First there was Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, destroyed in 587 BCE and rebuilt in stages commencing some 70 years later and culminating in what came to be known as Herod’s Temple some 400 years later, and destroyed in 70 CE. Now, there will be a “Third Temple”, and it will be build by evangelical Christians in Sao Paulo, Brazil.The project, being undertaken by the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, manages to be touching and offensive at the same time. Offensive because, among other things, the building is clearly an attempt by the group building it, to dwarf the Catholic Cathedral which is a symbol of the city, and architectural supersessionism is a wrong-headed as it’s theological cousin. And it will be experienced as offensive by many Jews for whom this project will be seen as misappropriation of a classical Jewish symbol.But this “Third Temple” project is also touching. First, it challenges the notion that something Jewish, even as Jewish as the Beit Hamikdash (Temple) for which many Jews still yearn, must necessarily be exclusively Jewish to be meaningfully “ours”. Would we assume that if some nation built a replica of the White House to serve as the home for their head of state, that it threatened us or diluted the power of our White House? Or would we take pride in the power and durability of a national symbol that was so profound that others chose to copy it? Not to mention that the Temple in Jerusalem clearly welcomed the offerings of others, so this is simply the other side of that same tradition – instead of ‘others’ coming to our house, they are bringing their version of our house to themselves. Will it be the same? No…and yes. That’s the beauty of all religious re-appropriation, and no different from the Jewish re-appropriation of almost every symbol we now consider to be Jewish – almost all of which started out as somebody else’s, including tefilin, tzitzit, mezuzah, and too many more to mention here. So is this project weird? In some ways, it is. Is it traditional, in many ways, yes. Is it good? Let’s see if this Temple can be built and become a source of life, meaning, healing, justice and peace. That’s what Solomon’s and Herod’s Temple were, at least when they functioned well. And if the Sao Paulo version can do the same, it merits celebration even by those of us who wait for something new in Jerusalem.
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About Windows & DoorsAuthor, radio and TV talk show host, and President of CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, Brad Hirschfield is the author of You Don’t Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism. Listed as one of the nation’s 50 most influential rabbis in Newsweek, and a regular commentator on Court TV, he is the creator of the popular series, Building Bridges, airing on Bridges TV, and the co-host of the weekly radio show, Hirschfield and Kula.
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