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The World’s Favorite Mountain

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The Vision of the Third Temple

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev taught that on the Shabbat before Tish’a B’Av, when the holy Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, every Jew is given a vision of the Third Temple to be built by the Mashiach. This Shabbat is called Shabbat Chazon, “the Shabbat of Vision.”

The Torah reading for Shabbat Chazon is always the portion of Devarim. In this portion, Moses details the victorious battles with Sichon the king of Emori and Og the king of Bashan. As a result of these battles, Mount Hermon at the north of Israel is conquered. The image of Mount Hermon, the highest mountain in Israel, is an integral part of the Torah reading of Shabbat Chazon. What is its deep connection to the Temple?

The Popular Mountain

After its mention of Mount Hermon as the border of Israel, the Torah uncharacteristically goes on to describe the other names of the Hermon; the Tzidonim called it Siryon and the Emorites called it Snir. The famous medieval Biblical commentator, Rashi, adds yet another name for this mountain; Si-On — described in the following Torah portion of Va’etchanan. He explains that each nation, in an attempt to adopt the Hermon as its own, called the giant mountain by a name in its own language.

The Snowy Mountain

Rashi explains that Snir means “snow.” Mount Hermon is the highest mountain in Israel, and is covered with snow all winter. When the snow melts, it becomes a forceful river, feeding the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. Thus, the snow covered Hermon is the water source of the Land of Israel. The Midrash relates that there are seven seas (yamim) in Israel that correspond to the seven days (also yamim) of the week. The seventh sea, corresponding to Shabbat, is the Sea of Galilee. This sea is still the major water source in Israel.

The Messianic Flow

In Psalms 133:3 we read of “The dew of the Hermon that flows down on the mountains of Zion.” Dew is the essence of water, the melted snow. The image of the dew of the Hermon flowing down to the mountains of Zion creates a clear connection to the vision of the third Messianic Temple to which we are privy on Shabbat Chazon. To understand the source of this flow, let us explore the root of the name Hermon.

The Mini Self-Nullification and Moses

The root of Hermon in Hebrew is cherem (spelled: chet, reish, mem). Cherem means nullification or self-nullification. The remaining two letters of Hermon, vav and nun, are used in Hebrew to reduce quantity in the meaning of a word. Although it is the largest mountain in Israel, Hermon means “a small self-nullification.”

This thought immediately connects the Hermon with Moses, the epitome of self-nullification. Moses was not only the king of Israel, but also its commander in chief. In the battle for Mount Hermon, it was Moses himself who headed the Israelite forces and killed Og the king of Bashan.

The Midrash fills in many details about the battle with Og that are not explicit in the Torah. In a desperate attempt to destroy all of Israel at once, the colossal Og picked up a mountain in his hands and tried to throw it on the entire Israelite army. The mountain miraculously imploded and crashed onto Og’s head. This gave Moses (the essence of self nullification) an opportunity to jump into the air with a lengthy sword and strike Og in his heel, killing him.

Abraham

The Hebrew root cherem (spelled: chet, reish, mem) is a permutation of ramach (spelled: reish, mem, chet), the 248 limbs of the body that correspond to the 248 positive commandments of the Torah. 248 is also the numerical value of Abraham. It was Abraham’s self-nullification that allowed him to integrate the knowledge of the unity of God into his very being. This self-nullification is the origin of the 248 limbs and the 248 positive commandments. Abraham spread the knowledge of the unity of God throughout the world, manifesting the image of God.

248 is also the numerical value of b’tzelem Elokim, “in the image of God.”

Abraham and Sarah

In the verse in Devarim, the name that appears as a couple to Hermon is Siryon. It means “officer” or “leader.” Siryon shares a root with Sarah, which also means “leader.” Another name for the Hermon is Si-On, which means “peak” or “climax.”

The Vantage Point of Faith

In the Song of Songs there is a beautiful verse (4:8) that ties all the meanings of Hermon together: “See from the heights of amanah (“faith”) from the heights of Snir and Hermon.”

The final redemption will come primarily from the north. The first sight of the Promised Land that the Jewish People arriving from the north will see is from Mount Hermon. Before he passed away, God commanded Moses to ascend to Mount Nevo so that he could receive a vision of all the Land of Israel and the promise of the future. When Mashiach brings the Jewish People back to the Land of Israel, they too must ascend to the peak (Si-On) from which they can envision their true purpose — the building of the Temple and spreading the knowledge of God throughout the world. This summit must be the source of all the Land of Israel and the Temple. Mount Hermon is the place where Israel will connect to the “head (leader, Siryon) of all believers,” their father Abraham (Hermon). From this vantage point they will envision their purpose through Abraham’s eyes of total and perfect (snow-white) faith in God and the coming of Mashiach. That faith will flow down as melted snow (Snir) from the peak of the Hermon to complete the vision of the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem.

“The Father of the Multitude of Nations”

In his commentary on the meaning of the word Snir, Rashi makes a highly unusual observation. He explains that the meaning of Snir is “snow” in the ancient Canaanite language and also in German. By juxtaposing these two languages, ancient and modern, Rashi makes it clear that the popularity of Mount Hermon among the nations has not been relegated to ancient history. All the nations want to call the Hermon theirs, because they all want to identify with the faith of Abraham, the belief in the One God of Israel. Rashi foresaw that even the greatest enemy of Israel in the recent past, the German nation, also wants to be identified with that faith. Ultimately, Abraham will elevate and redeem the fallen sparks of all the nations, even those that have sunk the lowest. Just as all the nations will physically ascend to worship God on Mount Zion, they will spiritually flow in their desire to be a part of the faith of Abraham. This is exemplified by the numerical value of Mount Hermon (Har Chermon), which equals: “On that day God will Be One and His Name will Be One.”

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