The opening verse in today’s Parsha deals with the subject of making choices in life. In this case the choices will have serious ramifications: obeying the will of God will earn us Hashem’s blessings, while disobeying God’s commandments will earn us Hashem’s curses. It would seem simple to understand that making this type of a choice is obvious. Who would want to earn God’s curse? Conscientious and intentional disobedience would indicate a lack of belief in Hashem. Most of our sins might not be in that category. That is not to say that all sins are unintentional. Even intentional ones might not be as a result of our lack of belief, or a result of the fact that we feel that we can get away with it. As the Talmud would indicate, sins usually accompany a lack of rational thinking. Most situations of sinning indicate that we lack the strength and fortitude of a committed dedication to Hashem’s word. We realize that the temptation of sin is there and standing in front of us, just as the satanic angel in the road confronted Bilaam. Bilaam doesn’t see the satanic angel; his donkey does. We are like Bilaam in the sense that we realize that there is temptation and do not recognize it, yet we are able to rationalize doing something that is obviously incorrect.
Throughout the Torah, the city of Yerushalayim is not mentioned anywhere with its full name. The first time that it is mentioned by name is …. This is a good trivia question: Where in TaNaCH is Yerushalayim mentioned the first time? A follow up question for extra credit: Where in TaNaCH is the expression Eretz Yisrael mentioned for the first time? Neither of these words is in the Torah. The Rambam in Guide for the Perplexed III:45 writes, “the fact that the Torah does not make specific mention of Yerushalayim, but rather hints at it and says: ….[the place] which God will choose, etc. appears to me to have three explanations. The first: so that the nations would not seize the place and wage power struggles over it, knowing that this place – out of the entire Land – represents the ultimate purpose of the Torah; secondly – lest whoever possessed it at the time destroy it and devastate it to the limit of their power; and thirdly – the strongest reason of all – that a situation would not arise in which every tribe would want it included in its inheritance, so as to be able to rule over it, and it would fall to [whichever tribe would emerge victorious] as a result of controversy and strife, as did the quest for the priesthood. For this reason, we are commanded that the Temple not be built until after the coronation of a king so that there is one single ruler and all strife falls away…” The Rambam is trying to explain our question. All three points that he makes are valid, not just in history, but even in our time. The first two are more applicable than the latter one, but when you think about it, it will not be the tribes arguing but segments of the Jewish population who certainly do argue over who has the authority and dominion over the Temple Mount and Yerushalayim as a whole.
Shabbat Shalom שבת שלום.
Rabbi David Grossman