ישיבת כרם ביבנה

Haftarah: "The Temple Atop the Mountain"

הרב אברהם ריבלין, המשגיח הרוחני לשעבר

Although the Haftarah of Parshat Tetzaveh opens with a verse heralding the future Temple building, the main part of the Haftarah deals with other things. It first discusses the altar, which is called by Yechezkel "Harel" ("mountain of G-d") or "Ariel" (Yechezkel 43: 15-16), and concludes with "the laws of the altar on the day it is made" (43:18) – the special inaugural sacrifices of the third Temple. (43:18-27) In previous chapters (40-42) Yechezkel prophesized in detail about the Temple itself, and in this week's Haftarah he adds only one other detail: The Temple will be built "atop the mountain." (43:12)

The fact that the Temple is constructed on top of a mountain is undeniable, but it must be noted that in the Torah there is no actual hint to this. The geographical landmark, a mountain, is not mentioned in relation to "The place that Hashem will choose."[1] It does say once, though, "You shall rise up and ascend to the place" (Devarim 17:8), and Chazal learn from this that the Temple is higher than the rest of Eretz Yisrael. (Zevachim 54b) However, there are other places in the Torah that simply state: "Go to the place" (Devarim 14:25; 26:2); "He comes with all the desire of his soul to the place." Neither of these verbs gives any indication that the place mentioned is a mountain. The most frequently mentioned mountain in the Torah, both explicitly by its name and also simply as "the mountain," is Mount Sinai.[2]

The Torah occasionally hints that Hashem's Temple will be built on a mountain: "You will bring them and implant them on the mount of your heritage." (Shemot 15:17) "The tribes will assemble at the mount." (Devarim 33:19) Yitzchak was bound "Upon one of the mountains" (Bereishit 22:2), which Avraham subsequently named, "Hashem Yireh." (Bereishit: 22:14) Chazal reveal to us that this mountain is the site of the Temple:

It is an accepted tradition that the place that David and Shlomo built the altar at Aravnah's threshing floor is the same place that Avraham built the altar and bound Yitzchak upon it. That is the place that Noach built upon when he left the ark, and that is the altar that Cain and Hevel sacrificed upon. On it Adam, the first man, offered a sacrifice when he was created, and from there he was created. Chazal have said that Adam was created from the place of his atonement.[3]

While the Torah is silent on this point, the prophets speak in detail. In tens of verses throughout the Prophets and the Writings, the site of the Temple is noted – on a mountain. The terms, "the Holy Mountain" and "Mount Zion" are fairly common.[4] The terms: "the mountain of the Temple of Hashem", "the Temple Mount," and "the Mountain of Hashem" can also be found, especially in the consoling prophesies about the construction of the Third Temple.

Even given that "mountain" identifies the site of the Temple, the expression, "atop the mountain" – as it appears in our Haftarah, in Yechezkel's prophecy – we find in only one other prophecy. This term appears in the prophecy on the end of days that appears in Yeshaya (and in slightly varied language in Micha[5]): "The mountain of the Temple of Hashem will be firmly established as the head of the mountains, and it will be exalted above the hills." (Yeshaya 2:2) It must be emphasized that building the Third Temple atop the mountain explicitly contrasts the instructions regarding the First Temple. The Gemara teaches (Zevachim 54b):

"You shall rise up and ascend to the place." This teaches that the Temple is higher than all the rest of Eretz Yisrael. They did not know where this place was, so they brought the book of Yehoshua. Regarding all [the other borders] it says: "The border descended" and "[the border] ascended." Regarding the tribe of Binyamin, it says, "it ascended," but it does not say, "it descended." They said, conclude from this that its location is here. They thought to build it on Ein Eitam, which is highest. They then said: Let us lower it somewhat, as it says, "Between his shoulders he rests."

This implies that the site of the Temple is indeed high, but not at the peak and not atop the mountain, as in Yechezkel's prophecy regarding the third Temple.

The Maharal explains in his Chidushei Aggadot: "Binyamin especially is prepared to accept the glory of the Shechina, and it therefore says, 'Between his shoulders he rests," since the shoulders are designed to accept a burden. The head is not designated for such, only the shoulders, and therefore it is only fitting to build it on something comparable, that accepts, and they are the shoulders." Rashi similarly comments: "'Between his shoulders he rests – The Temple was built in the height of his land, only it was 23 amot lower than Ein Eitam ... since there is nothing more attractive on a bull than his shoulders."

Perhaps it should be added, that the First and Second Temples were not atop the mountain because the Name is not yet complete and neither is the Throne. However, in the future, "Hashem will be king over all the land; on that day Hashem will be one and his Name will be one." (Zechariah 14:9) Then, "in the end of days, the mountain of the Temple of Hashem will be firmly established as the head of the mountains, and it will be exalted above the hills, and all the nations will stream to it" (Yeshaya 2:2), as it says in Yechezkel's prophesy: "This is the teaching regarding the Temple atop the mountain." In the future we will climb not only the mountain's slope, we will also reach the top.

[1] The term appears eight times in the book of Devarim: 12:5; 11:26; 14:25; 16:6; 17:8; 18:6; and 26:2. There are additional mentions of "if the place ... will be far from you" (Devarim 12:21; 14:24 etc.)

[2] In the Torah, the term Mount Sinai appears roughly 15 times, and it is referred to simply as "the mountain" about another 45 times.

[3] Rambam, Hilchot Beit Habechira 2:2. The Kessef Mishneh there notes that the Rambam's source is from Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer and other Midrashim.

[4] "Holy mountain" and its variations appear about 30 times, and "Mount Zion" about 20.

[5] In Micha it says: "The mountain of the Temple of Hashem will be firmly established as the most prominent of the mountains, and it will be exalted up above the hills." (Micha 4:1)

 

 

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