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Shabbat Parashat R'ei 5775

Parashat Hashavua: The Place that Hashem Will Choose

Harav Yosef Carmel

R’ei is the main parasha that deals with a plethora of mitzvot that involve the Beit Hamikdash, which was and will again be erected in “the place that Hashem will choose.” This phrase, which first appears in our parasha, appears here sixteen times in a variety of contexts. This includes: the mitzva to build the Beit Hamikdash (Devarim 12:5; see Rambam, Melachim 1:1), the prohibition of shechting animals elsewhere when it should be done there (ibid. 11), ma’aser sheni (ibid. 14:23), and the mitzva to thrice annually visit there (ibid. 16:11).

The question begs asking: how does it become known what the place that Hashem will choose is? There is an early hint in the story of akeidat Yitzchak, which took place in the Land of Moriah. “Avraham called the place ‘Hashem will see,’ as it will be said today, ‘on the mountain of Hashem it will be seen’” (Bereishit 22:14). This connection to Moriah is made explicitly only in Divrei Hayamim (II:3:1): “Shlomo began to build the House of Hashem in Yerushalayim on Mount Moriah.”

Chazal informed us that Shmuel Hanavi, Shaul Hamelech, and especially David Hamelech worked very hard in trying to uncover the desired place (see, for example, Yalkut Shimoni, Parashat Shoftim 910). There is a mizmor of Tehillim (132:1-5) that deals with this attempt: “A song of the steps – Hashem, remember for David all his toil, that he swore to Hashem, vowed to the Powerful of Yaakov, lest I enter into the protection of my house, lest I go onto my bed, lest I give sleep to my eyes, dozing off to my eyelids, until I find a place for Hashem, a dwelling for the Powerful of Yaakov.”

Rabbi Moshe Ibn Nachman, the Ramban, who renewed the community of Yerushalayim 750 years ago, taught us a fascinating idea about “the place that Hashem will choose.” He says (Devarim 17:15) that any place in which Bnei Yisrael would have built a Beit Hamikdash would have been proven to be the place that Hashem desired that they choose. In other words, the choice of Bnei Yisrael, along with its kings which the nation chose, would have been a revelation of the Divine Will on the matter. This, in effect, gives the nation a collective status of a prophet. Just as there have been individuals, who through hard work and an exhaustive process, have reached the level of closeness to Hashem to turn them into prophets, so too the nation as a collective had the special power to reveal the location of the place that Hashem chose.

Let us pray that we too will be able to reveal the will of Hashem in other matters as well, in the merit of our forefathers and those of all the generations that preceded us, along with the merit of unity and showing love without particular cause. Then shall we merit fulfilling all the mitzvot that depend on the place that Hashem will choose.
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