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    Rav Tzvi Hirsch Kalischer (19th cen., Poland) famously proposed bringing sacrifices today (i.e., the 1860’s) even though there is no Temple standing. He brilliantly argues in his 1862 book, Derishas Tziyon, that there is no need for a Temple in order to bring sacrifices. He was roundly critiqued by the greatest scholars of his day, but since he was in their league he continued debating the subject. The literature on this is vast and we will discuss here only one aspect of the issue.

    I. The Sweet Aroma of Sacrifices

    Rav Ya’akov Ettlinger (19th cen., Germany) wrote a response to Rav Kalischer, now printed as the first responsum in his 1868 collection of responsa, Binyan Tziyon. Rav Ettlinger summarizes Rav Kalischer’s main arguments and disputes them. He then offers his own counterproof from the verse: “I will lay your cities waste and bring your sanctuaries to desolation, and I will not smell the fragrance of your sweet aromas” (Lev. 26:31). After the destruction, G-d will not “smell the fragrance of your sweet aromas,” i.e. accept sacrifices. Therefore, we may not bring sacrifices until the Temple is rebuilt. (Netziv (19th cen., Russia; Ha’amek Davar, Lev. 26:31) offers the same reading of the verse but adds that since the Pesach sacrifice is not considered a sweet aroma, it alone may be offered today.)

    In 1868, Rav Kalischer published additions to Derishas Tziyon in a booklet titled Shelom Yerushalayim. He appended to that booklet a response to Rav Ettlinger’s critique titled Shivas Tziyon. This essay includes notes titled Michtav Me-Eliyahu by Rav Eliyahu Guttmacher, a colleague and supporter of Rav Kalischer.

    In section 4 of Shivas Tziyon (2002 Etzioni edition of Derishas Tziyon, p. 263), Rav Kalischer responds to Rav Ettlinger’s original counterproof. His main halachic argument is that Rav Ettlinger invented this prohibition from the text of the Torah. What gives him the right to deduce a law from the text like a Talmudic sage? Rav Ettlinger could have responded as we recently did to a similar criticism of Rav Jonathan Sacks (“Rabbi Sacks and the Stranger,” Oct 19 issue), that you may reach conclusions from a simple reading of the biblical text.

    Rav Kalischer (ibid., p. 264) also objects that Rav Ettlinger’s position gives support to those reformers who remove the sacrificial service from the prayers. This was a bit of a low blow because Rav Ettlinger was a vehement opponent of these types of reforms. He actively fought against the development of Reform and his Minchas Ani on the Torah contains many polemical essays against reformers.

    II. Different Exiles

    Rav Eliyahu Guttmacher (ibid., p. 265) likewise responds to Rav Ettlinger’s counterproof. He suggests that G-d will not “smell the fragrance of your sweet aromas” not as a punishment but as a consequence. The punishment is the destruction of the Temple and the altars. Because of that destruction, G-d will not smell the aromas of the sacrifices. If we would rebuild the altar and offer sacrifices, G-d would smell the aromas of the sacrifices. In other words, this is not a prohibition that cannot change but a consequence of a reality that can change. Additionally (ibid.), he points out that most of the punishments listed in that section were one-time events (e.g. eating the flesh of children – Lev. 26:29). Why should G-d continue to refrain from smelling the aromas of sacrifices over the generations?

    Rav Guttmacher further (ibid., p. 266) points to the commentary of Rabbenu Bachya ben Asher on that verse (Lev. 26:31). According to Rabbenu Bachya (and the Ramban, I’m not sure why he does not quote him), this entire passage is referring to the destruction of the First Temple, while the related passage in Deut. 28 is referring to the destruction of the Second Temple. Therefore, this verse is irrelevant to today’s situation.

    III. Synagogues Today

    However, Rav Ettlinger has a proof that, at least on a halachic level if not on a peshat level, this verse refers to the current exile. The Mishnah in Megillah (28a) states that synagogues that are in ruins retain their holiness, and quotes the above verse: “I will… bring your sanctuaries to desolation” (even in desolation they are still called sanctuaries). Clearly, the verse is also talking about now and the end of the verse can be equally applied to today’s situation.

    Rav Guttmacher (pp. 264-266) struggles with this and offers a number of answers. I think the answer is quite simple. According to the majority of commentators, the halachah in the Mishnah–that sanctuaries have sanctity today–is only of rabbinic origin. While the Yere’im (no. 324), and possibly the Rambam (list of commandments at the beginning of Mishneh Torah, prohibition 65), hold that this law is biblical, most others hold that it is at most rabbinic (see the Ramban quoted by the Ran on the Rif, Megillah 8a s.v. u-man de-shari). According to them, the biblical verse cited is not the source for this law; it is only an asmachta brought to support the rabbinic law. Therefore, the Mishnah cannot be used as proof that the verse is referring to today’s situation.