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Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues 9.1 (2005) 126-134

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Tehinnat Hanashim Levinyan Hamikdash
The Supplication of the Mothers for the Rebuilding of the Temple:

Excerpts and Commentary


"On account of you, Rachel, I will return Israel to their place." According to a midrash on the Book of Lamentations, this was God's response to the plea of Rachel the matriarch that He restore the exiled people to its home.1 This source describes how various figures, including the patriarchs, Moses, and Jeremiah, came before the Almighty following the destruction of the Temple to plead on the people's behalf. Then Rachel came and presented her arguments. This source served as the initial inspiration for my composition of Tehinnat hanashim levinyan hamikdash.

Tehinnat hanashim,2 excerpts of which are presented below, is a literary work written in the style of the aggadic midrashim. It depicts biblical and post-biblical female figures who beseech God, on the basis of their merits, to rebuild the Temple. The work portrays the connection between women and the Temple throughout the generations. Its thematic components are based on the talmudic, midrashic, and aggadic literature, as well as the Zohar.

Soon after its publication, I sent a copy of Tehinnat hanashim to the late Chief Rabbi of Tel-Aviv, Rabbi Hayyim David Halevy, along with a letter asking whether it would be permissible to recite this Tehinnah on the eve of Tisha be'Av, the traditional day of mourning for the destruction of the Temple. He responded affirmatively, except to say that the concluding passage, which contains words of consolation, may be read only after noontime on the day of Tisha be'Av. Since its publication in 1996, Tehinnat hanashim has been recited [End Page 126] every year in various communities and by individuals, on either the eve or the day of Tisha be'Av, as an extra-liturgical text.

The times of the figures who speak in Tehinnat hanashim extend to the end of the Second Temple period. I chose this terminus ad quem because it marks the culmination of an epoch in terms of the Jews' direct relationship to the Temple. The Tehinnah also emphasizes that, with the destruction of the Temple, the seeds of consolation were sown, a concept expressed in the midrashic tradition that the Messiah was born on the day of the destruction.3 An additional reason for the time limit is the paucity of sources about women in later periods.

Excerpts and Commentary

The Destruction of the Temple

When the Second Temple was destroyed the souls of our fathers and mothers
descended to the Temple Mount
and composed lamentations.
At that time, the Holy One, blessed be He,
turned to them from the heavens on high and said:
Why are my beloved people reciting dirges in my home?
Thereupon the fathers said:
We are ashamed,
that strangers could enter Your Sanctuary.
Our holy and glorious Temple has been consumed by fire,
all that was dear to us has been laid waste,
and Your people are dispersed amongst the nations.
(Tehinnat hanashim, p. 5)

Hannah's Prayers

Then the soul of Hannah spoke:
On the pilgrimage festivals
I would ascend to the Temple in Shiloh [End Page 127]
and behold all of Israel spread out before me. I said to You:
Master of the Universe, Your multitudes serve You
and I have not even one of them?
And You have now scattered Your people
amongst the nations of the world,
and they cannot go up and appear in worship before You
to perform their obligations in the House of Your choice,
in the great and holy House
upon which Your Name was proclaimed,
because of the hand that struck Your Sanctuary.
And because I often went to pray in the Temple
and supplicate before You,
my lips moving silently,
You heard my prayer and remembered me.
Will You not remember the people of Israel
who endure...


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