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Where is Jerusalem?

Re'eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17 )

by Rabbi Shraga Simmons

A verse in Parshat Re'eh (Deuteronomy 12:5) tells us to serve God "at the place that God chooses." This "place" refers to Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, the site of the Holy Temple. It's on this very spot that some of the greatest spiritual events in history occurred - it's where Noah brought animal offerings upon exiting the Ark; it's where Abraham bound his son, Isaac, on the altar; and it's where Jacob dreamed of the ladder with angels going up and down. It's all at the place that God chooses.

But why can't we choose our own spot? Whatever happened to individuality?!

Let's look deeper. The verse says to build the Temple at the place that God chooses - but you must "seek it out." While our ancestors established a deep connection with God and determined many of the ground rules, we must still discover it for ourselves. We take the traditional framework, and with dedication and effort, we make it our own.

Nachmanides says that's why in Temple times there were no road signs leading to Jerusalem. A person has to seek out the concept of Jerusalem - to ask for himself: Where's Jerusalem?

In fact, the Talmud says that when King David was planning to build the Holy Temple, he didn't know where it should be! Even with so much of Jewish history connected to Mount Moriah, King David still had to delve into the verses of the prophets to derive the exact location.

So yes, Judaism has specific traditions - keeping kosher, observing Shabbat, and praying from a text. But that's just the framework. The essence is what we invest of ourselves. Jewish spirituality is found at the place that God chooses - but you must seek it out.

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