Sharing the Temple

Once again hostilities have shattered the fragile peace of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. As always, the issue is sovereignty. Muslims and Jews agree that the Temple Mount is a place of tremendous sacred significance. What is disagreed on is who ought to control it.

Solomon erected the first Temple on the Holy Mount. In Legends of the Jews, Louis Ginzberg relates the circumstances:

Among the great achievements of Solomon first place must be assigned to the superb Temple built by him. He was long in doubt as to where he was to build it. A heavenly voice directed him to go to Mount Zion at night, to a field owned by two brothers jointly. One of the brothers was a bachelor and poor, the other was blessed both with wealth and a large family of children. It was harvesting time. Under cover of night, the poor brother kept adding to the other’s heap of grain, for, although he was poor, he thought his brother needed more on account of his large family. The rich brother, in the same clandestine way, added to the poor brother’s store, thinking that though he had a family to support, the other was without means. This field, Solomon concluded, which had called forth so remarkable a manifestation of brotherly love, was the best site for the temple, and he bought it.1

This is an extraordinary story. And the story of the story is just as extraordinary.  Most of Ginzberg’s legends belong to the established canon of rabbinical lore known as the Talmud. This one does not. Its source is an oriental travelogue published by the French poet Alphonse de Lamartine in 1835. Lamartine, in turn, learned it from a Levantine Arab.  In other words, just as the brothers in the story shared their harvest, Muslims, Christians and Jews have shared the story of that sharing.

The moral of the story is clear. The sacredness of the Temple is in the sharing of it.

1. Louis Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, vol. 4, p. 154.

Comments (1)
  • An excellent example of what compassion can accomplish even in these days of severe trials.  It is when we are confronted with great difficulty that we must practice an even greater quality of compassionate understanding.

    — Rajan on December 2, 2009

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