This study piece is offered
as a service of the United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva. It is prepared
by Rabbi Mordechai Silverstein, senior lecturer in Talmud and Midrash
at the Conservative Yeshiva. He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological
Seminary of America.
King David’s greatest desire
was to build a permanent home for God. Initially, Nathan, the prophet,
confirmed David’s request but later, in a prophecy, God revealed to him
that David would not be the one who would build the Temple. Instead, God
granted David the following promise: “I will establish a home for my people
Israel, and will plant them firm (untativ), so that they may dwell secure
and shall tremble no more. Evil men shall not oppress them as in the past...”
(2 Samuel 7:10) In this covenant, God promises David the peaceful continuation
his royal kingdom.
The use of the verb “leentot”
in this promise evokes an earlier prophecy found at the end of the Song
of the Sea (Shirat Hayam): “You [God] shall bring them in and plant them
(titaeimo) in your own mountain, the place you made to dwell in, O God,
the sanctuary, O God, which Your hands have established.” (Exodus 15:17)
The associations found in this verse, in turn, probably confirmed for David
that the Temple would be built by his offspring.
The rabbinic tradition took
the relationship between these two verses one step further. They could
not conceive of a covenant which established a nation or its holy place
without conditions: “I will establish a home for my people and will plant
them firm” – Our Mishnah teaches: “Shimon HaZadik was one of the last survivors
of the Great Assembly. He used to say: ‘By three things the world exists:
by the Torah, by the [Temple] service, and by deeds of lovingkindness.’”
(Avot 1:2) [A later sage] Rabbi Huna bar Aha explained: [The relationship
between God’s promise and this Mishneh] was explained by those who crossed
the sea: You [God] in Your kindness have led the people who You have redeemed’
(Exodus 15:13) – This refers to lovingkindness. ‘You have guided them in
Your strength’ – This refers to Torah. When will the world be firmly established?
When the children of Israel reach Your holy habitation [the Temple], as
we learn from the verse from the book of Samuel: ‘And I have planted My
people’ – eternally. (adapted from Midrash Samuel 26:4 Buber ed. P. 126)
This midrash teaches that
the fate of the nation and indeed the entire world rests on the shoulders
of those who accept the covenant. The nation’s destiny requires the building
of a just, kind, Torah inspired society. The rabbis could conceive of nothing
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