For the week ending 7 November 2009 / 19 Heshvan 5770
Har Habayit Treeless Mountain
The mountain in Yerushalayim on which stood the Beit Hamikdash was bare of trees.
This condition was mandated by the Torah when it ordered (Devarim 16:21): "You shall not plant an idolatrous asheira tree, nor any tree near the altar of the L-rd your G-d which you shall erect."
Not only trees were forbidden at this holy site but also any permanent wooden structure. The only exception was the wooden platform which was built there once in seven years for the king to stand upon and read to the entire nation gathered there from the Torah in fulfillment of the mitzvah of hakheil (Devarim 31:12-13).
The reason for this exception was that this platform was only a temporary structure that was dismantled after serving its purpose.