The architecture is completed, for the moment. “Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the princes of the fathers’ of the children of Israel, unto King Solomon in Jerusalem; to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion (Kings I 8:1).” The last time the ark was moved, David danced. Today, the whole people is assembled to see it brought up to the Temple Mount. “And they brought up the ark of the Lord, and the tabernacle of meeting, and all the holy vessels which [were] in the tabernacle, and the priests and the Levites did bring them up (Kings I 8:4).” After all of the wanderings, and the capture and the recovery, the ark finally has a home, in God’s house. Massive sacrifices are made to mark the occasion, which sounds incredible. I can’t even imagine the awe and joy that a witness must have felt on that day.
The ark is placed in the Temple. “And it came to pass, when the priests came out of the holy [place], and the cloud filled the house of the Lord (Kings I 8:10).” God’s presence completely fills the Holy of Holies, which is overwhelming for the priests. Finally, God has a place to centralize His presence, a home base. Solomon is overwhelmed, and he prays to God before all the people. “And he said, ‘Lord God of Israel, [there is] no God like you, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, Who keeps covenant and mercy with Your servants that walk before You with all their heart (Kings I 8:23).'” With God dwelling amongst the people in the Temple, an ancient promise is finally fulfilled. The people have a place to turn towards in prayer, a direction that they can concentrate their intentions to.
“When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against You; and they shall pray toward this place and praise Your name, and repent of their sin, so that You may answer them (Kings I 8:35).” Whenever there is a problem, this will be the place that the people look towards, where their help will come from God. This centralization of prayer and longing is powerful. It’s that power that I feel when I visit the kotel [Western Wall] today. I don’t necessarily feel connected to the site itself, as much as I want to. But, as Solomon prophesied, I do feel a bond to the wishes that have been directed at that place over the generations. I know that during centuries of exile, that spot was the place that people dreamt of, that they cried over. And I get to be there. It’s humbling, and empowering all at once. And this chapter is where all of those emotions started. This is one of the things that I love about studying Torah. Honestly, this has been one of my favorite chapters so far, because I identify with the emotion that it evokes.