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Jerusalem Day

28 Iyar, 5765 / June 6, 2005
© 2005 The Temple Institute, Rabbi Chaim Richman - All Rights Reserved

"Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all you that love her; rejoice for joy with her, all you that did mourn for her" (Isaiah 66:10).

Today we are celebrating a holiday that commemorates a modern-day miracle. Today is the 28th day of the month of Iyar, observed as Jerusalem Day. It is the anniversary of the day 38 years ago, in the miraculous 1967 Six Day War, when Israel liberated and unified the holy city of Jerusalem. This is an emotionally-charged day of great spiritual significance for the people of Israel, and for all those who love the G-d of Israel... for we all know how much the Holy One, blessed be He, cherishes the city of Jerusalem. Our prophets tell us that from this city, the knowledge of G-d will once again flow to the entire world, when the Holy Temple is rebuilt. We have already begun to see the beginning of this prophecy, in our own lifetime.

Jerusalem Day, the 28th of Iyar, falls out exactly one week before the Festival of Shavuot - on the 6th day of the month of Sivan. As if somehow by Divine appointment or design, the two share a singular common theme. Something there is about Jerusalem Day that serves to prepare us, in every generation, for a renewal of our commitment to accept the yoke of Heaven, the responsibility of our Divine covenant with G-d through the observance of His commandments.

What aspect do the two days share? One idea is the concept of unity. Regarding Shavuot, we are taught that the people of Israel reached the highest level of unity at the festival of the giving of the Torah. When G-d asked them if they were truly ready to receive His Torah, they answered together in one voice, like one man with one heart, "All which the L-rd has said, we will do, and we will obey" (Ex. 24:7).

This classic response is demonstrative of the unique faith of the Torah-observant Jew. "We will do and we will obey" means that even though there are aspects of G-d's commandments that we do not readily understand, we take it upon ourselves to fulfill even those commandments which we do not understand - not only those which our limited human intellect is capable of comprehending. Not only those which we find convenient or which appeal to us as "correct." The enigmatic expression 'We will do and we will obey', culled from the deepest resource of the collective Jewish heart, means just that - first and foremost, we will doÉutterly without personal agenda, whether we understand the whys and wherefores, or not. Our sages comment that even the Holy One Himself was surprised at Israel's intuitive spiritual strength and insight as manifested through the unity of their collective response. He said: "Who revealed this secret (of 'we will do and we will obey') - which My ministering angels use in Heaven - to these children?"

One of the outstanding features of the camp of Israel in the desert was the arrangement of the camp according to the 12 tribes. Each tribe had its particular position, and each tribe was represented by their respective flag. The tabernacle, where the Divine Presence rested, was stationed in the center of the camp.

Our sages teach: from where did the people of Israel receive the inspiration to identify themselves through flags? They copied the idea from the heavenly angels. When the nation stood at the foot of Mount Sinai on Shavuot to receive the Torah from the Holy One, the heavenly host of administering angels descended upon the mountain, according to their legions. Although the angels were in unity, each legion was distinguished by its own individual flag. The Midrash states that the Children of Israel greatly desired to emulate the angels, and sought flags for their own numbers.

Like the flags at Mount Sinai, like the flags that flutter over Jerusalem today, Jerusalem, too, is a great unifying factor for the Jewish people. Almost nothing else evokes the response of the heart that wells forth simply by the very word Jerusalem as it falls upon the ear. This one word has the power of a symphony. Throughout the Bible the word Jerusalem is synonymous with everything that is good in this world. Only Jerusalem was chosen by G-d Himself to contain the Divine presence. Small wonder that even amongst those Israelis who are in favor of concessions concerning the Land of Israel, most are in consensus regarding the unquestionable status of Jerusalem; for safeguarding Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish people. Indeed, Jerusalem has always been a symbol of unity for the Jewish people. Thus the sages illuminate the verse in Psalms (122) "The built-up Jerusalem, like a city that is united together" to mean: "the city that unites all of Israel in friendship."

Who is not familiar with that most evocative of images from that heady period of the Six Day War, the photo of the IDF soldiers raising the Israeli flag over the Temple Mount. Like the flags of the angels at Mount Sinai, that flag was a rare symbol of unity, and served to inspire the people of Israel.

Looking back now in retrospect at that special time through the lenses of the generations that have since followed, all admit that there was something very special about that periodÉa time of Divine intercession and a time of Divine will, beginning a new historical process towards the Redemption. The Six Day War and the unification of Jerusalem opened some sort of window, through which we gaze backwards and forwards, up and down the ages. We now stand at that window, in wonderment, in awe. Although the Second Temple was destroyed on a Saturday night, the Midrash relates that the Levites who officiated in the Temple sang the daily song of Wednesday, as the fires raged around them: "O L-rd G-d of vengeance, shine forth!" (Psalms 94). Why did they not sing the song of Shabbat? Were they simply calling for G-d to exact retribution against His enemies, those who were destroying the Temple? I think not. For they foresaw, with prophetic enlightenment, that the next stage in the renewal of the Temple service and the redemption will take place on a Wednesday... the day they saw was Wednesday, June 7th, 1967 - the day of Jerusalem's liberation and unification.

However, the battle for Jerusalem is actually far from over. Anyone who has ascended to the holy Temple Mount, can bear witness to the fact that the place of the Holy Temple is being held hostage by those who continually seek our destruction, and the destruction of all that is sacred. The battle for the Land of Israel rages all around us, and Jerusalem lies at the very heart of the struggle. All of the spiritual battles that the people of Israel are currently facing - such as the Sharon government's wicked "Disengagement Plan," which calls from the expulsion of Jews from their homes - are an aspect of the battle which is being waged over Jerusalem, our heart and soul. This battle is raging even as we speak. The secret to the ultimate victory is the same secret that Israel used at Mount Sinai: the submission of our will, that of the nation and that of each individual, to the will of our Father in Heaven. When we are truly prepared to stand at the foot of Mount Sinai again, and internalize our Divine mission and destiny, calling out unabashedly in the presence of the whole world "We will do and we will obey" like one man with one voice, we shall immediately merit to rejoice in the ultimate rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, with the Divine Presence dwelling in its midst, and in the midst of the people of Israel, forever.

With Blessings from Jerusalem,

Rabbi Chaim Richman

PO Box 31876 Jerusalem, Israel 97500



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