written by Yam HaChochmah
“And They Will Seek Hashem their G-d, and Dovid Their King”
A Brief History of Dovid King of Yisrael Our master, the “Light of Yisrael,”
the “Annointed One of Hashem,” Dovid HaMelech, son of Yishai of Beis Lechem and Nitzeves bas Edal, was born during the year 2854.
During his youth he was outcast from his brothers and family, suspected of having been born illegitimately. [Note: Illegitimacy from a halachic viewpoint means being the child of forbidden relationships, not simple birth out of wedlock as it is commonly used in English.] It was for this reason that he was sent far from home to shepherd his father’s flocks—to distance him from the rest of the family. But it was as a shepherd that he began to spend days and nights in hisbodedus, pouring his heart out before his Creator, immersed in pure Divine service, devoted to G-d alone. Through this constant hisbodedus, he purified and refined his soul completely. “Hashem then chose the hilula [yohrtzeit celebration] of Dovid HaMelech Dovid, His servant, to shepherd His people Yisrael; to this end, Hashem sent Shmuel HaNavi to anoint Dovid as king,” in the year 2883, when Dovid was twenty-nine years old.
During the following year, in 2884, when he was thirty years old, Dovid became
king over his own tribe [Yehudah] in Chevron. Seven and a half years later, in 2892, Dovid went up to conquer the holy city and the site of the future sanctuary— Yerushalayim—which had first been conquered by Yehoshua upon entering the land.
Yehoshua had prevented the tribe of Yehudah from driving out the Yevusim who lived in the area [until the time was ripe].
During his final years, Dovid HaMelech purchased the Temple Mount from Arnona the Yevusi. Dovid ruled in Yerushalayim for thirty-three years, until his death when he was seventy years old, on Shavuos of the year 2924, during the time of Minchah [toward evening].
Dovid HaMelech was only buried on the seventh of Sivan because, that year, Shavuos fell out on Shabbos.
During the period that Dovid ruled over all of the Jewish people, he lived in a fortress at the top of Har Tzion that he had captured. As the verse states, “And Dovid captured the fortress of Tzion, which is the city of Dovid… And Dovid dwelled in the fortress and called it Ir David.”
This is also the site of his burial place.
The Location of the Gravesite: Known to All
The burial site of Dovid HaMelech, his son Shlomo, and the rest of the kings
from his line that were buried with him was—according to Sefer Melachim and Divrei
HaYamim—a location that was well known because of its great significance.
Hundreds of years later, when Nechemiah ben Chachaliah ascended to Yerushalayim at the end of the period of the Babylonion exile, the burial place was well known. In Sefer Nechemiah, we find that the reconstruction of the destroyed city of Yerushalayim was distributed among the officers, and the verse makes clear that the kever was in a known location: “After him, Nechemiaah ben Azbok, ruler over half of the district of Beit Tzur, repaired until opposite the graves of Dovid…”
During the second Temple period as well as that of the Chashmonaim, everyone knew the location of the gravesites of the kings of Dovid’s line—this is clear from the writings of Yosef ben Mattisyahu [Josephus Flavius, ancient Roman/Jewish historian]. He describes the entry of Yochanan Horkenos and Hordus [Herod] into the burial caves of the kings of Beis Dovid, and writes about the gravesite of Dovid HaMelech as a familiar location in his own time.
It has been accepted tradition among the Jewish people for generations untold that the structure on Har Tzion—opposite what is known today as Diaspora Yeshiva—to the southwest of Yerushalayim, was built upon the burial caves of the house of Dovid.
Many of the medieval travel-journals mention that the final resting-place of the kings of Dovid’s line is upon Har Tzion.
For example, the famous traveler, Rav Binyamin of Tudela, wrote of his great journey that he undertook approximately 840 years ago in his work Masa’os Binyamin. He set out from Tudela in northern Spain for various countries, keeping a journal throughout, and especially highlighting his experiences in Eretz Yisrael.
He cites the testimony of people who had entered the burial caves on Har Tzion and who saw the grave of Dovid HaMelech. They said that a golden table lies before it, together with a golden scepter and crown, and to the left is the grave of Shlomo HaMelech. As they stood there looking into the cave, a stormwind blew out of it and struck them down like dead men on the ground, where they lay unconscious until the evening. They related all that they had seen to Rav Avraham HaChassid el Constantini the ascetic, who was one of the “mourners of Tzion and Yerushalayim” [meaning, he spent his days in aveilus over the churban, doing constant penitence]. Rav Avraham HaChassid then shared their story with Rav Binyamin of Tudela.
We also have testimony from Rav Menachim bar Peretz Chazan of Chevron, who wrote in 4975—approximately eight hundred years ago—”I was upon Har Tzion and I saw the site of the Beis Hamikdash and the Temple Mount and the Western Wall still standing, and the tombs of the kings of the House of Dovid on Har Tzion.”
Similarly, one of the students of the Ramban who visited Eretz Yisrael around the year 5030 (approximately 740 years ago) relates in his own travel memoir Totza’os Eretz Yisrael: “On the hill above the Shiloach spring is the fortress of Tzion, and that is the site of the tombs of the kings. There is an ancient building there that is called Dovid’s Palace [Heichal Dovid] which stands opposite the place of the Beis Hamikdash. They light candles there in recognition of the holiness of the place. They say that it is Dovid’s building; that it was the place where G-d’s ark was kept when Dovid brought it to his home until the Temple was built.
Near there is the Tower of Dovid.”
Rav Ovadiah of Bartnenura, who ascended to Eretz Yisrael from Italy and arrived in Yerushalayim in Nissan of 5245 (approximately 520 years ago), wrote in a letter to his father: “In Tzion, near the tombs of the kings, there is a large church that is called San Francisco. And not long ago, the tombs of the kings were also under their authority. But a wealthy German Jew came here to Yerushalayim and asked to buy the space from the king, and it sparked a controversy with the priests. From that day until Masa’os Binyamin is also included within the compendium Otzar Masa’os—Eisenstein, p. 27.
This particular anecdote is also included in Seder HaDoros 2924 and in Sefer Sha’arei Yerushalayim of Rav Moshe Reisher, Sha’ar #10, Ma’aseh Ha’aretz.
This was printed in the circular Yerushalayim in commemoration of Rav A.M. Luntz, 5685, p.56. It was also printed in the Kaftor Vaferach published by the Beis Medrash l’Halachah the Muslims have taken the area from the priests, and it is now under the authority of the Muslims.”
Rabbi Moshe the son of Rabbi Mordechai Bassoula, a rabbi and Kabbalist who served as the Rosh Yeshiva in Ancona, Italy—dear friend of Rav Moshe Cordovero— visited Yerushalayim in 5282 (approximately 490 years ago), and wrote in his travel memoir Masa’os Eretz Yisraael: “Outside of Yerushalayim, to the south, is Har Tzion.
The naggid, may G-d bless and keep him, told me that the Jewish area in Yerushalayim is from Har Tzion until close to the area of the Beis Hamikdash, and logic also points in this direction. This is the true interpretation of the verse, ‘Har Tzion, the outskirts of the north.’ There is a place of the [Christian] priests on Har Tzion…and attached to it is a sealed structure with an iron door. They say that Dovid and Shlomo are buried there.
Near there is a sealed structure with an iron entryway, and they say that it is there that the kings of the house of Dovid lie. The Muslims do not allow anyone in the world enter into those two places.”
There have been many great poskim throughout the ages who wrote explicitly that they relied on the tradition in Yerushalayim, that Har Tzion is to the southwest of Yerushalayim. Among them are the Ridvaz, the Maharam ben Chaviv, the Chidah, From the Letters of Rabbi Ovadiah of Bartenura in Otzar Masa’os—Eisenstein, p. 120. There is a tradition that Rav Ovadiah himself kept a room within the compound of the tombs of the kings; it is the room that is located today to the left of the eastern entry to the site. The Christians were angered by Rav Ovadiah’s use of the space and immediately declared the “Sea Decree,” which forbade Christian shipmasters from carrying Jews to Eretz Yisrael until the Muslim authorities would desist from allowing Jews to remain in the space. It was only after a twenty-five year hiatus of Jewish travel via Christian ships that the room was taken out of Jewish hands. (This anecdote was copied from a source that has since been misplaced, and needs to be confirmed.)
He discusses the matter in a lengthy examination of whether the tombs of the house of Dovid in Tzion have the sanctity of Yerushalayim with regards to various decrees of the sages. See Shailos u’Teshuvos HaRidvaz II:633, and his opinion is brought as halachah in Bikurei Yaakov and many others.
The Painters’ Tale
Aside from the old testimony regarding the tombs of the kings from the Davidic line on Har Tzion, we also have further evidence provided not that long ago about that which is to be seen within the burial chamber itself. There were two painter-plasterers, father and son, Reb Yosef and Reb Aryeh Leib Pores, who were ordered by the Turkish sultan to descend into the burial chamber to re-plaster and repair everything that had become dilapidated there over time. They later related before the saraf of Brisk, the Maharil Diskin, and Rav Chaim Yitzchak Aharon Rappoport, the Maggid of Wilkomir, everything that they had seen with their own eyes within the chamber. Their description matched that of Rav Binyamin of Tudela quoted earlier, but it is far more detailed.
The Maggid of Wilkomir faithfully recorded the painters’ tale verbatim and drafted several copies. He sent one of them to his son, Rav Yehudah Leib Rappoport, who lived abroad. That son made a copy of the original letter and then gave permission for Rav Yaakov Dov Rappoport to make a copy for himself. (Rav Yaakov Dov Rappoport was one of the most prominent rabbis in Lithuania; he was the son-in-law of the famous scholar Rav Yosef Zechariah Stern, author of the Zecher Yehosef, who served as the chief rabbi of Zemel from 1896-1926. He then immigrated to Eretz Yisrael and served as the first chief rabbi of Kfar Saba. He passed away in 1928.) The original manuscript of Rav Yaakov Dov Rappoport was eventually published and circulated.
The grandson of those repairmen, Rabbi Yisrael Porat who served as a rabbi in Cleveland and authored the work Mevo HaTalmud, related that he heard from his grandfather that he had once descended into the burial chamber of the kings of the house See Malbim on Nechemiah 3:16: “This wall, which was of double-thickness, extended further south until opposite the tombs of the house of Dovid which were at the top of Har Tzion.” of Dovid in order to paint and plaster, and afterward he told all that he had seen to the Maharil Diskin.
Great Tzaddikim Who Came to Pray at the Holy Site
We also have in hand the written testimony of many great tzaddikim throughout the generations who came to pray at the holy gravesite on Har Tzion. Rav Moshe Yair Weinstock writes that Rav Elazar Mendel of Lelov went to pray there. Rav Aharon Moshe of Brod MiGeza Tzvi, a disciple of the Chozeh of Lublin, emphasized in his letter to the Ahavas Shalom that he had merited to recite all of the Tehillim at the gravesite of Dovid HaMelech in the city of Tzion. The Ben Ish Chai, during his pilgrimage to Eretz Yisrael, composed a lengthy prayer specifically to be said there; it is a wondrous prayer that speaks directly to Dovid HaMelech: “Arise, Dovid, Melech HaMoshiach!” Rav Yitzhcak Afaya, a head of the Kabbalists yeshiva Beit El, also composed an awe-inspiring prayer that was meant to be recited at the gravesite, as described in his work Siach Yitzchak. Praying at the site on Har Tzion was likewise a venerable custom among other luminaries of the community of Old Yerushalayim, such as the great Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, zt”l, leader of the Ashkenazic community and head of the Hungarian Kollel. He would send letters to donors from abroad, informing them that the kollel members were praying for them at the graves of the kings of the house of Dovid.
The tzaddik Rav Shmuel Hominer would lay tefillin on those who came to visit the gravesite and would try to draw them back to Jewish observance.
During the previous generation, the great Minchas Elazar of Munkatch made a “My grandfather also told me that, at the behest of the Ottoman authorities, he descended into the burial chambers of the kings of the house of Dovid in order to paint and plaster. The Maharil Diskin was interested in the matter and sent for him, and asked him to reveal what he had seen there. My grandfather told him that he had seen something that looked like a sefer Torah on one of the graves. The Maharil Diskn said that is seemed as though this might be the resting place of Chizkiyahu HaMelech, for the sages taught (Bava Kama 17a; Eichah Rabbah, Pesichta #25) that they had laid a Torah scroll upon his grave.” (Tzefunos #13, p. 95) pilgrimage to the tziun, as did the Rebbe of Zvhil, the Boyaner Rebbe, the Imrei Emes of Gur, Rav Yudele of Dzikov, Rav Dovid of Rachmastrivka, and Rav Avraham Elimelech of Karlin.
Rav Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson of Lubavitch treasured the holy site very greatly and even wrote in a broadly circulated letter that the mitigation of the painful birth-pangs of Moshiach is accomplished by reciting Tehillim communally at the gravesite.
Rav Yosef Tzvi Dushinsky appended his name to the declaration.
The previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rav Menachem Mendel Schneerson, continued in his father-in-law’s path. The only kivrei tzaddikim to which he sent kvitlach on behalf of himself and his Rebbetzin were those of his own father-in-law and Dovid HaMelech. It is well known among Chabad chassidim that in the year 5750, when the Rebbe Rav Menachem Mendel Schneerson was praying at the gravesite of his father-in-law, the Rebbe Rayatz (Rav Yosef Yitzchak), he suddenly ordered his assistant to re-establish the minyan at the tziun of Dovid HaMelech. Since that time, it has continued uninterrupted.
The Imrei Chaim of Vizhnitz would pray there, as did Rav Moshe Mordechai of Lelov who had received a tradition from his grandfather, Rav Dovid Tzvi Shlomo of Lelov, that the place of the entry to actual cave is not far from the current position of the gravesite above.
The Tolna Rebbe has prayed there, and the Rebbe of Toldos Aharon
Masa’os Yerushalayim; See Appendix VII.
As related by Rav Abish Tzeinwirth, shlit”a. The Admor of Boyan also goes to pray there at special times.
As known to many Gerrer chassidim, and as heard directly from Rav Shammai Ginsburg, zt”l.
Rav Yosef Tzeinwirth, shlit”a, confirms that he is an eyewitness to the visits of these last three tzaddikim at the site.
Rav Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson of Lubavitch wrote in his diary that he visited the gravesite on the afternoon of Tisha b’Av, which is the time of the birth of Moshiach. As heard from Rav Menachem Mondri, shlit”a, who was with him.
As heard from Rav Bentzion Grossman, shlit”a, among others has sent many of his chassidim who were in real need to recite Tehillim at the tziun of Dovid HaMelech.
Rav Shem Tov Gajin, former chief dayan and a rosh yeshiva in London, related that when he was a boy he would go with his father, the gaon Rav Moshe Chai Gajin— Rosh HaYeshiva of Beit El in the Old City—to the gravesite of Dovid HaMelech.
[He was the son of Rav Avraham Chaim Gajin, who was known as Ha’Agan, who was a Rosh Yeshiva of Beit El before him.]
Leaders of the Breslov community as well were frequent visitors to kever Dovid on Har Tzion: Rav Shmuel Horowitz, Rav Shmuel Shapira, Rav Hirsch Leib Lebel and all of their companions regularly went there for hisbodedus and to immerse themselves in Divine service. Rav Asher Freund, a student of Rav Gedalia Koenig, made great efforts to reach the tziun every Friday so that he could light the ner tamid that would burn throughout Shabbos, and then pray there and receive the Shabbos there.
(This is a fulfillment of the verse, “I have set up a candle for My anointed one.” This is all the more true when it is done in preparation for Shabbos, because Shabbos is associated with the aspect of Malchus.)
Aside from the ancient tradition that we have regarding the location of the
gravesite of Dovid HaMelech upon Har Tzion, in more recent times Rav Moshe Chagiz who served as the Rav of Yerushalyim stated clearly that the Arizal himself confirmed this tradition.
Even though the Arizal did not enter Yerushalayim after having come to “The gravesite of Dovid HaMelech is on Har Tzion; I visited there a number of times. My father would take me there to recite chapters of Tehillim on the first day of Shavuos. The kings of the house of Dovid are buried there.”
(Kesser Shem Tov) This detail is to be found in a new work about Rav Asher Freund, zt”l, which is in the process of publication.
“The divine master, Rav Yitzchak Luria, z”l, within whom the spirit of Hashem spoke, also confirmed and reaffirmed all of that area of Eretz Yisrael within the holy cities, their markers and all of the gravesites that are marked there, all around Eretz Yisrael. He confirmed (at the end of Sha’ar HaGilgulim) the location of the Western Wall, and the city of Tzion which is outside the greatness, he did stand outside the city walls and affirmed by ruach hakodesh that the location of the holy sites in Yerushalayim were all accurate.
The great Maharil Diskin warned against harboring doubts about any of the traditions that we have regarding the location of the holy places. He said, “In truth, all of the holy sites whose locations have been handed down to us from generation to generation are trustworthy and correct and true upon their own merits, and we do not require any proof. This is all the more true after having already received the confirmation of the pillars of the world—the Ramban and the Arizal and Rav Moshe Chagiz. Anyone who is obstinate and holds to his own opinion, and casts aspersions on any of the holy sites that were confirmed by them—and who shares his doubts with others—is not only a fool, he is wicked and filled with pride. And he is responsible for keeping his friend from doing a mitzvah and praying there.”
The Bas Ayin went even further. He said, “If a person disbelieves anything that is accepted tradition among a great number of Jews, he is guilty of heresy.”
Our sages have already warned specifically against harboring doubts about the tradition that has been handed down to us from generation to generation, that Har Tzion is a tall mountain to the southwest of Yerushalayim. They have said to give no credence to the opinion of the non-Jewish researchers and those who follow them, who during the last century made so bold as to contradict accepted tradition regarding its location.
[They posit, instead, that Har Tzion is the low hill to the south of the Temple Mount wall of Yerushalayim where the kings of the house of Dovid are buried…” Eleh Masa’ei, first printed in Altona in 5403, p. 16; later printing in Yerushalayim 5747, Chapter 4. Rav Moshe Chagiz notes that these facts about the Arizal were noted at the end of Sha’ar HaGilgulim, and even though our text does not include this, it is common knowledge that there were a number of manuscripts of Sha’ar Hagilgulim. We can certainly rely on Rav Moshe Chagiz, that the copy he had seen included these details.
Ahavas Tzion, Haas, p. 21; Chibas Yerushalayim, Horowitz, Ma’amar Mevaseres Tzion, #19, p. 225; “They say that the Arizal did not come to Yerushalayim [as an adult], but that he stood outside of Yerushalayim and spoke about all of the details within Yerushalayim through ruach hakodesh. He said, ‘Here is the place of Zechariah the prophet, and there is the place of Chuldah the prophet, among other details. But he did not enter the city itself. Perhaps he was unable to enter the city because he was a spark of Moshiach ben Yosef and the time was not ripe.” which is called the Ofel. To confuse matters, they named the site “Ir David.”
It would be best not to enter too deeply into the roots of their error and the twisted logic that they use to support their opinion.] In his time, Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, zt”l, exhorted people not to engage with them in debates because it offers some credence to their worthless opinions, which can cause a great deal of damage. Nothing that they say is relevant, because they are apikorsim. However, because the sitra achra has made inroads more recently and even worthy and G-d fearing people have fallen into the error of this opinion, it is certainly a great mitzvah to try and save them from harboring a false idea. This is why we have set these matters down in writing; so that innocent and well- meant people should not be tempted to follow the approach of non-Jews and researchers who are apikorsim. Hopefully, they will return to a firm belief in the tradition that is in our hands which has been passed to us from generation to generation, without interruption, since the time that the Beis Hamikdash still stood.
Rav Yechiel Michel Tukachinsky provided a lengthy dispute against the most pointed of the secular researchers’ arguments, bolstering our venerable tradition that the lofty Har Tzion is actually the true Ir Dovid. (The Ofel, which is of lower altitude, was also a place of lesser significance where the attendant water-bearers were provided quarters, as we find in Nechemiah 3:26. It then is not problematic than many archaeological artifacts from the period of Dovid HaMelech also appear there, because it too was settled and built up during the same time. The distinction is that those who lived there were of the lower classes, and not Dovid HaMelech and his retinue.)
Rav Tukachinsky offers ten strong proofs from the verses and the words of the sages, as well as from the archaeological evidence as well as the writings of Josephus that directly contradict the claims of the secular researchers. This is aside from the fact that one cannot ignore the long-held tradition regarding the site that stretches back to the time of Yosef ben Mattisyahu, at the time of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, until today. Throughout all of those many centuries, it was known and accepted among both Jews and non-Jews which mountain is Har Tzion, and the caves upon it contain the tombs of the kinds of house of Dovid. Numerous evidence supporting the tradition has been collected in many works throughout the years, some of which was quoted in this pamphlet. We are not aware that this tradition has even been interrupted, and if so, how can people today just decide to question a matter that is of such ancient vintage? (Ir Hakodesh v’ha’Mikdash II:4)
Rav Moshe Chagiz, in his Sfas Emes, clarified just how serious a problem it is when people cast doubts on the traditions that have been handed down to us from generation to generation. He writes there that there are Jews living even now in Yerushalayim whose families trace their lineage directly back to those who lived there at the time of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. They never left the holy city; and their descendants testified to him directly about the exact location of the grave-sites of the kings of the house of Dovid, in accordance with the tradition that they had received.
When it comes to this matter, it is even more serious when people cast doubt on tradition, because it is rooted in the struggle of the sitra achra to conceal the holy place of kever Dovid. The sitra achra is aware of just how much power the grave-site has to uplift the kingship of Dovid in mercy—so it conceals the light of the place, either through conflicting archaeological opinions, or by actually taking control of it as we find happening with the church. It is therefore a great and lofty mitzvah to help uplift the
“falling sukkah of Dovid” by supporting the holy site as much as possible, in every way that one can.
The Upper and Lower Cities – The Malbim, in his commentary on Divrei HaYamim, provides a history of the development and construction of Yerushalayim. After Dovid HaMelech ruled in Chevron for seven years, he ascended to Yerushalayim and immediately conquered the He writes: “I heard from the descendants of the mistarvim [those Jews who survived in Eretz Yisrael and other Arab lands from the time of the churban by adopting the dress and customs of the Arabs], who are known as Moors, and they are of the elders of Yerushalayim who remained after the churban, that the half of Yehudim Street which bisects the Jewish market from north to south is the boundary between Yerushalayim and Tzion. The southwestern part which is close to the burial place of the kings is Tzion Ir Dovid, and opposite this place outside the wall of Yerushalayim as it stands today are the graves of the kings of the house of Dovid. The part that is to the north-western side is Yerushalayim. Because of the destructions [of the city], Tzion and Yerushalayim have become indistinguishable from one another, and they are a single city until that time when Hashem will look upon us from heaven and rebuild the destructions of Yerushalayim, and He will console Tzion with its rebuilding.” fortress of Tzion and renamed it Ir Dovid.
In another source we find, “And Dovid dwelled in the metzudah and called it Ir Dovid, and Dovid built around, from the Millo inward.”
Yet we also find in Divrei HaYamim, “And the residents of Yevus said to Dovid: You shall not come here. And Dovid captured the fortress of Tzion, which is Ir Dovid… And Dovid dwelled in the metzad, and they therefore called it Ir Dovid. And he build the city roundabout, from the Millo until the surround, and Yoav sustained the rest of the city.” The Malbim explains that the verses prove that Dovid himself originally captured from the hands of the Yevusim the fortress that had stood upon the mountain top [the metzudah]. He lived there the remainder of his life and was buried there, and this is Har Tzion as we know it today, which is a high mountain upon which it is possible to build a fortress.
Rav Yechiel Michel Tukachinsky also based one of his proofs as to the correct location of Har Tzion upon this fact as well as the writings of Josephus—Dovid’s dwelling was at an elevation above that of the Temple Mount. In addition, Dovid ordered that anyone who would conquer the city [of Yevus] which is adjacent to the Temple Mount, near the Shiloach [which was built upon the Ofel hill] would be granted rulership over it. The person who did, indeed, conquer the area was Yoav ben Tzruyah, the son of Dovid’s sister, who also became its chief and administrator.
However, there was no connection between this lower city, where commoners and water-bearer subjects lived, and Har Tzion-Metzudas Dovid, which was a place of honor that housed the royal compound. One certainly cannot draw any connection between Har Tzion and Har HaMoriah, since the Temple Mount’s future location only became known to Dovid about two years before his death. It is also clear that the Temple Mount, even though it was called Har Tzion later on, is not the same place where there was once a fortress that served as a dwelling place for Dovid HaMelech for decades. And it is also certain that it never served as his burial place, nor was it ever called Ir Dovid. “And Dovid lay with his fathers , and he was buried in Ir Dovid.”
In Tehillim 87, which is entirely focused on the praise of Tzion, we learn, “Its foundation is in the holy mountains…” The Radak explains that the plural use of the word “mountains” indicates two specific mountains: Har Tzion, the seat of the kingship; and the Temple Mount, seat of the Beis Hamikdash. The psalm praises both of them, and both are called Tzion. So, too, the Metzudas Dovid and the Ibn Ezra both remark on the verses, “Fair of situation, the joy of all the earth…city of the great King…there, G-d in her palaces has made Himself known for a stronghold…”
All of the praises in this chapter refer to the entirety of Har Tzion, which served as the royal city for the kings of Dovid’s line. While it is true that, later, the Temple Mount is also called Har Tzion, and there are statements of the sages to the effect that the “Har Tzion” discussed in this chapter of Tehillim also means the Temple Mount, nevertheless the verse should be taken at face value. Its straightforward meaning points toward the royal city, which is the actual Har Tzion that is near the Temple Mount, where there were once (and will be
again) many buildings and structures for the royal family. About that place it is fitting to
say, “Walk around Tzion and surround her; count her towers…traverse her palaces.”
On the level of pshat, these praises are not so relevant to the Temple Mount. In
addition, Dovid HaMelech conquered Har Tzion/Ir Dovid when he was thirty-eight
years old. He ruled for a total of forty years; he ruled in Chevron for seven and a half
years, and in Yerushalayim for thirty-three years.
He only purchased the plot of the
Temple Mount from Arnona HaYevusi during the final years of his life. This also helps to confirm that most references to Har Tzion in Tehillim would be to the Har Tzion on which he actually lived for the decades of his kingship. This is the approach that the Kaftor Vaferach takes in his own writings.
In the same chapter of Tehillim, Har Tzion is also called, “the uttermost extent [יתכרי] of the north.” Since Har Tzion stands to the south of Yerushalayim, this phrase appears to be problematic. However, the Yaavetz taught that the word for “uttermost extent”—יתכרי—stems from the root ךרי, or “thigh,” which indicates the “choicest part.”
And Eretz Yisrael is the choicest part of the entire northern hemisphere.
“The Salvations of Yisrael from Tzion”
Since Har Tzion and the royal city are one and the same, it is clear that the site
is especially suited to be the epicenter of great wonders and Divine assistance. “Who
will provide the salvations of Yisrael from Tzion?”
The verse does not say “salvation,”
but rather, “salvations”—many yeshuos—which is confirmed by the many instances in
Tehillim where Tzion is acclaimed for being the wellspring of blessing and salvation.
Har Tzion is ideal for praying for the three basic requests: children, health and
sustenance. The verse tells us, “Hashem will bless you from Tzion, and you will see the
good of Yerushalayim all the days of your life, and see children born to your children,
peace upon Yisrael.”
That is the blessing of children. We also find, “Like the dew of
the Chermon that descends upon the mountains of Tzion, for Hashem has commanded the blessing there, life everlasting.”
That is the blessing of life and well-being. We also see, “For Hashem has chosen Tzion; He has desired it for His habitation; this is My resting place forever, here I will dwell because I have desired it; I will abundantly bless its provisions, I will satisfy its poor with bread.”
Har Tzion is also an auspicious place for arousing the sprouting of the redemption and the speedy arrival of Moshiach. “There I will cause the keren of Dovid to sprout; I have set up a candle for My anointed one.”
It is the ideal place to pray for the redemption. Har Tzion served as the foundation for the construction of the first Beis Hamikdash, where Dovid placed the aron for seven years.
It was there that he established the shifts of Levi’im to sing before the aron. These facts all indicate that, in the future, the sprouting of the third and eternal Beis Hamikdash will begin on Har Tzion as well. May it be Hashem’s will that we will also play a role in the uplifting of that holy place, and in the sprouting of the redemption in mercy.
The Kings of Har Tzion
According to tradition, Dovid HaMelech made his home and residence in the
fortress upon Har Tzion, which is Ir Dovid, and it was there that he brought the aron for seven years and hewed out his own burial cave. The sages taught that this cave was open to the Nachal Kidron, and so it did not confer any ritual impurity. This is a long subject that goes beyond the scope of the present discussion.
That cave served as his own tomb as well as the tomb of other kings from his line. The Gemara teaches that Dovid HaMelech, Shlomo HaMelech and Chizkiyahu HaMelech were all buried together.
This is the best area within the tomb complex. The verses also indicate that there are another eight kings from Dovid’s line who are buried nearby. Six of them are clearly referenced: Rechavam ben Shlomo, Aviyah ben Rechavam, Asa ben Aviyah, Yehoshafat ben Asa, Achazyah ben Yoram, and Yotam ben Uziyahu; another two are a strong probability: Yoshiyahu ben Amon, and Amatziyahu ben Yoash.
Yehoyadah the kohein gadol who saved Dovid’s kingly line is also buried in the cave.
We see, then, that in addition to Dovid HaMelech, there are a further ten kings of his line buried there, plus Yehoyadah the kohein gadol, who was also a vital link in the transmission of the Torah.
Who can possibly describe the greatness of the kings who are buried in this holy
place? Dovid HaMelech—one of the seven shepherds, the fourth leg of the Divine chariot, whose Tehillim are embedded within the hearts of the Jewish people and who was lauded so highly by the sages—it is certainly unnecessary to recount his greatness here. This is likewise true of his son Shlomo, who was the wisest of all men, who merited to build the first Beis Hamikdash, who “ruled over the heavens and the earth,” and sat upon Hashem’s throne. During his time, the Jewish people rose to their greatest height of glory and greatness, in a taste of what will be during the days of Moshiach. His power and greatness has already been recorded and is so well known; it is also unnecessary to elaborate upon it here. We will, however, devote some space to the praise that is due to the other kings of the house of Yehudah.
The Me’am Lo’ez says in the name of Rav Moshe Galanti that Rechavam ben Shlomo was worthy of being Moshiach ben Dovid.
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said that if only Yotam ben Uziyahu would be together with himself and his son Rabbi Elazar, they would be able to cancel all of the heavenly judgments that apply to all of the world from the time of its creation until the end of history.
The Rama MiPano wrote that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was a reincarnation of Yotam ben Uziyahu, and this actually makes it easier to understand Rabbi Shimon’s statement recorded in Sukkah. He was able to harness the zechus of his own soul from a previous gilgul. The verses themselves
plainly praise the kings Yehoshafat and Asa for being truly righteous leaders who “did that which was right in the eyes of Hashem.”
It was written of Yoshiyahu HaMelech, Divrei HaYamim II:24:16
Rambam’s introduction to his Mishneh Torah, sections 5-6.
See Me’am Lo’ez on Melachim I:12:11 and Koheles 3:5.
“And his heart was proud in the ways of Hashem” was written of Yehoshafat.
“Before him there had never been a king like him, who returned to G-d with all of his heart and all of his soul and all of his might.”
While we do find that the verses are occasionally critical of the kings Rechavam, Aviyah, Achazyah and Amatzyahu, we also know that the halachah clearly states that it is forbidden to bury the wicked together with the righteous. Furthermore, we do not bury someone who is of intermediate status—even if he is a worthy person— together with a person of exemplary piety. Dovid HaMelech, Shlomo his son, Chizkiyahu and Yoshiyahu were all certainly men of remarkable piety. We must necessarily conclude, then, that all of the kings who were buried with them must also have been exceedingly righteous. It was only because of their very lofty level that they were taken to task for certain things.
What is more, we also cannot take criticism leveled at other kings of the house of Dovid at face value either. Rav Menachem Mendel of Shklov said of the king Amon that the harsh statements made about him in the verses and the Talmud are really allusions to deep spiritual avodah that he had to do, which was all l’shem shomayim.
Because he erred despite his good intentions, he is considered to have sinned.
Rav Mordechai Yosef of Ishbitze wrote something similar about the king Menashe.
The concept also appears in the Medrash Talpios about Achaz HaMelech, as well as in the Melachim II:23:25
Melachim II:21; Divrei HaYamim II:33; Sanhedrin 103b; See Kisvei Rav Menachem Mendel MiShklov, Part II, p. 177. It is impossible to quote directly from his work here due to the depth of the concept and the limitations of our grasp of them! “Menashe was born in a state of such profound yirah, that it would have been impossible for any human being to sustain. The truth is that the quality of yirah is very powerful in all kings; the Gemara teaches, ‘A king who bows does not rise again.’ (Berachos 34b) This yirah existed within Menashe to a very great degree. His sin was that he sought means to remove this degree of Divine awe from within himself so that he could be a human being with free choice, because his yirah had nullified his free will. It was Divinely ordained that he be born with such yirah, in contrast with Dovid HaMelech whose attribute was love. (Mei HaShiloach, Part I of Melachim, p. 136; Parshas Vayikra, p. 64)
“In the Emek HaMelech, p. 148, we find regarding Yoshiyahu that there was no king that repented the way that he had [and there is no mention of what his sin had been, that required such writings of Rav Tzadok HaKohein of Lublin regarding Uziyah HaMelech.
They all taught that the kings of the house of Dovid were occupied with the avodah of beirurim—clarifying Divine sparks from the depths of the klippos—which is a very lofty and dangerous avodah that is only asked of great tzaddikim. There were times when the klippah overwhelmed them and they did not succeed in their mission of uplifting the Divine spark; this was considered, for them, a sin. The Midrash teaches that Dovid HaMelech sits in Gan Eden and all of the kings of his line sit before him. [Real intense teshuvah], because he was a gilgul of Achaz. For this reason, Yeshayah said to Achaz, ‘Listen, house of Dovid,’ (Yeshayah 7:13) because his birth was announced as, ‘Behold, a son is born to the house of Dovid; Yoshiyahu is his name.’ (Melachim I:13:2) The writer attests that the kings who are said to have sinned never intended to rebel against their Maker; rather, they intended to descend to the depths of the klippos to save holy sparks that sunk to there. Because the time had not yet come for the klippos to be mitigated, however, the kings descended and did not have the power to leave, and they drowned there as well. In the Emek HaMelech, p. 108b, we find a similar teaching about Shlomo HaMelech who married foreign women in order to mitigate the klippos for the sake of heaven. Because the time was not yet ripe, they brought him to sin.
Because they had holy intentions, Hashem rectified them immediately, like Achaz returned within Yoshiyahu, who returned to Hashem with all his heart.” (Medrash Talpios, “Yoshiyahu”)
“Dovid HaMelech said: ‘Happy is he whom You choose and whom You bring close, who dwells in Your courts…’ (Tehillim 65:5) He was speaking of Aharon; he yearned and longed to be able to bring up the offerings, even though we had already been told that only kohanim can do the avodah. (Bamidbar Rabbah 3:2) I heard that he merited to satisfy this intense desire when he ate from the lechem hapanim when he was in danger of starving to death, and his beirurim
[further work of spiritual clarification from the klippos] were carried on by Uziyah who wanted to bring up the incense. The kings from Uziyah onward are the beirurim of the kings who ruled from the time of Dovid onward; each one of them clarified the deeds of their prior counterpart that had been committed in error. Yotam was the beirur of Shlomo HaMelech, about whom the verse says: ‘He only did not enter the heichal of Hashem…’ (Divrei HaYamim II:27:2) This indicates that he did not have any flaw, because all of Shlomo HaMelech’s deeds were the holy of holies. This itself is a flaw; the fact that he had no flaws.” (Tzidkas HaTzaddik #193) “Rabbi Yishmael said: ‘I said to אזגגז”ל , Sar Ha’pnim, show me the glory of Dovid HaMelech.’ He said to me, ‘Friend, wait three hours for me, until he comes here, and you will see his greatness…’ And, behold, Dovid came, and I saw all of the kings of Dovid’s house after him, and each one wore a crown on his head. Dovid’s crown was outstanding and different than all the other, and its shine radiated from one end of the world to the other. When Dovid ascended to the great beis medrash in heaven, they prepared a throne of fire for him that was four parsa high, and twice as long and twice as broad. When Dovid came and sat on the throne that was prepared for him, which parallels the throne of fire of his Maker, and all of the kings of the house of Dovid were sitting before him, and all of the kings of the house of Yisrael were standing behind him.
He immediately stood up and said songs and praises that no ear has ever heard.” (From a Midrash that is brought in Rav Amram Gaon’s seder of Nefilas Apayim and Kedushah d’Sidra, on the Certainly, then, they were all great tzaddikim. And this is all the more true of those kings who were actually buried together with him and his son Shlomo.
The Secrets of the Structure. It appears as though the original construction over the tombs of the kings of the house of Dovid was carried out by the sages, in order to establish a yeshiva over the gravesite of Chizkiyahu HaMelech. (This does not contradict those who observe that it is clear from the structure that it was built as a synagogue. The form of a shul is the same as that of a beis medrash. We have a tradition that learning continued uninterrupted there even through the period of the churban, and the Gemara states that the holiest congregation of Yerushalayim prayed there.) The verse says, “And Chizkiyahu laid with his fathers, and they buried him in the elevation of the tombs of the children of Dovid. And they did him great honor after his death…”
The sages asked, “What honor did they do for him? …Rav Yehudah bar Simon said: They built a meeting-house above the grave of Chizkiyahu. When they went there, they would say to him, ‘Teach us.'” The architecture of the structure also indicates that it pre-dates the [second] Beis Hamikdash, and it also includes very large stones that are similar to those that can be found at the [lower levels of] the Western Wall. It stands to reason that it was built along a deep and mystical plan.
(The dybbuk that had murdered the prophet Zechariah declared to the Maggid of Kozhnitz that children of seven years of age, of his time—the first Temple period—knew more of the Torah’s secrets than you do. Surely whoever was responsible for the building was aware of more than we can imagine.) The words, “Kedushah l’Yachid”; See Likutei HaPardes L’Rashi, p. 24b; Ohr Zarua, Hilchos Tefillah It is possible that Herod, who refurbished the second Temple and of whom the sages said, “Anyone who did not see the structure of Herod never saw a beautiful building in his life,” (BavaBasra 4a) also renovated the structure above the tombs of the kings. In “Jewish Antiquities” by Josephus, it says that Herod enter the burial place of the kings of the house of Dovid, and when a fire flamed outward and drove him away from there, he commanded that they build a monument of precious white marble. However, the Seder HaDoros (Year 2924), brings in the name of the Shalsheles HaKabbalah who quotes Josephus, “Afterward, Herod built a beautiful building upon the gravesite.”
The building is subdivided into a number of sections. If one looks at the structure from a spiritual vantage point, one can say that it alludes to the partzuf of the ten sefiros.
The innermost chamber in which one can see the monument parallels Kesser. It is irrelevant whether the exact location of the monument lies directly over Dovid HaMelech’s burial chamber; if that were the case, the place would certainly have a very lofty level of holiness.
Since many Jews do indeed call the monument, “kever Dovid,” it is a strong probability that this is the actual location. There are those who follow the opinion of the Maharsha in Bava Basra 15, where he writes that all of the kings were buried there in a single row. They interpret this to mean that it is possible that all of them were buried one beneath the other, as was done in the burial cave of the Sanhedrin, and all of the graves lie beneath a single monument. This would also help to explain why there is only a single monument within the complex rather than one for each tzaddik as we find at the tziun of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and Rabbi Elazar his son. Even though the structure was built above the original burial cave, there are still two distinct monuments, to parallel the original layout of the graves below. If so, then we would have to reconcile this theory with the testimony of Rav Binyamin of Tudela and the two painters brought earlier. From their words, it seems as though each king was buried in his own chamber.
From the testimony it seems necessary to say that the monument lies above the opening to the burial cave. In any event, it is certain that the light of the soul of Dovid HaMelech does shine upon the tziun, because the soul diffuses outward and settles upon the place that was built for its honor. In fact, this is the entire purpose of building a marker over the grave, as the Arizal explains. If so, the holiness of the room and the monument is surely very great, and it has the nature of the kodesh hakodashim which parallels the Kesser.
See Margolios HaYam, Sanhedrin 26a, #20, in the name of HaRav Eliezer ben Yoel HaLevi ( יבארה “ה); Ir Hakodesh v’haMikdash II:12; This was also affirmed by Rav Moshe Mordechai of Lelov, who heard it from his grandfather, Rav Dovid Tzvi Shlomo of Lelov.
Eliezer Goldsmith When it comes to this matter, it is even more serious when people cast doubt on tradition, because it is rooted in the struggle of the sitra achra to conceal the holy placeof kever Dovid. The sitra achra is aware of just how much power the gravesite has to uplift the kingship of Dovid in mercy—so it conceals the light of the place, either through conflicting archeological opinions, or by actually taking control of it as we find happening with the church. It is therefore a great and lofty mitzvah to help uplift the “falling sukkah of Dovid” by supporting the holy site as much as possible, in every way that one can.
- The Upper and Lower Cities
- The Malbim, in his commentary on Divrei HaYamim, provides a history of the
- development and construction of Yerushalayim.
- After Dovid HaMelech ruled in
- Chevron for seven years, he ascended to Yerushalayim and immediately conquered the
- He writes: “I heard from the descendants of the mistarvim [those Jews who survived in Eretz
- Yisrael and other Arab lands from the time of the churban by adopting the dress and customs of
- the Arabs], who are known as Moors, and they are of the elders of Yerushalayim who remained
- after the churban, that the half of Yehudim Street which bisects the Jewish market from north to
- south is the boundary between Yerushalayim and Tzion. The southwestern part which is close to
- the burial place of the kings is Tzion Ir Dovid, and opposite this place outside the wall of
- Yerushalayim as it stands today are the graves of the kings of the house of Dovid. The part that is
- to the northwestern side is Yerushalayim. Because of the destructions [of the city], Tzion and
- Yerushalayim have become indistinguishable from one another, and they are a single city until
- that time when Hashem will look upon us from heaven and rebuild the destructions of
- Yerushalayim, and He will console Tzion with its rebuilding.” (Eleh Masai, Altona 5493, p. 22;
- Yerushalayim 5747, Chapter 6)
- fortress of Tzion and renamed it Ir Dovid.
- In another source we find, “And Dovid
- dwelled in the metzudah and called it Ir Dovid, and Dovid built around, from the Millo
- Yet we also find in Divrei HaYamim, “And the residents of Yevus said to
- Dovid: You shall not come here. And Dovid captured the fortress of Tzion, which is Ir
- Dovid… And Dovid dwelled in the metzad, and they therefore called it Ir Dovid. And he
- build the city roundabout, from the Millo until the surround, and Yoav sustained the rest
- of the city.” The Malbim explains that the verses prove that Dovid himself originally
- captured from the hands of the Yevusim the fortress that had stood upon the mountain
- top [the metzudah]. He lived there the remainder of his life and was buried there, and
- this is Har Tzion as we know it today, which is a high mountain upon which it is
- possible to build a fortress.
- Rav Yechiel Michel Tukachinsky also based one of his proofs as to the correct
- location of Har Tzion upon this fact as well as the writings of Josephus—Dovid’s
- dwelling was at an elevation above that of the Temple Mount. In addition, Dovid
- ordered that anyone who would conquer the city [of Yevus] which is adjacent to the
- Temple Mount, near the Shiloach [which was built upon the Ofel hill] would be
- granted rulership over it. The person who did, indeed, conquer the area was Yoav ben
- Tzruyah, the son of Dovid’s sister, who also became its chief and administrator.
- However, there was no connection between this lower city, where commoners and
- water-bearer subjects lived, and Har Tzion-Metzudas Dovid, which was a place of
- honor that housed the royal compound. One certainly cannot draw any connection
- between Har Tzion and Har HaMoriah, since the Temple Mount’s future location only
- became known to Dovid about two years before his death. It is also clear that the
- Temple Mount, even though it was called Har Tzion later on, is not the same place
- where there was once a fortress that served as a dwelling place for Dovid HaMelech
- for decades. And it is also certain that it never served as his burial place, nor was it
- also buried in the cave.
- We see, then, that in addition to Dovid HaMelech, there are a
- further ten kings of his line buried there, plus Yehoyadah the kohein gadol, who was
- also a vital link in the transmission of the Torah.
- Who can possibly describe the greatness of the kings who are buried in this holy
- place? Dovid HaMelech—one of the seven shepherds, the fourth leg of the Divine
- chariot, whose Tehillim are embedded within the hearts of the Jewish people and who
- was lauded so highly by the sages—it is certainly unnecessary to recount his greatness
- here. This is likewise true of his son Shlomo, who was the wisest of all men, who
- merited to build the first Beis Hamikdash, who “ruled over the heavens and the earth,”
- and sat upon Hashem’s throne. During his time, the Jewish people rose to their greatest
- height of glory and greatness, in a taste of what will be during the days of Moshiach. His
- power and greatness has already been recorded and is so well known; it is also
- unnecessary to elaborate upon it here. We will, however, devote some space to the
- praise that is due to the other kings of the house of Yehudah.
- The Me’am Lo’ez says in the name of Rav Moshe Galanti that Rechavam ben
- Shlomo was worthy of being Moshiach ben Dovid.
- Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said that
- if only Yotam ben Uziyahu would be together with himself and his son Rabbi Elazar,
- they would be able to cancel all of the heavenly judgments that apply to all of the world
- from the time of its creation until the end of history.
- The Rama MiPano wrote that
- Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was a reincarnation of Yotam ben Uziyahu,
- and this actually
- makes it easier to understand Rabbi Shimon’s statement recorded in Sukkah. He was
- able to harness the zechus of his own soul from a previous gilgul. The verses themselves
- plainly praise the kings Yehoshafat and Asa for being truly righteous leaders who “did
- that which was right in the eyes of Hashem.”
- “And his heart was proud in the ways of Hashem” was written of Yehoshafat.
- “Before him there had never been a king like him, who returned to G-d with all of his
- heart and all of his soul and all of his might.”
- While we do find that the verses are occasionally critical of the kings
- Rechavam, Aviyah, Achazyah and Amatzyahu, we also know that the halachah clearly
- states that it is forbidden to bury the wicked together with the righteous.
- Furthermore, we do not bury someone who is of intermediate status—even if he is a worthy person—
- together with a person of exemplary piety. Dovid HaMelech, Shlomo his son,
- Chizkiyahu and Yoshiyahu were all certainly men of remarkable piety. We must
- necessarily conclude, then, that all of the kings who were buried with them must also
- have been exceedingly righteous. It was only because of their very lofty level that they
- were taken to task for certain things.
- What is more, we also cannot take criticism leveled at other kings of the house
- of Dovid at face value either. Rav Menachem Mendel of Shklov said of the king Amon
- that the harsh statements made about him in the verses and the Talmud are really
- allusions to deep spiritual avodah that he had to do, which was all l’shem shomayim.
- Because he erred despite his good intentions, he is considered to have sinned.
- Rav Mordechai Yosef of Ishbitze wrote something similar about the king Menashe.
- The concept also appears in the Medrash Talpios about Achaz HaMelech,
- Melachim II:21; Divrei HaYamim II:33; Sanhedrin 103b; See Kisvei Rav Menachem Mendel
- MiShklov, Part II, p. 177. It is impossible to quote directly from his work here due to the depth of
- the concept and the limitations of our grasp of them. On this matter, see the Introduction to Yam
- “Menashe was born in a state of such profound yirah, that it would have been impossible for
- any human being to sustain. The truth is that the quality of yirah is very powerful in all kings; the
- Gemara teaches, ‘A king who bows does not rise again.’ (Berachos 34b) This yirah existed within
- Menashe to a very great degree. His sin was that he sought means to remove this degree of
- Divine awe from within himself so that he could be a human being with free choice, because his
- yirah had nullified his free will. It was Divinely ordained that he be born with such yirah, in
- contrast with Dovid HaMelech whose attribute was love. (Mei HaShiloach, Part I of Melachim,
- “In the Emek HaMelech, p. 148, we find regarding Yoshiyahu that there was no king that
- repented the way that he had [and there is no mention of what his sin had been, that required such , to be continued below in comments thanks 🙂