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Shabbat Parashat Bechukotai 5772

Parashat Hashavuah: The Order of Building a State

Harav Yosef Carmel

At this auspicious time of the year, after Yom Ha’atzmaut and right before Yom Yerushalayim, it is a good time to look at the interplay between a Torah-based Jewish life and national life, as finds expression in an independent state. Let us look at the matter through the actions of David and Shlomo, founders of the Kingdom of Israel in Yerushalayim.

After receiving the approval of all the tribes for his kingdom in Chevron, David took the following steps. He chose a capital city that would symbolize the unification of the tribes into one political entity and captured that city, Yerushalayim, from the enemy. Yerushalayim had several advantages, including the following. It had never been inhabited by Jews of any tribe. The city connects between the sons of Leah and the sons of Rachel, as it is on the border between Yehuda and Binyamin (see Yehoshua 15:7-8). One can add in that there is an opinion among Chazal that Yerushalayim was not included in the division of the Land among the tribes.

Another step that David took was creating diplomatic connections that ensured him raw materials and engineering expertise to enable him to succeed in national projects. This was done between David and Chiram, the King of Tzor. A third step that David took at that time was to bring the aron that contained the luchot habrit (the tablets) to Yerushalayim, in a first step toward the eventual building of the Beit Hamikdash. This turned Yerushalayim to not only the political capital of Israel but the spiritual one as well. Thus, the order of events was to first create the political base for the nation, then to make diplomatic arrangements, and only afterward to start building the Temple.

We see Shlomo developing matters in this order as well. The first two perakim of Melachim deal with the question of who would sit on David’s throne after him. The next three deal with developments in the political, financial, and international realm. Only in the subsequent three perakim is the matter of building the Beit Hamikdash raised. Again, first a stable kingdom, then a Mikdash. Interestingly, after discussion of the Beit Hamikdash, the navi returns to the topic of national developments, thereby creating an envelope that makes it clear that the matters are interrelated.

This order applies also in regard to the events commemorated during the time of sefirat ha’omer. First we have Pesach, celebrating the emergence from slavery to freedom. Only afterward do we celebrate Shavuot, symbolizing our spiritual freedom. The acceptance of the Torah enables the spiritual element to enter the national arena and give it meaning.

In our days as well, first we celebrated the establishment of the State, on the 5th of Iyar, and less than two decades later, we were blessed with the liberation of the complete area of Yerushalayim including the site of the Beit Hamikdash, on the 28th of the same month. Let us pray that we will soon merit that the political entity we received will be increasingly more essentially Jewish, which will enable us to build the State in a manner that its Torah values are at its center.
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