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Yerushalayim - The Highest Place in the World!


The Gemara says that the Land of Israel is higher than any other place in the world (Zevachim 54b).  In Parashat Shoftim, the Torah says that if you have a difficult halachic question or court case and need to go to the Sanhedrin, which is located in the Temple in Jerusalem, "you should arise and ascend to the place" (Devarim 17:8).  Regardless of where one is located, he has to ascend to get there.  Based on this, the Gemara says that the Temple is higher than any place in the Land of Israel (ibid.). 
How can the Gemara make such a claim?  Mt. Everest and the Himalayas are higher than Mt. Chermon – the highest spot in Israel?!  Ironically, Israel has the lowest point on earth – the Dead Sea, not the highest!
The Radvaz, who lived about 500 years ago in Tzefat, explains how the Temple Mount lost its crown as the highest spot in Israel.  He writes that the non-Jews lowered its height as it says, "Raze it, raze it, to its foundation" (Tehillim 137:7).  The non-Jewish kings dug up the Temple Mount in order to build their houses, temples and churches higher than it.  Furthermore, the rains flowed down the incline of the Temple Mount and instead of preventing the razing, they encouraged it.  An earthquake also caused much destruction in Jerusalem and people built houses on the rubble.  There is one archeological layer on top of another in Jerusalem.  Archeological digs do not reveal virgin earth, but the remnants of earlier periods.  Thus, while Jerusalem became higher, the Temple Mount was lowered, but it once was the highest spot (Shut Ha-Radvaz vol. 2 #639)
The Chatam Sofer – Rav Moshe Sofer, who lived in Pressberg, Hungary about 200 years ago and was never in Israel, says that reality does not substantiate the Radvaz's claim that the Temple Mount was once the highest spot in Israel.  He provides an answer from a completely difference perspective by focusing on the statement that the Land of Israel is the highest spot in the world.  The Chatam Sofer explains that the earth is a sphere and it is therefore impossible to definitively say which is the highest point.  Everything is dependent on how one holds the sphere. If you hold the earth in a proper way than Israel, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are the highest places.  If you hold the sphere in a different way, someplace else will be on top. 
The essential job of a Jew is to have a proper perspective in life to ensure that Israel, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are always at the pinnacle (Chatam Sofer to Devarim 17:8).