Lecture 47a: The History of the Resting of the Shekhina - The Territory of Binyamin - The Territory of the Shekhina (Part II)

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy

 

 

            In this lecture, we will discuss the territory of the tribe of Binyamin, and we will adduce proofs to the assertion that the tribal territory of Binyamin is indeed the territory of the Shekhina. The second half of the lecture will deal with the parallelism between Bet-El and Jerusalem and its significance.

 

A.        PROOFS THAT THE TERRITORY OF BINYAMIN IS THE TERRITORY OF THE SHEKHINA[1]

 

The fact that God chose to rest His Shekhina in the territory of Binyamin manifests itself in several ways:

 

1) THE LARGE NUMBER OF HOLY PLACES IN THE TERRITORY OF BINYAMIN

 

A heavy concentration of holy places is found in the area comprising the tribal territory of Binyamin: Gilgal, Bet-El, Kiryat-Ye'arim, Mitzpeh, Givat ha-Elohim, Nov, Giv'on and Jerusalem. This is not merely a quantitative issue: it can be demonstrated that some of these places are situated on the border itself of the territory of Binyamin (see map, no. 1). [2]

 

        · In the north, on the border between Binyamin and Efrayim, "And the border went over from thence towards Luz, to the south side of Luz, which is Bet-El" (Yehoshua 18:13): Luz is in Efrayim (Shofetim 1:22), but the sanctified site, Bet-El, is in Binyamin (Yehoshua 18:21).

 

        · In the south, on the border between Binyamin and Yehuda, "And the border went up… to the south side of the Yevusi; that is Jerusalem" (ibid. 15:8): Jerusalem, the sanctified place, is in Binyamin.

 

 

        · In the west, on the border between Binyamin and Yehuda, Kiryat-Ye'arim: the ark rested in Binyamin, in the city called Giv'at-Kiryat (ibid. 18:28 and I Shemuel 7:1); Kiryat-Ye'arim itself is in Yehuda (Yehoshua 15:60; 18:14).

 

We see, then, that the border systematically passes in such a way that the sanctified site is in Binyamin, while the city itself is in the neighboring tribal territory (Yehuda or Efrayim).

 

The concentration of holy places in the tribal territory of Binyamin is reflected in the surprising position of Rav Dimi (Zevachim 118b) that all of the Mishkan's stations were in the territory of Binyamin:

 

When Rav Dimi came he said in the name of Rabbi [Yehuda ha-Nasi]: The Shekhina rested in Israel in three places: in Shilo, in Nov and Giv'on, and in the permanent Temple [in Jerusalem]. And in all of them [the Shekhina] rested only in the portion of Binyamin, as it is stated: "He shall cover him all the day long" (Devarim 33:12) – all coverings will be in the portion of Binyamin.

When Abaye went and reported [the teaching of Rav Dimi] before Rav Yosef, he [Rav Yosef] said: … But surely it is written: "So that He forsook the tabernacle of Shilo" (Tehillim 78:60), and it is written: "And He rejected the tabernacle of Yosef, and chose not the tribe of Efrayim" (ibid. v.67)!

Rav Ada said: What is the difficulty? Perhaps the Shekhina was in the portion of Binyamin and the Great Sanhedrin in the portion of Yosef, as we find in the permanent Temple that the Shekhina was in the portion of Binyamin and the Sanhedrin was in the portion of Yehuda.

He said to him: Is this the same? There, the territories are adjacent; here, are they adjacent [Rashi: Shilo and the border of the territory of Binyamin]?

Here, too, they are adjacent, as Rabbi Chama the son of Rabbi Chanina said: A strip protruded from the portion of Yehuda into the portion of Binyamin, and there the altar was built, and the righteous Binyamin was grieved to swallow it up. Here, too, a strip protruded from the portion of Yosef into the portion of Binyamin. And this is what is written: "And the border went about eastward to Ta'anat Shilo" (Yehoshua 16:7) [Rashi: Because Binyamin lamented over it (the strip of Yosef's territory that protruded into the territory of Binyamin)].

 

            In response to Rav Yosef's proofs that Shilo is situated deep inside the territory of Efrayim and therefore cannot possibly be part of the territory of Binyamin, Rav Ada argues that just as at the border between Binyamin and Yehuda on Mount Moriya a strip protruded from the territory of Yehuda into that of Binyamin to include the site of the altar and the Sanhedrin in Yehuda’s territory, a strip of the territory of Yosef similarly protruded into the territory of Binyamin. This resolution is exceedingly difficulty, for the distance between Shilo and the southern border of Efrayim (the border between Efrayim and Binyamin) is many kilometers – a far greater distance than that between Mount Moriya and the border between Yehuda and Binyamin! Nevertheless, the gemara accepts this resolution in order to set Shilo in the territory of Binyamin and to resolve the difficulty arising from the assertion that all of the Mishkan's stations without exception – including the distant Shilo – were located in the tribal territory of Binyamin, the territory of the Shekhina.[3]

 

2. RABBINIC SOURCES THAT THE MIKDASH WAS IN THE TERRITORY OF BINYAMIN

 

1) Shmuel and David seek out the site of the Mikdash in the territory of Binyamin:

 

It is stated in tractate Zevachim (54b):[4]

 

Rava expounded: What is that which is written: "And he [David] and Shemuel went and dwelt in Nayot" (I Shemuel 19:18)? What is Nayot doing next to Rama? Rather, they were sitting in Rama and occupied themselves with the beauty (noy) of the world.

They said: It is written: "Then you shall arise, and go up to the place" (Devarim 17:8), teaching that the Temple is higher than all of Eretz Yisrael, and Eretz Yisrael is higher than all the countries.

They didn't know where it was, [so] they brought out the book of Yehoshua. Regarding all of them it is written, "it went down," "the border went up," "the border descended." Regarding Binyamin, it is written, "it went up," but it is not written, "it went down." They said: Infer from this that here [in Binyamin] is its [the Temple's] place.

They thought to build it at Ein-Eitam, which was high. They said: Let us place it a little lower, as it is stated: "And between his shoulders [which are lower than the head] shall He dwell" (Devarim 33:12).

 

            Shemuel and David's[5] joint investigation of and search for the site of the Mikdash[6] brought them to the conclusion that it must be built in an elevated place. They identified this high place with the territory of Binyamin based on the verses in the book of Yehoshua, where the account of the borders of that tribe lack the words, "and it descended."[7]

 

2)         Setting aside the pasture ground of Jericho:

 

They said: When Israel divided up the land, they left out the pasture land of Jericho, five hundred cubits by five hundred cubits. They said: Whoever builds the chosen Temple in his portion will receive the pasture land of Jericho. At first, they gave it to Yonadav the son of Rachav, and they ate from it for four hundred and forty years… When the Shekhina rested in the portion of Binyamin, the sons of Binyamin came to take their portion; they came and vacated them, as it is stated: "And the children of the Keni, Moshe's father-in-law" (Shofetim 1:16). (Sifrei Bamidbar, 81)

 

… They knew that the Temple would eventually be built in the portion of Yehuda and Binyamin, [and] therefore they set aside the pasture land of Jericho from Jericho. Who ate of it all those years? The children of the Keni, Moshe's father-in-law, ate of it for four hundred and forty years. As it is stated: "And the children of the Keni, Moshe's father-in-law, went up out of the city of palm trees" (Shofetim 1:16). But once the Temple was built, they set off and departed. (Sifrei Devarim 62)

 

            According to these midrashim, it was already known at the time of the settlement of Eretz Yisrael that the Temple would eventually be built in the portion of Yehuda or in the portion of Binyamin, only that it had not yet been clarified in which of the two the Shekhina would rest. Once it became clear that the Shekhina had rested in the portion of Binyamin, the children of Binyamin came to take the pasture land of Jericho.

 

3)         The location of the territory of Binyamin in relationship to the surrounding tribes[8]

 

In his article (see note 1), Rav Yoel Bin Nun persuasively demonstrates the change in the location of the tribe of Binyamin. In the wilderness, the tribe of Binyamin was part of the banner of the camp of Efrayim, which camped to the west of the Mishkan,[9] but in Eretz Yisrael Binyamin settled in the center of all the tribes, essentially seizing the place of the tribe of Levi (which did not receive territory in Eretz Yisrael), which camped in the wilderness in the center of the camp, around the Mishkan. Moreover, the four tribes surrounding the territory of Levi are the four heads of the camps that surrounded the Mishkan in the wilderness: Yehuda, Re'uven, Efrayim, and Dan.[10] It seems that this location, in the center of all the tribes, is meant to express God's choice of this tribe for the resting of the Shekhina.

 

4) The Mikdash – in the territory of Binyamin

 

In several places,[11] the Torah alludes – on the level of the plain sense, hint, derash, or mystery – that the Mikdash and the altar would be in the portion of Binyamin:[12]

 

        · The Zohar (Bereishit 202b) relates to two verses that describe the first time that Yosef sees Binyamin in Egypt:

 

Rabbi Yose says: Surely it is written in the first verse, "And Yosef saw Binyamin with them" (Bereishit 43:16), and now it is written: "And he lifted up his eyes, and saw his brother Binyamin" (Bereishit 43:29). What did he see now? Rather he saw with the Holy Spirit that Binyamin would have a portion with them in the land, and that the Shekhina would rest in the portion of Binyamin and Yehuda, for he saw that the Mikdash would be in their portion. This is "And Yosef saw Binyamin with them." He saw him with them, and Yosef, who was his brother, did not see himself with them in that portion.

 

            Yosef saw that the Shekhina would rest in Binyamin and that the Mikdash would be built in the portion of Binyamin and Yehuda.

 

        · On the verse, "And he fell on his brother Binyamin's neck (lit. 'necks'), and wept; and Binyamin wept on his neck" (Bereishit 45:14), Rashi (ad loc.) cites the talmudic passage in Megilla 16b:

 

How many necks did Binyamin have? Rabbi Elazar said: He wept for the two Temples which were to be in Binyamin's territory and which would ultimately be laid in ruins.

 

        · In Ya'akov's blessing to Binyamin, it is stated: "Binyamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil" (Bereishit 49:27). From this verse as well, the commentators learn that the Shekhina would rest in the portion of Binyamin and that there the Temple would be built and the sacrifices would be offered on the altar.

 

For example, this is how Onkelos renders the verse: "The Shekhina will rest in Binyamin's land and in his territory the Temple will be built; in the morning and in the afternoon the priests will offer sacrifices and toward evening they will take their portion from the rest of the sacrifices."

           

The gemara in Zevachim (54a) records an Amoraic disagreement regarding the Aramaic translation of this verse: "Rav translates: 'In his territory the altar will be built.' Levi translates: 'In his territory the Temple will be built.'"

 

Bereishit Rabba also expounds the verse along these lines:

 

R. Pinchas explained the verse as relating to the altar: Just as a wolf grabs, so too the altar grabs the sacrifices. "In the morning he shall devour the prey" – "The one lamb shall you offer in the morning;" "and at night he shall devour the spoil" – "and the other lamb shall you offer at evening." (Bereishit Rabba 99)

 

            In light of these explanations, we can understand that the resting of God's Shekhina in Binyamin is already alluded to in the blessing that Ya'akov bestowed upon him.

 

5) Yoav's census

 

As may be recalled, Yoav is commanded by David to take a census of Israel. Two tribes, however, were not included in this count, as is stated in Divrei Ha-Yamim: "But he did not count Levi and Binyamin among them; for the king's word was abhorrent to Yoav" (I Divrei Ha-Yamim 21:6). What is the significance of the grouping of Levi and Binyamin in this context?

 

The simple understanding among the classical commentators (Rashi, Radak and Metzudat David) is that Yoav, who abhorred the words of his mighty king and had no desire to fulfill the command, succeeded to evade fulfilling it with respect to these two tribes, having a ready explanation to account for his failure to count them: Levi had not been counted among the people of Israel in the wilderness (Bamidbar 2:33), and the tribe of Binyamin was almost completely wiped out in the incident involving the concubine in Giv'a, "And if they are smitten now, what would be left of them" (the wording of Rashi, ad loc.).

 

I wish to propose another understanding. It was mentioned in the past that in the blessings that Moshe gave to the tribes, Binyamin immediately follows Levi, owing to their common denominator – the Temple: the tribe of Levi serves in the Temple, and Binyamin serves as the seat of the Mikdash. According to my proposal, Yoav exploited this connection in order to avoid counting Binyamin (in addition to the tribe of Levi), inasmuch as it is one of the tribes connected to the resting of the Shekhina.[13]

 

6) The description of the territory of Binyamin in the book of Yehoshua[14]

 

Chapters 18-19 of the book of Yehoshua describe the territories of the seven tribes that remained in Shilo:

 

And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shilo and set up the Tent of Meeting there. And the land was conquered before them. And there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes who had not yet received their inheritance. And Yehoshua said to the children of Israel, "How long will you be remiss in going to possess the land, which the Lord God of your fathers has given you…"

           

            Several points in these chapters reinforce the idea that the territory of Binyamin is a special territory.

 

            a) The details of the territory of Binyamin

 

The first point that clearly emerges is the fact that the territory of Binyamin is the first territory described among the territories of the seven tribes who were remiss in going to possess their land. This point is very interesting, because from every perspective, other tribes come before it – the precedence given to the sons of Leah over the sons of Rachel, the order of their births, etc. In addition, it is interesting that as opposed to all the other tribes who receive their territories in Shilo, with respect to whom the description of their territories is short and concise, in the case of Binyamin, the description is detailed and similar in nature to the detailed account appearing in connection to the territories of Yehuda and the sons of Yosef.

 

            b) The cities of the Levites

 

In the account of the cities of the Levites appearing in Yehoshua 21, it is stated that cities of the Levites were only given to two tribes, Yehuda and Binyamin. It should be mentioned that at this point the Mishkan was standing in Shilo, and the location of the future Temple was still not known, nor even the assumption that it would be built on the land of the tribe of Binyamin. On the assumption that the cities of the Levites are important cities, it is not clear why precisely the tribe of Binyamin merits receiving them together with the tribe of Yehuda.

 

c) Use of the term "pe'a" with respect to the border of Binyamin

 

The word "pe'a," in the sense of "side," appears in Scripture in three different contexts: in the account of the cities of the Levites (Bamidbar 35:5), in Yechezkel's description of the borders (Yechezkel 47, 48), and in the chapters dealing with the Mikdash (I Melakhim, chap. 12) and in the command and execution of the Mishkan (Shemot 25-26, regarding the table, the boards of the Mishkan, the courtyard, and similarly in the execution). In addition to these three contexts, the word appears several times in the account of the borders of the tribal territories, once in Yehoshua (15:5) in the account of the northern border of Yehuda that abuts upon the tribe of Binyamin, and in four other places, all in the description of the territory of Binyamin (Yehoshua 18:12, 14, 15, and 20). The fact that this word is used in the account of the territories primarily with respect to the tribe of Binyamin emphasizes once again the uniqueness of this territory.

 

It may be suggested that the explanation for all these phenomena lies in the assumption that Binyamin is the tribe whose territory was chosen to serve as the territory of the Shekhina.

rauss)

 

[1] This lecture stands against the backdrop of the fundamental article of my revered teacher Rav Yoel Bin Nun, "Nachalat Binyamin Nachalat Shekhina," in: Lifnei Efrayim, Binyamin u-Menasheh, Midreshet Binyamin, Ofra Field School, pp. 25-46.

[2] This point was already noticed by my revered teacher Rav Yoel Elitzur in his article, "Gevul Binyamin U-Mikumo shel Bet Orot, Kol Tzofayikh 5752.

[3] The Mishkan's move from Gilgal to Shilo occurred, however, even before the tribe of Binyamin took possession of its territory, that is to say, before the borders of the territory of the Shekhina were fixed.

[4] We already dealt with this talmudic passage in the context of the issue of the Mikdash's altitude. Here we shall deal with other issues, and as we said in the previous lecture, we will not deal here with the issue of Ein-Eitam.

[5] This is not the place to expand on the very interesting gap between these words of Chazal regarding David and Shemuel's actions in Nayot and the plain sense of Scripture (I Shemuel 19), according to which David came to Shemuel in the course of his flight from Shaul.

[6] When we deal with the period of David, we will discuss at length the gemara's simple assumption that David did not know the location of the Mikdash.

[7] There is a certain difficulty here, for the word, va-yered ("and it descended") does, in fact, appear in the account of the border of Binyamin in Yehoshua 18 (see, for example, vv. 16-17), but this is not the place to expand on the matter.

[8] See Map, no. 2: Binyamin's location in the Mishkan and in Eretz Yisrael.

[9] It is not by chance that Binyamin, in whose territory the Shekhina would eventually rest, is found in the camp of Efrayim, who camped in the west – the place of the Shekhina (see Bava Batra 25a). This was already noted by the commentators. See, for example, Rabbenu Bachye on Bamidbar 2:2, and in a more relevant manner for our purposes, the Maharal of Prague, Gevurot Ha-Shem, chapter 42, where he says: "Rather, Binyamin went down first on the side closest to the sea, and he yearned to be there, and for this reason he merited that the Shekhina would rest in his portion, because it became clear that he has westernly power and the Shekhina is in the west." This issue requires further discussion.

[10] We will not discuss here the differences in direction between the location of the tribes in the wilderness in relation to the Mishkan and their location in Eretz Yisrael in relation to the territory of Binyamin.

[11] Some of the sources that will be cited here appear in the article of Chava Lichtenstein, "Hashra'at Shekhina Be-Binyamin, Mikhlol 12 (5756), p. 7 and on.

[12] In the coming lectures, we will relate in a detailed manner to the border between Binyamin and Yehuda in the Mikdash, including the altar, according to the understanding of Chazal.

[13] Before concluding this section, it should be noted that Rav Yoel Bin Nun brings in his article additional proofs that the territory of Binyamin is the territory of the Shekhina. I wish to mention two of them:

1)   Regarding the Giv'onites, four of whose cities are in the territory of Binyamin, it is stated: "And Yehoshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and for the altar of the Lord, to this day, in the place which He should choose" (Yehoshua 9:27). The fact that they were given over to the altar and the Mikdash is connected to the sanctity of the territory.

2)   The bringing of the ark from Bet-Shemesh in Yehuda to the hill in Kiryat Ye'arim in Binyamin (I Shemuel 6:20-7:1) can be explained as a solution to the stumbling of the people of Yehuda when they looked into the ark in Bet Shemesh; the ark should be brought up to the territory of Binyamin, which is the territory of the Shekhina.

[14] I heard these proofs from Rav Yehoshua Reis, and I thank him for them.