Thought of the Week: Va'Eschanan - 5780
BEIT HAMIKDASH: THE LEBANON
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 Hamikdash, and not the many other benefits the structure provides, is because Moshe was in “prayer mode.” "Va'etchanan" has the numerical value of 515. The Midrash notes that we derive from this, that Moshe prayed 515 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, mentions for posterity that our Beit Hamikdash is the true Lebanon.