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The Light of the World

January 9, 2001
© 2001 The Temple Institute, Rabbi Chaim Richman - All Rights Reserved

In the Midrash, our sages state: "Jerusalem is the light of the world. And who is the light of Jerusalem? The Holy One, blessed be He" (Breishith Rabba 59:8).

Last night, at the mass rally held outside the walls of the Old City in solidarity with an undivided, eternal Jewish Jerusalem, that light became a palpable, tangible reality that could be sensed. During Chanukah, we wrote in these pages about G-dŐs promise to "search Jerusalem with candles." But last night, no candles were necessary. It was reflected not only in the spotlights and torches that shone off the Old CityŐs walls, but in the faces of the hundreds of thousands of Jews who came from all over Israel and the world to line the streets and pledge their loyalty to the city that is also called by the sages "the mother of Israel" (Midrash MŐchiri, Psalms, 147). And just who is it that would be willing to give his mother away?

Speaking to reporters, Binyamin Netanyahu said "Jerusalem is our heart, our soul, and the center of our being. We cannot tear our heart in two, and we will never, ever divide Jerusalem." But the sages said it even better: "Jerusalem is called life" (Avot DŐRabbi Natan 34:10).

Last night, the collective, pure and untainted spirit of the Jewish people made a statement to the world: we will not allow anyone to tamper with our life. Mayor Ehud Olmert, diplomatically polite in the extreme, told Bill Clinton that it would be a shame for him to wreck eight years of friendship with Israel with his "creative" idea of dividing the city. "Think about it, Mr. President," Olmert said.

Elsewhere there can be found a far less diplomatic, more straightforward message to Mr. Clinton. "The L-rd rebukes you, O adversary; even the L-rd who has chosen Jerusalem rebukes you" (Zacharia 3:2).

"Like the flocks of the holy sacrifices, like the flock of Jerusalem in her appointed times, so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men, and they shall know that I am the L-rd" (Ezekiel 36:38). To behold countless Jews of diverse affiliations and backgrounds, speaking every language, filling the cityŐs streets to pledge their allegiance to her and to affirm their imperishable connection, was perhaps the closest one could get to the experience of the festival pilgrimage up to the Holy Temple.

"Jerusalem, built as a city that is compact together" (Psalms 122) - and as the sages comment on this verse, "the city that binds all of Israel together in friendship." This was called the largest gathering in the history of Jerusalem, but during the festival pilgrimage in the Holy Temple, there were even larger crowds. Then a miracle is said to have occurred: No matter how many pilgrims crowded into the Temple, there was always ample room for everyone to bow down before the Divine Presence.

Before the eyes of the world, Israel is again united in Jerusalem, and focusing on the Temple Mount, as one man with one heart. Each speaker at the gathering affirmed the Jewish peopleŐs inexorable bond with the Temple Mount, and recognized it as the link between our past and our future. For 2,000 years, Jews the world over turn and face this spot daily in prayer. It was noted that although the Arabs have squatted on our holy site for 1300 years, they never got around to changing their religious pilgrimage from Mecca to Jerusalem. Even on the platform of the Mount, the Moslem worshippers turn their backs on its holiness and bow down towards Mecca. Yet JerusalemŐs Mufti has called last nightŐs gathering a "provocation" and issued a religious edict obligating every Moslem to defend El Aksa. He also stated that even the Western Wall and its plaza "is Moslem property, including seven levels below, and seven levels above... It is forbidden for Moslems to permit non-Moslems to supervise, conduct services or pray in any part of the mosques or underneath them."

Let it be noted that to the Mufti of Jerusalem, we find another clear message, totally lacking in diplomacy:

"And the L-rd roars out of Zion, and utters His voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and earth shake, but the L-rd will be a shelter for His people, and a stronghold for the Children of Israel. So shall you know that I am the L-rd your G-d dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain: Then shall Jerusalem be holy, and no strangers shall pass through her anymore" (Zacharia 1:17).

Sunday night, at the Israel Policy Forum dinner in New York, Bill Clinton publicly unveiled his plan. "There is no choice but for Israel to divide this land into two states for two peoples." Jerusalem, says the President, must be the capital of both Israel and Palestine. Mr. Clinton was praised as a great peacemaker, and presented with a scroll inscribed with the Hebrew words "todah, haver" (thank you, friend).

However, a different, older scroll - the Torah scroll - bears a contrasted inscription for Bill Clinton:

"Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the peoples round about...and on that day I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all the peoples: all that burden themselves with it shall be grievously hurt, and all the peoples of the earth shall be gathered together against it" (Zacharia 12).

Zacharia the prophet met an angel carrying a measuring line in his hand. "Then I said, where are you going? And he said to me, to measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth of it, and what is the length of it. Jerusalem shall be inhabited like unwalled towns...for I, says the L-rd, will be to her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her" (Ch. 2).

With blessings of light from Jerusalem, the heart,
Rabbi Chaim Richman

PO Box 31876 Jerusalem, Israel 97500



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