Hi… It’s me. Benny.
“Vi’Ibaditem es Shmom – Wipe out the names of idols!” Moshe exclaimed in a loud voice. “If you find a town that is named after an idol, do not honor it by calling it that name.”
“Really, so what shall we call it?”
“Any name that won’t sound respectable. Idols do not deserve respect.”
Then Moshe added, “Be very careful, however, to give the name of HaShem the utmost honor!”
“Do you hear what Moshe is saying? Don’t destroy the name of HaShem. We will need to be very careful never to destroy the Torah scrolls, since they contain HaShem’s name, which may not be erased.”
“Yes, we will always treat our Tefillin, Mezuzos and Sifrei Torah with special care.”
“As I was saying,” Moshe continued, “once you totally destroy the idols, it will be time to establish HaShem’s holy place – a central location where HaShem’s name will dwell.”
“Hmmm. HaShem’s holy place.”
“Yes… it seems to be a sort of permanent Mishkan. I wonder where that will be…”
“Somehow, HaShem will let you know its exact location,” Moshe explained. “Be careful not to offer your sacrifices anywhere you want – it must be at HaMakom Asher Yivchar HaShem – the place HaShem chooses. There and nowhere else will you be allowed to bring your Korbanos.”
“Wow! It’s the place that HaShem will choose! What can be better than that?!”
“Are you waiting for an answer, or was that a rhetorical question?”
Get ready for a long, insightful insight:
Although the Jews in the desert didn’t know the location of the place HaShem chose, nowadays, who doesn’t know the place? It’s in Jerusalem where the Western Wall (a.k.a. the Kotel) is standing, and that was once the location of the Beis HaMikdash, the Holy Temple.
But why does Moshe keep it a mystery, telling us time and again (22 times in the Book of Devarim!), “the place that HaShem will choose?”
The Rambam suggests three reasons:
Mt. Moriah was located in the portions of Yehuda and Benyamin. If all the other tribes would know that it would not be in their portion, they would begin to quarrel over that spot, each one wishing to “own” HaShem’s “home.” (This makes a lot of sense. Wouldn’t you also want a portion of this holy spot?) To solve this problem, HaShem chose not to reveal this special location until there was a proper king (Shlomo HaMelech) ruling over the Jews. King Shlomo would have the power to establish the Beis HaMikdash without any fights or protests.
Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim, Volume 3, Chapter 45
Another reason, compliments of Rabbi Chizkiyah of France (13th century):
Chizkuni on the Torah
Ready for another reason?
Shazak on the Parsha
BTW: It’s possible that for this very reason, when the Rambam wrote his laws about the Beis HaMikdash in his classic Mishneh Torah, he chose not to call that section, “Laws of the Beis HaMikdash.” Rather he called it, “Hilchos Beis HaBechirah,” – “Laws of the Chosen House.”
Five possible reasons. Now it’s your turn. Can you think of another reason?
Believe it or not, Yerushalayim, a.k.a. Jerusalem, is never mentioned by name in the Chumash. Not even once! Yet, in the other books of the Nevi’im and Kesuvim (a.k.a. Nach) it’s mentioned no less than 664 times!
“The place that HaShem chose” was chosen long, long before it became the place of the Beis HaMikdash.
The Rambam tells us some of this history:
Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Beis HaBechirah, Chapter 2, Halacha 1-2
But how did Bnei Yisrael end up knowing the exact location of this special place that HaShem chose?
Indeed, Avraham had it easy. HaShem guided him directly to the spot. He followed Hashem’s “GPS cloud.”
How about Dovid HaMelech? How did he know? To make a long story very short, he knew it will be built on the property of a man by the name of Aravnah. For more details, read up on this in Shmuel Beis, Perek 24. If you want more details, read more in Divrei HaYamim Aleph, Perek 21. If you want even more details, ask your local know-it-all.
Long, long ago, the Prophet Daniel was exiled to the land of Babylon, and during his prayers would always face toward Jerusalem. Daniel lived in a time when the Holy Temple was in ruins, yet, still he prayed in that direction. That’s because all our prayers go up to HaShem through that very place – the place where the Beis HaMikdash once stood.
Until this very day, we face in the direction of Jerusalem when we pray. For Jews in most parts of the world, this means facing east (Mizrach, in Hebrew). And that, BTW, is why synagogues are built with the Aron Kodesh (the place we keep the Torah) on the Mizrach wall.
To help us remember, you’ll often find Mizrach signs on the eastern wall of people’s homes. These signs are often very pretty paintings of the Beis HaMikdash or the Kotel.
And there’s more! If you are traveling and have no idea which direction is Mizrach, there is a special “Jerusalem compass” which, instead of pointing north, it points one way… to Jerusalem!