"The place which HaShem your G-d shall choose"
Moshe rabbenu - Moses our master - continues in this week's Torah reading of Re'eh, ("See!"), to diligently prepare Israel spiritually for entry into the land of Israel. For the first time Moshe makes mention of "the place which HaShem your G-d shall choose" (ibid), referring, of course, to the future location of the Holy Temple. He will go on to mention it six more times in this week's reading alone. It is clearly an integral part of G-d's plan and vision for Israel and Moshe takes pains to inculcate this Temple consciousness into the people. But why is Moshe so vague about the topographical location of "the place which HaShem your G-d shall choose?" (ibid) We know that Jerusalem was the site chosen by G-d even before creation for His Presence, the Holy Shechina, to dwell on earth, and we know that all three patriarchs were privy to this information as well. So why the mystery? Why is Moshe being coy? The name Jerusalem is mentioned hundreds of time throughout Hebrew Scriptures. Why not mention it now?
The ever pragmatic Maimonides suggests in his philosophical work, "The Guide for the Perplexed," that Moshe persistently refrained from divulging the location of the future Holy Temple so as not to allow Israel's enemies to claim for themselves this otherwise negligible piece of real estate, and then to extort Israel or attempt to stymy the completion of Israel's mission in the holy land. Surely this line of reasoning resonates very loudly today. Israel's contemporary enemies have converted sections of the Temple Mount into a soccer pitch and a garbage dump while at the same time claiming it to be Islam's third holiest site. Maimonides himself was an eye-witness, (when he visited the Mount), to the Al Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock which were constructed on the Mount by the Moslem invaders some four centuries before his day. He understood all too well the great impediment this created for Israel to overcome in order to rebuild the Holy Temple.
But there seems to be something else at play here, something deeper. Obfuscating the precise longitude and latitude of the Holy of Holies wasn't Moshe's sole stratagem. It would appear that Israel herself needed to discover the "the place which HaShem your G-d shall choose" and it wasn't something that could be accomplished merely with a compass and a map. They had to discover it deep within themselves. And there is a precedent for this.
When G-d called out to Avraham and told him bring his son Yitzchak "to the land of Moriah... [to] one of the mountains, of which I will tell you," (Genesis 22:2) Avraham had no difficulty locating the place G-d intended. But it was only after the angel stayed his hand from slaying his son that Avraham declared, "HaShem will see, as it is said to this day: 'On the mountain, the Lord will be seen.'" (ibid 22:14) It was only then that Avraham truly saw and understood that this place wasn't just any place but that it was the place! Only then did Moriah become for him a real location on the map and in his heart.
It is reasonable to assume then that the coordinates of Mount Moriah were also known to Ya'akov avinu, (Jacob our patriarch). Yet he laid himself down on the rocks of the holy site and only when he awoke from his visionary dream did he declare, "This is none other than the house of G-d, and this is the gate of heaven." (ibid 28:17) Ya'akov was not magically transported in his sleep. He simply awoke with an understanding - an intimate knowledge of the place that he had not possessed earlier. Only now he grasped its eternal significance.
On June 7th, 1967, when the Israel Defense Forces 55th Parachute Brigade liberated the Temple Mount a grateful nation streamed en masse to the venerated Western Wall, but no one but the troopers were up on the Mount itself. Surely the nation knew the significance of the Mount. Surely the nation knew that both the first and the second Holy Temples stood upon the Temple Mount and that the Western Wall had only become a place of Jewish prayer after the Crusaders had banned Jewish entry to the Mount itself. But the empirical knowledge of the location of the Temple Mount was trumped by a spiritual distance and lack of clarity. Israel had not yet achieved that moment of sublime recognition that visited our forefathers Avraham and Ya'akov.
Today, forty-four years later, more and more Jews are waking up to the real location and significance of the site of the Holy Temple, in their hearts and on the map. For the Holy Temple cannot be a defining force in an individual's heart if he does not likewise comprehend it as a real place in a real location. Alternatively, the precise coordinates of the Holy Temple on Mount Moriah are meaningless if those same coordinates don't mark a spot in one's heart.
Moshe knew this and he knew that a few lines and circles on a map were of no value to his people as they entered the land. They, like their forefathers, would have to discover for themselves the awesome consequence of "the place which HaShem your G-d shall choose" before they could realize that they knew its location all along.
Even King David, who conquered Jerusalem and made it his capital didn't realize the significance of the mountaintop to the north of his fortified city until an error in his judgment, (the taking of a census against G-d's will), precipitated a great disaster, (a deadly plague). When this led to David's sudden prophetic understanding of the centrality of the very spot upon which Arvona the Jebusite's threshing floor was located he immediately purchased it and began the process of building the Holy Temple. What had been inconsequential a day before now would possess David's heart to the end of his days.
"The place which HaShem your G-d shall choose." (ibid) The Holy of Holies, the place of the altar, the inner and outer courtyards: Israel can locate all these places on the map. In truth, these locations have been known to man ever since Adam first built an altar on the very same spot. Right now, at this current crucial moment in history, the nation of Israel is involved in getting its spiritual bearings wrapped around "the place." Our collective Ya'akov avinu moment of waking with a start and recognizing in the deepest way possible that "This is none other than the house of G-d, and this is the gate of heaven" (ibid 28:17) is rapidly approaching.
Open your eyes: Every one of our five sense must rise to the occasion as we prepare to enter the land of Israel and fulfill our purpose for being here! Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK,, as Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven discuss this week's Torah reading of Re'eh. Moshe addressed the generation that was entering the land then, but his message of total commitment to the land of Israel and to the place that G-d shall choose for His Holy Presence - the Shechina - to dwell, applies to our generation more than ever.