A Hebrew word meaning instructions or teachings, the Torah is the first five books of the Tanakh- the Old Testament of the bible. The term also refers to the sum of Jewish teachings and practices, and to the rabbinic commentary of the five books. The five books of Torah are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. As the foundational narrative of the Jewish people, the Torah tells the story of the trials and tribulations that the Sons of Israel went through, as well as the covenant that was made between God and them.

 

 

In the first five books of Torah, there is little or no mention of the city. Scholars believe that this was deliberate, intended to prevent other nations from occupying the city and keeping it out of the hands of the Sons of Israel. The portions that do refer to Jerusalem usually do so with phrases like “the place which the Lord your God shall choose.”  Though Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Torah, there is mention of Mount Moriah, the mountain where Abraham was sent by god to sacrifice his son, Isaac. This is believed to be the later location of the Temple Mount, where King Solomon constructed the First Temple.

In contrast, in the later books of the Old Testament, Jerusalem is widely referenced as the capital of Jewish people. Founded by King David after he defeated the Jebusites, David built his palace in Jerusalem and provided it with its initial prominence. Later, David’s son King Solomon built the first temple of the Lord on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

In the books of the prophets and the scriptures, Jerusalem is referenced continuously as the cultural, religious and political capital of the Sons of Israel. The first such mention is in 2nd Samuel 5:6-9:

 “And the king and his men went to Jerusalem unto the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land: which spake unto David, saying, Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither: thinking, David cannot come in hither. Nevertheless David took the strong hold of Zion: the same is the city of David. And David said on that day, Whosoever getteth up to the gutter, and smiteth the Jebusites, and the lame and the blind that are hated of David's soul, he shall be chief and captain. Wherefore they said, The blind and the lame shall not come into the house. So David dwelt in the fort, and called it the city of David. And David built round about from Millo and inward."

With this cultural importance rooted in the Bible's Old Testament, Jerusalem continues to play a significant role in the religious and cultural life of the Jewish People. It is the capital of the State of Israel, and Jewish prayers continue to be directed to the city from every synagogue across the globe.