Picture from the Parasha girls swinging 521.
(photo credit: Israel Weiss (email@example.com) http://artfram)
‘Guard yourselves lest you forget the Lord your God… lest you eat and be satisfied… and your heart becomes haughty and you forget the Lord your God who took you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage’ (Deut. 8:11-14)
This week’s portion of Ekev is a magnificent paean of praise to the glories of
the Land of Israel, a land set aside for the Hebrews that will provide them with
plentiful vegetation, luscious fruits and wealth producing natural resources
necessary for this nation.
At the center of the lyrical description of a
unique land for a unique people comes the commandment for the mother of all
blessings, the Grace recited after meals: “And you shall eat and be satisfied,
and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you”
A careful study of Chapter 8 reveals three major
concepts which parallel the three blessings of our Grace after Meals: Firstly,
that we do not live by bread alone, but by what emanates from God, the Universal
Sustainer (8:2, 3, with the first blessing thanking God “who feeds all”).
Secondly, that God has brought the Israelites specifically to this land which
will sustain us (7-10, with the second blessing thanking God “for the land and
the sustenance”); and thirdly that God adjures us not to forget Him and His laws
lest we be destroyed from off the land He has given us (8:11-20, with the third
blessing beseeching God for compassion towards His nation, Israel and Jerusalem,
and thanking God “the builder of Jerusalem”).
Why are there two separate
blessings, the second for the land and the third for Jerusalem? Jerusalem is the
capital city of Israel. Why not incorporate the restoration of Jerusalem with
the restoration of the Land of Israel, leaving two biblical blessings for the
Grace after Meals rather than three blessings? I believe that the Land of Israel
and the City of Jerusalem are two separate entities, two separate concepts, and
two separate sanctities. Israel is a geographical location, whose function is to
provide nutrients and material benefits for the Israelite nation.
nation-state requires a leader-ruler, who takes responsibility for the physical
security and economic well-being of its citizenry. It makes sense that this
leader live in the capital city, which will also house other governmental
agencies responsible for the smooth functioning of the
However, as Chapter 8 also makes clear, Israel the land and
the nation remain beholden to a Higher Leader, the ultimate Leader-Ruler of
whoever may be elected or appointed to rule. He has inspired and “inspirited”
Israel with His message of compassionate righteousness and moral justice. He has
revealed to Israel His demand for human freedom and ethical morality. He has
commanded Israel to build for Him a House-Sanctuary on earth so that He – His
teachings and values – may dwell within humanity in this world.
place of God’s dwelling is the primary Jerusalem, which is the expression of the
true sanctity of Jerusalem. The mortal ruler whose throne is in Jerusalem, even
King Messiah, is merely the representative, the “spokesperson,” for the true and
universal Ruler of all rulers (see Deut. 17:14-20).
God’s teachings of
love, morality and peace will extend to all the families of the earth from the
Holy Temple in Jerusalem, in the City of God, Jerusalem, in the City of Peace,
Jerusalem, in the City of Wholeness and Universalism, Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2,
This is the place where “My house will be a House of Prayer for
all peoples” when “all the nations will call upon the Name of God to serve Him
in united resolve” (Zephaniah 3:9).
In order to distinguish between these
two Jerusalems – the capital city of Israel and the city of God; the Jerusalem
of the Knesset and the Jerusalem of the Third Temple; the Jerusalem of today and
the Jerusalem of our Messianic vision – it is most proper to refer to the later
Jerusalem as Zion. (See, for example, “God has chosen Zion, a desirable dwelling
place for Him,” [Psalms 132:13] or, “May the Lord bless you from Zion” [Psalms
134:3]). And it is for this Jerusalem which will be a light and a banner for all
humanity that we are praying in the third blessing of the Grace after Meals,
especially as we mention “Zion, and the Sanctuary of Your
Postscript: On Tisha Be’av, when we recite the “Nahem” prayer in
the Minha Amida and speak of a city “which has been laid waste, scorned and
desolate… like a barren, childless woman, devoured by the [Roman] legions,” the
words seem at best disingenuous and at worst ungrateful and blind to our
I have adopted for my prayer, and suggested for the
town of Efrat, the emendation of Rav Haim David Halevi, who simply substituted
the past tense (hayta, was) whenever the text is in the present
However in light of this commentary, this year I adopted the
amendment of Rav Nahum Rabinowitz, head of Ma’aleh Adumim’s Yeshivat Birkat
Moshe, who substitutes “the mountain” for the “the city” which is now laid
If the subject of the prayer is the Temple Mount, Zion rather than
Jerusalem, then unfortunately, the prayer remains exceedingly
Shabbat shalom The writer is the founder and chancellor of Ohr
Torah Stone colleges and graduate programs, and chief rabbi of Efrat.