Sixteen of the 613 Biblical commandments relate to the Paschal sacrifice, which must be brought on the 14th day of the month of Nissan – Passover eve – and eaten on the night of the 15th. Today, this sacrifice is remembered only in the form of the Afikoman, the piece of matzah snatched and hidden by children during the Pesach seder meal, by the small roasted shank-bone on the Seder plate, and by prayers and study.
Rabbi Ariel said, “After the destruction of the First Temple, when the Jews began returning from Babylonia to the Holy Land, they brought the Paschal sacrifice during the course of 22 years even though there was no Holy Temple. They also were considered ritually impure – because there was no Red Heifer by which to become pure – yet they still brought it… There is currently no genuine impediment to bringing the Paschal sacrifice.”
There have been other attempts to renew this sacrifice over the years, or at least to solve the Halakhic problems involved. Speaking about the rabbis who came to the Holy Land 700 years ago and sought to pave the way to offer the Pesach lamb, Rabbi Ariel said,
“It is simply disgraceful when we compare our actions with theirs. They were here after the Crusaders, when there were perhaps 1,000 Jews in the whole land, which was totally desolate, and tried to renew this commandment. And yet we have 5-6 million Jews, and we have an army with tanks and planes, and what are we doing? … Over 2,000 years ago, the Jews were afraid to live in Jerusalem, yet they made it obligatory for one out of every ten men to work towards building the Holy Temple, and they started the sacrifice services amidst the ruins of the First Temple. And where are we? Should we not be ashamed?”
Among the problems that Rabbi Ariel says have been solved by theTemple Institute he heads in Jerusalem are the following: Ritual impurity (which applies only to individuals, not to the entire nation), the precise location of the altar, and the sacred priestly garments, which the Institute has recently completed fashioning according to Biblical requirements. He emphasizes, of course, that the exact details of these and other issues are complex and must be reviewed with rabbinical experts. “I don’t say that there aren’t problems, but as the Maharatz Chayut has written, there is no Halakhic problem in the Temple that cannot be solved.”
“Why then do you not go and sacrifice the Pesach sacrifice yourself?” Rabbi Ariel was asked.
“Have you just now returned from the moon?” he answered with pain. “The government has established a special police unit just for the Temple Mount. A Jew is forbidden even to move his lips there – and you want me to go there with my sheep and building tools to build an altar?!…
“The problem, which has received the silent backing of the rabbinical world, is that we have allowed the Arabs to be in charge of the Mount, and so they play soccer there. That’s what happened when Moshe Dayan gave the Temple Mount keys to the Arabs [after the Six Day War]. First they give them the keys, then they say, ‘It’s impossible [to regain control],’ and then they say, ‘We don’t know [all the details of the Temple Mount and the altar, etc.].’ The 200 commandments that are connected with the Temple cry out every day, ‘Jews, where are you?!'”