Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
Former Rosh Kollel in Detroit
Our parsha – like many others in Sefer Devarim – features the expression, “the place that God will choose” in reference to Jerusalem, the site where the Temple is destined to be built.
The obvious question is: why does the Torah not mention the name “Jerusalem” explicitly? While this problem may arise in most striking form in this week’s parsha, it is actually a more general question: the name of Jerusalem, the holy city, appears nowhere in the entire Torah. Why is this so? Moreover, we know that the Torah uses words sparingly. Why, then, is the relatively lengthy expression, “the place that God will choose” used, instead of simply – “Jerusalem”?
Some of the early commentators address this question and propose various answers. We shall attempt here to shed light on the matter from a different perspective.
It seems that not only is the name “Jerusalem” not written explicitly in the Torah, but Bnei Yisrael in fact did not know the identity of “the place that God would choose”. Even after they entered Eretz Yisrael and conquered it, they were still waiting to discover which place the Torah was referring to. Only in the days of King David, who longed with all his might to build a house for God, did God sent the prophet Natan, who revealed to him that the chosen place was Jerusalem.
The reason for this delay over the course of many generations would seem to be that in order to merit discovering Jerusalem, it is necessary to demonstrate longing for it. It was for this reason that specifically King David, who promised that he would not sleep in his house until God had a house (“I shall not give sleep to my eyes… until I find a place for God”), was the on to discover that the place where God would have His house was Jerusalem.
The same idea appears to be just as relevant in our own times. In our lifetimes we have merited to witness the establishment of the State of Israel, we have seen Jerusalem liberated and restored to the Jewish people. But in order to be worthy of the essence and climax of redemption – the rebuilding of the Temple – we need to demonstrate that we indeed desire the Temple. And in order to arouse that longing inside ourselves we need to learn about what the Temple really was, to understand what we lack in its absence, and thereby to be inspired to prayer and action for the sake of its rebuilding. Then we will be worthy, God willing, of Divine assistance in realizing the dream of the Jewish nation throughout the generations, and see the rebuilding of the holy Temple – may it be speedily in our days, Amen.