Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!

Such a cute goyisha kop (Will, not Dr Smith), but he had better stay away from the Bais Hamikdash!

I really can't relate to the Tisha B'Av kinos. The rabbi's introductions to each one were pretty interesting, but unfortunately a better understanding of these ancient dirges still didn't result in them resonating with me emotionally. Sorry, Kalir...

Anyway, I did bring along some alternative reading material, including "A Time to Weep" by Rabbi Leibel Resnick. You know, one of those CIS publications that you get as a "donation incentive" for some charitable organization. This particular book has lots of (uncredited) photos relating to the Second Temple period and one of them quickly caught my eye. A picture and description of the "Temple Warning Inscription Stone". This stone was found in Jerusalem in 1871 and is housed in the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul, Turkey. A second stone was discovered in 1935 and has almost the identical wording (that one is currently at the Rockefeller Museum, Jerusalem.)

The inscription is in both Latin and Greek, and has quite a frightening message:
No Foreigner*
Is To Go Beyond The Balustrade
And The Plaza Of The Temple Zone
Whoever Is Caught Doing So
Will Have Himself To Blame
For His Death
Which Will Follow
(*A Time to Weep states "Let no foreigner, nor anyone defiled..." but I could not find any other source that mentions the defiled restriction.)

Yep, that's correct, DEATH to all furriners (that is, non-Jews)! These markers were placed in the outer court of the Temple as a warning to all Gentiles not to enter the inner court area on penalty of death. The Romans allowed the Jewish authorities to carry out the death penalty for this offense even if the offender were a Roman citizen!

Josephus mentions this in his Antiquities, Book 15, Chapter 11, in discussing Herod's rebuilding of the Temple: "...Thus was the first enclosure. In the midst of which, and not far from it, was the second, to be gone up to by a few steps: this was encompassed by a stone wall for a partition, with an inscription, which forbade any foreigner to go in under pain of death."

Although not carried out today, non-Moslems that enter Mecca are likewise guilty of a capital offense. This used to seem barbaric to me, but I'm fine with it now that I know we had a similar edict hundreds of years before there was any such thing as a Moslem. And also because I (and presumably all of my co-Ortho-religionists) take to heart one of the fundamental messages of Tisha B'Av - the desire to return to a time in which we can once again impose such penalties.


Anonymous said...

Am I correct in stating that the laws of tumah do not apply to non-Jews? If so, why were they worthy of death?

Frum Heretic said...

That's an interesting point but there isn't any suggestion here that the penalty was due to issues of tumah. See Bamidbar 1:51 for what is likely the original source, where any zar that approaches the mishkan will be put to death.

(Just to clarify a point that you may be aware of, a non-Jewish meis can "transmit" tumah via touching & carrying but not via ohel/enclosed spaces).

Anonymous said...