“My House will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples” (Isaiah 56:7).
As we discussed in other letters, the first human being was created as an androgynous being that was later divided into two separate beings, one male and one female. Where was this androgynous being created? An answer can be found in the Midrash which states that the first human being was created at the site of the future Temple in Jerusalem:
“With an abounding love did the Holy One, blessed be He, love the first human being, as He created him in a pure locality, in the place of the Temple.” (Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer, chapter 12)
This tradition is also cited by Maimonides in his famous Code of Torah law, the Mishneh Torah (Beis Habechirah 2:2). All human beings therefore have roots in this sacred site, for this is the place where the first human being – a unity of body and soul – was created. This can help us to understood why Jewish tradition encourages all human beings to make the pilgrimage to the Temple, as indicated in the following sources:
According to an ancient biblical commentary cited in the Talmud, Moses taught our people that free-will elevation offerings can be brought to the Sanctuary by both Israelites and non-Israelites (Chullin 13b). Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that this teaching of Moses established the universal role of the Sanctuary (commentary to Leviticus 1:2). In this spirit, when King Solomon dedicated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem which he built, he prayed to Hashem, the Compassionate One:
“Moreover, concerning a foreigner who is not of your people, Israel, but will come from a distant land, for Your Name’s sake – for they will hear of Your great Name and Your strong hand and Your outstretched arm, and will come and pray toward this Temple – may you hear from Heaven, the foundation of Your abode, and fulfill all that the foreigner asks of You; so that all the peoples of the earth may know Your Name, to revere You as does Your people Israel, and to know that Your Name is proclaimed upon this Temple that I have built.” (I Kings 8:41-43)
In a later generation, the Prophet Isaiah conveyed the following Divine promise concerning the universal role of the rebuilt Temple in the messianic age: “For My House will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples” (Isaiah 56:7) According to the classical biblical commentators, Radak and Ibn Ezra, this prophecy is in the spirit of the prayer that King Solomon offered when he dedicated the Temple.
One of the most moving descriptions of the universal pilgrimage to the Temple is found in the following prophecy which describes the Temple as an educational center for all peoples:
“It will happen in the end of days: The mountain of the Temple of Hashem will be firmly established as the head of the mountains, and it will be exalted above the hills, and all the nations will stream to it. Many peoples will go and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the Mountain of Hashem, to the Temple of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways and we will walk in His paths.’ For from Zion will go forth Torah, and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:2,3)
“He will teach of us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.” What are the ways and paths of the Torah – the Divine Teaching – that they will seek to study and follow? In his commentary on a related verse, Radak explains that when the peoples make the pilgrimage to the Temple, they will seek to study and fulfill the Torah’s universal moral code – The Seven Mitzvos of the Children of Noah (Commentary on Isaiah 42.6). These are actually seven “categories” of mitzvos, and they contain many details (Sefer Ha-Chinuch, Mitzvah 416). These seven categories of mitzvos establish an ethical and moral foundation for human society.
As we discussed, there are sources within our tradition which state that there are also other mitzvos in the Torah which all human beings must fulfill. These are the mitzvos which are suggested by human reason and the understanding of the heart. The mitzvos of love and justice which guide our social relationships are suggested by human reason and the understanding of the heart. The paths of Hashem that the peoples will study and fulfill will therefore include these mitzvos of love and justice. I found a source for this idea in an essay by Rabbi Hirsch on the above prophecy. He explains that the Biblical Hebrew word for path – orayach – refers to the path of social relationships. When the peoples will say, “We will walk in His paths,” they are referring to all the mitzvos of the Torah that guide us in our social relationships – “the ways of dealing justly and mutual love in which the state of the Jewish people was to be built.” (Collected Writings, Vol. 4, Chapter 3)
As we discussed in the previous letter, within the heart of the Temple is the Torah; thus, it is fitting that the peoples journey to the Temple in order to study those mitzvos of the Torah which apply to them.
In the above prophecy, the Prophet adds that the Torah which will go forth from Zion will lead to universal justice and peace. Through the wisdom of Torah – the Divine Teaching – the Messiah “will judge among the nations, and will settle the disputes of many peoples” (Isaiah 2:4); moreover, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift sword against nation, and they will no longer study warfare” (ibid).
The Book of Micah includes the above prophecy about how the universal pilgrimage to the Temple in order to study Torah will lead to world peace (Micah 4:1-3); however, the prophecy in Micah has the following addition:
“They will sit, each person under his vine and under his fig tree, and none will make them afraid, for the mouth of Hashem, God of the hosts of Creation, has spoken” (4:4).
The classical biblical commentators, Radak and Ibn Ezra, explain that the peaceful and pastoral vision of “each person under his vine and under his fig tree” includes all humankind.
The pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem – the Sanctuary of the Divine Teaching – will lead all humankind into the era of universal enlightenment and shalom.
Before this universal pilgrimage can take place, Jerusalem must become a center of true shalom – the shalom based on the Divine Teaching. In this way, Jerusalem will become a spiritual center which will inspire others. In this spirit, we chant the following words which include a blessing for Jerusalem and her Temple:
“Inquire after the shalom of Jerusalem; those who love you view the future unafraid. Shalom be within your precincts, serenity within your palaces. For the sake of my brethren and companions I wish that shalom be yours. For the sake of the House of Hashem, our God, I will pray for your good.” (Psalm 122:6-9 – translation of Rabbi Hirsch)
“For the sake of my brethren and companions, I wish that shalom be yours. For the sake of the House of Hashem, our God, I will pray for your good.” – In his commentary on these words, Rabbi Hirsch writes:
“This wish is not based upon one-sided, selfish motives. May the fulfillment of this wish benefit all those who would join Israel as brethren and companions. And in the salvation that will blossom forth for Jerusalem, may that ideal be perfected at long last which had received its first foundation with the erection of the House of Hashem on Mount Moriah in the midst of Jerusalem for the future of Israel and of humankind.”
Rabbi Hirsch then refers to Isaiah 2:2-4 – the passage cited above – which describes the pilgrimage of the peoples to Jerusalem and the universal shalom which will result from this pilgrimage.
May Jerusalem be blessed with the shalom of the Divine Teaching, and may we all experience this eternal and universal shalom.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)
1. Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi said: “If the nations of the world would have known how valuable the Temple was for them, they would have surrounded it with fortresses, in order to protect it.” (Midrash Numbers Rabbah 1:3)
2. In the previous letter, we cited the following prophecy:
“Thus said Hashem, God of the hosts of creation: The fast of the fourth (month), the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth will be to the House of Judah for joy and for gladness and for happy festivals” (Zechariah 8:19).
This prophecy regarding the transformation of the fast days into days of joy is immediately followed by a prophecy regarding the spiritual renewal of the peoples of the earth:
“Thus said Hashem, God of the hosts of creation: It will yet be that peoples will come, as well as inhabitants of many cities. The dwellers of one (city) will go to the other, saying, ‘Let us go and supplicate before Hashem and seek out Hashem, God of the hosts of creation!’...Many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek out Hashem, God of the hosts of creation, in Jerusalem, and to supplicate before Hashem. (Zechariah 8:20-22)