Re’eh-Temple Location

Regarding the location of the Temple in Jerusalem, we find two approaches.  Our parsha (Re’eh) only tells us that God will choose the location (“And the place that God will choose to make His name dwell there – that is the place where you shall bring [your offerings]” – Deut 12:11).  The concept of “choice” regarding the holy Temple is also found in the Mechilta (in the beginning): “Until Jerusalem was chosen, all of Israel was fitting as an altar. Until the Temple was built, all of Jerusalem was fitting for the Shechina.”  That is, the location of the Temple was a matter of God’s choice.

However, when we go to the Rambam, a different picture emerges: “The place of the altar was very precise, and its exact location will never vary…it is the place that Abraham built his altar to sacrifice Isaac, where Noah built an altar when he exited the ark, and where Cain and Abel brought their offerings.  It is the place where Adam built an altar and from which he was born” (Rambam Hilchot Beit Habechira, beg of Ch.2).  With these lines, the Rambam seems to be telling us that it was the deeds of man, rather than the choice of God, that determined the location of the holy Temple.  The Rambam seems to indicate that the altar was located where it was because of all the previous historical Jewish ties that we have to the location.

Why does this matter?  Why should we be concerned whether location of the Temple was “chosen” or just followed historical circumstance?

To understand, we might take the example of a young couple who just met.  At first, they may experience a feeling of having been “meant” for each other.  They experience an intrinsic connection, a basic attraction to one another that cannot be explained in intellectual or emotional terms alone.  It is just there, and it seems natural and essential.  As time goes by and they become acquainted with one another, they also learn to anticipate and love each other’s traits and typical reactions.  Because of their intrinsic connection, their external responses to one another also take on meaning.  The personal idiosynchrasies, the ways of speaking, the lilt in the voice, etc…all these are external traits that have no meaning or content of their own, but because the couple feels an intrinsic connection, many of their personal quirks and individual responses also take on meaning for one another.

However, why is that important in the relationship?  If the intrinsic connection is present, so why does the couple also strive to develop love based upon external factors as well?  The answer is that the nature of man is to forget the intrinsic connection and to emphasize the external connection.  We need something to remind us of our intrinsic personal connection.  When our daily activities overcome our personal awareness, then we need “reminders” and “signs” to point us back to the real, intrinsic connection with the other person.  That is the purpose of the individual responses that we develop with each other.  They are not the same as the essential connection, but they do point to it and indicate it, so that we can renew the essential bond when we so wish.

The same was true of the Temple in Jerusalem.  On the one hand, its location was chosen by God, so that it has intrinsic holiness.  The location of the Beit Hamikdash is “very precise,” meaning that “here” (in Jerusalem) and nowhere else, God chose to place “His” house.  On the other hand, that is a concept that is so deep that it may escape our attention from time to time.  We may not be capable of always remembering the intrinsic nature of the connection between that place and God, and that therefore it is holy.  Therefore, the Rambam tells us, remember all the Jewish historical events that took place here.  Recall that not only the forefathers but even Adam and Noah found this place and acted upon it.  In that way, we will always be able to recall the very holy and uplifting nature of the place that God chose, and its intrinsic nature will be a part of our awareness at all times.

For a more detailed version, go to

From Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol 19, Page 140-47

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