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The Chosen City

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 11/3/2020

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Fascinating InsightsThe Sefer (in English)

The Chosen City

The Maharal[1] tells us that the middle is chosen. For this reason, Eretz Yisraelthe chosen land for Kedushais in the center of the world. In the center of Eretz Yisrael is Yerushalayim. In the center of Yerushalayim is the Beis Hamikdash.[2]


In a Teshuva the Chassam Sofer[3] (1762-1839) wrote to the great R Amram Chasida (1790-1830),[4] he expresses his astonishment that R Amram decided to settle in Tzefas and not Yerushalayim.[5] In the Chassam Sofers opinion, settling in Yerushalayim is a bigger Mitzva than settling elsewhere in Eretz Yisrael,[6] even nowadays when it is in ruins.[7] In this letter, he writes that the Kedusha of the place where the Beis Hamikdash was is still there even though its walls dont exist there now and those who live in that area are holier and closer to Hashem.[8] This is where the , gates to heaven are. Even before Yehoshua and Ezra sanctified Eretz Yisrael, many occurrences took place there: Adam and Noach brought a Karbon, Akeidas Yitzchak, and Yaakovs dream.[9] So there is an inherent Kedusha there. 


One may be wondering why many sages didnt make their way to Yerushalayim such as the Sanhedrin being in Yavneh and Tzipori as well as those in the time of the Beis Yosef and Arizal. The Chassam Sofer[10] explains that in the times of the sages of the Gemara there were killings and forced conversions in Yerushalayim and the Sanhedrin was exiled. Once they settled in other places and had places for Torah, unlike Yerushalayim, there was no Mitzva to go to Yerushalayim. Similarly, in the days of the Beis Yosef and Arizal, most of the sages were in Tzefas. Once they came and found most of the sages in Tzefas, they joined them.
Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R Mordechai Friedlander Ztzl for close to five years. He received Semicha from R Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

[1] Tiferes Yisrael, chapter 22.

[2] Likewise, we see by Aharon who was the Kohen Gadol, the head of all the Kohanim.  is the head of all the letters. In math, there are ones, tens and hundreds. , which has Gematria of 5, is the middle of the ones. Next is , 200, the middle of the hundreds, as , 400, is the highest letter. Last is the , 50, the middle of the tens.

[3] " , Yoreh Deah, 233.

[4] R Amram Chasida was a Rav in Hungary and was known for his piety and righteousness, earning him the title Chassida. At the age of 36 he settled in Tzefas where he lived for four years until his death. He devoted himself to developing the community there, which had 1,000 Jews. R Amrams daughter was one of the casualties in the earthquake in Tzefas. The Rabbis of Eretz Yisrael wrote that he literally died from grief over the exile of the Shechina. In his eulogy for R' Amram, the Chassam Sofer said not only was he a great person, a Torah sage and a Tzadik even when he was in the Diaspora, but in Eretz Yisrael he became as great as two of us. 

[5] In the eulogy the Chassam Sofer (Drashos Chassam Sofer, p. , s.v. ) gave on those that died in the earthquake in Tzefas on the second of Iyar in the year " (1837), he writes the reason for the earthquake was because of the jealousy of Yerushalayim ( ) since there is the gate to heaven (Breishis 28:17), it is , a city that is united together (Tehillim 122:3), there was Har Hamoriya where was (Breishis 22:14), there Yaakov slept and had his dream (28:11-12), there is the mountain of Hashem and a hill towards which all mouths turn (Brachos 30a) and the Shechina doesnt move from the Kosel (Shemos Rabba 2:2). And behold Yerushalayim was completely forgotten for nearly 100 years as people put their faces towards ( ) Tzefas because R Shimon Bar Yochai is buried in Meiron and the Arizal in Tzefas and those who go to Eretz Yisrael just pay attention to Tzefas and Tevarya while Yerushalayim is forgotten completely. 

[6] Let us cite the incredible words of the Chassam Sofer elsewhere (Chidushai Chassam Sofer, Succa in Perek , s.v. and Toras Moshe, Parshas Shoftim, s.v. ): The Gemara (Brachos 35b) relates that R Yishmael teaches that the study of Torah is to be accompanied by earning a livelihood, as it says , you will gather in your grain (Devarim 11:14). R Shimon bar Yochai says that one should devote himself to Torah, and Hashem will make certain that his needs are provided for. Abaye remarked that many followed the R Yishmael approach and succeeded in both working and learning, while others who followed R Shimon bar Yochais way werent successful. The Chassam Sofer says that one should ideally follow R Shimon bar Yochai, dedicating himself solely to Torah. When Abaye commented that people didnt succeed following that path, that was because they didn't devote themselves properly. However, one who is truly dedicated to Torah will succeed in this way. The Chassam Sofer says that we follow R Nehorai (Kidushin 82a) who said, I put aside every trade and I only each my son Torah. This is only true in the Diaspora where there is no reason to work at a trade except to earn a living. If one can truly dedicate himself to Torah and succeed that way, there is no reason to work. This is what R Shimon bar Yochai was referring to and even R Yishmael would agree. In Eretz Yisrael, however, one doesnt only work the fields in order to make a living, as there is also the Mitzva of , settling the land. Just as one stops learning Torah to put on Tefillin, one stops learning Torah to farm the land, which is the Mitzva of  (  doesnt just mean living in Eretz Yisrael; it means developing it). This doesnt just apply to farming, but to all industries and professions as this is part of and giving it honor. It would be a deficiency in the honor of Eretz Yisrael if a certain profession doesnt exist there, requiring products to be imported from abroad.

[7] R Amrams opinion was that Yerushalayim is greater only when there is a Beis Hamikdash.

[8] This can be compared to one who sits closer to the radiator in that he is warmer. 

[9] In the next Teshuva (Yoreh Deah, 234, s.v. ), the Chassam Sofer writes that Yerushalayim, which is where the gates to heaven are, has supreme Kedushaeven when the different nations lived there. The Shechina never moved and never will move from the Koseleven when Yerushalayim is in ruins.  

[10] Yoreh Deah, 234, s.v. .

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