Shiur #13: The History of the Resting of the Shekhina - (Part IV) - The Generation of the Dispersion and the Tower of Bavelas the Opposite of the Mikdash

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy

 

 

And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shin'ar; and they dwelt there. And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said, "Come, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach to heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men were building. And the Lord said, "Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language, and this they begin to do. And now nothing will be withheld from them, which they have schemed to do. Come, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." So the Lord scattered them abroad from there upon the face of all the earth: and they ceased to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Bavel, because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth; and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth. (Bereishit 11:1-9)

 

            Following the history of Adam, Kayin and Hevel, and Noach and his sons, this might be regarded as the Torah's first description of community organization. In this lecture, I will restrict my words to the perverted connection to God's world that manifests itself in this story, and especially to the building of the city and the tower which reaches heaven, which represent the very opposite of the building of Jerusalem and the Mikdash. Along the way, I will also deal with the significance of physical elevation in man's service of God.[1]

 

I.          THE SIN OF THE TOWER OF BAVEL AND ITS PUNISHMENT

 

The tower of Bavel was apparently the earliest example of idol worship,[2] one of the clearest expressions of which is its great height: "And they said, 'Come, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach to heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.'" The Torah also emphasizes the unity among the tower's builders: "And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech;" "And the Lord said, 'Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language.'" The commentators disagree about what the sin of the generation of the dispersion was, it not being explicitly spelled out in Scripture. But the primary thrust of the story seems to be explained in the midrashic statement of Rabbi Elazar son of Rabbi Shimon:

 

"And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east (mi-kedem)" – They moved themselves from the Originator (mi-kadmono) of the world. They said: "We want neither Him nor His divinity." (Bereishit Rabba 38, 7)

 

            Instead of displaying gratitude, in the spirit of Noach's building of an altar, they build a city and a tower whose top reached heaven with the goal of making a name for themselves:

 

And thus they demonstrated that they no longer rely on God who delivered their fathers and them from death and perdition, but rather they rely exclusively on their own strength and the might of their hand… and they adopted the counsel of the serpent: 'And you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil' (Bereishit 3:5), and in this act they became similar to 'the mighty men of old, men of renown' (ibid. 6:4), whose actions brought destruction and desolation to the world (excerpt from Yehuda Kil's summary of the story, Da'at Mikra commentary, p. 292).

 

            As stated, the plan of the tower's builders emphasized building to a great height. Building a city and a tower whose top reaches heaven is a clear characteristic of idol worshipers, who strive to reach the gods and control the world, based on the understanding that physical height gives expression to superiority and power. To achieve this end, the people gathered together in one city and started to build a tower that would reach heaven, and God responded by confounding their language and scattering them upon the face of the earth. Since the objective of the unity of all of mankind was rebellion against God - and this was the goal that their one language served – the ultimate response was putting the rebellion down by confounding their language and scattering them across the world.

 

            My main argument is that the repair of the sin of the generation of the dispersion lies in the city of Jerusalem and the Mikdash that was built therein – the whole purpose of which was to put the name of God there (Devarim 12:5, 11). The Mikdash was to serve as a resting place for God's name in this world, a place towards which all the nations would stream and thus come to recognize the kingdom of God. The Mikdash repaired all components of the sin of the generation of the dispersion:

 

                      ·                      The Mikdash is a tower, but its top is not in heaven, and it is not the highest structure.

                      ·                      It is not man, with his arrogance and self-confidence, who stands in the center of the Mikdash, but rather the resting of God's name.

                      ·                      The objective of the unity of the human collective in the Mikdash was effacement before the kingdom of God, and thus it led not to separation and scattering, but rather to peace (see below).

 

I wish to demonstrate how the location of Jerusalem and the Mikdash at a relatively low altitude expresses the very opposite of the city and tower built during the generation of the dispersion.

 

II.        THE SIGNIFICANCE OF RESTING THE SHEKHINA IN A LOW PLACE

 

The tribal territory of Binyamin – the territory of the Shekhina – is low in comparison to the territory of Yosef, adjacent to it from the north, and in comparison to the territory of Yehuda located to its south. The dwelling of the Shekhina in a low area, between the shoulders (Devarim 33:12), stands in contrast to that of idol worship, which were usually worshipped in a high area (as we shall see below). Let us consider, then, the relatively low altitude of Jerusalem and its significance.

 

1.         JERUSALEM IN A LOW PLACE

 

Various passages in Scripture relate to the (relatively) low altitude of Jerusalem. Tehillim 125:2 reads:

 

As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people from henceforth and forever.

 

The verse bestows spiritual significance to the ancient city's topographical lowness relative to the mountains that surround it. The Radak explains:

 

Even though mountains surround it, it has no strength, and the nations will take control and conquer it one from the other. And it will have no strength until God is in it, around His nation. His name will give them more strength than the mountains, so that the enemy will not rule over them from henceforth and forever.

 

            The Radak assumes that the mountains that surround the city are meant to protect it, but  Scripture teaches that what truly protects the city is the name of God. I wish to argue[3] that the mountains that surround the ancient city not only fail to protect it, but they actually constitute its weak point; thus, it is not the mountains that protect Jerusalem, but rather God. According to this understanding, the topographical conditions of the city – its relative lowness – do not provide appropriate protection, and create a situation of necessary dependence on the protection of God: "So the Lord is round about His people."

 

            A similar conclusion rises from the designation of the city as "the valley of vision" (Yeshayahu 22:1). The Radak explains that "it is called 'valley,' even though it is a mountain, so that it be designated to its detriment, because its residents cast it down to their own detriment and turned it from a mountain to a valley, so that it is no longer worthy of being called now a mountain, but rather a valley." In other words, the term "valley" stems from the evil deeds of the city's residents. According to my approach, the term relates to the relative low altitude of the city, between the mountains that surround it.

 

            Yirmiyahu as well calls Jerusalem "inhabitant of the valley, rock of the plain" (Yirmiyahu 21:13). The expression, "rock of the plain," means "rock that juts out from a plain." It relates to the fact that Jerusalem is a hill that juts out from the valleys that surround it. Owing to its low general altitude, however, the city is also called "inhabitant of the valley," a description, as explained by Noga Hareuveni,[4] that fits the view of the city as it appeared to the prophet coming from Anatot, in the area of the dip between Mount Scopus and the Mount of Olives.

 

2.         THE SIGNIFICANCE OF JERUSALEM BEING LOCATED IN A LOW PLACE

 

I wish to present three different meanings of the relatively low altitude of Jerusalem:[5]

 

1) The first meaning was already mentioned above: the city's lowness gives expression to its vulnerability – the fact that it cannot be defended by natural means – and therefore it is fundamentally dependent upon God.[6]

 

2) Midrash Tehillim (68:9) teaches:

 

"The mountain which God has desired for His abode" (Tehilim 68:17) – I desire only Sinai, which is lower than you all, as it is stated: "I dwell on high and in a holy place, yet with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit" (Yeshayahu 57:15)… And where did Sinai come from? Rabbi Yose said: It was detached from Mount Moriya, like challa from dough, from the place where Yitzchak was bound. The Holy One, blessed be He, said: "Since Yitzchak their father was bound upon it, it is fitting that his sons should receive the Torah on it." And from where do we know that in the future it will return to its place? As it is stated: "The mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains" – these are Tavor, Carmel, Sinai, and Zion. "The mountains (he-harim)" – five (he) mountains, that is, like the number of the books of the Torah.

 

            The midrash deals with the relationship between the akeida and the revelation at Mount Sinai, and with the future reality in which Mount Moriya will return to its place "on the top of the mountains." The midrash explains this relationship as being based on God's humility, which lead him to choose to rest specifically on a low place.[7]

 

3)      Tehillim (113:4-6) states:

 

The Lord is high above all nations, and His glory is above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, who is enthroned on high, and yet looks far down to behold the things that are in heaven and on the earth.

 

            God's greatness expresses itself in the fact that He is not limited to a particular place and that He reveals Himself in both heaven and earth. This idea arises in many other places; for example, another verse in Tehilim (138:6) reads, "Though the Lord be high, yet He takes note of the lowly; but the haughty He knows from afar," and a midrash about the revelation in the burning bush relates, "Why did the Holy One, blessed be He, reveal Himself to Moshe in a burning bush? To teach you that there is no place in the world void of the Shekhina, not even a bush" (Shemot Rabba 2, 9).

 

            This approach is diametrically opposed to the beliefs of the other nations, who serve their gods "upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every leafy tree" (Devarim 12:2). As Rabbi Akiva said: "Every place that you find a high mountain, raised hill and leafy tree, know that there is idol worship there" (Avoda Zara 3:5). This principle arises in various places in the Torah and in the books of the Prophets. For example, "They shall call the peoples to the mountain; there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness" (Devarim 33:19) and "They sacrifice upon the tops of the mountains, and burn incense upon the hills" (Hoshea 4:13). This form of idol worship is based on the material belief upon which it is founded, according to which physical height plays an important role. The idolaters expressed their closeness to their gods on the physical plain; they apprehended their gods as dwelling on the mountains and other high places and ruling over all who are found below them, and they therefore established their ritual sites on the high places, to show a similarity and closeness to their gods. Moreover, it is very reasonable to assume that this physical elevation reflected pride and haughtiness on the spiritual plain – perhaps out of a desire to compete with the god who dwells above. This explains the prophets' criticism (see, for example, Yeshayahu 2) of pride and haughtiness, which constitute a desecration of God.

 

            In contrast to this approach, God reveals Himself in all places – not only because of His humility, but also because of His greatness. He is not at all limited by physical reality, and therefore He oversees and reveals Himself from low places as well.[8]

 

III.       THE MIKDASH – A REPAIR OF THE SIN OF THE TOWER OF BAVEL

 

I will try to demonstrate that in several senses the Mikdash served as a repair of the sin of the tower of Bavel. In order to understand this, let us consider the fullest and most perfect description of this repair, found in Yeshayahu's vision of the end of days:

 

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all the nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go out and say, "Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Yaakov; and He will teach us of the His ways, and we will walk in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth Torah, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." And He shall judge among the nations, and shall decide among many people. And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; a nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

And the mean man is bowed down, and the great man is brought low; forgive them not. Enter into the rock, and hide in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of His majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted on that day. For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up that he shall be brought low; upon all the cedars of the Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of the Bashan, and upon all the high mountains, and upon all the lofty hills, and upon every high tower, and upon every fortified wall; and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all delightful craftsmanship. And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted on that day. And the idols shall utterly be abolished. And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth terribly. In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which had been made for him to worship to the moles and to the bats, to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the crevices of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth terribly. Cease from man, though his breath be in his nostrils, for what is he to b accounted of? (Yeshayahu 2:2-4, 9-22)

 

            This prophecy describes all the components of the repair of the sin of the generation of the dispersion:

 

                      ·            In the end of days, "the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills." This is not only meant in the spiritual sense that there will be general recognition of its importance, but also in the physical sense: It will be the highest place, and thus a correspondence will be created between its spiritual significance and its physical appearance (I will expand upon this at the end of the lecture).

 

                      ·                      All the nations will stream toward the Temple, so that "He will teach us of the His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth Torah, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."

 

                      ·                      God's judgment of the nations will bring peace: the world's recognition of God and its effacement before Him will lead to equality among all of mankind and to renewed unity, which will not serve self-deification. On the contrary, it will flow from mankind's recognition of God as the source of all power.

 

                      ·                      In the continuation, the prophet describes the situation in which "the Lord alone shall be exalted on that day," and all that is high and lofty – the proud and the arrogant, the trees, the mountains, the towers, the walls, the ships of Tarshish – all of them will be brought low and become physically nullified before the kingship of God.

 

This is the full repair of the sin of the generation of the dispersion. Human beings will no longer set as their goal their own elevation, but rather God's word on the top of the mountains. The goal of mankind's gathering together will no longer be self-deification, but rather the world's recognition of the kingdom of God.

 

In Jerusalem, which is called "city" ("There is no city but Jerusalem," Ketubot 101b), a Mikdash is built whose spiritual top (although not its material top) is in heaven. Instead of leading to scattering across the face of the earth, it becomes "turrets (talpiyot), the elevation (tel) towards which all mouths (piyot) turn" (Berakhot 30a). God decides to rest His name in this city, and He makes a name there for David His servant in the form of an everlasting dynasty that will build the Mikdash and serve God therein.

 

In his commentary to Noach, the Beit Yaakov draws a comparison between the two stories.[9] The gist of what he says is that the sin of the generation of the dispersion corresponds to the building of the Mikdash. The tower began to be built at the same time as the house of Avraham began to be built in sanctity, and it was built from "the waste of the hind parts of the sanctity of the Mikdash." The great difference between the Tower and the Mikdash is that the aim of the Mikdash was to embrace all of creation, even the inanimate world, and to join the entirety of reality with its Creator, whereas the builders of the Tower joined together for just the opposite purpose - because they did not wish to subordinate themselves to God.

 

IV.       THE REVELATION AT MOUNT SINAI – A REPAIR OF THE SIN OF THE TOWER OF BAVEL

 

            In his book, Li-Netivot Yisrael, Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook sees the revelation at Mount Sinai as a repair of the sin of the generation of the dispersion.[10] The tower builders' desire to make a name for themselves caused God's name to be forgotten, whereas Israel's standing at the foot of the mountain led (in addition to the cessation of their sexual passions) to a negation of their non-Jewishness. He notes the contrasts between Israel's standing "at the foot of the mountain" (Shemot 19:17) to receive the Torah and the attempt of the tower builders to climb up to heaven, and between the atmosphere of the Tower, which caused forgetfulness, and the purity of the atmosphere at the time of the revelation at Mount Sinai, which made it possible to see voices.[11]

 

V.        IN THE FUTURE, JERUSALEM AND THE MIKDASH WILL BE SET ON HIGH

 

We will see below that several prophets related to the description of the future in which the mountain of the house of God and the Mikdash will be in a very high place. The significance of this change is that in the future there will no longer be a gap between spiritual reality and physical reality; the highest physical point will also be the most important spiritual place, and vice versa. In the reality of the future, the duality of our world will disappear, and God's unity will become manifest. Of course, this reality will not limit Him, God forbid, in any manner whatsoever, but in the concrete reality of the mountain of the Lord's house on the top of the mountains, there will be fulfilled: "And the Lord alone shall be exalted on that day."

 

1)         THE MOUNTAINS WILL COLLAPSE, BUT MOUNT ZION WILL BE FIRMLY ESTABLISHED

 

According to the various visions of the end of days, the mountain of the Lord's house will be established on the top of the mountains (Yeshayahu 2:2; Mikha 4:1) as opposed to the rest of the mountains, which will collapse. The collapse of the rest of the mountains is described in several scriptural passages. For example, "For behold, the Lord comes out of His place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains shall melt under him, and the valleys shall be split, like wax before the fire, and like water that is poured down a steep place" (Mikha 1:3-4); "He stands and shakes the earth, He beholds and causes the nations to tremble; and the everlasting mountains are dashed in pieces, the eternal hills bow. His ways are as of old" (Chabakuk 3:6); "He makes them skip like a calf; Lebanon and Shiryon like a young wild ox" (Tehilim 29:6); "The mountains skipped like rams, the little hills like young sheep" (Tehilim 114:4); "He who removes mountains and they know not, when He overturns them in His anger; who shakes the earth out of her place, and its pillars tremble" (Iyov 9:5-6). The collapse of the mountains symbolizes the destruction of idol worship. God will fight against the idolatrous rites of the gods of the nations.

 

            Mount Zion, on the other hand, will remain firmly established, and its elevated station, as described in the prophecy in Yeshayahu 2, will result from the fact that the rest of the idolatrous mountains will be brought low by God. A similar description of the stability of the mountain of God appears in other places as well. For example, "They who trust in the Lord shall be like Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abides for ever" (Tehilim 125:1).

 

            Since the Lord's mountain will not collapse, Jerusalem, which dwells upon it, will also not collapse, in the way that the rest of the cities sitting on mountains will fall. Thus, we find in Yoel: "So you shall know that I am the Lord your God dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and no strangers shall pass through her any more… Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness… But Yehuda shall remain for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation" (Yoel 4:17-20). And in Zekharya: "On that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem" (Zekharya 12:8); "And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall dwell secure" (ibid. 14:11).

 

            The entire process – the collapse of the mountains when God rises to rule as king over the entire world and God's city remaining firmly planted in its place – is described in Tehillim 46:

 

To the chief musician for the sons of Korach, a song to Alamot: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth change, and though the mountains are moved in the midst of the sea, though its waters roar and are troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. (Sela.) There is a river, whose streams make glad the city of God, the holiest dwelling place of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her at the dawn of day. Nations raged, kingdoms were moved: He uttered His voice; the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Yaakov is our fortress. (Sela.) Come, behold the works of the Lord, who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth. He breaks the bow, and cuts the spear in sunder, He burns the chariots in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Yaakov is our fortress. (Sela.)

 

            To summarize: The description of future reality shows a clear contrast between the mountains that will collapse as part of the Divine struggle against idolatry, and Mount Zion, which will remain firmly established and will not collapse. This contrast expresses the eternity of the site of serving the God of Israel and the temporariness of the sites of worshiping idols.

 

2)         "THE MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD'S HOUSE SHALL BE ESTABLISHED ON THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAINS"

 

It is clear from the words of the prophets that the future Temple will be built on a high place, reflecting the important role that it plays as the place where the Shekhina rests in the world. Thus, for example, we read at the beginning of the description of Yechezkel's Mikdash: "And He set me upon a very high mountain, upon which was something like the structure of a city to the south" (Yechezkel 40:2). We already saw above the words of Yeshayahu (and similarly Mikha 4:1-3) in his vision of the end of days about the centrality of the Mikdash for all the nations:

 

And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all the nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go out and say, "Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Yaakov; and He will teach us of the His ways, and we will walk in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth Torah, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." (Yeshayahu 2:2-3)

 

            Many commentators understand the words, "the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills," as relating to the spiritual status of the mountain of the Lord's house as a center, whose superiority and importance will be recognized by all and to which all will stream for judgment. The continuation of the chapter suggests, however, that we should not rule out the understanding that the prophecy is referring to the Temple's elevated location on the physical plain as well:

 

For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up that he shall be brought low: upon all the cedars of the Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of the Bashan; and upon all the high mountains, and upon all the lofty hills, and upon every high tower, and upon every fortified wall; and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all delightful craftsmanship. And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low; and the Lord alone shall be exalted on that day. And the idols shall utterly be abolished. (ibid. 12-18)

 

            The prophet draws a clear connection between physical elevation and spiritual importance, and therefore it seems that this is way we should understand the first part of the prophecy as well: The Lord's mountain will be firmly established in a high place, on the top of the mountains, in the physical sense as well.

 

            In light of this, there is room to suggest that the split of the Mount of Olives in Zekharya's prophecy about the end of days (Zekharya 14:4) will lead to the elevation of Mount Moriya, and from this elevated place the living waters will go forth from Jerusalem towards the eastern sea and towards the western sea (ibid. v. 8).[12]

 

            I will conclude this lecture with the words of the Tosefta in Berakhot (1:15), which draw a connection between the destruction and lowness and between the return of the Shekhina and elevation:

 

And similarly: "In Shalem also is His tabernacle, and His dwelling place is in Zion" (Tehilim 76:3). What did Scripture see to restore to it its original name? Surely it says: "For this city has been to Me as a provocation of My anger and of My fury" (Yirmiyahu 32:31). You might say that even now there is anger and fury. Therefore, the verse teaches: "At the mountain which God has desired for His abode" (Tehilim 68:17). There is desire and craving. This teaches that its destruction achieved atonement. From where do we know that the Shekhina will not return to it until it becomes a mountain? The verse states: "In Shalem also is His tabernacle, and His dwelling place is in Zion." We find that when it was Shalem it was called a mountain. Thus, the Shekhina will not return to it until it becomes a mountain. For it is stated: "And Avraham called the name of that place Adonai-yir'eh; as it is said to this day, in the mount the Lord will appear" (Bereishit 22:14). And it is stated: "Remember, O Lord, against the children of Edom the day of Jerusalem" (Tehillim 137:7). When? When its foundations will be uprooted: "Whey they said, 'Raise it, raise it, to its fury foundations" (ibid.)

 

***

 

            I have tried to show how the tower of Bavel constitutes the first clear expression of idol worship. There is an inherent connection between the building of the tower to heights and the human arrogance that it expresses. This quality is diametrically opposed to the Mikdash, both with respect to its physical lowness and with respect to its essence – making a name for God and not for man. From the very beginning, then, the Torah alludes to the fact that idolatry is the very opposite of the Mikdash.

 

            In the next lecture, I will begin to examine the Divine service of the patriarchs.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)

 


[1] This lecture is based on lectures 16-17 in the series of lectures on biblical Jerusalem given in 2005 (parts 1 and 2 of the lecture, "The Territory of Binyamin – the Territory of the Shekhina"). There I also discussed at length the relative lowness of the entire territory of Binyamin.

[2] This was discussed at length by Rav A. Samet, Iyunim be-Parashat Ha-Shavua, Jerusalem 2002, the study of Parashat Noach, pp. 21-30.

[3] See our lectures on the topography of ancient Jerusalem – lectures 13-15 in the series of lectures on biblical Jerusalem, 2005.

[4] Noga Hareuveni, Or Chadash al Sefer Yirmiyahu – Al Yesod Mechkarim Bi-Netivotav Shel Ha-Navi Be-Nof Moladeto, Jerusalem 1968, pp. 19-26.

[5] We might, of course, have contented ourselves with the fact that this is the city's topographical location. Our assumption, however, as was explained at length in our lectures on biblical Jerusalem, is that topography has spiritual meaning.

[6] This is reflected in all aspects of the city's topography: its proximity to the desert, its distance from the main highways, and the absence of an agricultural hinterland. See the lectures referred to in note 3.

[7] It should be noted that the midrash builds this connection on the understanding that the Mishkan, and later the Mikdash, constitute a continuation of the revelation and giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

[8] It should be noted in this context that in contrast to the sources that speak of turning to God from a low point, (e.g., Tehillim 130:1: "Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord"), there are rabbinic sources that speak of building a synagogue at the highest point of the city (e.g., Tanchuma Bechukotai 3). There is room to discuss whether the elevation of a synagogue has independent importance, or whether the idea is that a synagogue should be higher than the rest of the buildings in the city owing to its dignified status.

[9] Rabbi Mordechai Yosef of Izbeca, Beit Yaakov (Warsaw, 5650), 74b.

[10] Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook, Li-Netivot Yisrael, vol. 1, pp. 139, 156-157.

[11] We cannot expand here upon the relationship between Mount Sinai and Mount Moriya in this context.

[12] This may be seen as part of the world's future return to its primal state, where the Garden of Eden was situated in a elevated place, and rivers issued forth from it to water the world (as was noted in the previous lecture).