Introduction to Jerusalem in the days of David (II)/The Divine Selection of Jerusalem

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Jerusalem in the Bible
Yeshivat Har Etzion


 

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This shiur is dedicated in memory of Dr. William Major z"l.
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Shiur #25: Introduction to Jerusalem

in the days of David (II)/

The Divine selection of Jerusalem

 

Rav Yitzchak Levi

 

 

            After having dealt in the previous two shiurim with the process of selecting Jerusalem and the Mikdash, we hope in this lesson to clarify the significance of the Divine selection in the days of Shelomo. As was mentioned in the previous lesson, God's selection of Jerusalem was finalized in the days of Shelomo, following the construction and dedication of the house of God and the house of the king, the construction of the Milo connecting the city and the house of God, and the construction of a wall around Jerusalem, encompassing the city, the house of the king, the Milo, and the house of God.

 

            This selection is in essence a fulfillment of what the Torah says regarding "the place that the Lord will choose." We have already emphasized (Shiur #12, "The Place that the Lord Will Choose") that "the place" refers to both the city and the Temple. The novelty in this selection is that God chooses not only the sanctuary, but also the city. A city is usually the site of ordinary, mundane life. The chosen city is unique in that it was built around the Mikdash, which leaves its mark upon it.[1]

 

A.        Proofs for the selection of Jerusalem in the days of Shelomo

 

As we saw in the previous shiur, the choosing of the city is first mentioned in past tense by Shelomo, following the dedication of the house of God and the house of the king:

 

Since the day that I brought forth My people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of the tribes of Israel to build a house, that My name might be there; but I chose David to be over My people. (I Melakhim 8:16)

 

A fuller version is found in the parallel passage in Divrei Ha-yamim:

 

Since the day that I brought My people out of the land of Egypt I chose no city among all the tribes of Israel to build a house in, that My name might be there; nor did I choose any man to be a ruler over my people Israel, but I have chosen Jerusalem, that My name might be there; and have chosen David to be over My people. (II Divrei Ha-yamim 6:5-6)

 

            It should be remembered that in the previous shiur we inferred from a precise reading of the wording found in the book of Melakhim that God chose the king, and then the king chose the city, whereas the formulation of the parallel passage in Divrei Ha-yamim emphasizes the Divine selection of both the king and the city.

 

            The issue of the choosing of the city appears once again in Shelomo's prayer:

 

If the people go out to battle against their enemy, wherever You shall send them, and shall pray to the Lord towards the city which You have chosen, and towards the house that I have built for Your name. (I Melakhim 8:44; paralleled by II Divrei Ha-yamim 6:34)

 

And so they return to You with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies, who led them away captive, and pray to you towards their land, which You did give to their fathers, the city which You have chosen, and the house which I have built for Your name. (I Melakhim 8:48; paralleled by II Divrei Ha-yamim 6:38)

 

            The choosing of Jerusalem (and of David) appears once again in God's words to Shelomo regarding the rending of the kingdom because of the sin of the bamot devoted to idol worship, as justification for leaving one tribe in the kingdom of the house of David:

 

Nevertheless, I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to your son for David my servant's sake, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen. (I Melakhim 11:13)

 

And in the same context in the conversation between Achiya ha-Shiloni and Yeravam:

 

But he shall have one tribe for My servant David's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel… Yet I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand.  But I will make him prince all the days of his life for David My servant's sake, whom I chose, because he kept My commandments and My statutes.  But I will take the kingdom out of his son's hand, and will give it to you, that is the ten tribes. And to his son will I give one tribe, that David My servant may have a lamp always before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen for Myself to put My Name there. (I Melakhim 11:32-36)[2]

 

B.        ADDITIONAL REFERENCES TO THE SELECTION OF JERUSALEM

 

It is interesting to examine the contexts in which Scripture mentions the selection of Jerusalem after the period of Shelomo:

 

1)         In the book of Melakhim, it is said about Rechav'am:

 

And Rechavam… reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the Lord did choose out of all the tribes of Israel. (I Melakhim 14:21; paralleled by II Divrei Ha-yamim 12:17)

 

            It seems that the choosing of the city is emphasized in connection with the king in whom the prophecy of the division of the kingdom is fulfilled, similar to the mention in the prophecy of Achiya to Yeravam on this matter.

 

            On the other hand, the selection of the city is mentioned in connection with Menasheh, in the context of the description of the idol erected in the Mikdash:

 

And he set the carved idol of the ashera that he had made, in that house, of which the Lord said to David, and to Shelomo his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, will I put my My name for ever. (II Melakhim 21:7; paralleled by II Divrei Ha-yamim 33:7)

 

            And similarly it is mentioned in the first explicit prophecy of God's rejection of the city – that is, the removal of His selection – on account of the sins of Menasheh:

 

And the Lord said, I will remove Yehuda also out of My sight, as I have removed Israel, and I will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be here. (II Melakhim 23:27)

 

2. The idea of God's selection of Jerusalem is mentioned twice in the book of Tehillim. Here, Scripture speaks of the choosing of Zion or Mount Zion (perhaps a poetic designation). In the framework of the wide historical overview in psalm 78, the verse contrasts the selection of Jerusalem with the rejection of Shilo:

 

And He rejected the tabernacle of Yosef, and chose not the Tribe of Ephrayim.  But chose the Tribe of Yehuda, Mount Zion which He loved. (Tehillim 78:67-68)[3]

 

            In psalm 132, which describes both David's longing to build a house for God and the Divine selection of the city, it is stated:

 

For the Lord has chosen Zion. He has desired it for His habitation. This is My resting place forever.  Here will I dwell; for I have desired it. (Ibid. 132:13-14)

 

3. During the second Temple period, the prophet Zekharya strongly emphasizes the renewed choosing of the city after its rejection in the days of Menasheh:

 

Therefore thus says the Lord; I have returned to Jerusalem with mercies.  My house shall be rebuilt in it, says the Lord of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth over Jerusalem. Proclaim further, saying, Thus says the Lord of Hosts; My cities shall again overflow with prosperity; and the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem. (Zekharya 1:16-17)

 

And the Lord shall inherit Yehuda as His portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again. (Ibid. 2:16)

 

And the Lord said to the adversary, The Lord rebukes you, O adversary; even the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebukes you: for is not this man a brand plucked out of the fire? (Ibid. 3:2)

 

            The expression "and He shall choose again" denotes continued and renewed selection.

 

            In summary: We have seen the most important passages in which the Divine choosing of Jerusalem is explicitly mentioned. This begins in the days of Shelomo, when the royal city turns into a city with a Mikdash. In the days of Rechavam the Divine selection of the city is once again emphasized as the prophecy concerning the rending of the kingdom begins to be fulfilled. In the days of Menasheh, the Divine choosing is removed with the heralding of the destruction of the city and the Mikdash. And, finally, at the beginning of the period of the return to Zion and the building of the Second Temple, the Divine selection of the city is renewed.

 

C.        CHOOSING OF JERUSALEM - ETERNAL CHOOSING

 

The promise regarding the eternity of Jerusalem is based on several verses. In psalm 78, following the verses cited above, it is stated:

 

And He built His sanctuary like the high heavens, like the earth which He has established for ever. (Tehillim 78:69)

 

            And in the verse in psalm 132 which we have already seen:

 

This is My resting place forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it. (Ibid. 132:14)

 

            Shelomo himself says in his prayer:

 

I have surely built You a house to dwell in, a settled place for you to abide in for ever. (I Melakhim 8:13)

 

            And following the dedication of the Temple, God appears to Shelomo and says to him:

 

For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there for ever.  And My eyes and My heart shall be there perpetually. (II Divrei Ha-yamim 17:16)

 

Rabbi Elazar relied on this verse when he said that "the Shekhina never departed from within the Sanctuary," even after the destruction of Temple (Shemot Rabba 2). And similarly, another Midrash says about the verse, "Behold, he stands behind our wall" (Shir Ha-shirim 2:9): "Behind the western wall of the Bet ha-Mikdash. Why? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, promised that it would never be destroyed" (Shir Ha-shirim Rabba 2).

 

We shall conclude with the words of the commentators on the following verses in psalm 68:

 

O mighty hill, O hill of Bashan; O high beaked hill, hill of Bashan: why do you look askance, O high peaked hill, at the mountain which God has desired for His abode? Truly the Lord will dwell there forever. The chariots of God are twice ten thousand, thousands upon thousands: the Lord is among them: Sinai in holiness! (Tehillim 68:16-18)

 

            Rashi (ad loc., v. 17, s.v. lama tirtzadun harim gavnunim) explains:

 

… He further says to them: "Why do you look askance, O high peaked hill" – Why do you high peaked hills lie in ambush to destroy the mountain that God desired for His abode, to rest His Shekhina upon it, namely, the Temple Mount? Truly the Lord will dwell there forever, its holiness is for perpetuity. From the time that it was chosen for His abode, the Shekhina did not rest anywhere else.

 

            And the Radak (ad loc.):

 

Some explain tirtzadun in the sense of "you shall dance" (tirkadun). That is to say: Why do you praise yourselves? You are considered as naught in comparison to the hill that God has desired for His abode, namely, the Temple Mount, where the Temple stands, in which the Glory will always be seen. For the entire land fell under the control of the hand of the enemy, but regarding Jerusalem, it says: "[He shall not come into this city,] nor shoot an arrow there" (II Melakhim 19:32; Yeshayahu 37:33). And it says: "Truly the Lord will dwell there forever," for at Mount Sinai He did not dwell forever.

 

            We see from all of these sources that the sanctity of Jerusalem is eternal. This assertion has both conceptual and halakhic significance.

 

1)         The Conceptual significance: Jerusalem as "a resting place"

 

The primary significance that Chazal attached to the eternity of the selection of Jerusalem is that it is a "resting place," as the verse states:

 

For the Lord has chosen Zion. He has desired it for His habitation. This is My resting place forever.  Here will I dwell; for I have desired it. (Ibid. 132:13-14)

 

            Several Midrashim relate to this verse.  Thus, for example, Rabbi Shimon uses it to explain another verse: "For you are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance" (Devarim 12:9) (found in the "to the place which the Lord your God shall choose" passage):

 

Our Sages taught: "For you are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance…." "Rest" – this is Shilo, "inheritance" – this is Jerusalem…; these are the words of Rabbi Yehuda. Rabbi Shimon says: "Rest" – this is Jerusalem… and it says, "This is My resting place forever.  Here will I dwell; for I have desired it." (Zevachim 119a)

 

            And in greater detail in Midrash Tehillim (Shochar Tov) on psalm 71:

 

Rabbi Shimon says: "Rest" – this is Jerusalem. And similarly it says: "This is My resting place forever." And it says: "For the Lord has chosen Zion.  He has desired it for His habitation." Why is it called "a resting place"? Because of the resting of the ark.

 

            This exposition corresponds to what David said (as we saw in the previous lesson) regarding the essence of the Mikdash:

 

Then David the king stood up upon his feet, and said, Hear me, my brethren, and my people.  As for me, I had it in my heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and for the footstool of our God, and I had made ready for building. (I Divrei ha-Yamim 28:2)

 

            Midrash Shir Ha-shirim Rabba emphasizes the difference between the rest in Jerusalem and the situation that preceded it:

 

Another explanation: "Also our couch is green" (Shir Ha-shirim 1:16) – just as this bed is made only for pleasure, so too until the Bet ha-Mikdash was built the Shekhina moved from place to place. This is what is written: "I have walked in a tent and a tabernacle" (II Shemuel 7:6). Once the Bet ha-Mikdash was built, "This is My resting place forever" (Tehillim 132:14). (Shir ha-Shirim Rabba 1)

 

            In other words, Jerusalem being a place of "rest" signifies an end to the wandering. Jerusalem differs from the Mishkan and from the great bama: Jerusalem is a place of "rest" – a fixed place that will not change. Moreover, the rest of Jerusalem is connected to the rest of Israel, a situation of peace and quiet from its enemies. This too finds expression in the "to the place which the Lord your God shall choose" passage:

 

But when you traverse the Jordan, and dwell in the land which the Lord your God gives you to inherit, and when He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety; then there shall be a place which the Lord your God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there… (Devarim 12:10-11)

 

            As Midrash Shir Ha-shirim Rabba continues:

 

Another explanation: "Also our couch is green" – just as this bed is made only for pleasure, so too Israel, until the Bet ha-Mikdash was built, moved from place to place. "And they departed" … "And they camped" (Bamidbar 33). Once the Bet ha-Mikdash was built, "And Yehuda and Israel dwelt in safety" (I Melakhim 5:5). (Shir Ha-shirim Rabba 1)

 

            In conclusion, we shall cite a surprising Midrash that draws a connection between the eternal rest in Jerusalem and the eternal joy of God in the righteousness and justice that the Jewish people perform:

 

When Israel performs righteousness and justice, the Holy One, blessed be He, rejoices in them. This teaches that His joy is to the end of all the generations, as it is stated, "For the Lord has chosen Zion," and it says, "This is My resting place forever." (Eliyahu Rabba, chap. 16)

 

            We have already discussed the significance of this Midrash in our lesson on "Jerusalem – City of Righteousness" (lecture 6, note 11)[4]

 

As stated earlier, the Divine choosing of Jerusalem took place in the days of Shelomo, who is referred to as a "man of rest" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 22:9). A man of rest will build a house of rest in God's eternal resting place, after there will be rest from the enemies.

 

2)         THe Halakhic significance

 

            As is our usual manner, here too we will try to demonstrate the connection between the conceptual and halakhic aspects. We will cite the words of the Rambam who related to this issue at length. In his commentary to the Mishna, which states: "When they came to Jerusalem, the bamot were forbidden, and there was no [further] allowance, and it was an inheritance" (Zevachim 14:8), the Rambam writes:

 

Jerusalem is called an "inheritance"[5] because its sanctity and existence were fixed forever. The prophet says about it: "Nor will He forsake His inheritance" (Tehillim 94:14). For it was already stated earlier that God chose Jerusalem for His Shekhina, and He chose Israel as His treasure. And afterward it says that God will abandon neither the nation that He had chosen as His inheritance nor the place that He had chosen. This is what it says: "For the Lord has chosen Zion: He has desired it for His habitation" (Tehillim 132:13); "For the Lord has chosen Yaakov to Himself, Israel for His peculiar possession" (Ibid. 135:4); "For the Lord will not cast off His people, nor will He forsake His inheritance" (Ibid. 94:14). And the eternity of its sanctity was already explained: "This is My resting place forever" (Ibid. 132:14).

 

            The Rambam relates to the eternity of the sanctity of the place, implying that a significant connection exists between selection and its sanctity. In this context, it is interesting that the Rambam chose to call the laws of the Bet ha-Mikdash "Hilkhot Bet ha-Bechira," Laws of the Chosen House."

 

            At the beginning of Hilkhot Bet ha-Bechira (1:3), the Rambam writes:

 

Once the Mikdash was built in Jerusalem, it was forbidden to build a temple for God or offer a sacrifice in all other places. A temple for all generations may only be built in Jerusalem, and on Mount Moriah, about which it is stated, "Then David said, This is the house of the Lord God, and this is the altar of the burnt offering for Israel" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 22:1); and it says, "This is My resting place forever" (Tehillim 132:14).

 

            The Rambam relates here to two aspects of the eternal choosing of Jerusalem. One aspect is that with the construction of the Mikdash in Jerusalem, bamot became forbidden forevermore – with no further allowance in the future. This rule is based on the Mishna in Zevachim 14:4-8, and especially the Mishna cited above: "When they came to Jerusalem, the bamot were forbidden, and there was no [further] allowance" (Ibid., Mishna 8); and also on the Mishna in Megila: "The sanctity of Shilo has an allowance after it, but the sanctity of Jerusalem has no allowance after it" (Megila 1:11). The prohibition regarding bamot remained in place even after the destruction of the Mikdash, because the sanctity of the Mikdash in Jerusalem remains forever, it being an inheritance, as explained in the Rambam's commentary to the Mishna cited above.

 

A second aspect of the eternal choosing of Jerusalem is that Jerusalem and Mount Moriah are the place of the Mikdash for all generations. This assertion has great significance regarding the precise location of the Mikdash described by Yechezkel.[6]

 

            In Hilkhot Bet ha-Bechira 6:14-15, the Rambam writes as follows:

 

… How was it sanctified? Through the first sanctification of Shelomo, for he sanctified the [Temple] courtyard and Jerusalem for his time and for the future.

Therefore, all the sacrifices may be offered even if there is no Temple standing. And the holiest sacrifices may be eaten in the entire courtyard, even if it is in ruins and not surrounded by a wall. And sacrifices of lesser holiness and second-tithe may be eaten in all of Jerusalem even if there are no walls, for the first sanctification was for its time and for the future.

Why do I say regarding the Mikdash and Jerusalem that the first sanctification was for the future, whereas the sanctification of the rest of the Land of Israel regarding the Sabbatical year and tithes was not for the future? Because the sanctity of the Mikdash and Jerusalem is because of the Shekhina, and the Shekhina never left. Surely it says, "And I will bring your sanctuaries to desolation." (Vayikra 26:32), and the Sages have said, even though they are in desolation, they remain sanctified.

 

            The assertion made by the Rambam (and other Rishonim) that Jerusalem and the Mikdash were sanctified even for the future imply that the sanctity does not depend upon the building, but upon the place itself. The reason for this is that "the sanctity of the Mikdash and Jerusalem are because of the Shekhina, and the Shekhina never left." In other words, since the source of the sanctity is the Shekhina, which is above time and place, the sanctity is eternal.[7]

 

SUMMARY

 

            In this shiur, we have tried to demonstrate that the final Divine selection of the city took place in the days of Shelomo and that this selection was for eternity. We have also tried to show the conceptual and halakhic significance of this assertion.

 

            In our next shiur, we will finish the topic of the selection of Jerusalem, by examining the relationship between kingdom and Mikdash and between the selection of Jerusalem and the selection of the kingdom of the house of David.

 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] According to the Mishna in tractate Kelim (1:8) the sanctity of the city – the walled area – expresses itself in the fact that sacrifices of lesser holiness and second tithe may be eaten there, that is to say, it constitutes sort of an expansion of the Mikdash.

It should be mentioned in this context that in several places in his commentary to the Mishna, the Rambam understands the term Mikdash as referring to the entire city of Jerusalem. In his commentary to Ma'aser Sheni 3:4, the Rambam writes on "Produce in Jerusalem and money in the medina": "'Medina' refers to all the cities of Eretz Yisrael except for Jerusalem." Now, in other places where the Mishna distinguishes between Mikdash and medina (rather than between Jerusalem and medina) the Rambam offers the same explanation. Thus, for example, regarding what the Mishna states in Sukka 3:10: "At first, the lulav was taken in the Mikdash for seven days and in the medina for one day," the Rambam writes: "Medina refers to the rest of Eretz Yisrael outside of Jerusalem; and I already explained this in tractate Ma'aser Sheni." According to his explanation, then, the Mishna refers to all of Jerusalem as the Mikdash. See also the Rambam's commentary to Shekalim 1:3 and Rosh Ha-shana 4:1.

 

[2] As we noted in the previous lecture, the emphasis on the selection of Jerusalem in this context is not accidental. It comes to negate the possibility that the division of the kingdom will bring to a division regarding the place of the Mikdash.

 

[3] Attention should be paid to the fact that Scripture draws a connection between the government (the Tribe of Ephraim versus the Tribe of Yehuda) and the place of worship (the tent of Yosef versus Mount Zion). We shall later relate to this essential connection between the place of government and the place of Divine worship.

 

[4] Several other Midrashim are based on the assumption that Jerusalem is called "a resting place." For example: "How do you understand 'And Damascus will be His resting place' (Zekharya 9:1)? In the future Jerusalem will reach Damascus, as it is stated, 'And Damascus will be His resting place.' And there is no resting place other than Jerusalem, as it is stated, 'This is My resting place for ever' (Tehillim 132:12). He said to him: And how do you understand 'And the city shall be built on its own tel' (Yirmiyahu 30:18)? He said to him: In the future it will not move from its place… (Yalkut Shimoni, Devarim 792).

 

[5] The Rambam discusses the Mishna's assertion that it is Jerusalem that is referred to as the "inheritance" in the verse: "For you are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance" (Devarim 12:9). The relationship between these two concepts, rest and inheritance, should be examined. We have already seen above the disagreement between Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Shimon (cited in the Gemara on this Mishna, Zevachim 119a) regarding the meaning of these terms. Actually, four Tannaitic opinions regarding the matter are cited in that passage: "Our Sages taught: 'For you are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance.' 'Rest' – this is Shilo, 'inheritance' – this is Jerusalem…; these are the words of Rabbi Yehuda. Rabbi Shimon says: 'Rest' – this is Jerusalem… 'inheritance' – this is Shilo… A Tanna of the school of Rabbi Yishmael taught: Both terms refer to Shilo. Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai said: Both terms refer to Jerusalem." (Ibid.; see also Midrash Tehillim, psalm 132). The fact that different Tannaim (incidentally, it is interesting that two different opinions are cited in the name of Rabbi Shimon) understand the words "rest" and "inheritance" as referring to Jerusalem and Shilo in all the possible combinations teaches us that these two terms are close in meaning, and that both of them find expression in both places.

 

[6] This is an interesting issue, because in the "terumat ha-kodesh" (see Yechezkel, chapters 45 and 48), there is a very great distance between the city and the Mikdash, and it is important to define the location of each of them. This, however, is not the forum to discuss the issue at greater length.

 

[7] Interestingly, the Rambam does not cite the words of the Gemara in Yoma (54b) regarding the connection between the Holy of Holies and the creation of the world, nor does he even mention the Foundation Stone. On the other hand, the Rambam describes at length (Hilkhot Bet ha-Bechira 2:2) the connection between the creation of man and the altar on Mount Moriah: "And there is a widespread tradition that the place where David and Shelomo built the altar at the threshing floor of Arvana is the same place where Avraham built an altar and bound Yitzchak upon it; and it is the same place where Noach built an altar when he emerged from the ark; and this is the altar upon which Kayin and Hevel brought offerings; and the first man brought an offering upon it when he was created; and from there he was created. The Sages said: Man was created from the place of his atonement." The Rambam emphasizes the place of the altar, rather than the place of the Holy of Holies, because the sanctity of the place of the altar first came to expression through human initiative. According to this, sanctity rested in the world as a result of human action from the beginning of creation. The Holy One, blessed be He, as it were, chose a place for eternity as a result of human action. This idea corresponds to the approach that we have followed, that the Divine choice of "the place that the Lord will choose" took human choice into consideration.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)