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I was having an argument about the centrality of Jerusalem in our tradition when I realized surprisingly, that, seemingly from the scriptures, Jerusalem wasn't so central for our forefathers at all.

  1. There's a verse that מלכיצדק (allegedly Shem Ben Noah) was the king of Shalem (allegedly Jerusalem). It hints on the fact that Jerusalem as a city existed even in Avraham's times. We also know that Shem had a Yeshivah learning Torah.

  2. When Avraham is instructed to leave for Israel and he travels the country he's not mentioned stopping in Jerusalem, either meet his grand-grand-^7-father or learn some Torah or see where the world was created or bring some sacrifices etc.

  3. G-d invites Avraham to sacrifice his son on Har Hamoriya (Har Habayt - the place of the future Temple, also not explicit in the Torah) and Avraham realizes that, but he immediately forgets the place after the occasion.

  4. Avraham and Itzhak and Yaakov travel all over the country stopping in different places - Shchem, Hebron, Beer Sheba but never in Jerusalem.

  5. Yaakov stops "accidentally" (didn't he have a tradition from his father?) at Har Habayt goes to sleep and sees a dream etc, but again, never returns or remembers it.

  6. Abraham buys a piece of land in Hebron and Yaakov in Shchem but they don't think of buying or somehow claiming possession of Har Habayt.

  7. After the Egypt exile, Yehoshua brings the Jewish people to the Promised land but nobody rushes to Jerusalem and Har Habayt. It takes 400 years until David decides to turn it into the Jewish capital.

Maybe I omited some facts, please feel free to edit.

Why our forefathers did not claim the centrality of Jerusalem in Jewish tradition?


Do you think #6 should be a stand-alone question?

  • IMO, I think you touch upon it in #4. Our forefathers did a lot of moving around, and the politics of the area were sometimes controlled by Egypt, when there was a strong Pharoah or dynasty, and by the individual cities' petty kings when Egypt was weak. As evidenced by the Amarna letters, some cities were in league with each other against others, or paying tribute to the strongest local one. Maybe Jerusalem was unfriendly to the pastoral tribes our forefathers came from. After all, later on, it had to be taken from Jebusite control, maybe they were enemies for a lot longer. – Gary Nov 18 '18 at 4:42
  • The letters complain a lot about the "Habiru" people/tribes, which our forefathers may or may not have been a part of. My point is, some cities were friendlier than others to the patriarchs, as the stories about each one indicate, and Jerusalem might not have been a friendly one, despite the good relationship between Melchitzedek and Abraham. – Gary Nov 18 '18 at 4:47
  • Har HaMoriyah is linguistically related to the concept of the place where Kingship (Malchut) will be revealed. 'Moriyah' is a compound of Myrrh (a spice associated with Kings in midrash) and Ri'ah, as in vision or being seen. Possibly understood as the place where G-d's Kingship will be seen. Avraham was the Nasi of the descendants of Shem in his day. The land of Israel was given to Shem and his descendants. It was being overrun by the Kaftorim, which was why G-d told Avram to leave Ur and reassert his inheritance claim. – Yaacov Deane May 17 at 14:25
  • Spices, as in incense, are used in certain Kabbalistic practices to attain certain types of visions like is written by Rabbi Yitzchok of Acco. Myrrh is related to visions of the sephirah of Kingship. – Yaacov Deane May 17 at 14:32
  • The concept of the centrality of Yerushalayim relates to it occupying the central position between Chevron and Meron. One of the teachings about the Sulam of Yaacov is that its base is in Chevron, the center is over Yerushalayim and its head is over Meron (associated with Tiveria and Tzfat). The Roshei Teivot from Chevron, Yerushalayim & Meron is Chaim (חיי"ם) as in 'choose life' like we learn from Moshe Rabbeinu. – Yaacov Deane May 17 at 14:41

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