Vayeitze — The Significance of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount
Let's be clear: "Israel" is named after the patriarch Jacob, whom God renamed to Israel. Jacob fathered the 12 Tribes who commenced our great nation. In this week's parsha, Vayeitze (Gen. 28:13), God promised the land of Israel to Jacob and his seed. God rejected all other nations' claims to Israel, and the "Chosen People" status claimed by Christians and Muslims (www.mesora.org/chosen). In that article, we clearly show God's intent, that the land of Israel remain eternally the possession of Jacob's seed. What the world needs to learn, is why Israel is so vital: not to Jews, but to all mankind.
The unprovoked hatred and Arab murdering of Jews is age-old. The Jew was selected by God; not them. Their religion of murder is their attempt to reject the Jews' "Chosen" status. Knowledge alone will once and for all lay anti-Semitism to rest. Unfortunately, the UN, and those reporting "facts" and the news worldwide expose their utter ignorance of the facts and readily-available world history. And the public too has bought in to the Big Lie of a "Palestinian People."
Before 1947, "Palestina" was a land owned by the Ottoman Empire. The name came down from the Philistines who did not live there. From the 1500s through the 1800s it was reported there were about 300,000 citizens (Arab, Christian and Jews). And then in 1917 it was owned by the British Mandate and renamed "Palestine", (about same amount of people, Arabs, Christians and Jews). The Arab country of Palestine never existed. When a different perimeter of that land was offered to the Arabs to be named "Palestine" and become an Arab country, the Arabs refused it. At the same time a different partition of land was offered to the Jews as a Jewish country — in 1947 as a way of stopping the Arabs from continually killing the Jews. The Jews accepted their portion of land, Israel. The very next day, the Arabs started murdering the Jews who already lived there, as well as the new civilians who just arrived after surviving the Holocaust. The people the Arabs are now calling "Palestinians" are the children and grandchildren of those Arabs, and they are calling them refugees even if they never lived there, even though they lived in a different country, but their grandparents lived in the British mandate. Never in History has anyone called generations who never lived in a country "refugees" of that country, and given them rights as refugees. So there never was, and there is not today, a "Palestinian People." But as that term has been used for so long, the ignorant public and the media blindly believe facts that contradict history.
In contrast, not only has there been a Jewish people for thousands of years, but historically, God gave the land of Israel to the children of Jacob, to the exclusion of all other peoples. This was and is an eternal territorial gift, from the Creator of all territories.
Let us understand why God gave a land in the first place; what is so vital about the land of Israel? And I don't mean for the Jews, but for all mankind. As the Torah are God's choice words, there must be a deep lesson enclosed in every verse.
We are told that Jacob travelled from Beer Sheva towards Charan. The sun had set, so he took a stone from that place and placed it to protect himself (Rashi). He dreamt of a ladder standing on the ground with its top reaching heaven; God's angels were ascending and descending upon it. God stood upon it and said,
"I am God, God of your father Abraham and Isaac. The land upon which you lie, I give to you and your seed. And your seed will be as the sands of Earth, and you will flourish westward, eastward, to the north and south, and in you will be blessed all the families of the land and in your seed. And behold, I will be with you and guard you in all your travels, and I will return you to this land, for I will not forsake you until I fulfill what I have spoken of to you."
Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "God is certainly in this place and I did not know." Jacob was fearful and said further, "How awesome is this place, this can only be the House of God, and this is the gate to heaven."
When Jacob arose, he took the stone that he placed for his head, and made it into a monument and anointed it with oil. He called the name of that place "House of God", for it was called Luz prior to that. Jacob then swore, in response to God's providence, that the stone monument he erected would be a monument to God's House, and that he would tithe what he received from God.
A number of questions arise. What is so important about Jacob protecting himself with a stone, that God records it? And why must Jacob use "that" stone as a monument to God? Quite puzzling are Jacob's words,"God is in this place, and I did not know." Certainly, Jacob, of all people, knew that God is not physical, and certainly, God cannot be "on Earth" or in any place. Jacob (and the Torah) repeats, "How awesome is this place." What is the function of this monument? And of course, what is the meaning of this strange dream of the ladder and the angels, and God's unique message? Finally, where was this place?
The Significance of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount
As we said, all verses are crucial. Why then must we know that Jacob took of the stones to protect himself?
Jacob's behavior was underscored to teach a lesson. Here, he depended on natural law to protect himself as he slept, vulnerable to the beasts of the night. And he was correct to do so. However, God revealed to Jacob that he was to now be under His divine providence, in literally all matters. The humble prophets did not assume God provided in all areas, for who fully knows God's methods, or one's worthiness of providence at any given moment? God showed Jacob this truth of His providence through the image of angels traveling from Earth to heaven, and back. These angles are God's metaphysical forces employed to shield His righteous servants. The ladder teaches of the metaphysical laws that govern Earthly events (Ibn Ezra, Gen. 28:12); a connection or "ladder" of sorts between the metaphysical and physical worlds.
Jacob now learned that he was under complete providence. Realizing this truth, he naturally desired to share this with all others. Thus, he created a monument to this reality, at the place where he received this message. A monument serves to mark a location or event of significance. He also renamed that place the House of God. The monument was intended to publicize this concept of God's providence.
It is significant that Jacob used the very rock he placed to protect himself. For he wished to demonstrate his "transfer" of relying on nature — i.e., "that" rock — to trusting God's word. Taking the very rock he used in a "natural" manner, and now transferring its purpose to publicize God's providence, he perfectly embodied his own transfer of trust. An enlightening insight to say the least. We fully appreciate the story's opening of Jacob taking the rock, for it forms the central message of how he operated before he was promised God's complete providence, and how he immediately trusted God's word subsequent to his prophetic dream.
However, God is not physical; He does not occupy space. He has no location. So what did Jacob mean by, "God is certainly in this place and I did not know"…"How awesome is this place, this can only be the House of God, and this is the gate to heaven"?
Here we come to another fundamental. That is, God creates divine events on Earth. These events intend to concretize in man's mind, the truth of God's providence. God rules the Earth. He did not merely create it and abandon it.
It is essential that mankind have a reference point. Historical sites of God's providence confirm this truth. Of course, there is nothing that can differentiate one parcel of land from another: that one parcel "contains" spirituality, as falsely assumed. Physical entities are "physical", and therefore not metaphysical, and are unrelated to divinity. This is the sin of pantheism, where people project fantasies of divinity onto the physical world. Similar sinful misconceptions include the belief in magical amulets and auspicious times, and deifying people as infallible tzaddikim and rebbes. In Judaism, we have an idea of designation, such as an animal designated for Temple worship, or in the restrictions to enter the Temple. These laws intend, as Maimonides teaches, to elevate the estimation of those objects and places connected with worshipping God. Sanctity – kedusha – is a halachik construct intended at sustaining a respect for God. But the physical objects and locations do not possess an superior qualities. Israel's soil is no different than that of other lands.
Jacob's exclamation that this "place" is awesome means that this site of his dream was the primary location God deemed vital to teach of His providence. "House of God" and "Gate of Heaven" convey this important principle. For it is through the fame of locations where God creates miracles or communicates with man, that the reality of God, and His providence might spread in the world.
The Rabbis teach that this location of Jacob's dream was in Jerusalem, the Temple Mount. Maimonides teaches, "It is universally accepted that the place on which David and Solomon built the Altar, the threshing floor of Ornan, is the location where Abraham built the Altar on which he prepared Isaac for sacrifice. Noah built [an altar] on that location when he left the ark. It was also [the place] of the Altar on which Cain and Abel brought sacrifices. [Similarly,] Adam, the first man, offered a sacrifice there and was created at that very spot (Hilchos Beis Habechira 2:2)…"
We thereby learn of the vital nature of a reference point, where events are reiterated throughout time, going back to God's creation of man, and man's worship of God. Such sites — the Temple Mount in specific — the greatest site, continually remind man of God's providence.
What initially gave distinction to the Temple Mount? It was God's creation of Adam. From that point forward, prominent monotheistic figures and Jews, including Adam and his sons, Noah, Abraham, and Kings David and Solomon each recognized the great historical and philosophical significance of this location. They sustained great respect for God through this location via sacrifice. Their unanimous message is that man must be subservient to God's will…primarily, as we are His creations. Their altars, sacrifices and Temples at this precise location throughout Biblical times caused the masses to be reminded of the initial significance of the Temple Mount: mankind was formed from that spot. Sacrifice is a means of showing by proxy that humans exist by God's will alone. We are not necessary. The dead animal takes our place to display the unnecessary nature of our existence. We exist only due to God's kindness. This is true concerning the entire universe. God does not need it; He needs nothing.
Why should the world defend Israel? Intelligent people correctly view Moses' Five Books as truth. Jacob's vision recorded in Vayeitze teaches God's will, that the land of Israel embody His divine message of providence. God wishes Jacob's seed alone to remain the owners of Israel. By doing so, Israel becomes a beacon for all people, embodying the truth of the Hebrew Bible's verses. God's Bible and His teachings of providence can be disseminated to all the world, provided Israel remains in the hands of those to whom He gave it, which echoes God's will.
I believe that the more we publicize the synonymity of Israel, God, and Torah, the less the world will be able to deny the true owners of the land, and the more the Hebrew Bible will be viewed as God's only word. But this means we must all constantly refer to the Torah: studying it, teaching it, and carrying out all of its laws. Not just for the Jew, but for all mankind.
By defending Israel, we defend truth, i.e., God's will. This in turn publicizes God's Torah, for all people, from which His promise of Israel originated. The Prophets speak of the messianic era, where the entire world will finally recognize there exists one mankind, and therefore, one religion. There will be peace. Perhaps, our proper actions can contribute to usher-in that era.
Israel must recognize that the land was given not as an end, but in order that the Jewish nation engage in the entire Torah. Currently, this is not the case. Most Jews and Israelis defend the land, but are not Torah observant. This is a contradiction, for they accept only that portion of Torah that promises Israel to the seed of Jacob, while abandoning a majority of Torah. This is clearly a violation of God's will, one that the nation must address as a whole.
What the IDF fights for in Gaza is a God-given land. But God is clear that the land is given on condition of our Torah observance, which is truly for our good, and known by observant Jews who have experienced a Torah life.
Jewish leaders and those with influence must show care for all other Jews, and teach this primary lesson.