Sinai and Moriah: a Mysterious Connection


If we haven’t already gotten the message of these weekly divrei Torah, Jerusalem is pretty much the center of everything in Judaism. Which is why many commentators wonder why the Torah was given on Har Sinai instead of Har HaMoriyah (aka, the temple mount). While there are many beautiful answers provided to this question, the Midrash (Bereishis Rabba, Vayechi 99:1) offers a very simple answer. Sinai was the only mountain on which there was no idol worship performed to this point. Hence, it was the appropriate place for Hashem to “descend” into this world and give us the Torah. Despite this unique quality of Sinai, the Midrash clarifies that the permanent resting place for Hashem’s presence in this world will be the Temple mount in Jerusalem. 

This answer seems almost technical. On a fundamental level, Jerusalem would be a perfect place for the Torah to be given. It is only because of the tragic presence of idol worship on the holy mountain that it could not be so. The Midrash emphasizes this by deliberately interjecting with its important clarification that Jerusalem is Hashem’s principal dwelling place. It is therefore not surprising that Jerusalem would become the center of Torah scholarship, leadership, and authority once David HaMelekh established his capital there. Yeshayahu HaNavi (perek 2) proclaims כי מציון תצא תורה ודבר ה’ מירושלים, that Tzion will be the ultimate source of Torah and God’s word for the rest of the world. This is why the seat of the Sanhedrin was on the Har HaBayit itself. 

Jerusalem could almost be described as the natural continuation of Matan Torah, and therefore becomes the center for Hashem’s communication through Torah and Nevuah. Remarkably, the Midrash (Tehillim 36) implies that when the time comes to build the third temple, God will bind together Har Sinai with Har HaMoriyah in Jerusalem and erect the temple on top of them. Clearly there is some deep metaphysical connection between these two mountains that allowed them to become the chief conduits of Torah in this world. Why? What makes Jerusalem the natural successor to Sinai?

To attempt an answer for this question, we will unfortunately need two weeks. This week, we will briefly (and inadequately) discuss the nature of Torah study and why it is so important. As Rav Chayim Volozhiner explains throughout the fourth gateway of Nefesh HaChayim, the Torah stems from the highest supernal realms and serves as the conduit through which all of physical existence manifests itself. The oft-quoted Zohar explains that God “peered” into the Torah and created the world. Torah is the metaphysical blueprint for the universe; everything in the physical realm is a corporal parallel to sublime spiritual realities of the supernal Torah

Many sections of the Torah, both written and oral, focus on seemingly mundane details of the physical realm. The Torah describes different species of animal, obsesses over shades of blood and skin lesions, and extensively describes cases of animal damage and civil dispute. Through the intense study of Torah, the endless wisdom of the Ribbono Shel Olam can be found within these mundane subjects. Torah reveals the hidden secret of creation; every aspect of this physical universe is in truth a reflection of God’s endless light. To the true Torah scholar, the illusion that the physical world is devoid of His divine presence is lifted. Ein od milvado, everything in this physical universe is an expression of Hashem’s wisdom and ratzon

Jerusalem is in makom what the Torah is in machshava. Be’ezrat Hashem we will continue next week with an explanation of Jerusalem’s unique cosmic role in dispelling the aforementioned illusion. 


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