In 2015 we published this book, in cooperation with the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary at the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem. It is the result of a series of Jewish-Christian encounters. Below you find the final chapter, with summary and conclusions.

Chapter 16. Conclusions

Shlomo Tucker, Michael Mulder

In this chapter:

1. Assessment

2. The Meaning of the Dialogue

3. Role of the Temple

3.1. Remembrance in the Jewish tradition

3.2. Comparison of How Jews and Christians Process the Loss of the Temple

3.3. The Temple as Part of the Christian Experience

3.4. A Prophetic Perspective on the Loss of the Temple

3.5. Presentation of the Temple in the Jewish Liturgy

3.6. Temple Service and the Design of a Christian Life

4. Impressions and impact of the meetings

5. Outcome

Contents of the Book

1. Assessment

In the last chapter of this volume we assess the results of our efforts. What did these meetings bring us? How did this process influence us? What are the insights we received from it and how do we want to continue this process?

We took the first steps down this road without knowing where it would take us. As we prepare this text for publication, we are not under the impression that we have arrived at the end of the road or the end of a process. Nor had we expected that to happen. Indeed, at every step we discovered more complicated questions. Each time we thought that we had managed to understand each other we discovered a difference of understanding on a deeper level. Paradoxically, exactly those sources on which our opinions differed most brought us together even more profoundly. We discovered each other’s awe for Him who speaks to us through these sources and this deepened our mutual respect.

Every dialogue naturally starts with a sense of respect for the other as a human being created in the image of the Eternal One. When we sense in each other’s lives the awareness of living before the countenance of the Eternal One, and share experiences in which we recognize the way we live with God, then two movements are set in motion. On the one hand the connection with the other is strengthened, and as a result we dare to raise even more existential questions during the next conversation. On the other hand our own consciousness of God and our way of living with Him are called into question, and – knowing that our knowledge is always incomplete – we are strengthened in our need and ability to learn from each other and in so doing to live even closer to Him. In doing so, our inherent identity is not called into question; on the contrary, our identity is deepened and broadened by it.

Students, rabbis, and ministers of the church experienced these two movements through their willingness to disclose their vulnerability to each other. This leap of faith and trust is what enabled these personal encounters to be so fruitful, as the participants themselves attest. This book is offered as testimony to the significance of our dialogue and is presented with the hope that the reader will be captivated by some of its results and will be drawn into this movement as well.

As we look back, the results were both enriching and challenging on two levels. The first level concerns the way in which we interpret texts about the Temple. It appears that in both Jewish and Christian traditions the Temple is still vividly present, although in greatly different ways. We note that knowledge of each other’s traditions in reading text is not strong and we hope that the exegetic and hermeneutic discussions that are presented in this volume will encourage a taste for more.

On the second level we discovered the power of the experience of meeting each other as believing men and women. In this concluding section of the book, we will weave together our comments concerning both levels along with a concise review of the articles that are the heart of the book, both so as to take stock of what has been accomplished thus far, and to identify some of the challenges still ahead of us.

2. The Meaning of the Dialogue

In the first part of this volume there are Jewish and Christian reflections on the broader context of the dialogue.

Eitan Cooper shows the importance of the dialogue and considers such dialogue as essential for mutual survival in Israeli democratic society. He describes certain obstacles that interfere with interfaith dialogue in Israel and highlights possibilities for such dialogue, especially in a number of educational projects. He describes how the encounters between students of the Schechter Institute and Dutch theologians turned out to be surprising to both sides. Most of the participants of these meetings experienced a conversation with either a Jew or a Christian for the first time in their lives, and the fact that almost all of these participants were preparing for leadership positions in either the synagogue or the church makes the potential significance of the contact much greater. This conversation not only furthered the appreciation of a differing point of view, but provided a reflection and stimulation of one’s own identity. By looking at these sources through another’s eyes, and sharing not only academically but also existentially, something happened that both sides felt to be enriching. In fact this should be a mitswa (a required religious activity) for religious schooling, Cooper concludes.

Kees Jan Rodenburg endorses Cooper’s views from a Christian perspective. It is clear that he experienced these meetings as a source of inspiration. He described the preliminary process and the thorough preparation underlying the process of building the interfaith dialogue. Even though he does not mention this in his article, it can be assumed that without his long-term stay in Jerusalem and his own studies at the Schechter Institute, this existential exchange would not have happened. He worked as a consultant for the Centre for Israel Studies in Jerusalem with a goal of engaging in encounter and dialogue. Certainly, the time that Rodenburg spent studying at the Schechter Institute paved the way to creating trust, which has to be the foundation of any genuine conversation. He knew that a dialogue is not without risks and he helps us understand which considerations and choices had to be made concerning the form of the study sessions and the exchange programme. At the same time he shares with the reader the enthusiasm he discovered in the participants, for whom this has been a life-changing experience.

3. Role of the Temple

The second part of the volume focuses on the meaning of the loss of the Temple. This loss had an enormous impact, as the Temple experience in the lives of the entire people of God was far reaching and profound, both on the spiritual and the physical levels. The building of the Temple was the answer of the God of Israel to the question that has engaged men and women of all faiths throughout the world for millennia: ‘How can flesh and blood, men and women, communicate with the divine, with the eternal God?’ Some have chosen the vehicle of words and prayer; others that of sacrifice. Many have felt a need for a physical locus in which to stand in contact with the divine. And so was born the quest for a suitable place to encounter God – on a mountain top or beneath a tree or by erecting stone slabs at a site thought to be of special significance to God. An alternative response to this quest was to build a physical structure in which God will dwell. The structure might be such as the Ark of the Covenant or the Tabernacle in the desert – built for movement from place to place according to the needs of the moment; or as the Temple in Jerusalem – a place of grandeur and (seeming) permanence. Both the Jewish and Christian traditions share the perspective that God commanded the building of the Temple and service within it, as described in the Bible. We know that service in the Temple was the focus of personal and communal worship for many centuries. And yet, God chose to destroy the Temple.

In the Jewish tradition there is consideration as to the appropriate place to be assigned to the loss of the Temple in prayers, as well as in various rituals in the synagogue and in the home. Even though the Temple is physically absent, it is constantly present within spiritual life in many different ways.

Within the Christian religion the Temple seems no longer to be of importance, since its function has been fulfilled by the coming of Jesus, but this is merely a superficial observation. The Temple plays a large role in the New Testament and in the religious life of today’s Christians as well. The Temple is equally spiritually present here.

Is there something to learn from the different ways in which bridges have been built between the absence of the Temple and its on-going presence in our life?

One of the functions of the Temple was the utilization of drama and ritual to express the relationship of the entire people to events in their shared history and their relationship to God. Whether it be the highly ritualized format of sacrifice, the singing of the Levites on the steps leading to the Temple, the offering of the First Fruits (as described in Deuteronomy 26), or the dispatch of the goat carrying the sins of the people to the wilderness on Yom Kippur, the Temple was the site for the entire people to ritually dramatize events of Jewish history and to benefit from both the collective nature of the dramatization as well as the strengthening of the bonds among those sharing the covenant by reviewing the details of the shared history and connection with God. To experience this encounter, the Temple experience spoke to all five human senses – sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste – and its loss leaves a large gap in the physical level of sense perception as well as the level of spirituality. With the loss of the Temple came the end of sacrifices and along with that loss came a loss of sensory input on every level.

How have our traditions coped with this loss? Is there a way of compensating our senses? Can we learn from the way in which our mutual traditions have reflected on the presence of the lost Temple? A brief review of the articles in which the consequences of the loss of the Temple in both Jewish and Christian tradition are considered can help to find some answers.

3.1. Remembrance in the Jewish tradition

David Golinkin stresses the importance of remembrance. In general, historical awareness is significant for the ability to be conscious of one’s own identity. This applies to every human being and definitely applies to a nation. In particular it applies to the Jewish people in relation to the Temple. The connection with the Temple within Jewish practice and tradition has proven to be of enduring meaning.

Golinkin writes that he is convinced that the Jewish people reside today in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, primarily because they have remembered the destruction of the Temple.

Subsequently he shows five ways in which this remembrance has shaped and still shapes the rabbinic tradition. One of the ways is the custom to fast for a day on the 9th day of the month Av, to mourn the loss of the Temple. By continuing to do this, the Jewish people stays connected to its roots and at the same time to its future. The commemoration of the Temple therefore not only creates a connection with the past, it connects the people in the present time, and forms an essential link to future redemption. In this way the Temple is of essential importance to Jewish identity in the past, the present and the future.

3.2. Comparison of How Jews and Christians Process the Loss of the Temple

Marcie Lenk connects the ways in which the loss of the Temple is processed within the Jewish and Christian traditions. For Judaism the loss of the beating heart of Jewish life was a matter of great impact, and the rabbis responded to the destruction in different ways and on different levels. In certain respects the prophetic reactions from the period of the destruction of the first Temple provided a paradigm for the rabbis’ reaction at the destruction of the second Temple.

Initially, they enquired as to the reason for the destruction and they asked to what extent can a judgment of the Almighty be seen in this? As time went by, rituals were created which enabled Jewish communal life to continue without a Temple.

Some of these rituals reflected on the Temple not only as a memory, but also as an expectation for the future. Lenk writes that these rituals not only kept the past alive, but also gave shape to the hope for the restoration of the Temple which helped Judaism survive all these centuries. Within Christianity the aspect of God’s judgment was more related to the Jews than to one’s personal life. In this way the memory of the destruction of the Temple became a link in the chain of causes that drove Judaism and Christianity apart more and more. At the same time, a positive connection to the Temple also remained. That connection was visible in the liturgy and in the hope for restoration of the Temple service in the future. Perhaps this is where we can identify a new path following after this history of estrangement.

3.3. The Temple as Part of the Christian Experience

Gerard den Hertog tries to find this new way, through which the Temple can become a link in connection instead of estrangement. He sees how the Temple has achieved a permanent place in the Christian liturgy. He asks himself how it is possible that he can sing Psalm 84 – which is about the Temple – as a Christian. He sincerely sings this psalm and applies it – together with many others that belong to his religious tradition – to his own service in the Netherlands, even though his own tradition did not include a physical Temple. In this way the Temple enters his own history and he wonders if that is legitimate, or whether he, as a Christian, appropriates something that is not his.

He first of all turns to the New Testament with this question. Jesus himself joins in the prayer of the Temple as did his disciples. In the book of Acts, the Temple continues to occupy an essential place. Paul commented on the Temple-service and many casual remarks in the New Testament make it clear that the Temple maintained a self-evident place within the first Christian community.

According to some theologians, the Letter to the Hebrews seems to make a counter argument, in that Jesus, as a spiritual priest, made the Temple redundant. As his priesthood was a fulfilment of the intention of the Old Testament priesthood, the Temple could now be set aside, according to that interpretation of the Letter to the Hebrews. Den Hertog shows that such an approach misses the point of the Letter. The way in which the priesthood of Jesus is described stays closely related to the Temple service, which is not abolished, even when a different focus is given by the new change of paradigm.

The Letter keeps mentioning the sacrifices with terms derived from the Jewish halacha(Jewish law). The focus shifts but the Temple service is not put aside.

Therefore, writes Den Hertog, Christians do not break into Israel’s history by singing along with Psalm 84, but are shaped by the history that carries them as well. According to Den Hertog, Christians therefore can read the Scriptures with Israel. During the conversation about this subject at the conference in Jerusalem, this conjecture received practical confirmation – Jews and Christians sang together, and the combined orientation and focus on the Temple became a connecting link between Jews and Christians.

3.4. A Prophetic Perspective on the Loss of the Temple

Eric Peels opened the Tanakh (the Bible) with us during his conversation at the conference. In his contribution he focuses on the time during which the Temple was destroyed and the exiles living in Babylonia were disoriented. How did the prophets react to that situation? The message of the prophet Jeremiah must have been a shock for his contemporaries. In Jeremiah 29 he appeals to his people to strive towards peace for Babylonia, the city in which they were residing as strangers. That completely contradicts the idea that was preached to the people by the false prophets: that the people would soon be able to leave Babylonia for Jerusalem and – without having fully accepted the judgment of God – restore their nation. Peels shows that especially through the acceptance of the judgment a new perspective came alive. When all support is removed and it seems to be impossible to build a new future, new hope can be found in God’s promise. He offers his people a future if they, being strangers and aliens, entrust themselves to God’s hand.

Christians and Jews recognised their shared fundamental dependence on God’s promise during the conversation on the subject. Peels points out in his reflections on the seminar that he noticed a difference between the Jewish and Christian hermeneutic approaches; in the Jewish approach he feels the lack of the so called ‘history of salvation’.

He sees himself as similar to the audience of Jeremiah: we need to keep praying for the people around us. We should not keep relying on old religious forms but rather on the promise of God. As strangers on earth we will realise where our roots and our future can be found, and at the same time not look for isolation but for peace for the world around us. That is equally possible today, since the same God who spoke to His people through Jeremiah has plans for His world. The absence of the Temple might be interpreted as a signpost concerning the world to come, and since in a certain sense we are strangers in this world, an awareness of the alienation can assist us in adopting an appropriate attitude, according to Peels.

3.5. Presentation of the Temple in the Jewish Liturgy

What is our mental and spiritual orientation when approaching God? How do we liturgically shape His presence? Does the focus on the Temple still have a place today? How has the absence of the Temple been processed in the Jewish liturgy through the centuries? Which lessons can be taken from these reflections and be applied to Christian liturgy? Those are the question asked in the last two contributions in this section.

In her crucial contribution, Dalia Marx provides an overview of the presence of the Temple in Jewish liturgy and in rabbinic thinking. She shows how the holiness of serving God was initially broadened to places outside of the Temple and subsequently, especially after the destruction of the Temple, was implemented in serving God in every-day life outside the Temple. That service to God included study time, the synagogue service and specific references to the Temple. In a further development, the essence of what God meant in the Temple service finds a place within the family, in the contact with one’s neighbour, in teshuva (repentance) and forgiveness and in life in its completeness as it is lived before God’s countenance. Marx sees a development here; while these matters were initially regarded as the equivalent of the Temple service, the view that the Temple service was in fact replaced by these other rituals gradually gained support.

In the final part of her contribution she shares several views on the Temple that have a place in contemporary Israel. While the reconstruction of the Temple is still petitioned in prayers, this is seen as problematic by many. First of all because of the threat the fulfilment of such prayers would pose to the unstable peace which has been established in Jerusalem, and furthermore because a service with sacrifices such as took place in the Temple simply does not fit into serving God in a way that is appropriate for our time. Apparently the sacrifices have indeed been replaced in the experience of the people, while on the other hand the prayer for the restoration of the Temple is kept alive. In fact the Temple is even more present in Jewish life now that it has been destroyed, than when it was physically present.

Consequently, the destruction of the Temple is seen as a blessing by some, since this destruction – no matter how paradoxical that may sound – brought the Temple closer to normative life. Precisely this duality forms a common theme throughout Jewish history and is part of the current Jewish identity: what might be called the presence of the absent Temple.

3.6. Temple Service and the Design of a Christian Life

The way in which the holiness of the Temple service is implemented in normal life within Jewish tradition is for Niek Tramper an example of his search for new forms of the Christian personal religious life within the family: the Christian home-religion. He points out two important connections which he encountered in Jewish tradition and which he would like to see implemented within the Christian liturgical identity. First of all there is the connection between the service in the gathered congregation and the service at home. Secondly there is the connection between the formal, set liturgy and the liturgy of the heart.

In the historical development that took place from the focus on the Temple service towards normative communal life, the Temple maintained a central place, without limiting the serving of God to one fixed form and congealing the service of the heart. At the same time, the service of the heart is given form and content through these connections. The given form and content can provide consistency for this service and make it of greater importance to the rhythm of serving God in normal life. Tramper says that relinquishing these Jewish roots has had vast implications for the church. Dualistic thinking has been greatly increased because of it, and serving God became too detached from normal life, as it was shaped at home. Perhaps a reorientation toward Jewish sources can help Christians find new ways to sanctify normal life and connect it to the serving of God. He gives practical advice with suggestions for forming a renewed Christian home-religion; a remarkable way of reflecting on the essence of the Temple service.

4. Impressions and impact of the meetings

In the third part of the volume, three Jewish and three Christian participants describe how the joint study and meetings have influenced their theological thinking and their work in the synagogue and the church. These are six personally coloured reactions, which show something of the liveliness of the conversations and the existential involvement of the participants in this process.

We encountered hesitations and it was clearly not self-evident to open up to the voice of the other. This wavering indicates not only a superficial hesitation to step out of the personal comfort-zone and a possible fear of perhaps being misunderstood or receiving offensive treatment. There were powerful and pertinent questions coming from both sides.

For Jews: Can I put my current understanding of my Jewish identity at risk and approach it solely as a religion, based mostly on belief, like Christianity or Islam? For Christians: Can I put my beliefs between brackets and, during the conversation, put my prayers and desires aside, namely that my conversational partner will come to the understanding that Jesus is the Messiah?

Despite these fundamental questions and hesitations, the participants made the choice to ‘be fully present to one another in full openness and human vulnerability’ (formulation of World Council of Churches; cited by Kees Jan Rodenburg).

This openness has led to a better understanding of the other and at the same time to a richer insight as to each other’s personal convictions. All impressions shared by the participants prove how much they have been enriched by the experience The reasons that are brought forward are varied, personal and different, on the Jewish as well as the Christian side. However, all of the personal impressions prove that there was surprise on both sides as a result of becoming acquainted with different ways of viewing the Temple, which show (1) continuity, (2) discontinuity and (3) expectation, in Judaism as well as in Christianity. Continuity (1) because a direct line of connection to the Temple still exists in Judaism as well as in Christianity. There has been a liturgical and theological focus on this central self-revelation of the Almighty throughout the ages. Discontinuity (2) because in Judaism as well as in Christianity, the connection only takes shape when it is given a deepened or renewed meaning. The avodah (service) can now take place outside of the Temple. And expectation (3) because the service as it takes shape now is still incomplete. Eventually the Holy One will bestow his presence on those who serve Him and one can hope for a fulfillment of God’s promises connected to the Temple.

5. Outcome

The concise overview of all contributions to this volume shows that we have found at least some answers to the questions we asked at the beginning of this chapter. How might we in our traditions connect the experience of the lost Temple with our living communities today? Viewing the answers that were given, we discover some kind of consistency in two important movements. The first one leads us from viewing the Temple as the centre of our religious focus to viewing our daily lives as the religious arena. The meaning of what happened in the Temple is brought into our houses and to our tables where we live and to the many places where we have communion with those who pray and serve God.

In mentioning this movement into our daily lives, the question was even raised whether we might call it a blessing that the Temple does not have physical substance any more in our time. The loss of the physical Temple raised opportunities to regard our homes and our churches and synagogues as ‘a small Temple’. We can put this in a very personal way: perhaps we might consider how each of us can build a Temple for ourselves if only for a few minutes each day. What would the meaning be of such an endeavour? How might we use those moments to be in contact with God? What would characterize our behaviour during those moments? What would our thoughts be like during those moments? Might our personal Temple be built more appropriately outside in a natural environment – ‘built’ by God – rather than within a single physical structure built by man? How can our synagogues and churches and homes be engaged more intensely in providing such a substitute for the Temple?

The Rambam (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, tenth century Jewish halakhic – that is, legal – authority and philosopher) wrote that the commandment to build a Temple and sacrifice in it came about because that was the most that could be expected of any human being many years ago, in a world in which the deities of all religions demanded sacrifice (see Guide for the Perplexed, Section 3, Chapter 32). God commanded the building of a Temple. And that commandment was fulfilled, twice, in building the First and the Second Temples in Jerusalem. But in the Guide for the Perplexed the Rambam did not rule out the possibility that there might come a time when service and sacrifice in the Temple would not be necessary and required at all. Perhaps the challenge for religious men and women is to create many ‘Temples’, within ourselves, our homes and our places of worship, in which we will establish a regular and meaningful contact with the God of all creation.

The apostles Paul and Peter, authors of letters in the New Testament, related the imagery of the Temple service to serving God in everyday life. ‘Therefore I urge you, brothers (and sisters), in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship’ (i.e. avodah, Romans 12,1, cf. 1 Peter 2,5 and 9).

As we come to the end of this project, we reflect that perhaps in these connections we have identified a significant ongoing feature in both Judaism and Christianity that is connected to the presence of the lost Temple in our traditions and practices.

At the same time, we identify a second movement: as we read and interpret Scripture, we are brought back again and again to the very heart of what the Temple expressed: the experience of communion with God and with God’s servants. When we recall the grandeur and meaning of the Temple, then we are brought back to focus on God who revealed Himself in the Temple, who spoke to His people, gave them the opportunity to serve Him and to know Him by revealing Himself in His words and deeds and who continues to do so. The Holy One wanted to connect Himself to one specific place: the Temple and all that happened there. Now the Temple exists no more.

Perhaps this double movement: the impetus of serving God in everyday life and bringing the memory of the Temple service into our homes via ritual and practice on the one hand, and the lasting focus of our lives on the Holy One and on His Word on the other hand, can give answers to the challenges that are posed to believers in a postmodern time, in Jewish as well as Christian contexts.

However, the greatest joy of the experience of the dialogue between Jews and Christians, as reflected in this book, was not some idea about the Temple found in each other’s traditions. It was not the way in which Jews learned to appreciate the serious reading of the texts by Christians, nor the way in which Christian expressed their appreciation of the practical reflection of the Temple by rituals in Jewish daily life. It was the impact of the meeting itself on the participants, the meaning that the participants derived from encountering another human being on matters of belief, meaning and history. This learning is supported by reports from participants in this project that even after substantial time has passed, the impact of the encounter and the dialogue remains powerful.

This volume has been written in the hope that the insights that have been shown here will contribute to the continuation of this process of lively meetings among men and women of faith. Where people meet around the open Scriptures they partake of the presence of the Lord. As they seek to find new and renewed meaning in the words of Scripture for our lives, so may our fellowship grow stronger.

May we be privileged to continue to participate in this process.

 


Contents of the Book

A. The Practice of Dialogue
1. Introduction Shlomo Tucker, Michael Mulder 9
2. On the Importance of Interfaith Dialogue in Israel Eitan Cooper 14
3. An Inspiring Encounter Kees Jan Rodenburg 20
B. The Presence of the Temple in the Jewish and Christian Traditions
4. Remembering the Destruction of the Temple – Good or Bad? David Golinkin 27
5. The Loss of the Temple in Judaism and Early Christianity Marcie Lenk 37
6. The Temple – from a Christian Perspective Gerard den Hertog 46
7. Prayer After the Loss of the Temple. Praying for the Welfare of Babylon? Eric Peels 61
8. The Missing Temple. The Status of the Temple in Jewish Culture Following its Destruction Dalia Marx 83
9. The Holy Liturgy at Home Niek M. Tramper 109
C. Personal reflections
10. Interfaith Conference Annabelle Herciger-Tenzer 133
11. My Jerusalem Nathalie Lastreger 137
12. On the Temple and Its Loss. Reflections on Study with Christians Raphael Friedman 146
13. Seeing the Temple for the Second Time Jorne den Boer 150
14. A Bond, a Bridge, a Beacon of Hope. An Impressive Inter-Faith Encounter Gerard Wassink 153
15. Meeting with Jews on the Temple. How It Affected Me Bert Loonstra 158
D. Summary and Directions
16. Conclusions Shlomo Tucker, Michael Mulder 167
Biographical Information 183