By Dr. Meir Tamari
With the appointment of judges and court officers, comes the injunction
against an altar of the single memorial stone- matzevah, rather the altar
had to be built of a number of stones. It is well known that the memorial
stone was a favorite altar in the days of the Patriarchs. Each of the
Patriarchs was an individual: "Only one is Abraham" (Ezekiel, 33: 24) and
when Jacob came down to Egypt, it is written, "70 nefesh-soul", not
nefashot-souls. They, like each of the people mentioned in the book of
Bereishit, acted as individuals; indeed the very purpose of that book was
to teach that individuals are able to reach and connect to G-d. This was
the purpose of the matzevah. Now, however, it had become a means for
idolatry, so had to be replaced by the altar of many stones. Elijah at
Mount Carmel took 12 stones corresponding to the 12 Tribes, the sons of
Jacob whom G-d had called, Israel (1 King's, 18: 31). If the stones of the
altar correspond to the tribes, then it is obviously required that they act
in unison. Therefore, the verse concludes with the name Israel that is the
unitary form of the Jewish People. So we learn that it is not possible for
the individuals of them-selves to approach G-d [matzevah]. Nevertheless,
the worship at the altar of many stones is possible, even when each
individual has a singular and specific character of their own, since they
have become transformed into one unified body.
There are three mitzvot that Israel are commanded to do when they enter the
Land. These are to appoint a king, to wipe out the memory of Amalek and to
build the Bet HaMikdash (Talmud, Sanhedrin 20a). This is because the Land
of Israel unites all the bodies into a physical unitary nation, while the
king unites all the souls- nefashot and the Temple unites the spirits-
neshamot. However, Amalek is called the divider. They divide Jew from Jew-
they attacked the stragglers who were neglected by the rest of Israel. They
separate the Jews from G-d- "and did not fear HaShem". They also disrupt
the Unity of G-d, separating between the first two letters, Yod-He and the
last two letters, Vav He of His Name even as it is written in Shmot 19:
17. Therefore before the Temple could be built they needed to wipe out the
memory of Amalek. However, after the defeat of Amalek by Saul and David
there were spiritual laggards amongst them. This is the complete contrast
of the essence of the Jews who have a passion for carrying out HaShem's
commandments (MaHaral, Gevurot chapter 19) and that is why the building of
the Temple was delayed. The Talmud (Shabbat, 55a) tells us that if King
David would not have accepted lashon harah concerning the sons of Saul 2.
Samuel, 9:4), then the kingdom would not have been divided into two after
the death of Solomon, the Jews would not have worship idols and we would
not have been exiled from our country. David would have rectified the sin
of the laggards and built the Temple, and the unity would have been
complete- king, destruction of Amalek and the Bet HaMikdash.
A king is warned in the Torah [in our parshah] against increasing money,
horses and wives. The Hebrew initials of these three words spell chair,
kisei, to teach that this will ensure the throne of kingship. Every person
can learn from this verse, how to strive to be a ruler over their
appetites. In this way they will prevent spiritual damage to the body, the
soul and the mind. Money refers to the mind, as the MaHaral
explains 'with all your strength', in the Shema to mean the mind, the
horse corresponding to the soul, as a multitude of horses was a symbol in
the Tanach of arrogance and pride, and the sexual relationship referring to
the body. The way to be a ruler and a king over ones emotions is exactly
the same as that commanded to the king; to write a Sepher Torah and then to
study it all of their days.
Just as the Jewish king unites all the people of Israel, so too does Rosh
HaShanah unite us in anointing G-d as King of the universe. Such unity can
only be achieved by each individual merging themselves in the union of the
people, even as done by the Bet HaMikdash and the altar of many stones.
Then, each can abrogate their own opinion and will, before G-d'sd Will.
This is the purpose of the month Ellul that comes before Rosh HaShanah to
enable each one of us to turn to that which unites us.
Copyright © 2002 by Rabbi Meir Tamari and Project Genesis, Inc.
Dr. Tamari is a renowned economist, Jewish scholar, and founder of the Center For Business Ethics (www.besr.org) in Jerusalem.