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Jerusalem in Jewish Law and Custom: A Preliminary Typology* In Honor of Yom Yerushalayim 28 Iyar 5765 – June 6, 2005

Jewish literature (By “Jewish”, we mean we mean Pharasaic or Rabbinic. For Jerusalem in the Dead Sea Scrolls, see L. Schiffman in: M. Poorthuis and Ch. Safrai, eds., The Centrality of Jerusalem: Historical Perspectives (Kampen, the Netherlands: Kok Pharos, 1996), pp. 73-88). written during the past 2,000 years has preserved hundreds, if not thousands, of laws and customs related to the city of Jerusalem. This material has been collected in many books and articles, but thus far no attempt has been made to categorize and organize this vast corpus of laws and customs. This article will attempt to address this lacuna by presenting a preliminary typology of this material which will enable further study and investigation.

The laws and customs related to Jerusalem can be conveniently divided into three major categories: (I) Laws and customs in Talmudic literature which are attributed to Second-Temple Jerusalem; (II) post-Destruction laws and customs observed by Jews throughout the world in order to remember Jerusalem; and (III) post-Destruction laws and customs observed in the city of Jerusalem itself by Jewish residents and visitors.

  1. I) Law and Customs Attributed to Second-Temple Jerusalem

This category consists of at least fifty laws and customs. We shall only mention them briefly since they have already been listed and investigated by quite a few scholars. (For lists of these customs see J. D. Eisenstein, ed., Otzar Yisrael 5 (New York, 1907-1913), pp. 207-213 (Hebrew); Cecil Roth, ed., Encyclopaedia Judaica 9 (Jerusalem: Keter, 1972), cols. 1553-1556; and I. Schepansky, Or Hamizrah 31 (5743), pp. 245-272 (Hebrew). They have been studied critically by L. Finkelstein in: S. Lieberman, ed., Alexander Marx Jubilee Volume , Hebrew Section (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1950), pp. 351-369; S. Bialoblocki in: Alei Ayin: Essays Presented to Shlomo Zalmen Schocken (Jerusalem: Schocken, 5708-5712), pp. 25-46; A. Guttmann in: Fifth World Congress of Jewish Studies 3 (Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 1972), pp. 67-79 and again in: HUCA XL-XLI (1969-1970), pp. 251-275; and S. Safrai in: The Centrality of Jerusalem , (above, note 1), pp. 94-113). About twenty of these laws are contained in a list which has come down to us in four different versions (Tosefta Nega’im 6:2, ed. Zuckermandel, p. 625; Avot D’rabi Natan , I, chap. 35, ed. Schechter, p. 104; ibid., II, chap. 39, p. 107; Bava Kamma 82b. The most well-known version ( Bava Kamma 82b) reads as follows:

Ten things were said about Jerusalem: That a house sold there can be redeemed even though it’s a walled city (see Lev. 25:29-30); that it does not bring a heifer whose neck is broken (see Deut. 21:1-9); that it can never become a condemned city (see Deut. 13:13-18); that its houses cannot be defiled through leprosy (see Lev. 14:33-53); that neither beams nor balconies are allowed to project; that no dunghills are made there; that no kilns are made there; that neither gardens nor orchards are cultivated there, except for the rose gardens which existed from the days of the former prophets; that no chickens may be raised there; and that no dead person may be kept there overnight.

Scholarly opinion is divided about the historical veracity of these traditions. Some scholars, such as Finkelstein and Bialoblocki, accept most of these traditions at face value. Guttmann, on the other hand, views most or all of them as apocryphal. He points out that of the twenty laws found in the four versions of the list, only four occur in all four versions. Furthermore, most of these laws do not occur in the Mishnah. In addition, there are over 300 disagreements in Rabbinic literature between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel and yet none of them concern the laws of Jerusalem. Lastly, even the four laws found in all four versions are contradicted by other rabbinic sources (e.g., the regulations regarding gardens, dunghills, and chickens seem to be contradicted by Tosefta Bava Kamma 8:10, ed. Lieberman, pp. 38-39; Ma’aserot 2:5; and Bava Kamma 7:7). He therefore suggests that these laws really started out in the realm of aggadah or non-legal material:

The predominant tendency after the fall of the Temple was to emphasize the unique and distinguished status of the city by pointing to its superiority not merely from the viewpoint of beauty, sanctity, historical past, etc., but also from the vantage point of the law. Accordingly, the Tannaim put special effort in finding and creating laws and practices that would set Jerusalem apart from all the other cities of the land. As a consequence, we find that halakhot are being used in the same way as aggadot (Guttmann, HUCA (above, note 2), p. 274).

Finally, a recent study by Safrai takes a more balanced view. Regarding the four lists, he admits that “it is not unlikely that some items were not traditions from the time of the Temple, but only imaginary creations… that developed after the destruction of the Temple”. But he then proceeds to examine four specific laws and to show through careful analysis of rabbinic sources, Apocrypha, Josephus and the Dead Sea Scrolls that they were “actually practiced in Jerusalem during the time of the Second Temple or at least…reflect the reality of that time” (S. Safrai in: The Centrality of Jerusalem (above, note 1), p. 95. See, for example, sounding the shofar and waving the lulav discussed ibid ., pp. 108-113). Safrai’s approach to these laws and customs is, no doubt, the correct approach. We should not take them at face value nor reject them en masse as apocryphal. We should, rather, critically examine each custom using rabbinic and external sources in order to see whether it can be dated to Second-Temple Jerusalem.

  1. II) Post-Destruction Laws and Customs to Commemorate Jerusalem and Its Destruction

The second category we shall examine consists of at least twenty-five laws and customs observed by many, and sometimes all, Jewish communities throughout the world for hundreds and even thousands of years in order to remember Jerusalem. These customs of commemoration have not yet been examined in a critical fashion (See, for example, Y. Z. Kahana, Studies in the Responsa Literature (Jerusalem: Mossad Harav Kook, 1973), pp. 436-438 (Hebrew) and Y. Schwartz, Aveilut Hahurban (Jerusalem: Dvar Yerushalayim, 5744) pp. 57-105 (Hebrew)). They can be conveniently divided into five categories: (A) wedding customs; (B) funeral customs; (C) prayer customs; (D) fast days; and (E) general mourning customs observed throughout the year.

  1. A) Wedding Customs

The three most well-known customs in this category are placing ashes on the groom’s head, reciting the verse “If I forget thee Jerusalem” (Psalms 137:5-6), and breaking a glass at weddings (See Bava Batra 60b (ashes); Magen David to Orah Hayyim 560, subpar. 4 (the verse); and J. Z. Lauterbach, HUCA II (1925), pp. 351-380 (breaking the glass). In addition, there are a number of lesser-known customs worth mentioning:

1) Rabbi Yom-Tov Lippman Heller (Moravia and Poland, 1579-1654) is the first to mention breaking a plate at the tena’im or knassmahl or engagement ceremony “as a reminder of the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem”. As in the case of breaking a glass at weddings, this is no doubt a late explanation for a universal tendency to frighten away demons on happy occasions,(Lauterbach, ibid ., 375 and n. 36) but it shows that Jews frequently tied such customs to the Destruction of the Temple.

2) In betrothal contracts or tena’im written by R. Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev, it was stipulated:

The wedding will, God willing, take place in the Holy City of Jerusalem. But if, Heaven forbid, because of our sins, the Messiah will not have come by then, the wedding will take place in Berdichev (R. Charif and S. Raz, eds., Jerusalem: the Eternal Bond (Tel Aviv: Don Publishing House, 1977), p. 70).

Today, some Jews write similar phrases in their wedding invitations.

3) Beginning in the fourteenth century in Germany, and especially in Italy, brides would wear large, ornate rings in addition to their actual wedding ring. These rings were frequently crowned with an ornate building. Abrahams, Wolf, and Sperber maintain that these buildings represent the Temple in Jerusalem so that the bride too should remember the Holy City on her wedding day (See D. Sperber, Minhagei Yisrael 4 (Jerusalem: Mossad Harav Kook, 1995), pp. 143-149 (Hebrew) for previous literature as well as illustrations).

  1. B) Funeral Customs

1) Gafni has shown that Diaspora Jews began to be buried in Israel in the third century because they believed that burial in Israel atones for one’s sins and that those buried in Israel will be the first to be resurrected (I. Gafni, Cathedra 4 (5737), pp. 113-120 (Hebrew). It is clear that Jews believed the same things about Jerusalem and especially about the Mount of Olives where the resurrection of the dead was supposed to begin (For this belief, see, for example, Pesikta Rabbati , Piska 31, ed. Ish-Shalom fol. 147a and Ma’aseh Daniel , ed. Even-Shemuel, Midrishei Ge’ulah (Tel Aviv: Mossad Bialik, 5703), p. 225). Thus, it is not surprising that many Diaspora Jews made aliyah to Jerusalem in their old age in order to die and be buried there, while many others were taken to Jerusalem for burial after their deaths (See, for example, B. Klar, Megillat Ahimaaz (Jerusalem: Tarshish, 1974), p. 37 (Hebrew); J. Mann, The Jews in Egypt and Palestine Under the Fatamid Caliphs I (London: Oxford University Press, 1920), pp. 165-166 and II (ibid., 1922), p. 191; M. Gil, Palestine During the First Muslim Period (634-1099) I (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 1983), pp. 517-518 (Hebrew); I. Schepansky, Eretz Yisrael in the Responsa Literature I (Jerusalem: Mossad Harav Kook, 1966), pp. 189-192, 433-440 (Hebrew).

2) Other Jews were not buried in Jerusalem but were buried with their feet facing Jerusalem so that when resurrection comes, they will be ready to stand up and walk towards the Holy City (N. Wieder, Islamic Influences on Jewish Worship (Oxford: East and West Library, 1947), p. 73 (Hebrew); Responsa Hatam Sofer , Yoreh Deah, no. 332 (Hebrew); Y. Y. Greenwald, Kol Bo Al Aveilut (Jerusalem and New York: Feldheim, 1973), pp. 177-178; Y. M. Tukichinsky, Gesher Hahayim I (Jerusalem: Solomon, 5720 2 ), p. 138 (Hebrew)).

3) Finally, there is a widespread custom to comfort mourners both in the shurah (line of mourners) at the cemetery and at the house of mourning with the sentence: “May God comfort you among the other mourners for Zion and Jerusalem”. (For the origins of this custom, see S. Glick, Light and Consolation: The Development of Jewish Customs of Consolation Following Bereavement (Efrat: Keren Ori, 1993), pp. 35, 149 (Hebrew)

  1. C) Prayer Customs

Aside from the frequent mention of Jerusalem in the liturgy, there are a number of prayer customs associated with Jerusalem:

1) The book of Daniel (6:11) indicates that Diaspora Jews used to face Jerusalem in prayer in the second century B.C.E. An oft-repeated b’raita says that Jews all over the world face Jerusalem while Jews all over Jerusalem face the Holy of Holies (Tosefta Berakhot 3:15-16, ed. Lieberman, pp. 15-16 and parallels). Though the archaeological evidence is mixed, many ancient synagogues also faced Jerusalem (F. Landsberger, HUCA XXVIII (1957), pp. 181-203; M. Chiat, Handbook of Synagogue Architecture (Chico, California: Scholars Press, 1982), p. 338; J. Wilkinson, PEQ 116 (1984), pp. 16-34). In any case, this was the practice codified in Jewish Law and is the universal practice until today (Rambam, Hilkhot Tefillah 5:3 and Orah Hayyim 94:1).

2) A corollary of this custom is that a person must have doors or windows in his home facing Jerusalem so that he can pray through them. This law is based on a literal reading of the above-mentioned verse from Daniel (Berakhot 31a; Rambam, Hilkhot Tefillah 5:6; Orah Hayyim 90:4).

3) Finally, R. Meir of Rothenberg (Germany, d. 1293) would bow towards Jerusalem every time he mentioned the word “Jerusalem” in the Grace after Meals (I. Z. Kahana, ed., Rabbi Meir Ben Barukh (Maharam) of Rottenberg: Responsa, Rulings, and Customs I (Jerusalem: Mossad Harav Kook, 1957), p. 194, no. 152 (Hebrew)).

  1. D) Fast Days

1) Since shortly after the Destruction of the First Temple in 586 B.C.E., Jews have fasted on the Third of Tishrei, the Tenth of Tevet, the Seventeenth of Tammuz, and the Ninth of Av in order to commemorate specific events related to the Destruction (Zekhariah 7:1-8:19; Ta’anit 4:6; D. Golinkin in: Responsa of the Va’ad Halakhah of the Rabbinical Assembly of Israel I (Jerusalem: The Rabbinical Assembly and the Masorti Movement, 1986), pp. 29-34 (Hebrew)).

2) The days preceeding the Ninth of Av were observed as days of mourning in which haircutting, laundering, betrothals and marriages were forbidden. As the centuries wore on, the number of prohibitions slowly expanded to include eating meat and drinking wine, and the period of mourning was expanded by many to the three weeks between the Seventeenth of Tammuz and the Ninth of Av (Ta’anit 4:7; Yevamot 43b; Y. Gartner, The Evolvement of Customs in the World of Halacha (Jerusalem: Hemed Press, 1995), pp. 9-49 (Hebrew)).

3) According to rabbinic tradition ( Ta’anit 4:6 and Ta’anit 29a), both Temples were destroyed on the Ninth of Av. On that day every year, Jews throughout the world abstained not only from food but also from bathing, annointing oneself, wearing leather shoes, and conjugal relations. They recited Lamentations at night and special kinot or elegies during the day while sitting on the ground (See Orah Hayyim 549-559 for the many laws and customs of the Ninth of Av).

4) Finally, specific Jewish communities added additional mourning customs such as putting ashes on their foreheads, wrapping the Torah scrolls in black, and announcing how many years had passed since the Destruction of the Second Temple (A. Ya’ari, Letters from the Land of Israel (Ramat Gan: Massada, 1971), p. 372 (Hebrew); M. Reisher, Sha’arei Yerushalayim , (Lemberg, 1869), fol. 49b (Hebrew); Y. Gellis, Minhagei Eretz Yisrael (Jerusalem: Mossad Harav Kook, 1968), pp. 159, 161 (Hebrew)).

  1. E) General Mourning Customs

In addition to the customs described above which were attached to specific life-cycle events or days of the year, there are a number of general mourning customs which were observed throughout the year.

1) The Mishnah in Sotah (9:11) says that:

When the Sanhedrin ceased [judging capital cases a number of years before the Destruction], singing ceased at wedding feasts, as it is written: “They shall not drink wine with a song” (Isaiah 24:9).

This prohibition went through many permutations throughout the centuries, but the general trend was to allow religious music while prohibiting secular music. Indeed, the latter type of music is prohibited by some Orthodox rabbis until this very day (See B. Cohen, Law and Tradition in Judaism (New York: Ktav, 1969 2 ), pp. 167-181 for a good historical survey and M. Feinstein, Igrot Moshe , Orah Hayyim I (New York, 1959), no. 166 for an Orthodox responsum).

2) A much rarer mourning custom is related by R. Yoel Sirkes (Poland, 1561-1640) in the name of Sefer Ha’eshkol (by R. Abraham ben Isaac, Provence, d. 1159):

If you hear the sound of gentiles dancing and playing flutes and rejoicing, sigh and say: “Master of the universe, Your people whom you took out of Egypt have sinned doubly and been punished doubly…You have destroyed their palaces, You have stopped their joy…You have cast down their glory from the Heavens to the earth…Oh God, do not be angry at us forever… May it be Your will that you build Jerusalem Your holy city speedily in our day, Amen” (Bayyit Hadash to Tur Orah Hayyim 224, s.v. misefer ha’eshkol . I have yet to locate the primary source).

3) Finally, we have learned in a b’raita that after the Destruction of the Second Temple, there were many ascetics who refused to eat meat and drink wine, since they were no longer offered in the Temple. Rabbi Joshua scolded them saying: by that logic, we can no longer eat bread, figs and grapes nor drink water because they too were offered in the Temple!

He said to them: My sons, to mourn too much is impossible and not to mourn is impossible. Rather, thus said the sages: a person plasters his house and leaves a small section unplastered in memory of Jerusalem. A person prepares a feast and leaves a little bit out in memory of Jerusalem. A woman makes jewelry and leaves a small item out in memory of Jerusalem, as it is written (Psalms 137:5-6): “If I forget thee Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning”… (Tosefta Sotah 15:11-12, ed. Lieberman, pp. 243-244 and cf. the parallels listed there).

This b’raita was quoted by the Bavli and standard codes of Jewish law and these customs are still observed by some ultra-Orthodox Jews until today (Rambam, Hilkhot Ta’aniyot 5:12-15; Orah Hayyim 560; and Schwartz (above, note 7), pp. 69-76).

Thus, we see that Jerusalem and its Destruction were remembered by Jews throughout the world at weddings, funerals, and throughout the year for thousands of years.

III) Customs Actually Observed by Residents of and Visitors to Jerusalem from the Year 70 C.E. Until Today

The third and, by far, largest category we shall discuss consists of laws and customs actually observed by residents of Jerusalem and pilgrims since the Destruction. These customs, which have never been studied in a critical fashion, can be conveniently divided into five main categories: 1) laws and customs not unique to Jerusalem which reflect the fact that the city was a melting pot for Jews from all over the world; 2) unique mourning customs over and above those mentioned above; 3) laws and customs which mimic specific laws and customs of Second-Temple Jerusalem; 4) laws and customs whose aim was to maintain the chastity of the city’s inhabitants; 5) laws and customs which express the Jewish love for the city.

Before we proceed, a word is in order about the vast number of sources used for this section. We relied on five types of sources: 1) bibliographies; 2) genizah fragments; 3) the responsa literature; 4) the takkanot , or rabbinic enactments, of Jerusalem as well as other collections of local customs; and 5) travel itineraries and letters from the 10th-20th centuries. These latter documents are crucial because they enable us to compare the laws and customs in theory with eyewitness accounts of what was actually done in practice .

  1. A) Melting-Pot Customs

Rabbi Hizkiyah Da Silva lived in Jerusalem for most of his adult life (from 1678-1695). He states that “in Jerusalem one must always follow the stricter custom because all [of her inhabitants] are gathered [=lekuta’e ]” (Peri Hadash to Orah Hayyim 496, subpar. 2, no. 22).

This aspect of the laws and customs of Jerusalem is also reflected in a letter sent by Rabbi Yisrael Ashkenazi to his benefactor back home in Italy (ca. 1517-1523):

In the days of Rabbi Ovadiah [of Bertinoro, 1488-ca. 1516], [the prayer customs] were like that of the Jews of Israel…but now that the Spanish Jews have been added [due to the Expulsion of 1492]… they do as they please. And the cantors: there are three Spanish Jews and one from Israel and each one of them does as he pleases . One says the kedushah [which begins with] keter yitnu lekhah ; and one says [ nakdishakh v’na’aritzakh ]. And there are variants in the kedushah itself. And there are many examples like this, one [cantor] adds and another subtracts…” (Ed., A. David, Alei Sefer 16 (5750), pp. 110-111 along with a correction ibid., 18 (5755-56), p. 181).

Indeed, by far the largest number of laws and customs reflect the fact that Jerusalem was a melting pot for Jews from all over the world. Here is a random sampling of a few such customs:

1) Originally, kedushah was only recited in Israel and Jerusalem on Shabbat or when musaf was recited. Pirkoi ben Baboi (ca. 800) reports how this custom was changed due to the influence of Babylonian immigrants:

Until now they did not say [ kedushah which includes the Shema ] in Eretz Yisrael except on Shabbat and festivals and only in Shaharit , except in Jerusalem and in every city which contains Babylonians who made a fight until [the Palestinian Jews] accepted upon themselves to recite kedushah every day. But in the other cities of Eretz Yisrael , which do not contain Babylonians, they do not recite [ kedushah ] except on Shabbat and festivals (L. Ginzberg, Geonica II (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1909), p. 52 (Hebrew) = idem ., Ginzei Schechter II (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1929), pp. 555-556 (Hebrew)).

2) Jumping forward almost a millenium to the Jerusalem takkanot of 1730, we are told that “a betrothed man may not see his fiancee until the night of the wedding”, the purpose being to prevent pregnancies before the wedding. But, upon investigation, one discovers that the same takkanah was enacted in Candia in 1228, in the Balkans ca. 1500, in Safed in the 16th century, and in Aleppo (A. H. Freimann in: Y. Baer, J. Guttmann, and M. Schwab, eds., Sefer Dinaburg (Jerusalem: Kiryat Sefer, 5709), pp. 209, 213 (Hebrew).

3) Finally, when R. Joseph Schwartz arrived in Jerusalem from Germany in 1837, he reported to his brother back home that bridegrooms in Jerusalem read a special portion from the Torah (Genesis 24:1-8) on the Shabbat after their wedding (Ya’ari, (above, note 25), p. 372). Yet, in fact, this custom is not indigenous to Jerusalem. It is already mentioned in 11th century Rome and 13th century Saragossa and was observed in Cochin, India and Algeria as well (R. Natan ben Yehiel, Sefer Ha’arukh, s.v. hatan; Rabbeinu Bahya to Gen. 24:3; R. Shemtob Gaguine, Keter Shem Tob , (Kaidan, 5694), pp. 300-302).

Thus, a large percentage of the laws and customs of Jerusalem were imported by immigrants from elsewhere and reflect the fact that the city was a melting pot for Jews from all over the world.

  1. B) Mourning Customs Over and Above those Practiced Elsewhere

In addition to the mourning customs described above, pilgrims and natives of Jerusalem observed a number of mourning customs which stemmed from their proximity to the Temple Mount and its ruins:

1) A b’raita in the Babylonian Talmud ( Mo’ed Kattan 26a) rules that one must tear one’s garments upon seeing the cities of Judea, Jerusalem, and the Temple in ruins (For parallel yet different traditions, see Semahot 9:19, ed. Higger, pp. 175-176 and Yerushalmi Mo’ed Kattan 3:7, fols. 83b-c). R. Elazar adds that one recites a special verse (Isaiah 64:9-10) for each specific type of ruin. This law was not merely codified by the major codes of Jewish law. We know from travelers’ itineraries that it was actually practiced by visitors to Jerusalem in the years ca. 100, 1210, ca. 1240, 1481, 1488, 1495, 1879 and 1888 (The codes are Ramban quoted by Maggid Mishneh to the Rambam, Hilkhot Ta’aniyot 5:16; Rosh to Mo’ed Kattan , Chapter 3, par. 64; and Orah Hayyim 561 and Yoreh De’ah 340:38. For actual testimonies, see Sifrei Devarim 43, ed. Finkelstein, p. 95 and parallels; Ya’ari (above, note 25), pp. 78, 127, 155, 481-482; J.D. Eisenstein, Ozar Massaoth (New York, 1926), pp. 66-67, 99 (Hebrew); and R. Hammer, The Jerusalem Anthology: A Literary Guide (Philadelphia and Jerusalem: Jewish Publication Society, 1995), p. 227). R. Ovadia of Bertinoro, for example, described the ceremony in his famous letter of 1488:

And at a distance of three quarters of a mile…the blessed city was revealed to us … and there we rent our clothes as required. And when we continued a bit more, our ruined holy and glorious house was revealed to us and we rent our garments a second time for the Temple.. (Ya’ari (above, note 25), p. 127).

2) The Itinerary of the Bordeaux Pilgrim written by an anonymous Christian pilgrim in 333 c.e. contains an oft-quoted description of the observance of the Ninth of Av in Jerusalem at that time:

These are two statues of Hadrian, and not far from the statues there is a perforated stone to which the Jews come every year and annoint it, bewail themselves with groans, rend their garments, and so depart (A. Stewart and C.W. Wilson, eds., Itinerary from Bordeaux to Jerusalem (London: Palestine Pilgrims’ Text Society, 1896), pp. 21-22. And cf. Jerome (ca. 386-420 C.E.) in his commentary to Zephaniah 1:15ff. translated into Hebrew by Gil (above, note 14), p. 57).

3) The Avelei Tziyon or “Mourners of Zion” lived in Jerusalem and elsewhere from at least 850-1173 C.E. They are, variously, referred to as “mourners of”: “Zion, His glorious height, the Eternal House, the Temple and the Tabernacles, Jerusalem, and Zion and Jerusalem”. The sources report that they “desired the Redemption morning, noon and night”, “sigh and groan and await the Redemption and mourn for Jerusalem”, and that they “do not eat meat or drink wine and they wear black…and they fast…and they ask mercy before God”. Finally, they composed and recited special poems and elegies for Jerusalem and the Temple (There is considerable disagreement as to whether the Avelei Tziyon were Rabbanites or Karaites. For sources and discussion, see Mann (above, note 14), pp. 47-49, 61; S. Poznanski, Yerushalayim 10 (5674), pp. 90-91 (Hebrew); M. Zucker in: Sefer Hayovel L’rabi Hanokh Albeck , (Jerusalem: Mossad Harav Kook, 1963), pp. 378-401 (Hebrew); Y. Gartner (above, note 23), pp. 15-49 and H. Ben-Shammai in: S. Elizur, eds., Knesset Ezra…Studies Presented to Ezra Fleischer , (Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi and Ben-Zvi Institute, 1994), pp. 191-234).

4) Finally, since the 1860s, many of the ultra-Orthodox Jews of Jerusalem prohibit the use of instrumental music even at weddings. This prohibition is attributed to Rabbi Meir Auerbach (1815-1878), one of the leading Ashkenazic rabbis in Jerusalem, or to the saintly Rabbi Nahum Shadik (1813-1866). Luntz says it was enacted because the men and the musicians looked at the women, while R. Moshe Reisher says that the one fiddler in the city died, so they saw it as a sign that it is forbidden to play instruments in Jerusalem after the Destruction (Reisher (above, note 25), fol. 49a; A. M. Luncz, Yerushalayim I (5642), p. 9 and n. 21 (Hebrew); E. Cohen-Reiss, Mizikhronot Ish Yerushalayim (Tel Aviv: Shoshani, 5693), pp. 60-61 (Hebrew); B. Yadler, B’tuv Yerushalayim (Benei Berak: Nezah, 5727), p. 348 (Hebrew); E. Waldenberg, Responsa Tzitz Eliezer , XV, no. 33, par. 3 (Hebrew); P. Kidron, In Jerusalem (Dec. 12, 1986), p. 18; Y. Mazor and M. Taube, Yuval VI (1994), p. 165. My thanks to Ya’akov Mazor of the Jewish Music Research Center of the Hebrew University for a few of these references). Today, it is explained as a sign of mourning for the Destruction. Ultra-Orthodox Jews circumvent this prohibition by holding their weddings at Moshav Orah outside the city limits or by using singers who accompany themselves on drums.

  1. C) Laws and Customs which Mimic those of the Second Temple

Given the fact that the ruins of the Second Temple are located in Jerusalem, it is not surprising that the Jews of the city developed some laws and customs aimed at mimicking some of the laws and customs of the Second Temple.

1) The classic list of the laws of Second-Temple Jerusalem mentioned above states that “one does not allow a dead body to remain there overnight”, Bava Kamma 82b and cf. the parallels cited above, note 3). i.e. burial must be performed on the day of death or on that very night. Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg (b. 1917) claims that there is an oral tradition “from mouth to mouth that since Jewish settlement was renewed within the walls for a few hundred years, the great rabbis were very careful to observe this prohibition” (R. Eliezer Waldenberg, Sefer Even Ya’akov (at the end of Tzitz Eliezer , V, Jerusalem, 5745), pp. 21-22 (Hebrew)). In any case, this custom which imitates the Second-Temple practice is explicitly mentioned by five writers between 1837 and 1909 (Ya’ari (above, note 25), p. 372; E. Cohen-Reiss (above, note 41), p. 56; Luncz (above, note 41), p. 12; and Tukichinsky (above, note 15), p. 88). and is the accepted custom in Jerusalem until today.

2) The most impressive custom in this category of imitating the Temple is mentioned in over twenty primary sources written between 921-1330 C.E. and has been discussed by over forty scholars beginning with the publication of the first genizah fragment by Harkavy in 1876 (The most recent discussions are those of E. Reiner in: Tarbiz 56 (5747), pp. 279-290 (Hebrew); Moreshet Derekh 12 (Dec.-Jan. 1986), pp. 7-12 (Hebrew); and in his doctoral dissertation Aliyah V’aliyah Laregel L’eretz Yisrael 1099-1517 (Jerusalem, 5748), pp. 179-198 (Hebrew) which was reprinted without the footnotes in Ariel 83-84 (Feb. 1992), pp. 220-235 (Hebrew)). According to these sources, Jews would gather in large numbers on the Mount of Olives on the three pilgrim festivals and especially on Hoshanah Rabbah . They would begin by making a circuit around the gates of Jerusalem reciting special prayers and then ascend to the Mount of Olives. There they would perform seven hakkafot (circuits) around a special sacred stone while reciting the traditional Hoshanot poems. The priests would wear special clothing. The Gaon of Eretz Yisrael would stand on the special stone and declare the dates of the festivals, bless the Diaspora Jews who had donated money to the Palestinian yeshivot , and excommunicate sinners such as the Karaites. It is difficult to reconstruct all of the elements of this fascinating ceremony, but it is clear that during the tenth and eleventh centuries the Mount of Olives became a surrogate Temple Mount on which Jews imitated specific laws and customs of the Second Temple (For some of the Second-Temple parallels, see Sukkah 4:5; Sanhedrin 11a; and Barukh 1:10-14. (My thanks to Prof. Martin Goodman for the last reference)).

  1. D) Laws and Customs whose Aim was to Maintain the Chastity of the Jews of Jerusalem

A number of the 18th century takkanot of Jerusalem are aimed at maintaining a high level of chastity and sexual purity in the city. Only further study will reveal if such laws were limited to that period of time.

1) A takkanah of 1730 rules that “no woman shall remain in the synagogue for the final kaddish neither at shaharit , minhah or ma’ariv ” (Freimann (above, note 33), pp. 208, 210). The obvious goal was to prevent men from looking at or mingling with the women after services.

2) Beginning in 1798, we hear of a custom that any girl under the age of twelve may not be married within the city, but rather the wedding is held at a nearby village (Schepansky (above, note 2), p. 269, n. 136). It was, apparently, considered unseemly to marry a girl under the age of twelve in the holy city of Jerusalem.

3) Finally, lest we think that men escaped this trend, a takkanah of 1749 ruled that single men between the age of twenty and sixty had to get married within four months. If not, they had to leave Jerusalem forthwith in order to seek a livelihood and a wife (“Takkanot Yerushalayim” in: I. Badhab, Kovetz Hayerushalmi III (5691), fol. 52a (Hebrew)).

  1. E) Laws and Customs which Express the Jewish Love for the City of Jerusalem

Finally, the Jews of Jerusalem and Jewish pilgrims developed various customs which expressed their love for Jerusalem in general, and for the Temple Mount and Western Wall in particular:

1) Beginning in the twelfth century, we hear of many customs associated with the Western Wall. Jews visiting the Wall would recite specific passages from the Bible and the Mishnah related to the Temple and the Sacrifices (Y. Y. Yehudah, Zion 3 (5689), pp. 135, 136, 140, 141 (Hebrew)). as well as special prayers composed by well-known rabbis (See, for example, R. Ishtori Hafarhi, Kaftor Vaferah , ed. Luncz (Jerusalem, 1897), p. 114 (Hebrew)).

2) Finally, R. Moshe Reisher reports in 1868 that

it is the custom [in Jerusalem] to circle the city on Hol Hamo’ed – men, women, and children – in order to fulfill the verse (Psalms 48:13): “Walk around Zion, circle it, count its towers” and this is an ancient custom (Reisher (above, note 25), fol. 47b).


As many have noted, Jewish tradition has always stressed that Torah study and theory must be grounded in practice (See, for example, Avot 4:5; Avot D’rabi Natan , I, chap. 24, ed. Schechter, p. 78; Sifrei Devarim 48, ed. Finkelstein, p. 113; Vayikra Rabbah 35:7, ed. Margaliyot, p. 826 and parallels). The Jewish attitude towards Jerusalem is in keeping with this approach. Love for the city of Jerusalem was not just studied in the Bible and Talmud and mentioned in the liturgy. It was expressed in the concrete form of laws and customs before the Destruction, after the Destruction throughout the Diaspora, and within the city from 70 C.E. until the present.

* This article is based on a lecture given at a conference on “Jerusalem: Its Sanctity and Centrality to Judaism, Chirstianity and Islam” organized by Prof. Lee Levine and sponsored by The Schechter Institute and other institutions in July 1996. This version appeared in Judaism 46/2 (Spring 1997), pp. 169-179. A lengthier version appeared in Jerusalem etc., ed. by Lee Levine, New York, 1999, pp. 408-423. An expanded Hebrew version of Part 3 appeared in Sidra 16 (5760), pp. 5-16.

All four volumes of Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin’s Responsa In A Moment – Halakhic Responses to Contemporary Issues as well as other books by the author are available for purchase from the Schocken-JTS Press Bookstore.

Prof. David Golinkin is the President of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. Feel free to reprint this article in its entirety. If you wish to abbreviate the article, please contact Rabbi Golinkin at:

The opinions expressed here are the author’s and in no way reflect an official policy of the Schechter Institute.

David Golinkin is President of The Schechter Institutes, Inc. and President Emeritus of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. For twenty years he served as Chair of the Va’ad Halakhah (Law Committee) of the Rabbinical Assembly which gives halakhic guidance to the Masorti Movement in Israel. He is the founder and director of the Institute of Applied Halakhah at Schechter and also directs the Center for Women in Jewish Law. Rabbi Professor Golinkin made aliyah in 1972, earning a BA in Jewish History and two teaching certificates from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He received an MA in Rabbinics and a PhD in Talmud from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he was also ordained as Rabbi. For a complete bio click here.

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