Yoni Mozeson
FInding God's hiding places

Even the Temple gates could not tolerate falsehood

The Midrash analyses all of Jewish leadership by way of the elevated status of the Levites who worked in the Mishkan. What emerges is that in the house that God dwells in, there can be no hypocrisy or falsehood. Perhaps that’s why the Levites were chosen to serve there. The Levites kept the faith in Egypt despite the rapid assimilation among the other tribes. According to Midrash Tanchuma the other tribes even stopped circumcising their children. And, of course, the Levites not only refrained from worshiping the Golden Calf, they were the only tribe to heed Moshe’s call מִ֥י לַהאֵלָ֑י “Whoever is for the Lord, join me!” (Exodus 32:26)

Being tested is a prerequisite for Jewish leadership

The Levites exhibited extreme loyalty to God and self sacrifice under trying conditions, According to the Midrash this is part of a process necessary for all Jewish leaders:

אֵין הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַעֲלֶה אֶת הָאָדָם לִשְׂרָרָה, עַד שֶׁבֹּחֵן וּבוֹדֵק אוֹתוֹ תְּחִלָּה.

“God does not elevate anyone to leadership until that person is first  tested and examined” (Midrash Tanchuma Behaalotcha, 8:1)

The elders who helped govern the Jewish People were made up of those who took a beating from the Egyptian taskmasters meant for their fellow slaves. (In contrast to certain Jewish “Kapos” who beat the Jews in accordance with their nazi taskmasters ). Needless to say, the Avot were tested

Boaz and David passed their tests by invoking an oath 

The Midrash focuses on two particular tests which were critical for Jewish destiny. Tests in which it was hard to tell right from wrong. Both were fundamentally intertwined with the Messianic lineage. The first one was Boaz, the redeemer of Ruth and the great grandfather of King David. The Book of Ruth relates that Boaz awoke in the middle of the night and saw a beautiful woman (Ruth) lying at his feet. The Midrash fills in the arguments of the (Yetzer Harah) – a voice within Boaz that wanted to have relations with her at that moment. Since Boaz was the leading spiritual leader of his day, the voice spoke in an authoritative tone rooted in Jewish law:

אַתָּה פָּנוּי וְהִיא פְּנוּיָה, הֲרֵי הַשָּׁעָה שֶׁתִּזָּקֵק לָהּ..

You are available [Boaz was a widower] and she is available. This is a perfect opportunity to have relations with her” (Ibid, 10:1)

To fortify his resolve, Boaz made a vow in God’s name not to touch her that night.

The great grandson of Boaz, King David, also grappled with a moral dilemma.  Although he was anointed king by the prophet Shmuel, Shaul was still king. Shaul was relentlessly trying to kill David. When the opportunity arose that David could kill Saul he was conflicted. Once again the voice within Daveed was couched in Jewish Law:

אִלּוּ נָפַלְתָּ אַתָּה בְּיָדוֹ, לָא הָיָה מְרַחֵם עָלֶיךָ וְהָיָה הוֹרְגְךָ. וּמִן הַתּוֹרָה, מֻתָּר לְהָרְגוֹ, שֶׁהֲרֵי רוֹדֵף הוּא.

“If you fell in his hands he would not pity you, he would kill you, Furthermore, according to Jewish Law, if someone is pursuing you to kill you, (Rodef) you are allowed to kill him first in self defense”  (Ibid).

David, like his great grandfather, took an oath with God’s name to fortify his resolve not to harm King Saul.

Even the Temple gates could not tolerate falsehood

As a further proof that the light that emanated from the Menorah had to be in a place free of falsehood, the Midrash tells the story of King Shlomo’s inauguration of the Temple of Jerusalem:

It seems that when he wanted to bring the tabernacle into the Temple the gates did not open for him. King Shlomo appealed to the gates with this verse from Psalms:

, הִנָּשְׂאוּ פִּתְחֵי עוֹלָם וְיָבֹא מֶלֶךְ הַכָּבוֹד

“Be lifted up,  you everlasting doors, so that the King of glory may enter.” (Psalms 24:7)

The gates thought that when Shlomo proclaimed the words “King of glory” he was referring to himself. The gates thought that the temple was no place for such haughtiness so they were ready to come crashing down on Shlomo. However, Shlomo continued the verse which clarified which king he was referring to:

הצְבָאוֹת הוּא מֶלֶךְ הַכָּבוֹד סֶלָה

The Lord of Hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.” (Tehillim, 24:10)

The gates realized that Shlomo was referring to God all along so they opened for him. God
rewarded the gates. During the destruction of the Temple they sunk into the ground so they could not be carried off as spoils.* Even the gates of the Temple served to test those who sought Jewish leadership (Midrash Tanchuma Behaalotcha 9:1).

One of the major themes of the Midrash is that we are all put through a series of tests – some more tenacious than others. However, the Midrash seems to intensify this assessment when it comes to Jewish leadership. Along with  much greater responsibility comes much greater tests. 

*This would imply that the Golden Menorah that God fashioned was also never looted, rather It, along with the ark and other items were hidden away. The Temple’s Menorah engraved on the famous Titus Arch in Rome would have to be a different Menorah. It too came from the Temple but it was one of the other lamps in the Temple and not the one that was lit every day.

About the Author
(Almost 100 Midrash Video summaries can be found on my youtube playlist: After college and Semicha at Yeshiva University my first pulpit was Ogilvy where I wrote TV commercials for brands like American Express, Huggies and Duracell. My passion is Midrash Tanchuma. I am an Architect of Elegant Marketing Solutions at We are living in (where else) the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem.
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