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Rabbi Yehoshua Alt

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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

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In 1925 there was an interesting exchange of letters between R’ Yosef Chaim Zonnenfeld (1848-1932), chief rabbi of Yerushalayim, and R’ Shimon Sofer[1] (1850-1944), the rav of Erlau, Hungary, about the possibility of reinstating the mizbeach (“Altar”) on the Har Habayis (“Temple Mount”) in order to allow karbonos (“sacrifices”) to be offered even in the absence of the Beis Hamikdash. R’ Shimon Sofer wrote: “Since Hashem has given us favor in the eyes of the rulers of Eretz Yisrael who allow us to conduct our matters entirely in accordance with the Torah, perhaps it is now the time to consider erecting the mizbeach on the Har Habayis and offer karbonos on it as was done at the beginning of the second Beis Hamikdash when karbonos were brought before the Beis Hamikdash had been rebuilt.[2] It is also stated in Yerushalmi that the Beis Hamikdash will initially be built with only the minimum of a mizbeach on which to offer karbonos…[3] If Yerushalayim rabbanim will jointly request permission from the British authorities in this matter, it will undoubtedly be granted. Money is not an issue because all Jews will gladly contribute… The actual halachos about the sacrifice procedures and kohanim can be discussed by the sages of Eretz Yisrael and decided by the majority…”


R’ Yosef Chaim responded in a letter: “I am afraid that you have been misinformed regarding the goodwill of the government towards allowing us to conduct our affairs in complete accordance with the Torah. I will relate a small incident that illustrates the true state of affairs. When the Jewish High Commissioner, Sir Herbert Samuel, came here several years ago, I sent him a letter requesting that we be allowed to post a sign on the road leading to the Har Habayis to warn Jews of the Torah’s prohibition against entering the Har Habayis in our present state of tumah, ritual contamination. Many are unaware of this law and as a result transgress an isur kares (violation punishable by spiritual excision). I explained the severity of the prohibition to the commissioner but he declined this request because such a sign would offend irreligious Jews. Besides, the Temple area has been in the possession of the Arabs for quite some time, and even false rumors alleging that Jews were attempting to seize control of the area from them have in the past provoked Arab hatred against us. If Jews would openly acknowledge such intentions, terrible consequences, G-d forbid, would result. Consequently, we must await Hashem’s salvation and daven that He send us Moshiach and we will rejoice in His salvation speedily and in our days…”

[1] He was one of 10 children born to R’ Shmuel Binyamin Sofer, known as the Ksav Sofer. In the early 1870s, he lived both in Uman and Kiev, where he became known as a brilliant Torah scholar. Despite his young age, he was offered the position of Chief Rabbi of Kiev, an offer he demurred. Thereafter, he lived some two years in Krakow, in the company of his uncle, also named R’ Shimon Sofer (author of the Michtav Sofer). Around 1875, he returned to Pressburg and married his cousin, with whom he had 13 children. He led the Jewish community in Erlau for some 64 years. In his old age, when he lost his eyesight, one of his students would read aloud the gemara with Rashi and Tosafos to him. R’ Sofer would correct the boy whenever he made a mistake, as he possessed an exceptional memory. In June, 1944, the Germans deported R’ Sofer and his entire community—some 3,000 Jews to Auschwitz. They arrived on June 2 (the 21st of Sivan), and were gassed a few hours later. R’ Sofer was 94 at the time of his death. He authored a sefer of responsa called Hisorerus Teshuva and Shir Maon on the Torah. He was able to pay for the publication of these works only with the help of his wife, who sold all her jewelry to cover the printing costs. From his three wives, R’ Sofer had 15 children, 8 of which were killed in the Holocaust.

[2] Ezra 3:2-6.

[3] R’ Shimon Sofer then refers R’ Yosef Chaim to the comments of Tosafos Yom Tov to the Mishna in Maaser Sheini 5:2. He also mentions the exchange concerning this matter between his ancestors—R’ Akiva Eiger and the Chassam Sofer—as recorded in Shu”t Chassam Sofer, Yoreh Deah 236, and the views of other authorities cited in his own work Hisorerus Teshuva 4:29.

Author of three books including the recently released Extraordinary Insights

Listen to the short Fascinating Insights Podcast at

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