Catholics for Israel on Understanding the Temple: Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus
lighted the interior of the sanctuary and symbolized God's Wisdom and His spiritual blessing on Israel and the world. (The Menorah is on open display outside, further down on the way to the Western Wall).
Here also the walls are decorated with several beautiful scenes of both the first (Solomonic) and second (Herodian) Temples, including views of the inner sanctuary and of the High Priest offering incense in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur.
The Temple as Pillar of Creation
The guide asks the group of children: How far back does the Temple go? Only as far back as Solomon? What are its origins?
As a hint, he points to a picture in the back. There, we see an image of the Aqedah - of Abraham about to sacrifice His son Isaac. As he raises his knife to kill his son, Abraham has a mystical vision of the future Temple. Indeed, the Bible tells us that Abraham's offering of Isaac took place on Mount Moriah (Gen 22:2), the very place where the Temple would later be built. This means that Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son to God was a foreshadowing of all the future sacrifices that would be later offered in the Temple.
Abraham has a vision of the Temple
But the Temple even goes further back in time. In fact, Jewish tradition situates the Temple at the beginning of the creation of the world. As some midrashic sources tell us, the Temple had been part of God's design since even before creation, and it was built on the foundation stone of the world, called in Hebrew the Even Shetiyah. This idea shows how it has always been God's desire to dwell among His people, even from the beginning of time.
For religious Jews, the furnishings, instruments and garments prepared by the Temple institute are not just artifacts of historical interest. They have been made according to the strictest requirements set out in the Torah for the purpose of being used in the future Third Temple. Indeed, religious Jews pray every day for its speedy reconstruction.
Christians see the Temple differently: for us, a visit to the Temple Institute is first of all a fascinating journey through time. It's a unique opportunity to discover the magnificent house of worship that used to be at the heart of Jewish life for nearly 1,000 years. But we also see the Temple fulfilled in Christ, in the Church's liturgy, and in our own lives when through faith and baptism we become "temples of the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor 6:19).
As the Epistle to the Hebrew tells us, Christ is both the sacrificial victim who atoned for our sins and our High Priest who is "seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven" (Heb 8:1). Now, at Mass, the priest acts in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) and offers incense on our behalf, representing our prayers rising to heaven.
The laver prefigures the priest's washing of hands at Mass before the Eucharistic prayer; it's a sign of his need for spiritual purification as he silently says "Lord, wash away my iniquity; cleanse me from my sin".
The Menorah reminds us of Jesus who is the "light of the world" (Jn 8:12), represented by the lighted candles on the altar at Mass.
The loaves of showbread also prefigure Jesus who is the "bread of life" (Jn 6:35), and the drink offerings of wine foreshadow his turning water in wine at Cana (Jn 2:9). And Christ now continues to remain present with us in a special way through His Body and Blood, given to us under the form of the Eucharistic bread and wine.
Christians who believe that Jesus' resurrected body is the New Temple, and that this New Temple of the Holy Spirit is perpetuated in the Church and in the Body of every baptized believer, cannot share the same desire of our Jewish friends to see the physical Temple building reconstructed. But we can pray with them for God to "return His Shekhinah to Zion" so that His presence and the power of his love and salvation may again come to dwell in its fullness, both in Jerusalem and in the entire world.
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Ariel Ben Ami writes regularly for Travelujah-Holy Land Tours. He was born in Canada and is currently a doctoral student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is fascinated by the Jewish roots of Christianity and enjoys writing about biblical and theological topics. He is the founder and director of Catholics for Israel, a lay apostolate dedicated to building bridges and fostering reconciliation between Israel and the Church.Please visit catholics for Israel at http://www.catholicsforisrael.com/
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Keywords: Wohl Museum, Jerusalem Travel, Holy Land travel, Israel Travel, pilgrimage
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