Portion of Binyamin ֠the Inheritance of the Divine Presence (part III)

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Jerusalem in the Bible
Yeshivat Har Etzion

Shiur #18: Portion of Binyamin – the Inheritance of the Divine Presence (part III)


Rav Yitzchak Levi


Continuing with what we covered in the previous shiurim concerning Moshe's blessing to Binyamin, the first part of this shiur will present proofs that the portion of Binyamin is indeed the portion of the Divine Presence.  The second part will address the parallel between Beit-El and Jerusalem, and its significances.


A.        Proof that the portion of Binyamin is the potion of the Divine Presence [1]


There are several indications that God chose to rest His Presence in the portion of Binyamin:


1.  Multiplicity of holy places in the portion of Binyamin


The inheritance of Binyamin is home to a great concentration of holy places: Gilgal, Beit-El, Kiryat Ye'arim, Mitzpa, Giv'at ha-Elokim, Nov, Giv'on, and Jerusalem.  This is more than a mere quantitative statement. It is possible to demonstrate that some of these places are located at points right on the borders of the portion of Binyamin [2] (see attached Map no. 1; concerning the outline of the border described here see shiur no. 16 – " The Portion of Binyamin – the Portion of the Divine Presence" part I).


- In the north, on the border between Binyamin and Ephraim, "the south side of Luz, which is Beit-El" (Yehoshua 18:13): Luz is located in Ephraim (Shoftim 1:22), while Beit-El – a holy place – is located in Binyamin (Yehoshua 18:21).

- In the south, on the Binyamin-Yehuda border, "the south side of the Jebusites, which is Jerusalem" (ibid. 15:8-11): Jerusalem, the holy place, is located in Binyamin.

- In the west, again on the border between Binyamin and Yehuda, we find Kiryat Ye'arim – the place of the Ark's dwelling in Binyamin, in the city known as Giv'at Kiryat (see Ibid. 18:28 and I Shemuel 7:1); Kiryat Ye'arim itself is in Yehuda (Yehoshua 15:60; 18:14).


Thus, the border consistently lies in such a way that the holy place is located in Binyamin, while the city associated with it is located in the portion of the neighboring tribe (Yehuda or Ephraim).


The concentration of holy places in the portion of Binyamin is noted in a surprising assertion by Rav Dimi (Zevachim 118b) to the effect that ALL OF THE STATIONS OF THE MISHKAN'S JOURNEY WERE LOCATED IN THE PORTION OF BINYAMIN:


Rav Dimi said in the name of Rabbi: In three places the Divine Presence rested upon Israel - in Shilo, in Nov, and in Giv'on - and the Temple.  In all of these cases it rested only in the portion of Binyamin, as it is written, "He shall cover him all the day" (Devarim 33:12) – all of God's "coverings" [of the nation] took place only in the portion of Binyamin. When Abaye went and told what he had heard from Rav Dimi to Rav Yosef, [the latter] questioned: Is it not written, "He abandoned the Tabernacle of Shilo…" (Tehillim 78:60)? And is it not written, "He forsook the Tent of Yosef and did not choose the tribe of Ephraim" (Ibid. 67)?"

Rav Ada said: What is the question here? Perhaps the Divine Presence is in the portion of Binyamin, while the Great Sanhedrin sits in the portion of Yosef, as we find in the case of the Temple – that the Divine Presence was in the portion of Binyamin, while the Sanhedrin was located in the portion of Yehuda.


He said to him: "Even so, in that case the portions were adjacent to one another; here they were not adjacent at all!  (Rashi: Shilo and the border of the inheritance of Binyamin).


But here, too, they were adjacent.  As Rabbi Chama, son of Rabbi Chanina, taught: A strip protruded from the portion of Yehuda and entered the portion of Binyamin; there the altar was built, and the righteous [tribe of] Binyamin was sorrowful over (not having ownership over) this enclave.  Here, too, a strip protruded from the portion of Yosef into the portion of Binyamin, as it is written, "to Ta'anat Shilo" (Yehoshua 16:6).  [Rashi: So named because Binyamin mourned (mit'onen) over it.)  


In response to Rav Yosef's proofs that Shilo is located in the midst of the portion of Ephraim, and therefore it is impossible that it could be considered part of the portion of Binyamin, Rav Ada maintains that just as the border between Binyamin and Yehuda at Mount Moriah includes a strip that protrudes from Yehuda (including the altar and the place where the Sanhedrin sit) into the territory of Binyamin, so a strip protrudes from the portion of Yosef into the territory of Binyamin.  This solution is somewhat problematic, since the distance between Shilo and the southern border of Ephraim (the Ephraim-Binyamin border) is several kilometers long – a distance very much further than that between Mount Moriah and the Yehuda-Binyamin border.  Nevertheless, the Gemara adopts this solution - and all for the purpose of incorporating Shilo into the portion of Binyamin, so as to accommodate the view that all of the stations where the Mishkan rested, without exception – including even the distant Shilo – must have been part of the portion of Binyamin, which is the portion of the Divine Presence [3].


2.  Ra2.  Rabbinic sources indicating that the Temple is in the portion of Binyamin


We learn in Massekhet Zevachim (54b) [4]:


Rabba taught: What is the meaning of the verse, "He [David] and Shemuel went and dwelled in Nayot… in Rama" (I Shemuel 19:18)? What has Nayot to do with Rama? The answer is that they sat in Rama but discussed the beauty ("noyo") of the world [the Temple].  They said: It is written, "You shall arise and go up to the place…" (Devarim 17:8); this teaches that the Temple is higher than anywhere else in Eretz Yisrael, and that Eretz Yisrael is higher than any other country.  They did not know where its location was.  They brought a Book of Yehoshua.  Concerning [the borders of] all [of the tribes] the text says "descends," " the border rises," "the border surrounds."  When it comes to the tribe of Binyamin, we read "ascends," but we do not read "descends."  They said, "Apparently, this is its place."  They wanted to build it in Ein Eitam, which lies high up.  They said, "Let us make it a little lower, as it is written: 'Between his shoulders he shall dwell' (Devarim 33:12)."


The joint study of Shemuel, the prophet, and King David [5] in search of the site of the Temple [6], led them to the conclusion that it should be built in a high place.  They identified this place as the portion of Binyamin on the basis of the verses in Yehoshua, in which the word "va-yeired" ("descended") is omitted from the description of the borders of this inheritance [7].


According to two midrashim, already at the time of the settlement of the land it was known that the Temple was destined to be built IN THE PORTION OF YEHUDA OR IN THE PORTION OF BINYAMIN, but it was not yet clear in which of these two portions the Divine Presence would rest.  Once it became clear that the portion of Binyamin had been chosen, the children of Binyamin came to claim the pastures of Yericho.


"They said: When Bnei Yisrael divided up the land, they set aside the fat pastures of Yericho, five hundred cubits by five hundred cubits.  He said to him: Whoever [i.e., whichever tribe] builds the Temple within his portion will receive the pasture of Yericho.  They gave Yonadav, son of Rekhev, a first portion, and it sustained them for 440 years… And since the Divine Presence rested in the inheritance of Binyamin, the children of Binyamin came to take their portion.  They came and cleared it for them, as it is written, 'And the children of Keini, father-in-law of Moshe…" (Shoftim 1:16).  (Sifri Bamidbar piska 81).


… They knew that the Temple was destined to be built in the portion of Yehuda and Binyamin; therefore they set aside the pasture of Yericho from (the city of) Yericho (itself).  Who ate from it all of those years? The children of Keini, father-in-law of Moshe, ate for 440 years, as it is written: "The children of Keini, father-in-law of Moshe, rose up from the city of the date palms" (Shoftim 1:16).  But when the Temple was built, they took themselves off and went away (Sifri Devarim piska 62).


3.  Locat3.  Location of the portion of Binyamin in relation to the surrounding tribes [8]


In his article (see note no. 1), Rav Yoel bin-Nun demonstrates the change in location of the tribe of Binyamin. In the desert, this tribe belonged to the camp of Ephraim, on the west side of the Mishkan [9].  In Eretz Yisrael, the tribe of Binyamin settled at the very heart of all of the tribes – thereby, in fact, replacing the Tribe of Levi (who received no inheritance in the land), which – in the desert – had encamped at the center, surrounding the Mishkan.  Moreover, the four tribal inheritances surrounding Binyamin belong to the four heads of the camps that surrounded the Mishkan in the desert: Yehuda, Reuven, Ephraim, and Dan [10].


4.  The Temple – in the portion of Binyamin


In several places [11] the Torah hints – on either the literal or one of the more esoteric levels – that the Temple and the altar will be in the portion of Binyamin [12]:


- The Zohar (Bereishit Rav 72) relates to the two verses that describe Yosef setting his eyes upon Binyamin for the first time in Egypt:


Rabbi Yossi said: First it is written, "Yosef saw Binyamin with them"; afterwards the text says, "He lifted his eyes and saw Binyamin his brother, son of his mother" – what (extra measure of) seeing is indicated here? He saw, with Divine inspiration, that Binyamin's portion would be with them in the land, and that the Divine Presence would rest in the portion of Binyamin and Yehuda, for he saw that the Temple would be in their portion. And this is the meaning of, "Yosef saw Binyamin with them": he saw him together with them, and Yosef – who was his brother - did not see him with them in that portion.  


Yosef saw that the Divine Presence would rest in Binyamin, and that the Temple would be built in the portion of Binyamin and Yehuda.


-       Concerning the verse, "He fell upon the neck of Binyamin, his brother, and he wept, and Binyamin wept upon his neck"  (Bereishit 45:14), Rashi quotes the Gemara (Megilla 16b):


"How many necks did Binyamin have?! Rabbi Elazar taught: He wept for the two Temples that were destined to be built in the portion of Binyamin, and that were destined to be destroyed."


- In Yaakov's blessing to Binyamin we read: "Binyamin is a ravenous wolf; in the morning he shall devour prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil" (Bereishit 49:27).  From this verse, too, the commentators deduce that the Divine Presence will reside in the portion of Binyamin, where the Temple will be built and where the sacrifices will be offered upon the altar.  Thus, for example, Targum Yonatan translates this verse as follows: "In his land [portion] the Divine Presence of the Master of the world will dwell, and in his portion the Temple will be built.  In the morning the kohanim will offer a sheep as a daily sacrifice, during the first four hours [of the day], and towards evening they will offer the second sheep, and in the night they shall divide up the remains of the other sacrifices, and each [kohen] shall eat his portion."


            In Bereishit Rabba 99, the verse is rendered as follows:


Rabbi Pinchas interpreted the verse as referring to the altar: Just as a wolf devours prey, so the altar would devour the sacrifices.  "In the morning he shall devour prey" – "You shall offer the one sheep in the morning" (Bamidbar 28:4); "And in the evening he shall divide the spoil" – "And the other sheep you shall offer towards evening" (Ibid.)."


5.  The census conducted by Yoav


Yoav is forced to count Bnei Yisrael, by order of King David, but "Levi and Binyamin he did not count among them, for the king's command was abhorrent to Yoav" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 21:6).  What is the significance of the pairing of Levi and Binyamin in this context?


The simplest explanation offered by the Rishonim (Rashi, Radak and Metzudat David) is that Yoav – subservient and loyal to the king but appalled at the royal command that he is forced to fulfill – succeeded in evading its fulfillment in relation to these two tribes.  The reason for these specific tribes being exempted is not difficult to imagine. Even in the desert, Levi was not counted amongst Bnei Yisrael (Bamidbar 2:33), and the Tribe of Binyamin was almost completely wiped out following the episode of the "Concubine in Giv'a." "If they would be struck now with a plague, what would be left of them?"  (Rashi, ad loc.).  But we may also propose another reason. As discussed in our first shiur on this topic, in Moshe's blessing to the tribes, Levi and Binyamin were juxtaposed (Devarim 33:8-12) because of their common characteristic – the Sanctuary: the Tribe of Levi performs the Divine service in the Temple, while the portion of the Tribe of Binyamin houses the Temple.  From this perspective, Yoav utilizes this connection in order to avoid counting Binyamin (along with Levi, who would not have been counted anyway), since it, too, is a tribe associated with the Divine Presence residing amongst Israel [13].


B.  Beit-El and Jerusalem [14]


It seems to be no coincidence that Beit-El is located on the northern border of the portion of Binyamin, with Jerusalem on the southern border.  As we have seen in the past, Beit-El was the natural sanctuary of the forefathers, while Jerusalem became the permanent Temple of their descendants.  Avraham and Yaakov came to Beit-El [15], but only Avraham comes to Jerusalem, to Mount Moriah.  However, despite its special status during the period of the forefathers, Beit-El is not considered the "place that God will choose" [16]. 


We shall now examine some parallels between Beit-El and Jerusalem, and discuss their significance.


Parallels between Beit-El and Jerusalem


1.  The only two commandments in the Torah whereby an individual is told to go to a certain place and to serve God there, pertain to these two places. Avraham is commanded to go to the land of Moriah and to offer up Yitzchak; Yaakov is commanded, after the episode involving Dina, to leave Shekhem, to go up to Beit-El and dwell there, and to fulfill his vow: "Make there an altar to God Who appeared to you when you took flight from Eisav, your brother"  (Bereishit 35:1) [17].


2.  In three places in its description of the inheritances, the text juxtaposes Jerusalem with Beit-El or draws a parallel between them:


- At the seam in between the description of the inheritance of Yehuda and the lots for the children of Yosef, the text presents Beit-El, which lies on the southern border of the children of Yosef, as against Jerusalem, which is on the northern border of the tribe of Yehuda:


"As for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem – the children of Yehuda were not able to drive them out, so the Jebusites dwelled with the children of Yehuda in Jerusalem, to this day"  (Yehoshua 15:63);


"And the lot of the children of Yosef fell from the Jordon, at Jericho, to the water of Jericho on the east, to the wilderness that goes up from Jericho by the mountain of Beit-El, and emerges from Beit-El to Luz, and passes the border of the Arki to Atarot"  (Ibid. 16:1-2).


A parallel description appears in Shoftim 1: 21 verse telling us, "The Jebusite, inhabitants of Jerusalem, were not driven out by the children of Binyamin, and the Jebusites dwelled with the children of Binyamin in Jerusalem to this very day."  Immediately afterwards (Ibid. 24-26) we read of the unique conquest of Beit-El: it is spied out, its entrance discovered, and then conquered [18].  The text presents, alongside each other, Jerusalem which had not yet been conquered by Binyamin and which was inhabited by the Jebusites, and Beit-El - to which the children of Yosef ascended, and which they conquered [19].


- We cannot ignore the clear parallel between the description of the northern border of Yehuda and the description of the southern border of Binyamin:


"The border went up by the valley of Ben-Hinnom TO THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE JEBUSITES, WHICH IS JERUSALEM" (Yehoshua 15:8);


"The border went over from there to Luz, TO THE SIDE OF LUZ ON THE SOUTH, WHICH IS BEIT-EL" (Ibid. 18:13).


Even without addressing the topological significance of the descriptions of the borders, we see the complete literary parallel between the verses. The structure of the verses is identical: "To the side….  Which is…"; there is the repetition of the word "side" and the direction – "to the south side" / "on the south"; and there is a parallel in terms of position in the verse between Luz and Yevus – the Canaanite names of these cities prior to their conquest, and between Beit-El and Jerusalem – the future names that are destined to replace them.


It seems that the text seeks to express hereby the complete parallel between the two borders of the inheritance of Binyamin: Beit-El, the ancient sanctuary of the forefathers on the border between Rachel's children, Yosef (Ephraim) and Binyamin, and Jerusalem – the future Temple of their descendants, on the border between the children of Rachel and the children of Leah, Binyamin and Yehuda – and thereby to show that they represent a single entity, with the passage between them passing through the portion of Binyamin.


3.  There is a very interesting parallel between the revelation of the sanctity of Beit-El and the revelation of the sanctity of Jerusalem.  In the first revelation in Beit-El, we read concerning Yaakov – as he realizes the sanctity of the site: "He was afraid and he said: How awesome is this place; THIS IS NOTHING BUT THE HOUSE OF GOD, AND THIS IS THE GATEWAY TO HEAVEN" (Bereishit 28;17).


When David discovers that the threshing floor of Aravna the Jebusite is the site of the Temple, he says: "THIS IS THE HOUSE OF THE LORD GOD, AND THIS IS THE ALTAR OF SACRIFICE FOR ISRAEL" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 22:1).


Even at first glance, we note that the cry of amazement that is common to Yaakov and David upon their discovery of the place: Yaakov as he awakes from his sleep and his dream, and David – at the conclusion of the revelation of the angel, following the census and the plague.


We also note the similarity in the structure of the verses: two introductory arms starting with the words "This…." The first arm describes the place of God's house and the place where His Presence rests: the "house of God"  or the "house of the Lord God."  The second arm speaks of the place of His service. For Yaakov, it is "the gateway to heaven" – the ladder joining heaven and earth; for David it is "the altar of sacrifice for Israel."  This structure expresses the two aspects of the Temple. One is the house of God, the place where He rests His Presence, where He reveals Himself, where He appears and watches over and meets with man; the other is the place where people come in order to worship God in His house, the place to which people ascend in pilgrimage to appear before God, offer sacrifices, etc. [20].


4.  Aside from the parallel between the above two verses, there is also a broader parallel between the story of the revelation at Beit-El and the revelations to Avraham and David at Mount Moriah and the threshing floor of Aravna the Jebusite.  We addressed this in detail in the shiur about the binding of Yitzchak, and the discussion touched on our present subject.  We shall therefore mention very briefly just the following points:


- In Beit-El, Yaakov sees a "ladder standing on the ground with its top reaching to the heavens, and behold – angels of God ascending and descending on it" (Bereishit 28:12).  David sees, in the threshing-floor of Aravna, "an angel of God standing between earth and heaven, his sword drawn in his hand, stretched over Jerusalem" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 21:16).  The connection mentioned in both instances between the earth and heaven is of the very essence of the Temple.


- In both places there is a revelation of God and of an angel, a revelation of God, fear of God, and the naming of the place.


- We have explained the difference between the blessing of descendants given to Avraham – "like the stars of the heavens and like the sand that is upon the sea shore"  (Bereishit 22:17) and that given to Yaakov – "like the dust of the earth" (Ibid. 28:14), and the differences between an altar and a monument, and between sacrificing a burnt offering and pouring oil over a monument, as the differences between the natural, primal Sanctuary of the forefathers and the chosen, permanent Temple of their descendants.


5.  Aside from the parallel between the revelation at the threshing floor of Aravna and the revelation at Beit-El, there is a fundamental connection between Yaakov – founder of the Sanctuary of the forefathers – and the Temple of his descendants, whose site David sought and discovered, and whose construction he initiated.  In describing his longing and affliction until he found the place of the Temple, David mentions that he "swore to God, vowed to the MIGHTY ONE OF YAAKOV… until I find a place for God, the dwelling place for the MIGHTY ONE OF YAAKOV"  (Tehillim 132:2,5).  Calling God, in this context, the "Mighty One of Yaakov" refers back to God's revelation to Yaakov in the establishment of Beit-El as a holy place [21].


This connection goes on to be revealed in a prophecy concerning the exalted status of the mountain of God's House at the end of days (Yishayahu 2:2-3; also in the parallel prophecy in Mikha 4:1-3):


"And it shall be, at the end of days, that the mountain of God's House shall be established at the head of the mountains, and exalted among the hills, and all the nations shall flow towards it.  And many peoples shall go and say, 'Let us go and ascend to the MOUNTAIN OF GOD, TO THE HOUSE OF THE GOD OF ISRAEL, that He may teach us of His ways and that we may walk in His paths.  For Torah shall come forth from Zion, and the word of God from Jerusalem."


At the end of days, all the nations will stream to hear Torah and instruction at the mountain of God's House – and the House that is upon the mountain shall be called the house of the God of YAAKOV, not the "house of the God of David and Shelomo."  When the future Temple is standing, the full extent of Yaakov's activity for the sake of revealing the Divine Presence will be expressed; although this was the case at the time in Beit-El, it will now also be remembered in Jerusalem.


The special connection between Yaakov and the Temple is expressed in Chazal's teaching that Yaakov was the first one to "call it a House":


Rabbi Elazar taught: That which is written, "Many nations shall go and say, Let us go and ascend to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Yaakov…" – why the "God of Yaakov" and not the 'God of Avraham and Yitzchak?' Because it is unlike Avraham, concerning whom we read that he called it a "mountain," as it is written – "Concerning which it is said this day, on the mountain God will see" (Bereishit 22:14), and unlike Yitzchak, concerning whom we read that he called it a "field," as it is written, "Yitzchak went out to meditate in the field" (Ibid. 24:63).  Rather, it is like Yaakov, who called it a "house," as it is written, "He called the name of that place Beit-El (the House of God)" (Ibid. 28:19) (Pesachim 88a).


The aspect of "house" belongs specifically to Yaakov.  He was the founder of the family.  In him, the process of the selection of Am Yisrael was completed; from him onwards, all of the children would belong to the nation of Israel; all would be heirs of Avraham.  Yaakov begins this revelation in Beit-El, and – as we have seen above – already there he speaks of the essential idea of a Sanctuary, a place that is a "house of God," a place for the Divine Presence to rest, on one hand, and a "gateway to heaven" – a place for human worship – on the other.  Upon his return from Charan, Yaakov returns to Beit-El and serves God there.  From here onwards the aspect of "house" accompanies Bnei Yisrael, until its permanent and perfect manifestation in the era of his descendants, in the form of the Temple in Jerusalem.  It continues to accompany Am Yisrael up until the rebuilding of the future Temple, the "house of the God of Yaakov," at the end of days.


Significance of the parallel between Beit-El and Jerusalem


We must now ask: what is the significance of the parallels that we have noted thus far? Several possibilities come to mind:


Firstly, the parallel confirms and reinforces our assumption [22] that Beit-El is the site of the natural Sanctuary of the forefathers.


Secondly, the connection between Beit-El and Jerusalem explains the replacement of Beit-El by Jerusalem.  Beit-El is an initial place established by Yaakov during the period of the forefathers on the border between the children of Rachel [23].  Indeed, Beit-El reflects the primal, initial, natural reality – but not the fixed, stable reality for all generations.  At the same time, its significance is so great that the prophets speak of the "house of the God of Yaakov" even in relation to the permanent structure of the House of God in the days of David, and even in the vision of the End of Days experienced by Yishayahu and Mikha.  The second level – the Temple – that is revealed in the wake of searching and seeking, on the border between Binyamin and Yehuda, expresses the permanent and perfect reality of the connection between mortal kingship and the Kingship of God.


A third point that cannot be ignored is the fact that both places are located on the borders of the inheritance of Binyamin: Beit-El on the northern border, facing the children of Yosef, and Jerusalem on the southern border, facing the Tribe of Yehuda.  Both places express, as it were, the complete wholeness of the portion of Binyamin: the portion of the Divine Presence stretching from Beit-El to Jerusalem, from the children of Yosef and Mashiach ben Yosef, to the children of Yehuda and the kingship of the house of David.  The ancient place of sanctity of the forefathers and the permanent place of sanctity of their descendants are both part of the portion of Binyamin, and serve to define it.  The first, temporary Sanctuary and the final, permanent one are both part of the portion of the Divine Presence.


This understanding sits well with a teaching by Chazal in Sifri Devarim 252, according to which the resting of the Divine Presence in Binyamin does not dissipate at all; it is an eternal reality, just as the sanctity of Jerusalem is eternal:


"'He shall cover him all the day' – this refers to the First Temple;

'All the day' – this is the Second Temple.

'And between his shoulders He shall rest' – rebuilt in the time to come…"

And furthermore:

"And between his shoulders He shall rest' – whether it is destroyed or whether it is not destroyed."


This presents an interesting parallel between the resting of the Divine Presence throughout the inheritance of Binyamin – "Between his shoulders," according to one way of understanding the verse – and the resting of the Divine Presence in Jerusalem and the Temple.  The eternity of the resting of the Divine Presence and its permanence in Jerusalem and the Temple are set forth clearly by the Rambam (Laws of the Temple, 6,16):


Why do I say, concerning the sanctity of the Temple and of Jerusalem, that the initial sanctity sanctified it also for the future? ...  Because the sanctity of the Temple and of Jerusalem arise from the Divine Presence, and the Divine Presence never goes away.  It is written, "I will make your Sanctuaries desolation" (Vayikra 26:31), and the Sages taught: "Even though they are desolate, they retain their sanctity" (based on the Midrash Lekach Tov, Kedoshim 55).


And just as the Divine Presence in Jerusalem and in the Temple is eternal, so the Divine Presence "between his shoulders," in the portion of Binyamin, is eternal.


Thus, it appears that aside from the stations of the Mishkan mentioned above, the resting of the Divine Presence in Binyamin began with the establishment of the borders of his inheritance – as described in Sefer Yehoshua (18:11-28).  And according to the understanding of the Rambam and other Rishonim, its continuation is in the city of Jerusalem and the Temple to this day.


In this shiur we examined proofs for the assertion that the portion of Binyamin is the portion of the Divine Presence, and we addressed the parallel between Beit-El and Jerusalem – located on the northern and southern boundaries of Binyamin, respectively – and its significance.


To complete this subject we shall turn our attention, in the next shiur, to the question of why the Divine Presence rests in the portion of Binyamin, and the significance of the portion of the Divine Presence.



[1] The background to this shiur is a thorough study by Rabbi Yoel bin-Nun – "Nachalat Binyamin Nachalat Shekhina," in "Lifnei Ephraim, Binyamin u-Menashe," Midreshet Binyamin – Ofra Field School, pp. 25-46.

[2] This beautiful point is noted by Rabbi Yoel Elitzur, in his article, "The Border of Binyamin and the Location of Beit Orot," in Kol Tzofayikh, 5752.

[3] Admittedly, the Mishkan's move from Gilgal to Shilo was undertaken before the tribe of Binyamin settled its portion – i.e., before the borders of the portion of the Divine Presence had been fixed.  Nevertheless, this fact does nothing to explain the astonishing assertion by Chazal, who include Shilo within the portion of Binyamin despite the great distance involved and even though this understanding would seem to deviate from the literal sense of the text.

[4] We have referred to this Gemara previously, in the context of our discussion of the height of the Temple.  Here we address its other aspects.

[5] We shall not elaborate here on the very interesting discrepancy between the narrative presented here by Chazal concerning the actions of Shemuel and David at Nayot, and the literal text (I Shemuel 19), according to which David came to Shemuel in the midst of his flight from Shaul.

[6] When we come to discuss the reign of King David, we shall hopefully elaborate on the Gemara's simple assumption that David was unaware of the site of the Temple.

[7] This presents some difficulty, since the word DOES appear in the description of the border of Binyamin in Yehoshua 18 (see, for example, verses 16-17).

[8] See map no. 2: location of Binyamin, in the Mishkan and in Eretz Yisrael.

[9] It is no accident that Binyamin, in whose portion the Divine Presence is destined to dwell, is part of the camp of Ephraim, on the west side – the "place of the Divine Presence" (see Bava Batra 25a).  The commentators note this: see, for example, Rabbeinu Bechaye on Bamidbar 2:2 and, in a manner closer to our discussion, the Maharal, Gevurot Hashem, chapter 42, where he writes: "Binyamin went down first because he was closer to the sea (the West) and longed for it, and for this reason he merited to have the Divine Presence in his portion, because it was clear that he possessed the "power of the west," and the Divine Presence is in the west."

This topic requires extensive discussion, but the present shiur does not allow for it.

[10] We shall not elaborate here as to the differences in direction between the positions of the tribes in the desert in relation to the Mishkan and their positions in relation to the inheritance of Binyamin in Eretz Yisrael.

[11] Some of the sources discussed here are quoted in an article by Chava Lichtenstein, entitled: "Hashra'at Shekhina be-Binyamin," Mikhlol 12, 5756, p. 7 onwards.

[12] In the coming shiurim we shall hopefully address in more detail the Binyamin-Yehuda border in the region of the Temple, including the altar, as perceived by Chazal.

[13] In his article, Rabbi Yoel bin-Nun brings further proofs showing that the portion of Binyamin is the portion of the Divine Presence.  We shall mention two of them here:

a.  Concerning the Giv'onim, whose four cities fall within the portion of Binyamin, we are told, "Yehoshua made them, on that day, hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of God, until this very day, for the place which He would choose" (Yehoshua 9:27).  Their consignment to the altar and the Temple is justified on the basis of the sanctity of this inheritance.

b.  The bringing up of the Ark from Beit Shemesh (in Yehuda) to Giv'a in Kiryat Ye'arim (in Binyamin) (Shoftim 6:20-7:1) may be explained as the response to the failure by the people of Yehuda to establish a Sanctuary in Beit Shemesh, by bringing the Ark to the inheritance of the Divine Presence.

[14] We have already treated several aspects of this connection in shiurim 2-3, which discussed the road to Jerusalem; that discussion is a complement to the above.

[15] More precisely – Yaakov came to Beit-El itself, while Avraham came to "the east of Beit-El" (Bereishit 12:8), or "between Beit-El and Ai"  (Ibid. 13:3), but not to Beit-El itself.  This is related to the fact that Avraham established Mount Moriah as a sanctuary, while Yaakov was the one to establish Beit-El as a sanctuary.  My colleague, Itamar Nitzan, posits – in a wonderful article entitled, "The Status of Beit-El up until the Choosing of Jerusalem," Alon Shevut 162, Nissan 5763, p. 112 [Hebrew] – that it is possible that Avraham sanctified the "Sanctuary of Yehuda" at Mount Moriah, while Yaakov sanctified the "Sanctuary of Yosef" in Beit-El.  See his article for further elaboration.

[16] We discussed this principle in shiur no. 12 – "The Place Which God Will Choose," note no. 12.

[17] It is also interesting to note the connection between these two narratives from the perspective of "seeing": Avraham calls Mount Moriah "Hashem yir'eh" ("God will see" – Bereishit 22:14), while in Beit-El God is revealed ("nir'eh") to Yaakov (Ibid. 35:1).  We shall not elaborate here.

[18] It is interesting that these verses describe Beit-El, too – like Jerusalem – as a place that must be SEEN: "The guards SAW (va-yir'u) a man emerging from the city, and they said to him: Please show us (her'enu) the entrance to the city, and we shall be kind towards you.  So he showed them (va-yar'em) the entrance to the city, and they smote the city by the sword, and sent away the man and all his family" (Shoftim 1:24-25).

[19] Attention should be paid to the fact that here, too (Shoftim 1) Jerusalem is presented in the middle, between the Tribe of Yehuda and the children of Yosef. In verses 19-20 we are told, "GOD WAS WITH YEHUDA, AND HE TOOK POSSESSION OF THE MOUNTAIN… and gave Hebron to Kalev"; in verses 22-26 we read: "The house of Yosef, too, ascended to Beit-El, and GOD WAS WITH THEM."  In between, in verse 21: "The Jebusite, inhabitants of Jerusalem, were not driven out by the children of Binyamin, and the Jebusite dwelled with the children of Binyamin in Jerusalem to this day."  God is with Yehuda – conquering the mountain range and Hebron, and with the house of Yosef, conquering Beit-El, but Jerusalem – in between them – remains a city inhabited by pagans whom Binyamin have not driven out.

[20] This subject is worthy of a shiur in its own right; we shall note here only that the place of the creation of the world is identified by Chazal as the Foundation Stone in the Holy of Holies, while the place of the creation of man is identified with the external altar (i.e., the sacrificial altar).  These represent the same two aspects. On one hand, the house of God – the whole world, whose beginning is in the Holy of Holies; on the other hand – the place where man worships God – the altar.  The structure of the Temple reflects this idea. The Holy of Holies contains no vessels of worship, only the Ark, its covering, and the keruvim.  From the days of Yoshiyahu onwards these were hidden; the Divine Presence no longer rested there and the room was empty – with no replacement content until the destruction of the Second Temple.  The Sanctuary is the inner place of Divine service – containing the incense altar, the Table, and the menora, while the courtyard is the outer place of Divine service, with the sacrificial altar.  We shall not elaborate further here.

[21] It is interesting to note the appearance of this appellation in Yaakov's blessing to Yosef ("By the hands of the Mighty One of Yaakov, from there the shepherd, the Stone of Israel" – Bereishit 49:24), since the Sanctuary in Beit-El is on the border between Yosef and Binyamin.  We shall not elaborate further here.

[22] This assumption was discussed at length in shiur no. 2; we shall not repeat all the details here.

[23] The special connection between Yaakov and Rachel, and afterwards between Yaakov and Yosef, needs no elaboration.


Translated by Kaeren Fish