THE TEMPLE MOUNT
Who can ascend the mountain of God and who can remain in His holy place? (Psalms 24:3).
Within the walls of old Jerusalem were three distinct sections: the general city, the Temple Mount and the Temple proper. These paralleled
the three sections of the desert encampment: the surrounding camp of Israel, the innermore camp of the Levites, and the innermost camp of the Divine Presence in the Sanctuary proper (Yad, Beit HaBechirah 7:11). Each camp had a distinct degree of sanctity which increased as one went from camp to innermore camp. If a person became impure he would be banned from one or all the camps, depending on the level of impurity.
Therefore, inside the camp of Israel, within Jerusalem's city walls, a leper could not enter he had to be ostracized from the entire Jewish people. Inside the camp of Levi, upon the Temple Mount, someone who had had a bodily emission could not enter. And inside the Divine Camp, into the Temple proper, someone who had come in contact with death could not enter (ibid., 3).
But aside from being physical barriers, the walls of the city, the walls of the Temple Mount, and those of the Temple proper, symbolize spiritual barriers as well. Material walls may define limits of physical entry, but pure spirit defies the laws of bodily space. Thus, even if you are only spiritually included in those physically excluded, you are outside the walls even if you are physically within.
Into the Inner City of Jerusalem, which symbolizes the unity of the people, a spiritual leper cannot enter he is cut off from the entire Jewish people. He is guilty of the most heinous of crimes, which estranges him completely: he slandered his fellow Jew (Erkhin 16b). Because of this, until he purifies himself of his sin, he is not considered part of the people.
But what brought him to do such a lowly act? It was anger, jealousy, and false pride. For when you forget who you are, a spark of the Divine, and you forget that so is your fellow Jew, you overinflate a false, grandiose self-image, to compensate for that lost sense of true pride. Instead of experiencing that true inner greatness, you feel only a vacuum inside. So painful is this loss that you protect yourself with
the mask of My self is greater than the self of others.
But this stretched-out balloon is so fragile, because it depends on your always feeling better than others, so when you see someone else who has something you lack, you feel insecure and on the defensive. Sometimes the danger seems so great to your mask that you feel compelled to destroy the attacker. So deeply jealous and angered are you by this that you slander to vanquish your attacker. Where does this come from? From not knowing your true self, from being outside the camp of the Jewish people. How fitting is the law of the leper to the crime: he is ostracized from the entire people.
So, to get past city walls you must know your true greatness, yet remain humbly just part of the people.
But don't stop at this. Continue to grow push on to enter yet further. In order to enter the Inner Temple Mount, you must purify yourself of bodily emission. Though within the general camp natural desires are accepted, to draw closer to God you must disengage
from them. You need not deny them when permissible and proper, but you must be their master, free of compulsion. You must rise above your animal drives and transcend your urge for pure physical pleasure you must be able to partake without a blind driving force if
you want to set foot on the holy mountain.
Still, the climb is so arduous, the ascent so steep, at every step we feel as if God does not want us. We feel pushed back down however we try. There's no hope! Why not just surrender?
But this voice of despair is God's Voice in disguise to arouse us to surrender to Him. To interpret this Voice as that of despair is to miss out on your chance for closeness with Him. When you realize that this Voice is God's Call to you to abandon ego claims to your efforts, to stop working so hard and let Him work through you, you will immediately experience that closeness. When you feel you cannot continue, open your eyes to God in disguise and there you are in the Temple! You have cleansed yourself from the death of despair inherent to the spiritual ascent. You have reached the peak of ecstasy, finding God in the eternal here-and-now... (Mei HaShiloach, Numbers 5:2).
Who can ascend the Mountain of God, Who can remain in His Holy Place? One whose `hands are clean' of assuming a false self, whose `heart is pure' of compelling thought, and who `does not vainly claim credit for himself...' (cf. Minchat Shai, ad. loc.).