Rabbi Milevsky's Thought of the Week: Vaetchanan - 5772
In the beginning of this week’s Paresha Moshe pleads with Hashem to grant him entry into Eretz Yisrael. In his appeal he asks to “go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill and the Lebanon.” The basic meaning of the verse refers to the magnificent mountains that grace the land. Yet the Talmud understands that “The good Hill” Moshe desired to see was actually Yerushalaim, and that the Lebanon mentioned in the verse was not the region in northern Israel but rather the Beit Hamikdash. The commentators explain that the sanctuary is referred to as “The Lebanon” because Lebanon comes from the word Lavan, - white. The Temple in Yerushalaim provides atonement –a whitening-to the people and thus it is the Lebanon.
The reason that Moshe focuses specifically on the ‘whitening’ aspect of the Beit Hamkikdash and not the many other benefits the structure provides is because Moshe was in “Prayer mode.” "Va'etchanan" has the numerical value of five hundred and fifteen. The Midrash notes that we derive from this, that Moshe prayed five hundred and fifteen prayers to Hashem to be allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael.
Often when we try to pray we doubt ourselves and question our worthiness. We repeatedly hear small voices in our heads asking “Am I truly worthy of conversing with the Almighty? With all my misdeeds of the past how can I beseech the giver of the Torah?” Tradition teaches us that such voices must be ignored. When we face the Beit Hamikdash in our prayers we turn to it as a place that cleanses sin. By targeting the “Lebanon/whitening agent” we can pray with confidence!
Thus Moshe as he is praying for himself, and guiding others to utilize the power of prayer, he mentions for posterity that our Beit Hamikdash is the true Lebanon.