Monday, November 5, 2012

The Mystery of Bar Kokhba by Leibel Reznick

I was recently introduced to one of R' Leibel Reznick's books titled The Mystery of Bar Kokhba (Jason Aronson, 1996). In it the author attempts to shed some light on the enigmatic figure of Shimon Bar Kochba, the military leader who led the Jewish revolt against Rome some decades after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.

One of the more intriguing theories which R' Reznick presents is that Bar Kochba not only recaptured Jerusalem from Roman hands but proceeded to build the Third Temple upon the Temple Mount. Included among his many proofs for this theory is the fact that the raised platform which exists today on the Temple Mount is precisely the correct size to have served as the Courtyard floor of the Third Temple. He writes that this platform measures 540 feet from east to west by 550 feet from north to south and is thus too large to have been the 187x135-amah Courtyard of the Second Temple and too small to have been the 500x500-amah Temple Mount of the Second Temple. Rather, the raised platform may have been the Courtyard of the Third Temple built by Bar Kochba which, according to the prophecy of Ezekiel, measured 346 amos from north to south and 340 amos from east to west.

R' Reznick does list some counter arguments to the claim that a Third Temple was built in Jerusalem. To those I would like to add the following observations:

1. The platform is not rectangular.
The photo below shows the Temple Mount along with the approximate dimensions of the raised platform, measured using Google's Distance Measurement Tool.
The raised platform upon the Temple Mount (Google Maps)
Now, although the measurements are approximate, the platform is obviously not rectangular but trapezoidal and the dimensions stated by R' Reznick only hold true on two of the four sides (the north and west). For this platform to have been the rectangular Courtyard of the Third Temple we must assume that, over time, the structure either eroded or was dismantled, producing the current shape of the platform today.

2. The Courtyard of the Third Temple does not measure 346 by 340 amos.
A careful reading of Tosafos Yom Tov, whom R' Reznick cites as the source for his dimensions of the Third Temple, reveals that the interior of the Courtyard measures only 312 amos from north to south and 317 amos from east to west. See Diagram A below.

Even if we assume that the raised platform encompasses the thickness of the Courtyard walls - which were 6 amos thick - this would result in an area of only 324 by 329 amos. See Diagram B below.

Another point which emerges here is that the Third Temple Courtyard is longer from east to west than from north to south, while the platform dimensions are the opposite, being longer from north to south than from east to west. The approach (apparently) taken by the author to correct this inconsistency was to include the dimensions of the large entrance halls built outside the Courtyard gates in the north, south, and east. Each hall was 11 amos long, so by including the two halls in the north and south (22 amos) and the one hall in the east (11 amos), the "Courtyard" now measures 346 by 340 amos. See Diagram C.
Dimensions of the Third Temple Courtyard: Three Possibilities

3. This theory is inconsistent with R' Reznick's view regarding the Altar.
One of R' Reznick's other theories is that the Dome of the Rock is not, as popularly believed, the place of the Holy of Holies but rather the location of the Outer Altar. The location of the Outer Altar was the same in the First, Second, and (speedily in our days) the Third Temple, thus if we are to maintain that the current raised platform represents the Courtyard of the Third Temple then the location of the Altar would be at its center. As seen in the overlay below, the center of the Third Temple does not coincide with the Dome of the Rock.
Plan of the Third Temple overlayed upon the Temple Mount


  1. Do any other poskim hold like Rabbi Reznick? What would this mean for others (such as Rabbi Tendler) who permit ascending the Temple Mount based on their understanding of restricted areas?

    Foreign fan

  2. I have not made any sort of serious study of contemporary halachic opinions, so I am not able to comment on whether Rabbi Reznick's theory is supported by others or what its ramifications might be.

  3. I copied the blog on Rabbi Leibel Reznick's book on Bar Kokhba and sent it to him. He asked me if I can get your email address so he can reply directly to you.

    Thank you for the interesting blog,

    Jeremy Friedman

  4. I appreciate your getting in touch with Rabbi Reznick. After publishing this post in November I also sent it to R' Reznick (to both his and addresses) but did not get a reply. Perhaps he could check his email from 11/13/12 and retrieve my address that way. Or post a reply to the blog.

  5. I am not certain if the campsci site is active. His verizon account was discontinued several years ago. I will ask him if I may place his email address here.

    Have a wonderful Shabbos