• Rabbi Shmuel Brazil

The Mountain in the Valley | Parshas Shoftim

When the passuk describes the Beis Hamikdash it writes וקמת ועלית אל המקום אשר יבחר ה' אלקיך You should arise and ascend to the place that Hashem will choose. Rashi comments (17,8) from here we learn that the Beis Hamikdash is the highest mount from all the מקומות, from all the places (in the world). The source of his writing is found in Sanhedrin 87 where the text is slightly different when it says from here we learn that it is the highest place in Eretz Yisrael. Either text is very difficult to understand since our senses will deny this reality and also the earth is round and on such an object, one point is not higher than the other since it could be held many ways to answer this let us first bring the words of the Chasam Soffer who deals with the question concerning Har Hamoriya the mount upon which the Beis Hamikdash was built. Chazal tell us that the nations set up idols to worship on every mountain. If so how can the Beis Hamikdash be built on the same mountain that avodahzarah was worshipped? He brings the words of his Rebbi Rav Nosson Adler that from the Medrash it is evident that the terrain of Har Hamoriya changed. In truth, originally Moriya was a plain מישור or a valley עמק. When Avraham came to this place he davened that for the honor of Hashem it should be a mountain instead. This is what the passuk means at the Akeidah (Bereishis 22,14) אשר יאמר היום בהר ה' יראה. It will be said today that at the Mountain of Hashem He will appear. The word today in the passuk alludes to this fact that only today it became the Mountain of Hashem because until now it was just a plain or a valley.


With this interpretation, Rav Adler answers our original question that there never was a possibility that avodahzarah was worshipped on this mountain just as it was worshipped on all the mountains of Eretz Yisrael because until the Akeidah is was not yet a mountain. Only during the Akaidah and through Avraham's tefillah the plain was elevated into the mountain Har Hamoriyawhich was from then and onwards protected from any sort of avodah zarahworship.


According to this interpretation of Rav Nosson Adler the Alufei Yehudah writes that Rashi's text of מכאן שבית המקדש גדול מכל המקומות is very exacting. Rashi does not mean from all places on earth a fact which can be easily refuted. Rashi's usage of the word מקומות means plains and valleys and not mountains. Of all the plains or valleys in the world, Har Hamoriya is the only and exclusive one that was elevated and transformed into a mountain after it was brought into existence at מעשה בראשית.


This is what the passuk means וקמת ועלית אל המקום that Har Hamoriya which was once a מקום a plain, is now a mountain and therefore, ועלית, it is to be ascended upon. This is the place that Hashem chose for the building of the Beis Hamikdash.


With the interpretation above we can give another reason why this mountain was called מוריה (see Rashi 22,2). The root word אמר can also mean to elevate as the passuk says (Devarim 26,17) וה' אמירך (Daas Zekainim). This is the reason why the mountain of the Beis Hamikdash and the Akeidah is called מוריה because of the miracle of rising from a valley or plain into a mountain. Note that these two same letters spell רם which also means high.


Rav Nosson Adler explained to us why Har Hamoriya needed to make this transition from plain to mountain in order to guarantee that on its surface there was no worship of idolatry. However, we can suggest another reason for this miraculous alteration. Every Yid is obligated to build a Beis Hamikdash within himself as the passuk says ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם Build for me a mikdash and I will dwell in them. An individual might wrongly feel that he has no potential for the Shechinah to dwell within himself. His performance of mitzvosand Torah are not stellar at all. His shortcomings are very frequent that there is not a day that passes when he doesn't fails miserably in mitzvos and middos. His commitments to grow and change are flimsy and last for a very short time. This all proves to him that he is definitely not a candidate for the Shechinah to dwell in him.


Yet the history of the origins of the Beis Hamikdash has demonstrated to us just the opposite. The earth on which it stood, miraculously changed from a plain and valley into a mountain. It went from a state of an עמק valley, to הרwhich sends every individual the message that with siyata dishmaya even the שפל the low life can prepare himself to be a dwelling of the Shechinah. This is hinted in the word השפל which equals 415 the same as עמק הר . Even one who looks at himself as השפל the lowest of the low, he can nevertheless rise from the depths to the mountain of glory. As Dovid Hamelech says in Tehillim מגביה שפלים He raises the low and down trodden. Therefore the שמע ישראל that Am Yisrael renews twice a day in which they accept anew the yoke of heaven is expected to come from even the שפל for he too possess a potential of Kiddush Sheim Shamayim that he can actualize with the help of Hashem. This concept is supported by the gematriah that שמע which equals שפל.


Every Shabbos is a testimony that no matter what spiritual level one finds himself he has the potential to experience phenomenal growth in Avodas Hashem with the help of Hashem. On Shabbos every Yid receives a נשמה יתירה that connects even those that are disconnected to Hashem. Chazal tell us that even though an AmHaaretz is not trusted to attest to his taking of maaserfrom his produce during the week, however on Shabbos when he receives a neshamah yesairah he is believed. What radical change could have happened to him that he transitioned within a few minutes? The answer is it was the present from Hashem the neshama yeseirah that he could rise from a person not being trusted to say the emes, to becoming an individual whose word is the truth. This is hinted in the gematriah of מישור הר from plain to mountain which equals ביום שבת. So too, even during the week if the שפל keeps trying to extricate himself from his spiritual void he can receive the siyatta dishmaya that would spur him to transform himself from "plain" to a mountain of avodas Hashem upon which the Shechina rests.

Hashem tells the שפל that he merely has to open up a hole the size of the eye of a needle, and in reciprocation Hashem will open up a hole the size of a hall. הבא לטהר מסייעין אותו (Shabbos 104). Also we find this idea in Shir Hashirim on the passuk פתחי לי אחותי רעיתי and Chazal say (Shir Hashirim Rabba 5,3) that Hashem asks from Yisrael to open up the hole the size of the eye of a needle and He will open up for them the hole the size of a huge hall. The Kotzker Rebbe asks we have known many a שפל who have opened that tiny hole and yet they did not succeed? He answers that even though Hashem asks for only a tiny whole nevertheless it must be through and through like the eye of a needle. The word for through and through is מפולש. His answer is hinted in the same letters of שפל themselves, which also spell פלש. It is true that it is sufficient to create the opening that can be tiny but the commitment must be all the way, through thick and thin. Only then one receives the siyatta dishmaya to ascend the mountain.


This is what Dovid Hamelech alludes to when he writes מי יעלה בהר ה' ומי יקום במקום קדשו. Who will ascend the mountain of Hashem and who will stand in His holy place? As we explained above the word מקום denotes a plain or valley. The one who ascends to Hashem with the erection of a mountain can be the same one who stands up from the thick mud that he finds himself stuck in. It is from the plain and valley that he cries out to Hashem help me extricate myself and grow, and Hashem listens. The potential of Hashem's kedusha (קדשו) is concealed in the potential of מקום , and with toil and siyatta dishmaya the מקום transforms into one's personal Beis Hasmikdash situated on the הר.



-Rabbi Shmuel Brazil

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