We all know that Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Koran. But why Is Jerusalem not mentioned in the first 5 Books of the Torah?10.jpg

This is a fascinating question, first raised by the greatest Jewish philosopher and legal codifier, Maimonides, living in the 12th century, in his great philosophic masterpiece, “Guide for the Perplexed.”

The Torah makes references to Jerusalem by saying that when the Jews enter the Promised Land, G‑d will choose for them a place which will become the epicenter of holiness, the place where He will dwell in a manifest way; the central place of worship for the Jewish people to the Almighty—the location of the ultimate Holy Temple. 

Yet, not once does it mention this place explicitly by its name: Yerushalayim, Jerusalem, not in the five Books of Moses. Starting in the book of Joshua and throughout the Tanach, Jerusalem is then mentioned more than 800 times. Why the reluctance to name Jerusalem in the first 5 books of the Torah?

Maimonides offers three possible answers

First of all, the publication of the name of the unique city would incite the other nations to make war against Israel in order to acquire Jerusalem for themselves.

Second, the other nations might even attempt to destroy the city and lay it barren — if only in order that the Israelites not acquire it.

Hence, if the name would have been mentioned in the Torah, Maimonides argues, that would be the greatest PR for the greatness of the city and it would have triggered the ire of all those who wish to see Israel fail. Thus, the name was concealed, until King David living 400 years after Moses, conquered the city, established there the capital of the Jewish homeland, and began preparations for constructing the Temple on the Mount, the work completed by his son Solomon.

Finally, Maimonides offers a third reason, which he says is the most important one. Moses feared lest all the tribes of Israel would fight over the location of the city, each desirous of having Jerusalem within its own borders. Hence the name was not mentioned till its fate would be determined by the King of Israel many years later.

Indeed, according to most opinions Jerusalem was not divided among the tribes and remained the inheritance of all of Israel. No one Jewish tribe or family owns Jerusalem.

The Jerusalem in Each of Us

One of the great rabbis of the 16th century was Rabbi Chaim ben Reb Bezalel. He was the older brother of the famed Rabbi Yehuda Lowei, the Maharal of Prague. In one of his works, entitled “The Book of Life,” he presents a deeply moving answer to the above question.

Beyond Geography

The Creator has chosen Israel as the Jewish homeland—and Jerusalem as the abode for His manifest presence in our world. Yet by omitting the name of the city in the Torah itself, it is communicating one of the most important messages of Jewish history and identity. Jerusalem is meta-geographical.

There is no one space called Jerusalem. Jerusalem, and the Beit Hamikdash (the Holy Temple) are to be found wherever a sincere Jewish heart turns to G‑d and opens itself up to His truth, wisdom and love.

Because Jerusalem is not only a geographical locations, located between the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean. That too, of course. But they represent a certain consciousness, energy, sanctity, spirit, meaning, that is metaphysical. If you choose to direct your life, your thoughts, mindset, heart, behavior toward G‑d—that is the space G‑d chooses. Your space becomes a reflection of Jerusalem.

By mentioning Jerusalem more than 800 times in the Tanach—and yet referring to it in the Torah itself as “the place that G‑d will choose,” the Torah is teaching us that Jerusalem is more than geography. Its energy was not confined to any specific place; its vitality pulsated in the home of the 10th century Jew thriving on the Rhine, the 16th century Jew walking the streets of Krakow, the 20th century Jew struggling in communist Moscow, and the Jew of 21st century coming to shul Shabbos morning in Los Angeles.

When Aldous Huxley said, "we have each of us our Jerusalem," he meant much more than a temporal city of taxi cabs and traffic jams. He meant a vision of what life might be like.

Facing East

When one rises to pray, he must pray facing toward the direction of Israel; within Israel, one faces toward Jerusalem, and in Jerusalem one faces toward the site of the Temple. In New York, for example, one faces east. In Iraq, one faces west. During a flight to Israel, one prays facing the front of the plane, while during a flight away from Israel, one faces the back of the plane. One who prays in Israel faces Jerusalem. A person in the Northern Israeli city of Tiberius should face south, while somebody praying in the southern city of Beer Sheba faces northward. In Jerusalem, a person prays toward the Temple Mount, where the Temple stood.

But what’s the message?

That it is not where you are; it is where your heart is. When one faces Jerusalem—when one’s mind and heart are directed to the holiness represented by Jerusalem—that Jew is in Jerusalem. He is now in the place that G‑d chooses to dwell.

Chafetz Chaim’s Response

A story is told that in the 1930s, the world-renowned Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagen, the Chofetz Chaim, received a letter from a Jewish soldier who had been drafted into the Polish army. The soldier related that he was assigned to a remote base where there were no Jewish soldiers, no religious services, no kosher food and where it was impossible to keep Shabbat or any mitzvah at all. His question to the Chofetz Chaim: "How do I survive as a Jew in this forsaken place?"

The reply of the Chofetz Chaim was wonderful: "If it is impossible for you to keep Shabbat, kashrut, or to keep mitzvot, don't be discouraged. There is one thing you can and must do. Whenever you have a free moment, speak to G‑d, and whenever you speak to G‑d, face east. Why face east? Because you will be directing your thoughts to Jerusalem. In so doing, you will reunite yourself with the Jewish People and with G‑d. In fact, whenever a Jew faces Jerusalem in prayer—he or she is in Jerusalem.”

The Jew may not be in Jerusalem — but Jerusalem is always in him.