I was learning Talmud with my study partner, Rabbi Hirschman, where it talks about Rabbi Elazar ben Rabbi Yosi seeing several objects from the Beis Hamikdash: the Menorah, the Table, the tzitz (crown) of the High Priest and the paroches (curtain). They also found the grindstone of Beis Avtinas.”
“I thought to myself,” continued Rabbi Shtencel, “Wow! This happened almost 2,000 years ago. I wonder where they are today.” I began to do research into the topic and discovered several instances of people claiming to have seen the Temple’s vessels firsthand. For example, there’s a famous story about Rabbi Yitzchak Bokovza, zt”l, of Tripoli, Libya. (He passed away in 1930.) In his work Beit Halachmi he recounts having gone to Rome for a wedding, where he met the Pope who took him to the Vatican and showed him the vessels of the Beis Hamikdash. The Arch of Titus, which dates back to the first century, also shows the Romans carrying the Menorah. To me, this obviously meant it was in their possession.
“Being that there’s a new pope now who’s supposed to be sympathetic to the Jews and considers Rabbi Skorka of Argentina a good friend, I figured it would be a good time to reach out to the Vatican’s representative in Israel regarding the vessels.