King David begins Psalm 15 with a question:
A psalm of David. Hashem, who may sojourn in Your tent, who may dwell on Your holy mountain? Psalm 15:1
And in a few short verses, King David simplified matters, condensing the entire Bible into a short list of fundamental principles. Getting into heaven may not be easy, but it is not all that complicated. To be honest, these are also the requirements for entering the Temple, as David says “who may dwell on Your holy mountain”. For that matter, these should be the minimum requirements for entering the Land of Israel as well.
In fact, according to some biblical commentators, this question was asked of the priests by those who made pilgrimage to Jerusalem on the three pilgrimage festivals.
What are the requirements for ascending God’s mountain?
Imagine if the following scenario were true:
A few weeks ago, I took my two sons up to the Temple Mount. This required a bit of preparation; non-leather shoes and a dip in a ritual bath. The security check had been relaxed and I was not required to leave my identity card with the police or undergo a background check. I was a bit surprised that there was a new desk just beyond the police desk that I had to pass through on my way to the Temple Mount. A young redheaded man in a blue uniform asked for my ID.
“Hmmm, this seems to be in order,” he said, checking that the photo on the card matched my face. I reached out to retrieve my card but he held on to it, handing me a form to fill out.
“This is required before you enter the Temple Mount,” he said, handing me a pen and pointing to a nearby desk.
I sat down and began to read the form. There were nine questions with simple “yes” or “no” answers:
- Do you live without blame? Y/N
- Do you do what is right? Y/N
- Do you acknowledge the truth in your heart? Y/N
- Is your tongue given to evil? Y/N
- Have you ever done harm to your fellow, or borne reproach for your acts toward your neighbor? Y/N
- Do you honor those who fear Hashem? Y/N
- Do you stand by your oath even when it hurts? Y/N
- Have you ever lent money at interest? Y/N
- Have you accepted a bribe against the innocent? Y/N
My pen was poised above the paper but I was reluctant to answer the questions. On one hand, I knew that I was a decent man, no worse than most of the people I knew. On the other hand, I knew how far I was from upholding these conditions scrupulously. I didn’t mind lying on my taxes or using a fake ID to get into a nightclub. But lying on this form in order to get into the Temple Mount seemed to be counterproductive. I picked up the form and returned to the desk.
“Do I really need to answer these questions in order to go into the Temple Mount?” I asked the young man.
He looked surprised. “The Temple Mount? These are the questions they are going to ask you when you go to the next world. I see from your ID that you are an Israeli citizen, they should have asked you all these questions when you applied for citizenship. Filling out this form before entering the Temple Mount is just a formality.”
This obviously didn’t really happen but it should have. All of the requirements describe above relate to how a man should treat his yellow. But in order to have a relationship with God, to dwell in His tent, one must first treat his fellow men appropriately. This idea is repeated over and over again throughout the books of the prophets (see for example Isaiah 1).
Though the Temple may be seen as a place of rituals that connect man to God, it was destroyed due to rampant causeless hatred among the Jews. Of course, God wants us to serve Him and keep his laws, but the foundation is being a good person. Entering into God’s house is predicated on how we treat each other.
This is also inherent in the land of Israel. In order to dwell permanently in Israel, we must treat others appropriately.