|The opening words of this week’s Torah portion start with, “Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse…” Blessings
were promised if Israel walked in accordance with God’s commands.
Curses came when Israel ignored God and walked contrary to Him. However,
both the blessings and curses were for Israel’s good. They were to
bring Israel back to God. They were a constant reminder to remember God
in every circumstance. One of the blessings we read of in this portion
is God’s desire to dwell amongst His people, in the place of His
choosing. The most important place in the whole world is talked about in
this Parsha. Deuteronomy 12 says, “…you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place.” |
But, then comes the mystery… That “place” is never actually mentioned by name…Why would the most important place in world, a place chosen by God for His dwelling, never be mentioned by name in the Torah? And where/when do we find out the location?
To begin, we must ask the question, “why is the place of God’s choosing never mentioned by name?” This question is answered by Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon (Maimonides. 1135-1204) in his work “Moreh Nevukhim.” (“Guide to the Perplexed.”)
He writes that God never explicitly named the site of His choosing for 3 specific reasons. Here is what he wrote, “First, if the nations had learnt that this place was to be the centre of the highest religious truths, they would occupy it, or fight about it most perseveringly. Secondly, those who were then in possession of it might destroy and ruin the place with all their might. Thirdly, and chiefly, every one of the twelve tribes would desire to have this place in its borders and under its control; this would lead to divisions and discord…”
God kept secret the future location of His eternal resting place to preserve it from destruction or occupation by the surrounding nations, as well as, to stop the tide of jealousy that might come from the different tribes in Israel.
figured out the reason why God kept the location of His eternal resting
place unnamed and unidentified. Now, what is the place of His choosing
and why? Obviously, I could skip over this and just tell you that the
site is Jerusalem, specifically Har HaBayit, or in English, the “Temple
Mount.” I could tell you to read in 1 Kings 6, where God says, “…I have chosen Jerusalem, that My name may be there…” And
that would be it, case closed; God chose Jerusalem, showing David the
site of His choice, and we shouldn’t need to ask why He chose it, or,
what significance there was to this place. We should take God at His
word without asking questions. Right?|
A very Jewish answer to the question posed above would be, “Yes and No.” Yes, we should take God at His word. However, God doesn’t mind questions. The second, third, fourth and fifth questions in the Bible were all asked by God.
God’s first question in the Bible was the question, “Where are you?” Until this past week, I always heard this question in a negative light. God knew where Adam was in the Garden of Eden. He knew that Adam and Eve had sinned. In my mind, God asked the question only to expose their shame. So, they would know themselves to be sinners and God as the Righteous Judge. God’s question was to convict and reprove Adam and Eve for their disobedience. Or was it? The Hebrew word used for the question “where are you” is “ayeka.” The fascinating thing is that you can also translate that same Hebrew word as “eichah” which means “lamentation.”
What if God’s call wasn’t a call of reproof and correction, but instead, it was the breaking heart of a Father who sees His children too ashamed to come near Him. Maybe the call of “where are you” was the painful, heart cry of a Parent wanting to comfort His children, but they were too afraid of Him.
The reason I go through all this length to explain God’s heart behind the question “where are you” is because it is this question that leads us back to God choosing a place to dwell again among His people. His desire is to be reunited with the crown of His creation — humankind. The choosing of a place and people were only the beginning of God’s plan to bring the entire world back to Him.
God didn’t choose a random place to put His name. In fact, while there are no explicit mentions of the place of God’s choosing in the Torah, we can do a quick word study that will bring clarity to how we know that Jerusalem was always the place God had in mind.
The first hint we read of the city Jerusalem is in Genesis 14, where Abram meets Melchizedek, king and priest of the city Salem. It says, “Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.”
How does this show Salem to be the place of God’s choosing? Because the name Salem is mentioned only one other place in the Tanach. Psalm 76 tells us, “In Salem also is His tabernacle, and His dwelling place in Zion.”
Genesis 22 gives us more evidence as to the location of God’s choosing. The chapter starts by God testing Abraham. Here is the test, “Then [God] said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’”
Amazingly enough, again, there is only one other place in the Bible where the word “Moriah” is used. We read of it in 2 Chronicles 3, “Now Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David…”
Obviously, the place God chose to put His name had a lot of Biblical significance. It may have been hidden from plain sight in the Torah, but it was still there, tucked away as something important to God.
Why is the Temple Mount important to God? And why should it be important to us? There are a lot of reasons the Temple Mount is important, but for the sake of my readers I’m going to keep it short.
Earlier, I brought up the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. What many people don’t realize today is that the location of the Garden of Eden is the same place as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Ezekiel 28 brings these two places together in verses 13 and 14. “You were in Eden, the garden of God…You were on the holy mountain of God…” In these two verses it equates Eden with the Mountain of God.
Also in the Midrash Tehillim 92 it tells us, “‘Now the Lord God took the man…’ (Genesis 2:15) From where did He take him? From the place of the Holy Temple, and he settled outside of the Garden of Eden on Mount Moriah, as it says ‘…to till the soil, whence he had been taken.’” (Genesis 3:23)
as well it connects the Holy Temple to the Garden of Eden…That’s
because they’re one and the same. What we call the Temple Mount today is
the place on earth where God has chosen to dwell with man, from the
beginning of time in the Garden up until now and beyond. God called to
man in the Garden and since then has not stopped calling out to humanity
“where are you.” |
The place God chose is the place He is coming back to. This is the reason it is important to us. There are certain things that need to change, such as a Temple to be built, a house of prayer for all nations to be established, wars to cease, baseless hatred removed, love and harmony found in the world. Yes, we have a lot of work ahead. But it all starts in the Garden. So this time when God says “where are you” instead of replying “I was afraid…so I hid” may all of us be able to reply with the words of the Prophet Isaiah, “Hineni, Shlacheni” (Here am I, Send me)
And as God sends us out into the world may our work speed up the time of the coming redemption, as the Prophet Micah foretold, “…it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains… Many nations shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord… He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion the law shall go forth …Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore.” May it be so, soon and in our days!
Many blessings from the Mount of Blessing!