The Jewish Chronicle - - JUDAISM - LIND­SAY SIM­MONDS

“To the place which the Lord, your God will choose”

THIS week’s sidrah men­tions Jerusalem, not by name, but by al­lud­ing to it as “the place which God has cho­sen”. This phrase is men­tioned 15 times through­out Deuteron­omy. Be­fore this, the chil­dren of Is­rael are in­tro­duced to the changes which must take place when they en­ter the Land of Is­rael, which in­clude laws de­tailed in suc­ceed­ing sedarot.

The ref­er­ence to Jerusalem re­lates to many as­pects of the city: it is the place where we bring ko­r­banot (sac­ri­fices); where we eat ma’aser­sheni (tithes); where we travel to on the chagim (fes­ti­vals) and the place of the Supreme Court. Jerusalem func­tions as a space of re­li­gious life, so­cial life, To­rah learn­ing and na­tional jus­tice for all Is­rael. Many of its func­tions de­manded on-site staff who were them­selves ob­li­gated to live in Jerusalem: the Co­hanim (Tem­ple priests), Supreme Court judges and To­rah teach­ers.

Im­por­tantly, our sidrah sug­gests that this place, as yet un­spec­i­fied ge­o­graph­i­cally, is where we ac­tively “seek out the divine pres­ence”. It can only be found if we show in­ter­est in it and ac­tively par­tic­i­pate in find­ing and build­ing it. Our search for the divine pres­ence in the world prompts God to re­veal the city Jerusalem to us.

It is in­cum­bent on us all to “seek out God” ac­tively. In our gen­er­a­tion, where the state of Is­rael ex­ists af­ter 2,000 years of ex­ile, cre­at­ing a city where God’s pres­ence is re­alised, by en­forc­ing jus­tice and pro­mot­ing peace, is not sim­ply an op­por­tu­nity but an obli­ga­tion.

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