כי מציון תצא תורה ודבר השם מירושלים
The world continues to debate and criticize President Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Yerushalayim, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. I believe that we Jews, in the meantime, must inform ourselves a little more about the reasons why Yerushalayim was, is and will be “the capital of Israel”.
Previously we explained that Yerushalayim was conceived, even before its conquest, as the “Capital or Federal District” of the Nation of Israel. Israel was originally composed of 12 tribes (what today would be “states” or “provinces”). Everything that King David did for the choosing, conquest and acquisition of Yerushalayim was done in a “national” (or Federal) —and not in a tribal— manner.
Now, apart from the federal character of the city, what other element characterizes a nation’s capital city? The capital city of a nation is the seat of its national government.
Let’s see if this was also the case with Yerushalayim.
Once King David settled in the City of David, the prophet Gad conveyed to him by Divine prophecy God’s will to erect the Temple of HaShem on Mount Moriah. This was the place where Abraham Abinu took his son Itshaq for the ‘aqeda. Mount Moriah, also known as the Temple Mount, was located where today is the Kotel and the al Aqsa mosque. David acquired this land from the Jebusite, brought there the Ark of the Covenant (containing the Tablets with the 10 Commandments, etc.) and built there a temporary Tabernacle. The Temple of Yerushalayim was built in that same place by his son, King Solomon.
I will not write about the fascinating subject of how our Bet haMiqdash was built, since I want to concentrate on explaining one point only: Why the Bet HaMiqdash in Yerushalayim gives this city its condition as the Capital of Israel? Apart from being the place where the qorbanot or daily sacrifices were offered, and the pilgrimage center of the entire nation of Israel three times a year, the Bet haMiqdash also represented “The seat of the Government of Israel”. How so? The Temple of Jerusalem was the “Divine Residence” (‘בית ה’), the Palace of HaShem. This concept is tremendously important.
WHO IS THE REAL KING?
In the civilization of antiquity, with no exception, the king was always a manifestation of the gods or their incarnation. The king was the highest authority. The king (or the emperor) determined and defined the law, or modified it at will. He did not answer to any higher authority or to any code of laws. Because thanks to his divine condition, the king was at the top of the pyramid of power. So it was with the Egyptian Pharaoh, with Nebukhandetsar Emperor of Babylon, and even with the Roman emperors. A very similar concept, “Divine Right” or “Divine Mandate”characterized even modern religions and cultures until practically modern times (see this).
Things were very different for the Jewish people. The king of Israel was never a god or his representation on earth. The king was subject to the authority of God, manifested in his Tora, and in the word of His prophets. Moreover, unlike a normal Jew, who only wore the Tefillin in his arm (the phylacteries, which contain 4 short paragraphs of the Torah) the king of Israel had to carry with him permanently a Sefer Torah and study it daily, to be guided by it every day of his life. The king of Israel had no more rights than the others, he had more obligations. The king of the Jewish people had to be —as King David and the Melekh haMashiah— the most humble and obedient servant of HaShem, who should be acknowledged as the only “true” King. This was said explicitly by king David in Psalm 24: 3-4, composed at the time David brought the Ark of the Covenant for the first time to Yerushalayim. The human king of Israel declares in this Psalm: “Who is the [true] King, to whom we owe glory? HaShem, God of the heavenly hosts, He is the [only] King [to Whom we owe] glory. “
WHERE DOES THE KING RESIDE?
King David — like his son Shelomo— established his residence in the City of David, next to the Temple Mount (har haBayit). But the Divine King’s residence was in the Bet haMiqdash. That is why the Bet haMiqdash, and not the king’s palace, housed the Jewish judicial institutions in its territory. The supreme court of justice, what is called the Beit HaDin haGadol, and later called Sanhedrin, functioned in the Bet HaMiqdash, and not in the king’s palace! The king of Israel was part of that court, but it was up to the court as a whole to approve or enact new laws.
Whereas for all peoples of antiquity the king was god, for the Jewish people God was (and is) the King.
Now we can understand a little better why the Bet haMiqdash was not just a house of worship. It was the place of residence of the Highest Authority of the people of Israel. The law of the Jewish people did not come from the City of David, the residence of the human king. The law of Israel, “the Tora, emanates from Zion; and the word of haShem comes from Yerushalayim “, that is, from He who resides in Yerushalayim, HaShem the true King of Israel.
Jerusalem was, is and will be the capital of the Jewish people because it is the Seat of the People of Israel’s Government: the residence of Israel’s Governor and Ruler.