The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: Av 1, 5766/August 1, 2006

The Lebanon of Jerusalem

"But you shall soon cross the Jordan and live in the land that G-d your Lord is allotting you. When He has granted you safety from all your enemies around you, and you live in security, there will be a site that G-d will choose as the place for His name to rest there."
Deuteronomy 12:10 - 11

Moshe rabbeinu - Moses our master - who selflessly devoted his entire life to the physical and spiritual well being of the Israelite nation, had but one wish before he died: "let me enter the land and see that goodly mountain: the Lebanon." These are the words that open this week's Torah reading, Ve'etchanan, (Deuteronomy 3:23 - 7:11). What is the meaning of this cryptic reference to Lebanon? We know that the Torah refers to the land north of the land of Israel as Lebanon, the very same land of the cedars in which Israel today is battling the terrorists vipers of Hezbollah. Is Moses asking for entrance into the promised land simply to gain access to Lebanon in the north?

This is certainly not the case as a familiarity with the ancient Hebrew scriptures readily proves. The word Lebanon, or levanon in Hebrew is from the Hebrew root lavan, meaning "white." It is used frequently throughout the twenty four books of Tanach - the Hebrew scriptures - as a reference to the Holy Temple! Our sages point out that our transgressions are whitened through the Divine service and prayer at the Holy Temple. In fact, a main ingredient of the incense offering at the golden altar is levonah - frankincense - from the same Hebrew root - lavan. Within the word lavan itself is another Hebrew word - lev - heart. For the Holy Temple - and the "goodly mountain" - Mount Moriah - upon which it stands, is the heart of all humanity, and the place toward which all who wish to serve the G-d of Israel turn their hearts. Beseeching G-d that he may enter the land and see the Levanon - the Holy Temple - is therefore no minor request on Moses' behalf. Moses too wants to be of the generation whose hands and hearts build the Holy Temple - and whose eyes can behold the fulfillment of the divine commandment first received by Moses and the children of Israel in the desert: "Build for me a sanctuary, that I may dwell amongst you." (Exodus 25:8)

Today, as we approach the fast of the 9th of Av, the day commemorating the destruction of the Holy Temple, the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces are fighting a vicious unscrupulous enemy in the Lebanon of the north, Likewise, our hearts are turned in prayer, in remembrance, and in determination, to the Lebanon atop "that goodly mountain" - Mount Moriah, Jerusalem, the place of the Holy Temple.

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