Beit Midrash

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To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

R. Avraham ben-tziyon ben shabtai

The Holiness of the Land of Israel and Jerusalem


Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed

Tishrey 5762
During these days when large parts of our holy Land and holy City are endangered, it is timely topic to discuss the holiness of our land and the holiness of Jerusalem.
The land of Israel is a land of holiness and Jerusalem is a city of even greater holiness. Our Rabbis teach us (Mishna Kelim): ‘There are ten levels of holiness: Israel of all lands... Jerusalem of all of Israel... The Holy of Holies possesses the highest level of holiness.’

What is Holiness?
Electricity is a power we all know exists, and we all know the effect it has, but all the same it cannot be seen. Similarly, holiness has a reality of its own. It may not be seen or felt but it affects objects, places and time.
In fact, the root of all existence is holiness.
Let’s take an example of the effect of the holiness. The Talmud discusses a case of a person who dedicated a certain animal as a specific offering in the Temple, but in the end brings it as a different offering 1 . He is punished, because when dedicating the animal he gave it a specific holiness that cannot be altered.

Beit Hamikdash (The Holy Temple) - Holy Place
The innermost room of the Beit Hamikdash is called The Holy of Holies; the Holy Ark was placed in this chamber. This Ark stood on a rock. Our sages tell us this is the rock from which the universe was created. This point is the border between the world and its creator - God. The starting point of all creation is the Holy of Holies.

The Holy Sabbath - Holy Time
Holiness is present not only in places, but also in time.
The Sabbath is the starting point and the root of all holy times - Jewish holidays. In fact, the whole week is impacted by the holiness of the Sabbath. Three days of preparation for the Sabbath and three days after in which the holiness decreases.

The Holy Nation - Holy People
Not only is holiness present in time and place, but in people too.
The holy nation of Israel. The whole universe exists in the merit of Israel 2 . Our tradition teaches that the nation of Israel has a soul. This soul predated all creations and is found alongside the Throne of God. This soul is the source of all souls and therefore the deeds of Israel influence all.
To summarize: Holiness is an existence, and preceded all existence. Beit Hamikdash is placed where all creation began. The Holy Sabbath is the root of the creation of Time. Finally, the Nation of Israel is the root of all mankind and creation.

The Holy Land
Rabbi Yehuda Halevi in his famous work 'HaKuzari' tells the king of Kuzar that the battle over the Holy Land started early on in history. The first to battle were Cain and Abel. Following them were Isaac and Ishmael and later Jacob and Esau. We learn here, that the Land’s holiness is not a product of Joshua conquest; its holiness exists independent of historical events.

The ETERNAL Holy City
Maimonedes writes that Jerusalem has a special level of holiness that never lapses. Therefore, even though the Beit Hamikdash lies in ruins entering the site of the Mikdash is forbidden, since we are not in a state of ritual purity.

The Holiness of the Holy Land
As mentioned previously there are ten levels of holiness. The greatest of them is The Holy of Holies. The areas around the Temple are affected by it; the closer they are - the holier they are. The next most holy area is the city of Jerusalem followed by the Land of Israel 3 .

^ 1 There are several offerings a person can bring, an offering of thanks, an offering of repentance etc.
^ 2 Our sages teach us that when God came to Israel with the Torah, He offered two choices: either they accept the Torah and keep the commandments or the world will be destroyed. We learn from this, the importance there is in Israel and in Israel's behavior. (t.n.)
^ 3The countries surrounding the Land of Israel also have a certain level of holiness (as is seen in several commandments).
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