Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Parshat Re’ei

The Place

In this week’s parsha, Moshe tells Israel, that once the Land of Israel has been cleansed from idolatry, a place would be designated for God’s worship:

“Only to the place which the Lord your God shall choose from all your tribes, to set His Name there; you shall inquire after His dwelling and come there” (Devarim 12:5).

The expression: “the place which the Lord your God shall choose” appears many times throughout Sefer Devarim. However, not once does the Torah specifically say where that place is.

Indeed, even though the name: “Jerusalem” appears 152 times in the Hebrew Bible, it does not make an official appearance in the Torah at all.

However, the Torah does hint towards it.

After defeating the four kings, Avraham meets a strange character called Malki Zedek, King of Salem (see Bereshit Chapter 14). As well as being a king, he is also: “the high priest of El-Elyon” (ibid 19). It seems that Salem was a monotheistic monarchy in the midst of Canaan.

When Israel conquers Canaan, Adoni Zedek king of Jerusalem organizes a coalition to attack Israel (Yehoshua Ch. 10). The title “Malki” and “Adoni” are synonymous and so it is clear that Adoni Zedek is a descendent of Malki Zedek. Therefore, the rabbinical claim that Salem is an ancient name for Jerusalem is on solid ground. Consequently, it would seem that even in pre-Israelite times, Jerusalem was already the home of monotheism.

The Rabbis also say, less convincingly though, that the place that Yaakov slept was Jerusalem (Bereshit 28:10-22). This is because of the six-fold appearance of the word: “hamakom” (the place), in the episode. “The place” can only refer to: “the place which the Lord your God shall choose”, i.e. Jerusalem.

The Rabbis also claim that the binding of Ytischak (the Akeida) (Bereshit Ch. 22) occurred on Temple Mount in Jerusalem. At first glance this just seems to be based on tradition, but through a close examination of the text, we can be substantiate this claim:

“Avraham named that place, The Lord Yir’eh, as it is said to this day: ‘On the mountain, the Lord yei’ra’eh ’” (ibid 14).

This passuk is not easy to understand. The words: “yir’eh” and “yei’ra’eh” are normally translated as “will see” and “will be seen” respectively. Before we challenge this translation, we must first appreciate that the second half of the passuk is not what Avraham said, but something that is said: “this day”, i.e. at the time the sefer was written; Moshe’s day.

The root "ראה" which is incidentally, the first word and name of our parsha, can also mean “choose” and “appear”.

Indeed, rather than translating the first passuk of our parsha as: “See, I am placing before you today a blessing and a curse” (Devarim 11:26), it could be translated as: “Choose: I am placing before you today a blessing and a curse”.

So, let us have another look at Avraham’s passuk:

“Avraham named that place, The Lord will choose, as it is said to this day: ‘On the mountain, the Lord one should appear’”.

Throughout Sefer Devarim, Moshe tells Israel that three times a year they should appear at the place that God will choose.

The passuk echoes that thought. Avraham says that this place, where he was about to sacrifice Yitschak, is the place that God will choose. The passuk then goes on to say, this is the mountain upon which all males should appear.

The passuk is therefore clearly hinting, that the akeida occurred in Jerusalem.
May we all soon see clearly that Jerusalem is the place that God has chosen, so that all humanity sees the word of the Lord coming forth from Jerusalem.


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