With nothing but the clothes on his back and a wooden staff in his hand, Ya'akov Avinu - Jacob our patriarch - prepared his bed. He gathered twelve stones together and fashioned them as a pillow. Bereft of home, destitute, and facing the unknown, he laid down his head. By the time he was startled awake by his awesome dream, he was the most blessed man on earth. Where exactly did he make his bed? In "the place," (hamakom) (Genesis 28:11). This was the very same "place" that Avraham built an altar and bound his son Yitzchak upon it. And it was here that G-d spoke to Avraham, saying, "I will bless you, and I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because you have hearkened to My voice.'" (Genesis 22:17-18)
This was "the place" to which, Midrash tells us, Yitzchak (Isaac) took Rivkah (Rebekah), in order to pray for a child (Genesis 25:21). And on this "place" G-d made the following promise to Ya'akov:
"And, behold, HaShem stood beside him, and said: 'I am HaShem, the G-d of Abraham your father, and the G-d of Isaac. The land on which you lie, to you will I give it, and to your seed. And your seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and you will spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south. And in you and in your seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." (Genesis 28: 13-14)
What is this place of Jewish continuity and blessing for the nations? Upon what parcel of land has Ya'akov laid his head and gone to sleep? This place is none other than the place, the place of places : the place of the Holy Temple. Just as on the third day of creation G-d gathered all the waters into a single spot, so too has G-d, on the first night of Ya'akov's journey from Be'er Sheva to Haran, gathered all the land of Israel to a single location: beneath the sleeping Ya'akov. And from this place of the Holy of Holies, G-d promises the land, that is, the entire land of Israel to Ya'akov and to his descendents, the offspring of the twelve sons of Ya'akov, whose presence and attachment to this place are symbolized by the twelve stones Ya'akov gathered for his pillow.
Why this place? Why from this place does G-d make His promise to Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov, and to all their descendants to the end of time? And why is it to this place that the Jews keep returning? "The place," (hamakom in Hebrew), is nothing less than the universe itself, (yakoom in Hebrew). This is "the place" that G-d hollowed out in order to fill with creation. The meaning and intention and purpose and destiny of all of creation - of the universe in its entirety - is found here, in this place: the place of the Holy Temple.
Ya'akov awoke alone and terrified: "'Surely HaShem is in this place; and I knew it not.' And he was afraid, and said: 'How full of awe is this place! this is none other than the house of G-d, and this is the gate of heaven.'" (Genesis 28: 16-17) Yet twenty years later, when he returned to the land of Israel, blessed with children and prosperity, he returned to "the place" (Genesis 35:15) and made a libation to G-d.
Just like our great great grandfather Ya'akov, we his children cannot and must not stay away from this awesome "place," the Temple Mount. Just like Ya'akov, we too draw near to this place of places, from which Torah goes out to the four corners of the earth, and from where G-d's promise to ourselves and our children is manifest. Who are these temporal world leaders who would dare, with their maps and compasses, to survey and divide this place into so many parcels to be placed in the hands of thieves and murderers? To divide the cosmos itself would be more fathomable. Only one who is blind to G-d's presence on this earth could conceive of such wickedness.
The Torah reading of Vayetzei, and the centrality of "the place" of the Holy Temple for the children of Israel and for all humanity are the topic of discussion on this week's TEMPLE TALK. And rest assured: Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven will not be attending Annapolis.
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