Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Why is Jerusalem Not Mentioned in the Torah?

In the first aliyah of parashat Re’eh, the Torah mentions 16 times an unknown place where God will choose to rest His Presence. Now, thousands of years later, we know that place to be the Temple Mount on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. Why does the Torah not identify more specifically the place that God will select?

Maimonides asks the same question. In his Guide to the Perplexed (Part III, 45) he offers 3 reasons. First, Maimonides suggests, it was to protect the security of the holy areas. Armed with the location that the Jews will sanctify as their capital, Israel’s enemies will seek it out and attempt, politically, to prevent the Jews from acquiring it in the first place.

Second, the nation that occupied the area that would become Israel’s capital and most sacred site could destroy it prior to the Jews acquiring it. Maimonides then offers a third reason, which he identifies as the strongest reason why the name and location of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount were not identified in the Torah. This reason is purely intra-national. If all the Jews were to know prior to entering the Promised Land where the capital city and the Temple Mount would be, they would all endeavor to receive that area in their tribal allotment. Remember that the Holy Land was divided up through the urim and tummim. The urim and tummim that were folded into the High Priest’s Breastplate, would answer questions posed by lighting up the letters on the Breastplate which would provide the letters of the answer to the question including how to divide the land of Israel. Each tribe’s apportionment was clearly decreed by God. Maimonides argues that had the tribes known where Jerusalem would be situated, they would likely have maneuvered to try to host the holy city and venue for the Temple in their patrimony, or even fight each other over the plot. For this reason, concludes Maimonides, the building of the Temple is to occur only after the coronation of a king who would unify the country.

In the end, the Temple was built on land shared by the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.

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