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Parshas Pinchas (5772)

The Messiah and the White House

By Rabbi David Zauderer

You may not be aware of this, but the present White House Chief of Staff – appointed by President Barack Obama himself - is an Orthodox Jew named Jacob Lew.

[I saw a funny joke about this going around on the web …. Here are the top five changes at the White House now that an Orthodox Jewish guy is running the show:
5. Chief of Staff will carry actual staff
4. President often mistakenly called “Baruch”
3. Oval Office suddenly renovated to shape of Star of David
2. U.S. never to pay retail again for nuclear warheads
1. "Yes, We Can!" changed to "We Can, No?"]

I find this kind of interesting because Jewish tradition teaches us that one day in the not-too-distant future, a Torah-observant Jew will not only be Chief of Staff at the White House but will actually be the “President”. Let me explain:

You see, we are presently in the middle of what is known traditionally as the “Three Weeks” – which began with the Fast Day of Shivah Assar B’Tammuz (this year on July 8th) and ends three weeks later on the Fast day of Tishah B’Av (this year on July 29th) - the saddest period in the Jewish calendar in which we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple and the loss of our homeland, and we pray to G-d to return His Divine Presence to Zion and His people to Jerusalem.

When Moses prayed to G-d to allow him to enter into the Land of Israel (see Deuteronomy 3:23-25), he asked G-d to be able to see “this good mountain and the Lebanon”. Rash”i quotes a Midrash which explains that “this good mountain” refers to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, while “the Lebanon” is an epithet for the Holy Temple itself. The Temple is called Lebanon from lavan, “white”, because it provided atonement for the Jewish people through the various offerings that they brought there, and thus “whitened” sin.

So it turns out that the first “White House” ever built is not the one in Washington, DC, but rather on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. And Jewish tradition tells us that when the King Messiah – the “President” of the Jewish people – finally reveals himself to all of mankind, the Holy Temple – our very own “White House” - will be rebuilt and will last forever.

It is interesting to note that there is a difference of opinion among the medieval commentaries as to who exactly will build this Jewish “White House” on the Temple Mount (behind the present-day Western Wall) when the Messiah arrives.

Maimonides writes in his magnum opus, the Mishneh Torah, in the Laws of Kings and their Wars (11:1): “In the future, the Messianic king will arise and renew the Davidic dynasty, restoring it to its initial sovereignty. He will build the Temple and gather the dispersed of Israel.”

Rash”i and other commentators argue with Maimonides and hold that the Third Temple will be built by G-d Himself in Heaven and will miraculously appear on the Temple Mount when the Messiah arrives. They base their opinion on a verse in Exodus 15:17 in which the Jewish people, led by Moses, pray to G-d that in the future “You will bring them [the Jewish people] and implant them on the mount of Your heritage, the foundation of Your dwelling place, that You, G-d, have made – the Sanctuary, my Lord, that Your hands established”.

[In case you are wondering what exactly will happen to the Dome of the Rock that was built by the Muslims over 1300 years ago and which, according to most Halachic authorities, is situated on the exact spot where the Holy Temple needs to be rebuilt, there are basically two possibilities: Either G-d will do His magic and remove the Dome from its present location in a supernatural way, or, a more natural and likely scenario is that when the Messiah arrives and brings peace to the world, the Muslims will gladly dismantle it themselves, recognizing at that time the Jewish people’s rightful claim to the Temple Mount.]

May we all merit to live to see the Messianic Era when the entire Jewish people will be united once again, and we will have our very own Jewish “President” in our very own “White House” – built by G-d or the Messiah – and, as Maimonides writes in Mishneh Torah (Laws of Kings 12:5): “In that era, there will be neither famine or war, envy or competition, for good will flow in abundance and all the delights will be freely available as dust. The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G-d”. Amen.

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