Fischel that was also in honor of Rabbi Herzog’s birthday.

To be fair, it is possible that Rav Kook agreed out of politeness and appreciation, rather than conviction, in this context, but Rabbi Herzog’s offer was more concrete—more than a mere “amen.”

Either way, why bring this up now? Moshiach still hasn’t come—even though the world seems in need of him now perhaps more than ever before in our lifetime!

It is because the Daf Yomi this week (Sukkot 41a) discusses the Third Beit Hamikdash with projections apparently not in line with the commitments made that day in 1923 or after the creation of the country of Israel. Actually, the discussion about the Third Beit Hamikdash is not in the body of the text but rather in Rashi and the Tosafists. They all seem to take it for granted that the Third Beit Hamikdash will be built directly by God, “min haShamayim,” without the need for any human assistance—by Harry Fischel or anyone else. No cable, text message or email will have to be sent to him or to anyone else. No “pull” or rabbinical “protekzia” will have to be exerted. Rashi and the Tosafists all base their opinions on the sentence in the Az Yashir referring to “Mikdash Hashem koninu yadecha—the sanctuary, O Lord, Your hands have established (and will establish le’atid lavo, in the future, according to Rashi here) (Exodus 15:17).

The Rambam’s position differs only slightly. He says that Moshiach will build the Beit Hamikdash— and that this would even be one of the proofs of his authenticity! Again, there is no indication the Moshiach will need any earthly assistance, much less from any Tom, Dick or HARRY.

Finally, the Aruch laNer, as quoted by OU Daf Yomi magid shiur (lecturer) Rabbi Shalom Rosner, who inspired this article, resolves this with a compromise view that humans will build it, but under Heavenly inspiration.

Alas, until techiyat hametim (the revival of the dead), Rav Kook can’t make that call (now a local call)—by any means of communication; Harry Fischel is unavailable to respond as promised; and Rabbi Herzog will not have to use any political capital regarding the twice and future crown jewel of the Jewish people’s capital. One way or another, we pray that the job will get done bimheira b’yamaynu, with Godspeed.

The writer of this article edited and supplemented the augmented biography of Harry Fischel, and delivered a lecture at the Beit HaRav Kook on the best of the many ironies involving Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen and his biography, whose English edition Reichel edited and supplemented. He can be reached at [email protected]

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