Yom Yerushalayim: “Jerusalem” does not appear in the Torah – why?

17 MAY 2023

Why does the name of Jerusalem not appear in the Torah?

On 21 separate occasions in the book of Devarim we are told about,

“bamakom asher yivchar Hashem,” – “the place which God shall choose,”

and we all know that it’s Jerusalem.

Similarly in the book of Bereishit, Malkitzedek who came out to welcome Abraham is described as the king of ‘Shalem’, which was Jerusalem. Abraham sought to sacrifice his son Yitzchak at the akaidah on ‘Har Hamoriah’ (Mount Moriah) which is Jerusalem. It seems as if the Torah’s going out of its way not to mention Jerusalem by name!

The Rambam in his Moreh Nevuchim, his Guide to the Perplexed, gives three reasons for this, and the third, which he states is the most powerful, is in order to preserve the unity of the Jewish people.

As the nation came, under the leadership of Joshua, into the Promised Land to possess it, says the Rambam, had they known exactly where Jerusalem was, there was a danger that there could be civil war – each tribe could fight against the others in an attempt to gain control over that city, and ultimately rule the whole people. Therefore, Jerusalem was hidden from them. The Rambam further says that it was only once a king would be appointed and anointed to rule over the entire people that Jerusalem would be established as the eternal capital of the Jewish nation.

It is clear that King David was aware of the way in which Jerusalem would serve to unify the people. That is why, when he bought the city from Arana the Jebusite, he raised 50 shekels from each of the 12 tribes towards the 600 shekel cost: he wanted them all to have a ‘chelek’, a portion in it, so that it would belong to all.

In addition, through all the ‘mishmarot’, the procedures of the Temple service, there were always representatives of all tribes to guarantee that the temple service ran collectively. We had the half shekel contribution which came from every individual to ensure that Jerusalem and its Temple service would always belong to the entire nation.

No wonder therefore that in Psalm 122 we are told,

“Yerushalayim habenuyah k’ir shechubra la yachdav.” – “Jerusalem is built as a city which is joined up by all of its parts.”

The hilltops, the mountains, the valleys, they all join up in order to produce one single city representing the unity of the entire people of Israel.

As we now focus our attention on Jerusalem in anticipation of Yom Yerushalaim, the glorious festival of Jerusalem Day, let us also focus our attention on Jewish unity so that we should be ‘chubra la yachdav’ – totally connected as one entity always. I wish you all chag sameach.