In the years following the Churban Beis HaMikdash, many Jews continued to go up to Jerusalem to cry over its ruins. They gathered at the Kosel – testimony to the magnificence of the Holy Temple – and saturated it with their tears. The “Traveler from Bordeaux,” the first Christian tourist to record impressions of his visit to the Holy Land, visited the country about 250 years after the Churban. He wrote that Jews come to Jerusalem once a year, on the Ninth of Av. They cry and lament next to a stone that remains from the Temple. Close to one hundred years later, in 4993, a Persian tourist described thousands of Jews crying over the ruins of the desolate House during the holiday of Sukkos, in remembrance of aliyah l’regel.

Jews would visit the holy site and tread carefully around the Har HaBayis. They succeeded in preserving precise knowledge of the location: the boundaries and the markings of the Heichal, the Kodesh HaKodashim, and even the site of the burning of the Parah Adumah on Har HaZeisim. Only after the Muslims began erecting their mosques on the Temple Mount, hundreds of years later, were all vestiges completely destroyed, down to the foundation, in order to mask any signs of what is holy for Jews. Since we are tamei l’meis, we cannot go onto the Mount, especially since the precise boundaries are not clear.

Sir Moses Montefiore z”l acquired a place of honor among the faithful builders of the Holy City, thanks to the first houses that were built outside the walls at his initiative. He visited the Land of Israel seven times, and during each visit, he left his imprint on the country. The neighborhoods of Mishkenot Shananim and Nachalat Shiv’ah, which he established, were the first ones to be built outside the walls of the Old City. He even helped establish neighborhoods bearing his name in western Jerusalem.

Montefiore was born into a British-Sefardi family. There were a number of times that his opinion differed from that of the rabbanim of Jerusalem, but ultimately, his yir’as Shamayim ensured that he defer to their view and accept their opinion. A specific incident, which has a number of different versions, is quoted by Rabbi Betzalel Landau z”l (HaKodesh V’HaMikdash). The most famous version is based on the sefer Sha’arei Yerushalayim by Rabbi Moshe Reischer z”l.

The site of the Beis HaMikdash is very holy in the eyes of the Muslims, and they call it Haram al-Sharif, meaning: noble sanctuary. Therefore, they will not allow entry to anyone of other faiths. Sir Moses Montefiore was the first Jew since the destruction of the Second Beis HaMikdash to enter the holy site. He spent a lot of money on this, after obtaining permission from the Sultan, and gave a large gift to the pasha of Jerusalem. The local Jews tried to explain to him that a non-kohen is prohibited from going up there, especially nowadays when everyone is tamei l’meis, and his entrance is against halachah. He responded that he would sit in a box that holds forty se’ah and he would be permitted to enter the site of the Beis HaMikdash, for it would separate between him and the k’dushah of the Har HaBayis, just as such a box serves to block tum’ah. The rabbanim of Jerusalem warned him that he is prohibited from entering even in this manner but, in his great yearning to see the holy Temple Mount, he did not heed their entreaties and together with his assistant, Dr. Eliezer Halevi, went up onto the Har HaBayis.

When the rabbanim heard that Sir Moses disobeyed them and acted contrary to halachah, they placed him and his companion in cheirem. The people of Jerusalem distanced themselves four amos from them, as prescribed by halachah. While it was difficult to keep a cheirem on a person who had done so much for Eretz Yisrael and klal Yisrael, they couldn’t annul it either, and it was imperative that they find a way out. One rav, Rav Yeshayah Bardaki zt”l, went to Montefiore to convince him to accept a formal rebuke as one who is deserving of cheirem. Montefiore agreed to follow the halachah. It was agreed that he would receive a rebuke in the house of Reb Zev Wolfson, who was a close confidant to Montefiore. Sir Montefiore was indeed rebuked and even dragged on the ground four amos as prescribed in halachah, although Reb Zev arranged that he not be actually dragged on the ground – that it be done while seated on a chair as a special arrangement in honor of the great man.

According to another version, Montefiore tearfully justified himself before the rabbanim that he didn’t know that it was a Biblical prohibition; he thought it was a prohibition imposed by the Arabs. His explanation was accepted by Rav Shmuel Salant zt”l and the cheirem was lifted.

Rabbi Dovid Hoffman is the author of the popular “Torah Tavlin” book series, filled with stories, wit and hundreds of divrei Torah, including the brand new “Torah Tavlin Yamim Noraim” in stores everywhere. You’ll love this popular series. Also look for his book, “Heroes of Spirit,” containing one hundred fascinating stories on the Holocaust. They are fantastic gifts, available in all Judaica bookstores and online at To receive Rabbi Hoffman’s weekly “Torah Tavlin” sheet on the parsha, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.