Why Shechem? Why have the covenant ceremony on those particular mountains, and not Shiloh or Jerusalem, or even Jericho, where they were already camped?
How can the Torah call the place הגלגל? ספר יהושע says it was named after בני ישראל crossed the Jordan!
What does מול הגלגל mean? “Across from Gilgal”? It’s nowhere near Gilgal? Rashi translates מול as “far from”, מול הגלגל: רָחוֹק מִן הַגִּלְגָּל, but then why mention it?
We could answer the last question and say that the name was always Gilgal, and the interpretation in ספר יהושע was applied retroactively (“It is השגחה פרטית that we are camped in Gigal today, because היום גלותי…”) Ibn Ezra offers two other answers to the last question:
The latter answer is the most common one; Gilgal is a common name (“The Circle”) and the Gigal of our parasha is not the Gilgal of Joshua, and is near Shechem. I’m going to offer a different interpretation of דרך נבואה.
The gemara assumes that ביום אשר תעברו את הירדן refers to the entire ceremony, and מול הגלגל means “just across from the Gilgal of Joshua”, in time if not in space:
But in fact that is a מחלוקת. There is an opinion that, while the ceremony was on the same day that they crossed the Jordan, but no miracles were involved. בני ישראל built a model Shechem at Gigal:
Taking the aggadah seriously if not literally, it is clear that the covenant ceremony is intimately connected to Gigal, that it has to be מול הגלגל. I would propose that it is not necessarily a place name but a concept: גלותי את חרפת מצרים מעליכם. What is the חרפת מצרים that is being rolled away?
Shechem is where the brothers conspired against Yoseph, where he was sold into slavery. גלגל means cycle. Shechem is where גלות מצרים started and Shechem is where it ends. The ברית of the ceremony of הר גרזים and הר עיבל is different from the ברית סיני. That was between ה׳ and the Jewish people. This is the ברית that formally united all the people into a whole:
מול הגלגל means that the story has come full circle, גלותי את חרפת מצרים מעליכם, and they can get off the merry-go-round of Jewish history. The people are united and have overcome the hatred between brothers. That’s the דרך נבואה.
And after the ceremony, the people are supposed to conquer and settle the land and free it of idolatry, then והניח לכם מכל איביכם מסביב וישבתם בטח:
And we all know that David saw himself as the fulfillment of that prophecy:
But he could not do it. There are actually two criteria before the בֵּית הַבְּחִירָה can be built, ushering in the אחרית הימים. הניח לכם מכל איביכם מסביב is peace from external enemies. ישבתם בטח means that Israel is a ממלכה of משפט וצדקה, and that requires a “nation of laws, not men”. Society has to survive the transfer of power before we can call it stable, and that keeps David from building the בית המקדש. It will be his son, Shlomo:
But there was an earlier time when הניח לכם מכל איביכם, when building the בית המקדש was in reach:
But things fell apart:
ספר שופטים is the story of the failure of the message of Shechem. And even when the בית המקדש is built, בני ישראל will never truly recover. Even in the time of Shlomo, the nation isn’t really united: וישב יהודה וישראל לבטח. The גלגל continues to turn: