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לימוד תורה

Where, when, how, and by whom

The Parasha in the everyday life– Parashat Re’eh - 5780

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald

In memory of the late Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz

On the morning of the 28th of Iyar 5728 (1967) we were in a shelter in Safed with our late mother. All the fathers, including mine, were recruited and the children stayed in the shelter with their mothers. The tension was tremendous. Everyone feared for the fate of their loved ones and were attached to radio transistors to get information. In the course of the morning the news of the conquest of the Temple Mount was heard, “Har Habayit Beyadenu' - The Temple Mount is in our hands!” And everyone stood on their feet excitedly and sang 'Jerusalem of Gold.'

As a seven-year-old I remember asking my mother naively: Will they now build the Temple?! I was probably not the only one who asked!

In our Parasha there is a special reference to the building of the Temple - the Beit haBechirah (G-d's Chosen House):

כִּ֠י אִֽם־אֶל־הַמָּק֞וֹם אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַ֨ר ה' אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶם֙ מִכָּל־שִׁבְטֵיכֶ֔ם לָשׂ֥וּם אֶת־שְׁמ֖וֹ שָׁ֑ם לְשִׁכְנ֥וֹ תִדְרְשׁ֖וּ וּבָ֥אתָ שָֽׁמָּה׃

“but look only to the site that Hashem your G-d will choose amidst all your tribes as His habitation, to establish His name there. There you are to go” (Dvarim 12:5)

Scripture does not mention where the Temple will be built! (See More Nevochim 3:45) but only that it will be built in the site that Hashem your G-d will choose: "We should not determine this place as we see it subjectively, but the dedication of the place will depend on the explicit choice of G-d. It is not us who get to decide where the place will be, but G-d will mark for us the place He has chosen for his Temple" (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch ibid).

The Torah seeks to emphasize that the sanctity of the Temple stems from its Divine choice and its place, and therefore for the time being its place is not mentioned at all: "He, May He Be Blessed will choose and not you! For He does not depend on the place but G-d makes the place honorable! Therefore, לְשִׁכְנ֥וֹ תִדְרְשׁ֖וּ, to establish His name there, do not establish the place but 'establish' His presence, the place of his glory because He is the important part and the place is of secondary importance" (Kli Yakar ibid).

Hence the 'choice' is also related to the essence of the Temple and not just to its place. Therefore, one of its names is ‘G-d's Chosen House’:

ג' מצות נצטוו ישראל בכניסתן לארץ להעמיד להם מלך ולהכרית זרעו של עמלק ולבנות להם בית הבחירה

"Three mitzvot were commanded to the Jewish people upon their entrance into Eretz Yisrael, which apply only in Eretz Yisrael: They were commanded to establish a king for themselves,  and to cut off the seed of Amalek, and to build the Chosen House, i.e., the Temple, in Jerusalem.) Sanhedrin 20b)

Also, Maimonides called the laws of building The Temple: “Mishneh Torah,

Hilchot Beit Habechirah”-The laws of G-d’s Chosen House.

The whole Parasha is marked by 'choice'. From the beginning it deals with choice:

רְאֵ֗ה אָנֹכִ֛י נֹתֵ֥ן לִפְנֵיכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם בְּרָכָ֖ה וּקְלָלָֽה׃ אֶֽת־הַבְּרָכָ֑ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּשְׁמְע֗וּ אֶל־מִצְוֺת֙ ה' אֱלֹֽקיכֶ֔ם ... וְהַקְּלָלָ֗ה אִם־לֹ֤א תִשְׁמְעוּ֙ אֶל־מִצְוֺת֙ ה' אֱלֹֽקיכֶ֔ם ...

“See, this day I set before you blessing and curse: blessing, if you obey the commandments of Hashem your G-d … and curse, if you do not obey the commandments of Hashem your G-d” …. (Devarim 11:26-28)

And in the continuation of the Parasha, the sacrificies of burnt offering and the eating of the offerings of well-being. only בַּמָּק֞וֹם אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַ֤ר in the place that Hashem will choose (Ibid. 12: 14), “the tithes of your new grain or wine or oil, or of the firstlings of your herds and flocks, or of any of the votive offerings that you vow, or of your freewill offerings, or of your contributions. These you must consume before Hashem your G-d in the place that Hashem your G-d will choose”. (Ibid 12:17-18) and at the end of the Parasha, the Mitzvot on the pilgrimage:

שָׁל֣וֹשׁ פְּעָמִ֣ים בַּשָּׁנָ֡ה יֵרָאֶ֨ה כָל־זְכוּרְךָ֜ אֶת־פְּנֵ֣י ה' אֱלֹקיךָ בַּמָּקוֹם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִבְחָ֔ר בְּחַ֧ג הַמַּצּ֛וֹת וּבְחַ֥ג הַשָּׁבֻע֖וֹת וּבְחַ֣ג הַסֻּכּ֑וֹת

"Three times a year—on the Feast of Unleavened Bread, on the Feast of Weeks, and on the Feast of Booths—all your males shall appear before Hashem your G-d in the place that He will choose". (Ibid 16:1-17)

In relation to the construction of ‘G-d’s Chosen House’ not only 'the place' but also the 'time' is when Hashem your G-d will choose. It is not an immediate commandment nor is it said when. Indeed, four hundred and fifty-eight years passed from the time of entry into the land until the construction of the Temple by King Shlomo.

כֵּיוָן שֶׁנִּכְנְסוּ לָאָרֶץ הֶעֱמִידוּ הַמִּשְׁכָּן בַּגִּלְגָּל אַרְבַּע עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה שֶׁכָּבְשׁוּ וְשֶׁחִלְּקוּ. וּמִשָּׁם בָּאוּ לְשִׁילֹה וּבָנוּ שָׁם בַּיִת שֶׁל אֲבָנִים וּפָרְשׂוּ יְרִיעוֹת הַמִּשְׁכָּן עָלָיו וְלֹא הָיְתָה שָׁם תִּקְרָה. וְשס''ט שָׁנָה עָמַד מִשְׁכַּן שִׁילֹה וּכְשֶׁמֵּת עֵלִי חָרַב וּבָאוּ לְנֹב וּבָנוּ שָׁם מִקְדָּשׁ. וּכְשֶׁמֵּת שְׁמוּאֵל חָרַב וּבָאוּ לְגִבְעוֹן וּבָנוּ שָׁם מִקְדָּשׁ. וּמִגִּבְעוֹן בָּאוּ לְבֵית הָעוֹלָמִים. וִימֵי נֹב וְגִבְעוֹן שֶׁבַע וַחֲמִשִּׁים שָׁנָה:

“As soon as the Israelites entered Eretz Yisrael, they set up the portable sanctuary (Mishkan) in Gilgal for the fourteen years during which they occupied and divided the land. From there they came to Shiloh and built a sanctuary of stones, over which they spread the curtains of the Mishkan, since it had no ceiling. The sanctuary of Shiloh lasted three hundred and sixty-nine years. It was destroyed when Eli died, so they came to Nov and built a sanctuary there. It was destroyed when Samuel died, so they came to Gibeon and built a sanctuary there. From Gibeon they came to Jerusalem to build the permanent sanctuary. Nov and Gibeon lasted fifty-seven years.” (Rambam Mishneh Torah, The Chosen Temple 1:2)

The 'time' also depends on the appointment of a King first and then the cutting off the seed of Amalek and only then, the establishment of the Chosen House.

"I do not know which one will be before, whether to appoint a King for them or to build them a Chosen House or to cut off the seed of Amalek – this comes to teach:

וַיֹּ֗אמֶר כִּֽי־יָד֙ עַל־כֵּ֣ס יָ֔-הּ מִלְחָמָ֥ה לַה' בַּֽעֲמָלֵ֑ק

“He said, “It means, ‘Hand upon the throne of Hashem!’ Hashem will be at war with Amalek” (Shmot 17:16)

Since the King sat on Hashem’s throne, he’s cutting off Amalek's seed. And whence that Hashem’s throne is the King’s, as it is said:

 וישב שלמה על כסא ה' למלך

“Then Shlomo sat on the throne [kise] of Hashem as King” (I Chronicles 29:23), indicating that a King sits on “the throne of Hashem.” And still, I do not know which will come before, whether to build them the Chosen House, if cutting off Amalek’s seed, this comes to teach: אֲשֶׁר ה' אֱלֹקיכֶ֖ם מַנְחִ֣יל אֶתְכֶ֑ם

that Hashem your G-d is allotting to you. As it says:

וַיְהִי כִּי יָשַׁב הַמֶּלֶךְ בְּבֵיתוֹ וַה' הֵנִיחַ לוֹ מִסָּבִיב וַיֹּאמֶר… וַיֹּ֨אמֶר דָּוִ֜יד אֶל־נָתָ֣ן הַנָּבִ֗יא הִנֵּ֨ה אָנֹכִ֤י יוֹשֵׁב֙ בְּבֵ֣ית הָֽאֲרָזִ֔ים וַאֲר֥וֹן בְּרִית ה' תַּ֥חַת יְרִיעֽוֹת׃

and it was so, when the King was settled in his home, and G-d allowed him respite … And the King David said to the prophet Nathan, “Here I am dwelling in a house of cedar, while the Ark of the Covenant of Hashem is under tent-cloths.” (Sifrei Dvarim 12:10)

The late Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook Zt’’l believed that the order is relevant to the Third Temple as well: "So the Gemara, and the Commentators, and Maimonides determine for us: Establishing an independent state government, with security and sovereignty. And only then will the matter of the Third Temple be relevant." (From a recording from 5729 – {1968}).

 The identity of who will build the Chosen House is also a matter of ‘that Hashem will choose’. Permission is not given to everyone:

וָאֶבְחַ֣ר בְּדָוִ֔ד לִֽהְי֖וֹת עַל־עַמִּ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ וַיְהִ֕י עִם־לְבַ֖ב דָּוִ֣ד אָבִ֑י לִבְנ֣וֹת בַּ֔יִת לְשֵׁ֥ם יְהוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־דָּוִ֣ד אָבִ֔י יַ֗עַן אֲשֶׁ֤ר הָיָה֙ עִם־לְבָ֣בְךָ֔ לִבְנ֥וֹת בַּ֖יִת לִשְׁמִ֑י הֱטִיבֹ֔תָ כִּ֥י הָיָ֖ה עִם־לְבָבֶֽךָ׃ רַ֣ק אַתָּ֔ה לֹ֥א תִבְנֶ֖ה הַבָּ֑יִת כִּ֤י אִם־בִּנְךָ֙ הַיֹּצֵ֣א מֵחֲלָצֶ֔יךָ הֽוּא־יִבְנֶ֥ה הַבַּ֖יִת לִשְׁמִֽי׃

but I have chosen David to rule My people Israel. Now my father David had intended to build a House for the name of Hashem, the G-d of Israel. But Hashem said to my father David, ‘As regards your intention to build a House for My name, you did right to have that intention. However, you shall not build the House yourself; instead, your son, the issue of your loins, shall build the House for My name.’ (I Kings 8:16-19)

The structure plan itself is also a matter of ‘that Hashem will choose’. Because its dimensions and the dimensions of its vessels are not the same as the dimensions of the Mishkan and its vessels as it is commanded in the Torah:

וּשְׁלֹשָׁה נְבִיאִים עָלוּ עִמָּהֶם מִן הַגּוֹלָה. אֶחָד הֵעִיד לָהֶן עַל מְקוֹם הַמִּזְבֵּחַ. וְאֶחָד הֵעִיד לָהֶן עַל מִדּוֹתָיו. וְאֶחָד הֵעִיד לָהֶן שֶׁמַּקְרִיבִין עַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ הַזֶּה כָּל הַקָּרְבָּנוֹת אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין שָׁם בַּיִת: מִזְבֵּחַ שֶׁעָשָׂה משֶׁה וְשֶׁעָשָׂה שְׁלֹמֹה וְשֶׁעָשׂוּ בְּנֵי הַגּוֹלָה וְשֶׁעָתִיד לְהֵעָשׂוֹת כֻּלָּן עֶשֶׂר אַמּוֹת גֹּבַהּ כָּל אֶחָד מֵהֶן. וְזֶה הַכָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה (שמות כז א) "וְשָׁלֹשׁ אַמּוֹת קוֹמָתוֹ" מְקוֹם הַמַּעֲרָכָה בִּלְבַד. וּמִזְבֵּחַ שֶׁעָשׂוּ בְּנֵי הַגּוֹלָה וְכֵן הֶעָתִיד לְהִבָּנוֹת מִדַּת אָרְכּוֹ וְרָחְבּוֹ ל''ב אַמּוֹת עַל ל''ב אַמּוֹת:

“Of the three prophets who ascended with them from the exile, one testified as to the Altar's location, one to its dimensions, and one to the Law that they could bring offerings on the altar even though the there was no Temple. The Altar that Moshe made, that Shlomo made, that the returnees of the [First] Exile made, and that will be made in the future are all 10 cubits high, and that which is stated in the Torah: "and three cubits its height, that is the place of the pyre alone (above the ledge of the Altar). And the dimensions of the Altar that the returnees of the Exile made and the one that will be built in the future are 32 cubits by 32 cubits”. (Mishneh Torah, The Chosen Temple 2:4-5)

The same applies to the timing of the construction of the future 'G-d’s Chosen House’, although the construction commandment is 'for generations' but we do not know when. It, too, will take place in the time ‘that Hashem will choose’ to prepare the time and conditions for its construction. Because "for this we need prophecy" (Rabbi Goren Zt’l, Temple Mount 4-5)

And perhaps this 'choice' also depends on our choices:

רְצוֹנוֹ לוֹמַר כִּי יְרוּשָׁלַיִם אָמְנָם תִּבָּנֶה כְּשֶׁיִּכְסְפוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לָהּ תַּכְלִית הַכֹּסֶף עַד שֶׁיְּחוֹנְנוּ אֲבָנֶיהָ וַעֲפָרָהּ

"This means that Jerusalem can only be rebuilt when Israel yearns for it to such an extent that they embrace her stones and dust". (Sefer Kuzari 5:27)

יְהִי רָצון מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלהֵינוּ וֵאלהֵי אֲבותֵינוּ. שֶׁיִּבָּנֶה בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ בִּמְהֵרָה בְיָמֵינוּ.

וְשָׁם נַעֲבָדְךָ בְּיִרְאָה כִּימֵי עולָם וּכְשָׁנִים קַדְמונִיות:

May it be Your will, O Lord our G-d and G-d of our fathers, that the Holy Temple be speedily rebuilt in our days…  and may we serve You there with reverence as in the days of old and the earliest of years.

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