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18 Sivan 5760 - June 21, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Between Yerushalayim and Yericho

by L. Jungerman

"And Moshe said to Chovav ben Re'uel the Midianite, Moshe's father-in-law: We are traveling to the place of which Hashem said, `I will give it to you'; come with us and we will do good with you, for Hashem has spoken good concerning Yisroel.

"And he said to him: I will not go, but I will depart to my own land to my kindred.

"And he said: Leave us not, I pray of you, since you know how we are to encamp in the wilderness and you may be to us as eyes. And it shall be if you go with us, that what good Hashem shall do to us, the same will we do to you" (Bamidbor 10:29-32).

Rashi notes: What is good he did to him? When the land was divided up, the richness of Yericho, 500 cubits by 500 cubits, was not distributed. And they said: The one in whose portion the Beis Hamikdosh will be built shall have it. In the meantime it was given to the descendants of Yisro, to Yonodov ben Reichov, as it is written, "And the sons of Keini, the father-in-law of Moshe, went up from the city of palms" (Shofetim 1).


From here it appears that there is a connection, and there exists a certain tradition thereof, between Yerushalayim and Yericho. The one who relinquished his land for the site of the Beis Hamikdosh would receive Yericho in exchange. What is the special advantage of Yericho which claims a special affinity to Yerushalayim, the holy, sacred city?

At the end of Gur Arye, chapter 10, verse 32, the Maharal writes: And if you ask, what is the special advantage of this area of five hundred cubits by five hundred cubits (not an especially large area)? This is no question, for the very fact that it was presented in exchange for the land relinquished for the building of the Beis Hamikdosh speaks for itself. And the importance of the site of the exchange similarly indicates the importance of those who dwelled there, who occupied it. After all, Yericho was the exchange, the counterpart for Yerushalayim.

An additional source in the words of Chazal and the Rishonim is brought to teach us the connection between Yericho and Yerushalaim.

In Tomid 30b we find:

From Yericho, one could hear the sound of the great gate in the Mikdosh as it was being opened.

From Yericho, one could hear the sound of the rake.

From Yericho, one could hear the sound of Ben Arza sounding the cymbal.

From Yericho, one could hear the sound of the flute.

From Yericho, one could hear the sound of the crier awakening the kohanim for their holy daily service at the Mikdosh.

From Yericho, one could hear the grating sound of the wooden pulley which Ben Katim devised to raise the kiyor from the water cistern each morning (so that the water remaining overnight would not be posul).

From Yericho, one could hear the sound of the song.

From Yericho, one could hear the sound of the shofar. And some say, that even the sound of the Kohen godol at the time that he pronounced the Ineffable Name on Yom Kippur.

From Yericho, one could smell the aroma of the incense. Said R' Elozor ben Diglai: My father had goats in a distant city which would sneeze from the odor of the incense.

The explanation to this can be found in the commentary of the Raavad, who brings something marvelous in the name of his master, HaRav Hechossid:

"All these things that we learned could be heard from Yericho, all of them miraculous, could only be heard in Yericho and not in the other directions because Yericho was similar to Yerushalayim. It was the beginning of the conquest of Eretz Yisroel, and just like one must separate truma from the first grain, so was Eretz Yisroel itself thus consecrated. Because of this, Yehoshua consecrated Yericho to be holy and therefore it is like Yerushalayim in that all the aforementioned things were heard so that people would feel that Yericho did, indeed, possess a measure of sanctity like Jerusalem."


Here, then, is the secret of Yericho's significance: It was conquered first. And as such, it was consecrated like the truma of the grain and the vineyard. Through this unique sanctity, it is parallel to Yerushalayim, the Holy and Sanctified City.

Yericho's sanctity was so pronounced that in a miraculous way, people could hear the entire service of the Beis Hamikdash all the way to Yericho, despite the vast distance separating them. The Raavad concludes: In Yoma it is said that the Kohen godol was praised in that his voice could be heard on Yom Kippur when he loudly pronounced the Ineffable Name -- all the way to Yericho. This is praise in the sight of man. The truth is that no man in Yericho could have possibly heard him -- had it not been for a miracle. The reason why this miracle was not enumerated among the other ten miracles that occurred in the Beis Hamikdosh is because the mishna in Pirkei Ovos only enumerates those miracles that took place within, that is, between the walls of the Beis Hamikdosh.

We also find that Yerushalyim was coveted by the kings of all other nations due to its holiness and each wished to establish some permanent connection to this city, as is very evident from historical-archeological relics of various eras to be found in the different neighborhoods, even as far as names preserved to this day. On a smaller scale, this is also true of Yericho: R' Shimon ben Yochai taught: Any king or government that did not have some representation of rule in the land considered himself worthless. The king of Bovel had an ambassador living in Yericho (Bereishis Rabba 85). This is the very king of Bovel who laid siege to Yerushalayim and ended up destroying the Beis Hamikdosh -- he, of all people, established his embassy in Yericho.

In the future Redemption, Yericho will also occupy a major place. In Sifrei at the end of Devorim, it is written: And he showed him the Negev and the plain, the valley of Yericho -- this teaches that Hashem showed Moshe Gog and the multitudes that are destined to fall in the valley of Yericho.


We cannot fathom profound matters that are considered divine esoteric secrets, but it is important for us to ascribe the proper significance to this city in the perspective of the Torah. And this is especially applicable in our days when a certain process is taking place whose beginning is anchored in the very city of Yericho.

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