Pidyon Kaparot Now

Zion and Jerusalem


In these days of mourning the destruction of the holy Temple our article will touch on the holy city, which is described in Eicha as sitting desolate like a widow. While we seemingly use the terms Zion and Jerusalem interchangeably, they actually carry differences in meaning. When is the city referred to as Jerusalem and when is it Zion? The difference is also apparent in prayer, blessings, and when comforting mourners. Is the difference only spiritual, or is it also physical? And the Shechinah, G-d’s presence in His holy city – did it ever leave? While we pray for the “Return of the Shechinah to Zion” we know the Shechinah never left the Kosel Hama’aravi. How can these be reconciled? And why do residents of the holy city pray “And bring us to Zion with Joy” while standing right there? The location of the holy city of Jerusalem also has practical ramification in determining various halachic scenarios. We will address questions in this article.

Zion and Jerusalem — The Difference

The city of Jerusalem (spelled “Yerushalem” in the singular form) appears 667 times in the Tanach, and Zion — over 150 times. The Midrash (Bamidbar Raba 14:2; Shir Hashirim Zuta 1, 1) mentions 70 names for Jerusalem, most of which are connected somehow to Zion or Jerusalem. With the exception of “City of David” (39 times), the other titles appear in Tanach only once or twice. When is the city referred to as Zion and when is it Jerusalem? What is the difference between the terms – are they two separate spots on the map or a reference to esoteric terms? And what is the meaning of each of the names?

Two Names For One Place Or Two Separate Places

When inaugurating the newly-built Holy Temple, the pasuk states, “King Sholomo brought the Elders of the Jewish People and leaders of the tribes to Jerusalem in order to bring up the Ark from the City of David — which is Zion” (Kings I, 8:1; Divrei Hayomim II, 5:2). The wording of this passage clearly indicates that Jerusalem and Zion are indeed two different places. This proof is adduced by Rabbi Ashtori HaParchi (Kaftor V’Perach chapter 41) and the Radvaz (633). Indeed, Rashi (Sotah 5a and Yoma 77b) writes quite emphatically that Zion is outside of Jerusalem. Kaftor V’perach recounts that he saw in Zion a domed building called Heichal David – Hall of David — which, according to various traditions, originally housed the Holy Ark. In his opinion, this spot was not consecrated as part of the holy city of Jerusalem (for practical halachic ramifications and current identification of the spot, see below).

Sefer Melachim uses the terms Ir David (“City of David”) and Zion in reference to Kings David and Shlomo’s residence, and eventually, final resting spot. After King David’s passing, the site was designated as the royal burial grounds for the Davidic dynasty.

Many Midrashim coincide with this opinion (Yalkut Shimoni EIcha 1022, and others).

The Radak (Tzfania 3:4; Amos 1:2; and elsewhere) writes that Zion and Jerusalem are two parts of the same city. The king lived in Zion and the rest of the residents lived in Jerusalem — the fortress of the city was called Zion while the rest of the city – Jerusalem. Zion was inside Jerusalem. However, Rashi (Yoma 78a) and Iben Ezra (Vayikra 1:11) write quite explicitly that Zion is outside of Jerusalem. It still remains to be clarified if the part referred to as Zion is part of the consecrated area of Jerusalem, or not.

Zion’s Location

A closer look at the psukim and words of Chazal support the view that Zion is not synonymous with Jerusalem, but indeed, a different spot altogether.

From the psukim “He chose the tribe of Yehudah, Mount Zion, which He loved. And He built His Sanctuary like the high heavens…” (Tehilim 78:68-69) it seems that the Mikdash was built in Zion which was in Yehuda’s portion of Eretz Yisroel. However, we know from the pasuk: “And He rests between his shoulders” (Devarim 33:12) that while part of the Temple Mount was in Yehuda’s portion, the Temple and most of the Altar were on land that belonged to Binyamin.

The Mechilta writes (Bo, Masechta D’pascha parasha 1):

Until Eretz Yisroel was chosen, all lands were capable (for people to receive prophecy). Once Eretz Yisroel was chosen, all other lands were removed (prophets no longer receive prophecies there, unless it was for the purpose of Eretz Yisroel, as Yechezkeil the prophet did). Until Jerusalem was chosen, sacrifices could be offered anywhere in Eretz Yisroel. Once Jerusalem was chosen, the rest of the land is excluded as the pasuk writes: “But only in the place the Lord will choose in one of your tribes; there you shall offer up your burnt offerings” (Devarim 12:14). Until the Temple was built, the entire Jerusalem was worthy of the Shechinah’s dwelling. Once the Temple was chosen, the rest of Jerusalem was excluded as the pasuk writes “For the Lord has chosen Zion; He desired it for His habitation. This is My resting place forever; here I shall dwell for I desired it” (Tehilim 132: 13-14).

The Or Sameiach (Miluim L’Hilchos Beis Habechira, end of the sefer) understands this Mechilta as teaching that indeed, Jerusalem and Zion are two separate entities. Zion was chosen from Jerusalem – i.e. Mount Moriah, as the spot for building the Temple.

The Gemara (Yoma 54b) writes that the same Tana who asserts that the Even Hashesiya, the Rock of Foundation, which was inside the Holy of Holies was called that because the world was founded on that rock, agrees with the Tana who asserts that the world was created from Zion. Hence, Zion is the site of the Holy of Holies. Gvurat Ari (Miluim) questions this point – how could this be if Zion is located near Jerusalem and the Temple is in Jerusalem proper? He answers that this proves that the Holy of Holies was in Zion, while perhaps the rest of the Mikdash was in Jerusalem

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 95a) seems to prove this point: the Temple is called Mount of Zion, while for the courtyard the name “Mount of Jerusalem” is used.

Many prayers paraphrase the Mikdash as Zion – on Shabbos we pray for the reinstitution of the sacrifices “A new Alter in Zion You shall establish”. The Yerushalmi (Yoma 7:1) quotes a debate on the text of the blessing on Jerusalem – “Chooser of the Mikdash” or “Dweller of Zion”. The Zohar (Shemos 108a) wirtes that the Mikdash is called Zion and the Maharal (Netzach Yisroel 4) writes that Jerusalem is the Camp of Israelites while the Temple Mount is Machane Leviya, and Zion is Machane Shechinah – the courtyard and the Mikdash. Along the same lines, the Radak explains the pasuk “…And I will sit on the mount of the assembly, in the farthest end of the north” (Yeshayahu 14:13) –that the mountain that Yisrael convene on, i.e. the Temple Mount, is the Mount of Zion which is north of Jerusalem.

The Malbim (Yeshayahu 40:9 and in other places) agrees that the Mikdash is in Zion and not in Jerusalem.

On the other hand, the pasuk in Divrei Hayomim (II 33:14) seems to indicate that the City of David which is Zion, was west of the Gichon River (the Shiloach) – Zion was in the eastern part of the city.

Rashi (Tehilim 48:3) explains that Mount Zion is also called “Yefe Nof” because it is the Mount of Olives east of the city. (Perhaps Rashi is of the opinion that all the mountains surrounding Jerusalem are called Zion, as it seems to be understood from the Zohar [Hashmatos, Bereshis 256:23]: “The righteous surround and are connected to the Jewish nation, and are called Har Zion just as to the mountains that surround Jerusalem.” This indicates that all the mountains surrounding the city are called Zion – the Mount of Olives in the east, Mount Zion in the west, and the Temple Mount in the north.)

The Iben Ezra (Vayikra 1:11; Tehilim 48:3), Radak (Yeshayahu 14:13), and Abarbanel (Yeshayahu 14:13; Tehilim 48:3) quote the pasuk in Tehilim (48:3) “Mount Zion, by the north side, the city of a great king” as proof that Mount Zion is north of Jerusalem.

Midrash Shocher Tov (Tehilim 48:2) and Yalkut Simoni (755) wonder how Mount Zion could be to the north while it is to the south of the current day Jerusalem. They explain that when we say Zion is in the north it is referring to the part of the Altar, since the holier sacrifices were slaughtered on the northern side.

Siddur Yaavetz (Shir Shel Yom, Sheini) explains the pasuk uses the word Zion to connote the choicest part of the city. Just as the thigh is the choicest cut of meat and the north is the best direction for constructing living quarters, so too, Zion is the best part of Jerusalem.

On the other hand, the Psikta Zutra (Shir Hashirim 4:4) explains the pasuk “Your neck is like the Tower of David”: Why is the Temple similar to a neck? Just the neck is located between a person’s shoulders, so too the Temple is between Zion and the Temple Mount, as it is written “…And he rests between his shoulders” (Devarim 33:12).” The Malbim (Shmuel II, 24) apparently understands that the Mikdash is located between Zion and Jerusalem.

In other places, though, the Malbim himself seemingly opines differently – at times he terms the Temple “Zion”, while in other places he views Zion as the government campus, location of the Grand Court, or the leaders and Torah scholars’ residence, while the rest of the people reside in Jerusalem. For examples see Malbim Shmuel II 24; Yeshayahu 40:9; 52:1-2; 62:1; 33:20; Yeshayahu 2; 4:3; 30:9 and more.

In conclusion, the term Zion refers at times to the physical location of the Tower of David (not to be confused with the complex known today as The Tower of David, which was not constructed before the Second Temple era), the burial spot of David and the Davidic dynasty; and at times refers to an abstract term.

The Gemara (Taanis 5a) learns from the pasuk: “The built-up Jerusalem is like a city that was joined together within itself” (Tehilim 122:3) that the terms “Jerusalem” and “Zion” refer to both physical and esoteric realities – there is the lower Jerusalem on earth, and the upper Jerusalem in heaven. The Rashba explains “that there is a secret in this. And know, that the lower Jerusalem and Zion and the Temple are all physical manifestations of very lofty concepts.” Beyond the geographical location of Zion and Jerusalem on the map, these very terms express abstract concepts. Therefore, when in prayer we speak of Zion and Jerusalem, the reference is to the metaphysical concepts, not necessarily the physical cities on the ground.

Jerusalem and Zion of Spirit

The reference of these spiritual terms remains to be explained.

The Ran explains (Chidushim, Moed Katan 29a): “It is written ‘They go from host to host; he will appear to G-d in Zion’ (Tehilim 84:8) — this is at the time of their passing when they rejoice with the glory of the Shechinah, and this the upper Zion which is parallel to Jerusalem down below which is built ‘like a city that was joined together within itself’ (Tehilim 122:3).”

The Zohar (Bereshis Vayeshev 186a) explains that Zion and Jerusalem are two spiritual aspects: one refers to the aspect of mercy and the other — to the aspect of justice. The Gra writes (Yeshayahu 4:3) that the names Zion and Jerusalem refer to the spiritual aspects of love and awe, or wisdom and understanding. This seems to coincide with the Midrash (Bereshis Raba 56:10) that sees in the name Jerusalem a cognate: Shem, son of Noach called it “Shalem” – complete, while Avraham Avinu called it “Har Yerah” – Mount of Awe. The city is thus named “Yerusalem” as a combination of both names and spiritual aspects.

Physical Location

Rabbenu Ashtorei Haparchi (chapter 41) writes that he saw in Zion a domed room called “Hall of David” which housed the Aron before it was relocated in the Holy of Holies in the Temple (today this room is marked “King David’s Tomb” and located on Mount Zion near Yeshivat Hatefutzot, just outside the Zion Gate). This hall is in a straight line with the southern part of the Temple Mount. Northwest of this hall is a street, Jewish neighborhood, and synagogue which are also identified as Zion (the Ramban synagogue and adjacent area in the Jewish Quarter). He ends his description, lamenting: “But what should we do today, when the ways of Zion are in mourning and Jerusalem’s streets are desolate, their boundaries no longer clearly marked.”

The Radvaz’s (II 633; II 731) was asked about the possibility of redeeming maaser sheini (the second tithe) in Jerusalem (for further details of this mitzva, see below). He ruled leniently in the northern parts of the Jewish Quarter due to the above identification made by the Ashtorei Haparchi. He saw the prohibition of exchanging ma’aser sheni only a slight one, allowing for reliance upon the non-Jewish tradition that sees the Jewish Quarter as Zion. From the entrance to the shuk, the Arabs consider the area “al-Quds” – the Holy City (presumably, Jerusalem). In his opinion there is no reason to think they are mistaken, and he mentions several additional reasons to rule leniently on the matter.

Rabbi Tukachinsky in Ir Hakodesh V’Hamikdash (volume III chapter 7) derives from Josephus (Jewish Wars 5:4) that Zion is in the southwest of the city. Other Second Temple era records also identify Zion with the area known today as “Mount Zion” – site of King David’s Tomb (archeological evidence, as well as old maps of the site support this approach).

Mahram Chaviv (Get Pashut 128:26) records an oral tradition he heard from Jerusalem elders that half of the Jewish street that ends in the shuk (perhaps Rechov Hayehudim) is the border between Jerusalem and Zion. The southwestern part of the city near the King’s Tombs is Zion, City of David, and the final resting place of King David. The eastern and northern parts of the city (which was ancient in his day) is Jerusalem. The Birkei Yosef (294:6) quotes this description for the purpose of determining the halachos of ma’aser sheni and neta revaii.

Following these opinions, the area known today as Mount Zion and the Zion Gate are part of Zion, and Zion reached until the Ramban and Churva Synagogues in the Jewish Quarter. The lower parts of the Jewish Quarter, the Muslim Quarter, and the Arab neighborhood of Silwan outside the wall known today as the “City of David” are the original city of Jerusalem.

The Maharit (Yore Deah 37) writes that David’s Tomb in Zion and Chulda’s Tomb on the top of the Mount of Olives were originally outside the city borders. Later on, the area was consecrated and encircled within the wall. Out of honor to these outstanding figures, their graves were not evacuated along with the other graves in the area. Instead, a tunnel was built to direct the impurity out to the Kidron Valley. According to this approach, both the Mount of Olives and Mount Zion are part of the holy city of Jerusalem.

Many additional attempts were made to identify the actual City of Zion. Some are mentioned by Rabbi Tukachinsky in his work “Ir Hakodesh v’Hamikdash.

The Shechinah

Numerous Midrashim indicate that the Shechinah never left Zion (Devarim Raba, Va’eschanon; Yalkut Shimoni Micha 552; Shocher Tov, Tehilim 5:7). This is also learned from the pasuk “…For now you shall go forth from the city; and you shall dwell in the field” (Micha 4:10) that “a field” is Zion, as it is written “Zion shall be plowed for a field” (Yirmiyahu 26:18). Other Midrashim indicate that the Shechinah is specifically at the Western Wall as mentioned in the pasuk: “…Behold, he is standing behind our wall” (Shir Hashirim 2:9).

How then, do we pray for the return of the Shechinah to Zion if the Shechinah is always there? The question becomes further pronounced when we read in Zechariah (8:3): “So said the Lord: I will return to Zion, and I will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem” – the Shechinah, as seen in this pasuk, would return after the Babylonian exile. However, the Gemara (Yoma 21b) records five things that were missing from the Second Temple, one of them being the Shechinah’s presence. Additionally, the Gemara in Rosh Hashana 31a describes how the Shechinah was exiled ten times upon the destruction of the Second Temple. If the Shechinah did not return in the Second Temple, how could it go into exile with its destruction? And if it was exiled – how do we say that the Shechinah did not leave the western Wall?

Rabbenu Bachye (Bereshis chapters 46, 27), Pesach Hadvir (112:2), and the Malbim (Zechariah 8:3) explain that there are several levels of Hashra’as Shechinah – the presence of the Shechinah. The highest level, which was steady and continuous, only existed during the First Temple. Starting with its destruction, the measure of the Shechinah’s presence has steadily declined. Today it is still present, in it’s lowest state, at the Western Wall. Three times a day we pray for its full reinstitution, may it be speedily, in our times.

Rabbi Shlomo Eliyashiv zata”l, author of the Leshem is quoted in Sefer Hazikaron Tiferet Raphael (p. 139) as categorizing that the Shechinah’s open presence is no longer conceivable. But its hidden presence never leaves the Western Wall.

Zion is Comforted, and Jerusalem – Built

In light of the above we can now understand why in prayer we always refer to Zion as requiring comforting, and Jerusalem – rebuilding. Comforting occurs when one accesses a new outlook on things — when he reaches a new understanding (Bereshis 6:6, Rashi). We pray that Zion be comforted – that our perception of spirituality become clearer, enabling us to perceive the Shechinah in its permanent form – “And May our eyes see Your return to Zion”. However, the physical aspect of the city requires rebuilding, therefore we pray that Jerusalem be rebuilt.

In Prayer

In the Shemone Esrei we find two separate brachos revolving around this topic. One is a prayer for G-d’s return to Jerusalem and its rebuilding, and another – a prayer for reinstitution of the sacrifices. This blessing ends with prayer to behold with our own eyes the Shechinah’s return to Zion.

Similarly, in Birkas Hamazon we beseech G-d to show mercy on “Jerusalem, Your city; Zion, Your Holy Shechinah’s dwelling place; and the Great and Holy House”. Hence, it seems that Jerusalem, Zion, and the Temple are three different entities.

On Shabbos we ask to be “shown the comforting of Zion, Your city; and the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the city of Your holiness”. In Kedusha for Shabbos we plead, “When will You rule in Zion… May Your Name be Great and Consecrated in Jerusalem Your city.”

Other prayers for Jerusalem are on the holidays.

Residents of Jerusalem

Maharam Chaviv (quoted in Yeshurun 14, p. 80) was asked why residents of Jerusalem recite the same text in prayer as do other Jews around the world. He answered that changing the text is not customary and prayer is not limited to one’s personal needs. In prayer for returning to Zion we include all Jews, wherever they may be.

Jerusalem’s Holiness in Halacha

Here we will briefly outline various halachos in which Jerusalem’s holiness carries relevant halachic consequences:

1) Fruit harvested during the first three years of a tree’s life are called orla and cannot be eaten. The fruit of the fourth year which was grown outside of Jerusalem, is called neta revaii and must be exchanged for money or eaten in Jerusalem.

Neta revaii fruit found in the consecrated city of Jerusalem cannot be exchanged for money and must be eaten in Jerusalem. Poskim are undecided whether the fruit may be eaten in a state of ritual impurity due to contact with the dead, or not. Those who opine that the fruit may not be eaten in this state of ritual impurity see this fruit as irredeemable and cannot be eaten.

2) Maaser sheini (the Second Tithe) must be eaten in Jerusalem in a state of ritual purity. (In four out of every seven years, one is obligated to separate 9% of his produce towards this tithe.) This tithe, like neta revaii, may be redeemed for one pruta regardless of the amount of produce. Therefore, outside Jerusalem, separating this tithe is easily performed. However, inside Jerusalem, Ma’aser Sheini may not be redeemed, neither may it be rendered impure or eaten in a state of impurity. For practical guidelines on separating tithes in the holy city of Jerusalem please consult with a competent halachic authority.

3) The Biblical mitzva of shaking a lulav and esrog on Succos outside of the Beis Hamikdash is only on the first day of the holiday while the rest of the seven-day holiday – rabbinic. However, the Aruch Laner understands that the Rambam sees shaking them in the entire holy city of Jerusalem-not just in the Beis Hamikdash the entire seven days of the holiday as a Biblical commandment. To merit this level of commandment, many, including Rav Eliashev zatsal have the custom to travel to the Western Wall on Succos specifically in order to shake their lulav and esrog there.

4) The Radvaz (volume 6, 2199) and Birkei Yosef (Yore Deah 294:20) write that planting trees in Jerusalem is forbidden, as mentioned in the Gemara (Bave Kama 82b). Nowadays, though, they write that since the local government is not Jewish and are not careful with it, a Jew may also plant trees in Jerusalem.


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