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Shabbat Parashat Tetzaveh 5777

Parashat Hashavua: Too Close for Kedusha?

Harav Yosef Carmel

Several years ago on this parasha, we wrote about Shlomo Hamelech’s building of his palace close to the Beit Hamikdash. We explained that this represented his thesis that one should view the holy and the mundane and the Torah and the kingdom as inseparable. When the kings of the Kingdom of Yehuda sinned, the proximity to the Beit Hamikdash became a sore point, as Yechezkel highlighted (see Yechezkel 43:8).

Was the approach of Shlomo’s father, David, the same as his son’s? The navi Shmuel (II,5) describes the conquer of Yevus and its transition into the eternal Israelite capital of Yerushalayim. We are told that David turned a fortress known as Metzudat David into his home and built around it, extending the city and building a wall around it (ibid. 7-10). The wall encompassed both the City of David and the Temple Mount, upon which the Beit Hamikdash would be built, and, in between, he left an area called the Milo for sleeping quarters for pilgrims to the Beit Hamikdash. David’s palace was built in the City of David, and, apparently, parts of it have been uncovered in excavations at that site.

In so doing, David sent two messages. The Beit Hamikdash was to be built in a higher place than his palace. This idea is the basis of a halacha that a shul should be built on the highest spot in a town or neighborhood (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 150:2). If it is not the highest spot, then the shul should be built tall enough so that some part of it is the highest. If this is not done, there may be severe consequences for the inhabitants (see Aruch Hashulchan, Orach Chayim 150:3).

The second message is that while the palace was somewhat close to the Beit Hamikdash, it was not right next to it. Making it too close would cause a blurring of distinctions between holy and mundane, indicating that one does not need to distinguish between the two.

Shlomo thought that he had already fixed the world in the ways of Hashem and that the End of Days had come. This is a situation that Kabbalists call “the moon in its completeness.” That is why he built a new palace, which is apparently in the area which is now known as Al Aqsa, adjacent to the Beit Hamikdash. Because not all the kings of Judea behaved as they should, this proximity became the source of great criticism as we mentioned before.

We should follow the lead of David Hamelech. We reject the divorcing of the holy from the mundane, but, on the other hand, we reject the blurring of distinctions that exist between them. We also should be careful to remember that the concerns of the sacred have precedence over those of the mundane, to the extent possible. 

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