Why Was the Temple Mount Chosen? - ראה

Friday, 11 August, 2023 - 3:12 pm


Why Was the Temple Mount Chosen?

Maimonides refers to the Temple in Jerusalem with two different names: (1) the house of {G-d's} choice, and (2) the house of holiness; because these two words, choice, and holiness, each express a unique aspect of the Temple.  

Choice, Chassidic philosophy explains, is used specifically when there is no reason for the selection. If there was a compelling reason for the selection, it would not leaves room for a choice. Choice implies that the selection is based on nothing other than the choice of the selector. The term "choice " indicates that the degree of Divine revelation  is infinite, for it is generated not by a reason, which, by definition, is limited, but by the choice of the infinite essence of G-d.


Yet, "choice " has a disadvantage. If the revelation comes by G-d's own choice, not motivated by the effort of a human being, then the holiness cannot become internalized and transformed into an inherently sacred space. 

The term holiness, by contrast, represents the effort a human being invests to transform a space or object into a fitting space for the presence of G-d. While human action alone cannot elicit infinity, it does allow for the inherent refinement of the space. 

The temple mountain, the place that represented the home for the marriage of G-d and the Jewish people, possessed both the advantages of "choice" and "holiness". On the one hand, in this portion, the Torah refers to the temple mountain as "the place that the L-rd your G-d will chose", without offering any reason for the choice, indicating that the selection was generated by G-d Himself and is therefore not bound to the limitation of human action. On the other hand, after highlighting the aspect of choice, Maimonides emphasized the concept of "holiness". The space of the temple mountain had a long history of people's efforts to connect to G-d; as Maimonides explains:

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, as our Sages said: "Man was created from the place where he [would find] atonement." (Maimonides, Beit Habechirah 2:2)

The same is true regarding the figurative temple we are enjoined to create within ourselves. We are “chosen” because G-d chooses to invest His infinite self within us, yet, for His presence to be internalized within ourselves we must be “holy”, for only human action can truly refine the nature of the physical world.  

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe, Likkutei Sichos 19 Re’eh 2  

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