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Worth the Effort

One of the great mysteries, at least for me, in our Chumash is: How come Yerushalayim isn’t clearly identified? The Torah indicates our religious, judicial and governmental center as, ‘the site that your God will choose amidst all your tribes as God’s home’ (Devarim 12:5). Throughout the rest of Nevi’im and Ketuvim the name Yerushalayim appears 669 times, but not once in Chumash. It just gets hinted at throughout chapters 12 through 17 of Devarim. Why? 

Rabbeinu Bechaye insists that the eventual location of the Beit HaMikdash was well known by both Jews and Gentiles since Avraham met Malkizedek there, and later ascended to that spot for the AKEIDA, aborted sacrifice of Yitzchak. Then he suggest three reasons why the Torah would maintain the mystery of its location:  

1) If the nations of the world had known that in that location prayers are answered positively by God and sacrifices are welcome to Him, every nation would have made a supreme effort to take possession of that site.

2) If the Canaanites, at the time Moshe spoke these words, had heard of them they would have utterly destroyed it before the Jewish people had a chance to conquer it.  

3) Even the tribes of the Israelites would have argued among themselves in whose territory this site, would be located at the time the land was distributed among the tribes.   

Although everyone knew of the significance of Mount Moriah in the past, they had no idea of what this meant in terms of its future religious significance, in terms of the place God would choose as a dwelling place. It was this future significance of the site which was being protected by secrecy. 

That last point about the tribes fighting over this critical location, affected the actions of David HaMelech. When David purchased the threshing floor from Aravna the Yevusi, he collected the money from all of the tribes, as Rashi explains there (Shmuel II 24:24). The Kli Yakar sees this as a continuation of the Midrash about the rocks Ya’akov used on the night of his famous dream of the Ladder. If this is so, then the argument between the stones which ended in their becoming one stone was a harbinger of the future argument between the twelve tribes of God, that each tribe will say let the Righteous One of the world rest His head upon me, referring to the Holy Temple (comment on Breishit 28:11). 

These suggestions are all fine, but I’m more impressed with the approach of the second Gerrer Rebbe, the S’fat Emet, who explains: Our Sages taught, ‘Seek and you shall find’. That’s why it says ‘the place God will choose’ and does not reveal the location. We’re supposed to seek. Eretz Yisrael and the Beit HaMikdash depend on the AVODA of Yisrael, and the Sages say that means ‘seek’. So, to with Avraham Avinu, it says ‘go to the land that I will show you.’ 

We’re supposed to seek it and desire it. It’s this pursuit which becomes the quest of the Jewish nation. First the hunt for the correct location, then the discovery and reclaiming of that holy spot which has consumed our people for millennia. L’SHANA HABA B’YERUSHALAYIM has been our mantra. 

This thirst and craving has been the driving force behind Jewish survival. As David HaMelech sang, ‘It is the city which joins together’ (Tehillim 122:4).  That phrase can mean so many things. Probably the literal meaning is an aesthetic observation about Yerushalayim’s pleasing vista. But to me it designates Yerushalayim as ‘the place that joins all Jews into a national unit’. 

The Mei Shiloach adds to that idea in his comment on the Talmudic statement: when you pray direct your heart towards the Holy of Holies (Berachot 28b). When a Jew prays the effort is to discover the will of God. Prayer isn’t primarily about personal needs. It mostly concerns communion with God. We Jews perform this rite as both a private rendezvous with the Almighty and a national connection to the heart of every other Jew. We’re networking our souls in the effort of Divine Connection; Yerushalayim is the VPN. 

Our search, quest and desperate thirst for Yerushalayim is like a monumental love story. We are the eternal Romeo in pursuit of the immortal Juliet (or the lover pursuing DODI, ‘my beloved’, for those who prefer Shlomo to Shakespeare). Like all great romances there are tragedies along the road, but we believe in ‘They lived happily ever after’ at the end of our national saga.  

This Sunday we celebrate Yom Yerushalayim. It, of course, commemorates the reconquest of our national capital and heart. This celebrates the most momentous event in my lifetime. This war, which we didn’t want, saved the State of Israel from annihilation and brought us one step closer to the GEULA SHLEIMA, complete salvation by reuniting us with our Unifier, our national shrine and eternal capital. 

I have trouble understanding how so many Jews have adopted an aloof or even denigrating attitude towards this remarkable occasion. Are our memories so short? We can remember the Exodus 3300 years ago, but not God’s wondrous salvation 55 years ago. 

So, please, this Sunday thank and praise the IDF and God for the miracle of the 28th of Iyar. But also recognize this occasion as a step towards the greater goal of YERUSHALAYIM HaBENUYAH, soon to appear on Har HaMoriah, as Yeshayahu predicted: The mountain of the House of God will be firmly established as the highest of the mountains, And will be exalted above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it (2:2). Just remember the quest for Yerushalayim is always worth the effort, and never disappoints.   

About the Author
Born in Malden, MA, 1950. Graduate of YU, taught for Rabbi Riskin in Riverdale, NY, and then for 18 years in Efrat with R. Riskin and R. Brovender at Yeshivat Hamivtar. Spent 16 years as Educational Director, Cong. Agudath Sholom, Stamford, CT. Now teach at OU Center and Yeshivat Orayta.
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