Some pundits would have us believe that the three “monotheistic” faiths have an equal claim to the Temple Mount. No impartial observer can deny, however, that the Temple Mount, indeed, of Jerusalem as a whole, is far more central to Judaism than to Christianity and Islam. Besides, the sanctity of the Temple Mount derives from Judaism, not from the two later and derivative religions.
Thus, in I Kings 9:3, Hashem says to Solomon: “I have sanctified this Temple that you have built, to place My Name there forever …” Similarly in II Kings 21:7: “In this Temple and in Jerusalem … I shall place My Name forever.” Finally, in Isaiah 2:3 we read: “Many peoples will go and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the Mountain of Hashem, to the Temple of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us His ways and we will walk in His paths.’ For from Zion will the Torah go forth, and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem.”
Appealing to Scripture, however, will not resolve the issue of the Temple Mount. Scripture has no authority in age when science is regarded as the foundation of objective knowledge, and where matters of religion are deemed purely subjective.
Strange as it may seem, however, no less than Alfred North Whitehead, an outstanding philosopher-mathematician and historian of science, sees in monotheism the source of science and its quest for the unity underlying all existence. This being granted, it may then be argued that science, which never developed among the Chinese or even among the Greeks, owes its origin to Abraham, the first Jew! For it was Abraham who, by reason and observation, and not by faith, discovered monotheism. (Note the abundance, down through the ages, of outstanding Jewish scientists.)
Monotheism, therefore, is more than belief in one God. Maimonides defines the term at the very outset of his Mishne Torah: “The cardinal foundation and base of knowledge is to comprehend that there is a Prime Being which brings all existence into being; and all things extant, from earth to sky and in-between, exist only as an effect of the absoluteness of such Being.”
Consistent therewith, Israel’s first Chief Rabbi, Avraham Yitzhak Kook (1865-1935) writes: “Monotheism seeks to probe the unity of the world, of man, of the entire range of reality; it rejects the dichotomy of deed and thought, of intellect and imagination.”
According to Rav Kook, who was well versed in philosophy, Israel alone affirms “undiluted monotheism.” He admits, of course, that there are in the gentile world pious men, philosophers, men of God, but there is not a nation—besides Israel—whose soul, whose way of life, whose raison d’être, signifies the Divine Idea in the universe.
Also significant for Rav Kook is that unlike Torah Judaism, “gentile religions remain locked in a persistent struggle with indigenous cultures.” These religions, he sees, were imposed on pagan nations which often revert to barbarism. Notice the frequent eruption fratricidal wars of Arab-Islamic states. Notice, too, that Europe, the home of Christianity, has been periodically drenched in rivers of blood. It were as if these religions are little more than a veneer, that they had failed to fully transform the nations that profess them. Today, Europe has virtually abandoned Christianity.
Notice, moreover, that unlike the Koran and the New Testament, the Torah is not the recorded source of a religion but the history of the divine founding of a nation. In Israel alone one cannot separate religion and nationality without destroying Israel’s essence. This fact distinguishes its monotheism (and conduct) from that of Islam and Christianity.
Although scholars agree that Islam is a bellicose and fatalistic as well as autocratic religion, they do not relate these characteristics to Islamic monotheism. These characteristics suggest, in the words of Rav Kook, that Islam’s monotheism is “barren and desolate.” In contrast, Jewish monotheism has produced a nation that exalts life and joyfulness, a nation whose people exhibit extraordinary creativity as even gentile writers have noted.
Another difference. The founders of Islam and Christianity form an integral part of the faith. Thus, it is not sufficient to believe in the gospels of these messengers, but in the messengers themselves. This is why “holy” wars and forced conversions punctuate the history of these religions. How unlike Judaism, which claims no monopoly on heaven and prohibits proselytizing! We have here a more genial monotheism.
It is also more logical. Consider the consequences of Christianity’s rejection of Talmudic law. By emptying law of its divine content, says Rav Kook, wickedness invades private law and spreads through the souls of nations leading to international conflict. The Christian dichotomy, “Render unto the Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s,” derogates from “undiluted monotheism.” This dichotomy spawned the separation of public law and morality, which has led to the decay of Western civilization and neo-paganism.
Thoughtful Christians are aware of this development. American Evangelicals have not only become supportive of Israel, but some rightly believe that Judaism is the best antidote to neo-paganism. These fine people shudder at what is happening in America: bacchanalian music, drugs, satanic cults, sexual perversions, partial-birth abortions, i.e., infanticide.
Rav Kook points out that “Paganism sensed in Israel, in Judaism, its greatest foe.” Perhaps this is why Israel’s ultra-secular Left, which is flirting with neo-paganism, is anxious to yield the Temple Mount to the Arabs. For the Temple Mount represents the pinnacle of Judaism and of Jewish monotheism. At stake in the Temple Mount dispute, therefore, is not only the future of Israel, but of mankind.