Dear Rabbi Fried,
I appreciate your last two answers to me about Israel, and promise I won’t bug you about this again. I was just fascinated by what you said, that there is a stone on the Temple Mount at the place of the altar that was the beginning of God’s creation of the universe, and wanted to know if you could expand on that thought. All that I know is helping me defend Israel on my campus. Thanks,
Promise not accepted; you’re not bugging me at all, please keep asking! Especially now that significant parts of Israel and, Heaven forfend, perhaps even parts of Jerusalem are on the chopping block, we need to cement our spiritual connection to these places.
The stone I was referring to is a profound Jewish concept, and is referred to in Hebrew as the “even she’seeah,” or “foundation stone.” One of the leading Kabbalists was R’ Moshe ben Nachman, known as Ramban (Nachmanides, 13th-century Spain and Israel). In the preface to his classical commentary to the Torah, he writes at great length about this stone. This stone, at the Temple Mount, is said to hold within it all the world’s powers. For example, says Ramban, different fruits and vegetables thrive in specific parts of the world. Fruits which are indigenous to central Africa won’t necessarily grow well in Japan, and vice-versa.
An artery extends from this stone to Africa, Australia and every part of the world, giving each its power to sustain its particular flora and fauna. King Solomon, to whom the Torah refers as the wisest of all men, with his vast wisdom perceived and recognized those arteries. He was then able to plant the trees and plants which were particular to different parts of the world in Jerusalem, right above their specific artery of power, and these plants thrived right in the middle of Jerusalem as if they were grown in their natural habitat.
It was at the very same spot, as we mentioned previously, that the dust was taken by G-d to create the first man. Rashi gives one explanation: that since the dust of this place is the center of all the dust of the earth, wherever in the world men will die, they will be able to be “returned” to that dust. The converse of that is the custom at Jewish funerals to add a little dirt from Jerusalem into the casket, making the burial as if the deceased is returning back to his ultimate source.
This “even she’seeah” reflects a deeper understanding of Jerusalem and its pinnacle, the Temple Mount. The Midrash and Kabbalah explain that both man and the Temple were created as a microcosm of the entire universe. Every part of the Temple coincides with an organ or limb of man, and represents that concept in the universe. The central focus and holiest place of the Temple was the Holy of Holies, the inner chamber which housed the Ark and the tablets bearing the Ten Commandments. Only the Kohen Gadol, high priest, entered that place once a year, on Yom Kippur. That place corresponds to the human heart. From there, the Jewish hearts were connected to the Al-mighty.
The heart is the organ which pumps the blood to the most distant extremities of the body, bringing oxygen and nourishment to its capillaries and cells, bringing the gift of life. The Holy of Holies was the Jewish heart beating in Jerusalem, giving power to that stone to extend its arteries to the entire world, bringing spiritual energy to the far-flung places of the world, the source of bounty and goodness.
May we merit the ingathering of all our exiles to that place, with peace and joy, once and for all!
Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried, noted scholar and author of numerous works on Jewish law, philosophy and Talmud, is founder and dean of DATA, the Dallas Kollel. Questions can be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.