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Why is Jerusalem not Mentioned in the Torah?

Friday, 7 May, 2021 - 1:53 pm

Yesterday our family marked the 100th birthday of my late maternal grandfather, R’ Sholom Ber Gordon OBM. As we are spread all around the world, we utilized Zoom to meet so that we could reminisce and draw inspiration from his life and our memories of him.

One of my cousins shared that he spent a week with my grandfather toward the end of his life to help with his rabbinic duties in Shul and as a hospital chaplain. (We took turns doing this after he was weakened by his final illness.) After morning services he instructed my cousin to share a dvar Torah. My cousin shared the Rebbe’s explanation on why the Torah identifies Jerusalem not by name, but rather as “the place that I have caused My name dwell.” (Although Yerushalayim is mentioned 669 times in Tanach (823 if you include references to Zion), the Torah (Pentateuch) does not mention either of them.) The Rebbe explains that since a Jew can and will have to access G-d in many places around the world as a result of exile, any place of prayer and Torah learning, constitutes “the place that I have caused My name to dwell.”  

My grandfather, hearing this Dvar Torah, piped up immediately with a related passage in the Talmud. When one of the sages came from Babylonia to Israel, he was asked by the sages of Israel if the Jews of Babylonia lived long lives. They explained that since the verse in the Shema says, “So that your days will be numerous upon the land which I have promised to your fathers,” they wondered whether it was possible to have “long life” without living “upon the land which I have promised?” They eventually concluded, that since the Babylonian Jews attend the Synagogue to pray, it is as if they are “upon the land which I have promised.”

This is a very empowering message. No matter where we are and in what situation we find ourselves, it is within our capacity to create a miniature Jerusalem in our lives. A place of prayer or Torah study is in fact “the place that I have caused My name to dwell.” We can transform any space and any moment into a sacred one by with what we choose to fill it.

This does not replace the need and the yearning to be in the literal Jerusalem, which will be rebuilt speedily through the coming of Mashiach. But in the final moments of exile, this fills our here and now with value and meaning.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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