Parshat Re'ay

(To prepare for this shiur,
see the questions for self study.)

Much to our surprise, Chumash never mentions the city of Jerusalem by name. Indeed, Sefer Breishit does mention the city of 'Shalem' (see 14:18) and Mount Moriah (see 22:2,14), but never the full name of 'Yerushalayim.' Even Sefer Devarim, which speaks numerous times of "ha'makom asher yivchar Hashem" [the site (for the Temple) which God will choose], never tells us where to build it!

To understand why, this week's shiur traces the biblical roots of the concept of the city of Jerusalem, which originate in Parshat Re'ay.

When we speak of Jerusalem, we usually relate to either one of its two aspects:
A) Its geographic location
B) Its function as the national center of the Jewish Nation

Surprisingly enough, Chumash never mentions its specific name nor its precise location. However, its concept - the national center of the Jewish Nation - emerges as a central theme in Sefer Dvarim.

This week, as we study the chukim & mishpatim section of the main speech of Sefer Dvarim, we will trace and analyze the development in this theme through the sefer.

Introduction: Background
Recall from our introductory shiur on Sefer Devarim that the main speech of Sefer Devarim (chaps. 5-26), containing the mitzvot to be observed upon entry into the land (6:1), is divided into two distinct sections:
I) "Ha'Mitzva" (6:4 - 11:31)
II) "Ha'chukim v'ha'mishpatim" (12:1 - 26:19)

The mitzvah section, we explained, contains primarily mitzvot and repeated reminders ("tocheichot") regarding the proper general attitude towards God ("ahavat Hashem", e.g. 6:5,10:12,11:22), while the chukim & mishpatim section contains more detailed and specific laws which Bnei Yisrael must follow when establishing their nation.

These specific laws, which begin in Parshat Re'ay (12:1) and continue until Parshat Ki-tavo (26:16), follow a definite structure, and we must therefore pay close attention to their sequence and manner of presentation. We begin our discussion with the first topic of this section - "ha'makom asher yivchar Hashem," which emerges as a primary theme within this section.

Ha'makom Asher Yivchar Hashem
Let's read the opening psukim of the chukim & mishpatim section (12:1-14), noting the progression of the commandments and the development of its main topic - "ha'makom asher yivchar Hashem":

"These are the 'chukim & mishpatim' which you must observe in the land which Hashem is giving you...:
You must totally destroy all the sites where the nations worshipped their idols...on the high hills and must eradicate their names from this place.
Do not worship your God in this manner (in multiple places of worship - read carefully!).
Rather, at the site which God will choose - ha'makom asher yivchar Hashem - amongst all your tribes, lasum et shmo sham - "l'shichno ti'drshu u'bata shama"
There you must bring all of your offerings and tithes etc. Eat and rejoice there in front of your Lord...
...After you cross the Jordan and enter the Land and find rest from your enemies and enjoy security, then - ha'makom asher yivchar Hashem l'shakeyn shmo sham - bring there everything I command...
Be careful not to offer your sacrifices anywhere that you want, rather at ha'makom asher yivchar Hashem, only there may you bring your offerings..."

Note that the first commandment - to destroy all places of idol worship in order to eradicate the names of other gods from your land - serves as a 'pre-requisite' for the commandments which follow - to establish a central location where God's name will dwell. Thus, the primary topic of this opening parsha is Bnei Yisrael's obligation to transform Eretz Canaan into a land in which God's Name (i.e. reputation) becomes recognized. This is accomplished not only by ridding the land of the names of other gods (12:2-3), but also by establishing a national religious center - ha'makom asher yivchar Hashem l'shakein shmo sham - that will facilitate the dissemination of the Name of God.

In light of our understanding of the framework of the main speech, this opening commandment constitutes a most appropriate introduction to this section. Bnei Yisrael are about to enter and conquer the Promised Land in order to become God's special nation. Quite reasonably, then, the opening commandment requires the elimination of the names of other gods in the land and the establishment of an institution where God's name will be publicized.

A Recurring Theme
Not only is 'ha'makom asher yivchar Hashem' repeated several times in the opening parsha (chapter 12), this phrase is mentioned some twenty times throughout the entire chukim & mishpatim section of the main speech (chapters 12-26)! As illustrated in the following table, this topic not only introduces the section, but develops into a major and recurring theme therein.

The table below records each mention of the phrase "ha'makom asher yivchar Hashem" within its respective context:

Perek:Pasuk Topic
12:5,11,14,18,21,26 The place to bring all "korbanot"
14:23,24,25 The place to eat "maaser sheni"
15:20 The place to eat "bchor b'heyma"
16:2,6,7,11,15,16 The site for "aliya l'regel" on the holidays
17:8,10 The seat of the Supreme Court
18:6 The service of the Leviim
26:2 The place to bring one's 'first fruits'

A National Center
A quick glance at this table immediately demonstrates that this location emerges not only as a site to offer 'korbanot,' but as a National Religious Center, as well. These mitzvot in Sefer Dvarim help 'create' this Center, as they require one to frequent this site on numerous occasions during the course of the year.

First and foremost, every individual must make a pilgrimage to the site on the three agricultural holidays ("aliyah l'regel" - chapter 16). Moreover, he must visit this site each time he brings a voluntary offering ("korban n'dava") or is obligated to bring an atonement offering ("korban chovah").

Additionally, the farmer must bring to this spot not only his first fruits ("bikurim"), but also 10% of his harvest to be eaten and shared with others ("maaser sheni"). Likewise, the shepherd must bring not only the first born animals ("bchor"), but also 10% of his entire flock ("maaser b'heima"). Furthermore, the Supreme Court, the chief legal and halachic judiciary, is located at this site.

Thus, this location - ha'makom asher yivchar Hashem - is much more than the place for the offering of "korbanot." It is to evolve as the National Center of the Jewish people.

What is the purpose of this center? How does it function?

These mitzvot pertaining to this site, when performed properly, help shape our national character as God's special nation. The establishment of this center, and the obligation of every individual to frequent this site, ensure the unity of both the people and the religion. Without such a center, within several generations we would likely break down into twelve different religions, rather than twelve tribes.

Besides facilitating korbanot, this location serves as the center of justice, Torah education and Jewish culture, as well as a place of national gathering.

Not only does this site become a national center, it also serves to enhance the spirituality of each individual, as explained in the context of "maaser sheni":

"You shall set aside every year a tenth of the yield of your field. And you should eat this tithe in the presence of your Lord "ba'makom asher yivchar Hashem l'shakein shmo sham"... in order that you learn to fear God forever..." (14:22-23).

How would simply 'eating food' at this site lead one to fear God? To understand how, we must use our imaginations to picture what this area was like.

The Site / The Temple / Jerusalem
Clearly, the Mishkan (and later the Bet Ha'Mikdash) is to become the focal point of this national center. Although the unique stature of the mikdash finds no explicit mention in Sefer Dvarim, it is implicit in the requirement to bring korbanot specifically to this site. These are obviously the same korbanot described in Sefer Vayikra, which relate specifically to the Mishkan/Mikdash.

Yet, the obligation to eat in this place our "maaser sheni," which consists entirely of fruits and vegetables (not an animal offering), indicates the need for an area surrounding the Mikdash. This site is defined by halacha as the area within the walls of the city surrounding the Bet HaMikdash (later to become the city of Jerusalem). Within the walls of this city, one can eat his "maasrot" as well as the meat of his "shlamim" offerings.

The Torah even designates 'civil servants' to officiate and administer the service of the Bet Ha'Mikdash - the "Kohanim" and "Leviim" - and whose entire lives are dedicated to the service of God. They, together with the judges and scholars of the judiciary, will populate this 'holy city' surrounding the Temple, infusing it with an atmosphere of "kedusha" (sanctity).

Therefore, the experience of eating "maaser sheni" in this 'holy' city, mingling there with the Kohanim, Leviim, and Torah scholars and sharing one's food with relatives and the needy (see 14:25-27), enhances one's "yirat shamayim" - fear of God.

This obligation to frequent ha'makom asher yivchar Hashem culminates every seven years with the "Hakhel" ceremony, where the entire nation - men, women and children - gather to hear the Torah at this very same site. Here, once again, "yirat Hashem" - the fear of God - emerges as the primary purpose:

"... every seventh year... when all Israel gathers before Hashem 'ba'makom asher yivchar,' you shall read this Torah (Sefer Dvarim) in the presence of all Israel. Gather ("hakhel") the people, men, women and children and the strangers, that they may hear and so learn to fear the Lord and to observe... Their children too...shall hear and learn to fear God as long as they live on the Land" (Dvarim 31:10-13).

[Note the similarities to Ma'amad Har Sinai.]

Jerusalem: Seek and Find
Sefer Dvarim never specifies the precise, geographic location of this site, i.e. the specific location for the construction of the Bet HaMikdash. The site is referred to as simply, "the place that God will choose" ("ha'makom asher yivchar Hashem").

Parshat Re'ay does, however, offer us a hint - however subtle - as to how we are to identify this site: "l'shichno ti'drshu, u'bata shama" (12:5).

God will show us the site only if and when we look for it. This 'hide and seek' type relationship is reflective of every Divine encounter. God is found only by those who search for him. Just as this principle applies on the individual level ["karov Hashem l'chol kor'av" - God is close to all those who call to Him], it applies on the national level, as well. Only when Am Yisrael, as a nation, begins a serious search for God will God show them the appropriate means for His symbolic residence among them.

The generation of Yehoshua did not succeed in establishing the permanent Mikdash after conquering the Land. Instead, they erected the temporary structure, the Mishkan, in Shiloh. There it remained, generally neglected, throughout the period of the Judges. Shiloh itself was eventually destroyed by the Phlishtim during the time of Eli and Shmuel. [See Shmuel I, ch. 4.] In the meantime, the Mishkan and the "aron" wandered from one location to the next. It was only during the reigns of David and Shlomo that Bnei Yisrael actively aspired to build the Mikdash.

One of David's first initiatives upon assuming the throne was to gather the nation in order to bring the "aron" (the holy ark) to the capital city. Pay close attention to how he presents his plan to the nation:

"David said to the entire congregation of Israel: If you approve, and this is from God (the events of David's rise to power), let us go forward and invite all our brethren in the land of Israel, together with the Kohanim and Leviim, and gather together in order to bring back to us God's Holy Ark - 'ki lo drashnu'hu b'ymei Shaul' - for during the time of Shaul we did not seek it" (Divrei Hayamim I 13:2-3).

[Note the use of the shoresh "" here and in Dvarim 12:5.] (See board #1)

David Ha'melech observes that the nation had neglected the "aron" during the generation of Shaul. For King David, however, bringing the "aron" to Yerushalayim is the highest national priority. After the "aron" finally settles in his capital city, David's next request is to build a permanent house for the "aron," the Bet Ha'Mikdash:

"When the King was settled in his palace and God had granted him safety from his enemies [heini'ach lo mikol oivav misaviv], the King said to Natan the prophet: Here I am dwelling in a house of cedar wood, while the 'aron' is dwelling only in a tent!" (Shmuel II 7:1-2).

[Again, note the textual parallel to Dvarim 12:10-11.] (See board #2)

Even though the Temple itself is only built by his son, Shlomo (a topic for a separate shiur), its precise location is designated in David's own lifetime (see Divrei Ha'yamim I 22:1 and context.) At that time, Har Ha'Moriah, the site of "Akeidat Yitzchak," was chosen to be the permanent location of the Temple for all time (see Divrei Ha'yamim II 3:1 and ibid.).

Jerusalem Today
According to the guidelines of Sefer Dvarim, 'Jerusalem' is destined to become more than just the city which houses the Temple. Ideally, Jerusalem should become the National Cultural and Religious Center of the Jewish people, incorporating and embodying all the qualities required for this city by Sefer Dvarim. This aspiration is found in the prophecies of most later prophets. For example:

"For Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth ("ir ha'emet") and the mountain of the Lord of Hosts -"har ha'Kodesh" (Zecharya 8:3).

"For out of Zion will come forth Torah and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3).

Today, be it for halachic, technical, or political reasons, we are not permitted to rebuild the Bet HaMikdash. Until the proper time comes, this aspiration remains our national dream and everlasting prayer. Nonetheless, the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem as our National Center - a city of Truth, Justice, and Sanctity, the unified capital of the Jewish people - is not only permitted, but our duty. In our own generation, God has opened for us a historic opportunity. Reaching this goal has become our national responsibility.

Virtual ClassRoom enhancements by Ronni Libson.

For Further Iyun
A. Looking back at Sefer Shemot, recall that the mitzvot recorded in Parshat Mishpatim reflect the conditions at Ma'amad Har Sinai, prior to Chet Ha'egel.
1) Find similarities between Parshat Mishpatim and Re'ay with regard to the Mikdash and the type of conquest Bnei Yisrael are to conduct in Eretz Yisrael.
[If you are stuck, try 23:14-19, 23:22-24, 23:28 (and also 20:21-22).]
2) Compare these psukim carefully to Dvarim chapters 12 and 16.

B. Although the chagim have already been presented in Parshiyot Mishpatim, Emor, and Pinchas, they are repeated again in Dvarim chap 16. Read this chapter carefully.
1) What laws do not appear in earlier sources and are added here?
2) What would you say is the primary topic of this perek? (Hint: which key-phrase repeats itself many times over throughout the perek?)
3) Try to explain this perek as an expansion of Shmot 23:14-17!
4) How does all this relate to the above shiur?
5) Why aren't Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur mentioned in this parsha?

C. Lo Ta'asun Kein l'Hashem Elokeichem" (12:4)
In the above shiur, we explained that this pasuk prohibits multiple places of worship. This is "pshat" of the pasuk based on 12:2 and 12:5, that the Canaanite nations' mode of worship - on the high places and under tall trees (12:2) - shall not be imitated by Bnei Yisrael. Rather, they are to worship God only in the place which He Himself chooses ("ha'makom..."). That is, the service should be held in one location, not in many locations as was the practice of the other nations.
Note the two explanations given by Rashi. The first follows our reading according to "pshat." The second is a Midrash Halacha.
Do these two peirushim contradict each other, or can they both be correct? Use your answer to explain the nature of Midrashei Halacha in general.

D. Back to Sefer Breishit
Note the use of the word "makom" in Parshat Ha'akeida (Br. chapter 22 - see psukim 2,3,4,9,14) and Yaakov's Dream in Bet-El (Br. chapter 28 - see psukim 11-22!).
1) Which of these two sites ultimately becomes the site of the Mikdash?
2) Do you think the extensive use of this word in these two parshiyot and in Parshat Re'ay is reflected in Chazal's understanding, that all these parshiyot refer to the same location?

E. Mikra Bikurim: The Finale
The final mitzvot of the chukim & mishpatim section are mikra bikurim and vidduy maaser (perek 26), again focusing on ha'makom asher yivchar Hashem (note 27:1, as well).
1) Does this parsha belong in Parshat Ki-tavo, or does it seem more suitable for Parshat Re'ay? Pay particular attention to the parsha of maaser sheni (14:22-29)! Why do think it was chosen to conclude the main speech? Relate your answer to the general purpose of this speech, the content of "mikra bikurim" and Breishit perek 15.

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