|OUR FEET STOOD AT YOUR GATES, O' JERUSALEM
by Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli zt"l
|Mukdash Le'llui Nashmat R. Avraham Ben David
1. Great Expectations 2. Disappointment 3. Has G-d Forgotten? 4. The Devotion of Our Youth 5. Opening the Gates
|Great Expectations: Twenty-five years have passed since the breaching of the wall. It was twenty-five years ago today that Jerusalem was reunified. These have been years of growth and development for Israel's once-again Capital. Twenty-five years have passed since our borders were enlarged and we set about reestablishing ourselves on even more of our age-old national inheritance, Eretz Yisrael. These years have seen the Land of Israel gathering in her outcast and dispersed children from all corners of the earth. Significantly; all of the miraculous events to which we have been witnessing during these years were heralded by the collapse of the wall - the wall which divided the city and kept us from reaching the site of our Holy Temple.
Yet, in retrospect, we had expected much more. In the euphoria of our victory - we had dreamed of, even envisioned, something greater. We recalled the passage from the Book of Tehillim (Psalms), "I was glad when they said to me; 'let us go into the House of the L-RD"', and we too were glad. We expected recognition and understanding on the part of nations that here, the Chosen People have finally returned to their holy city. The Holy People and the Holy Land are at last reunited. This, after all, would have been in keeping with what our prophets had told us to expect. Our prophets taught that the final geula, redemption, with its mass ingathering of exiles, would bring in its wake recognition by the world's nations of the uniqueness of the Jewish People. Accordingly, we thought, that the world would support our right to return home. The nations, we reasoned, would be happy to see us, a once-again vibrant nation, no longer the constant targets of pilage and plunder - as we had been for so many generations.
Disappointment: Our expectations, though, were met with disappointment. True, "I was glad when they said to me: 'Let us go into the House of the L-RD...", yet the verse itself takes an unexpected turn, ending. "... Our feet stood at your gates, O Jerusalem." The struggle for Eretz Yisrael continues. Our claim to the Holy Land is still called into question. The battle for Jerusalem - our right to have the Holy city as our capital - has not let up. The nations of the world have to come to terms with it, and our enemies continue to lay in wait, plotting to wipe us out.
Here we stand, with tears in our eyes. One eye sheds tears of joy, the other tears of pain. We are pained by the deaths of the many innocent Jews who continue to fall victim to ruthless murderers, bloodthirsty killers who have lost all trace of 'G-D's image' in which each human being is created. Our enemies are intent on denying us the most basic of human rights, a right which belongs to every people on earth - the right to a home. They refuse to admit that Eretz Yisrael was forcibly taken from us, and instead insist on claiming it for themselves.
Has G-D Forgotten?: By the rivers of Babylon we, the Children of Israel, sat down and wept. Recalling our beloved Zion we took the solemn oath, "If I forget thee, Jerusalem..." and then we turned to the Almighty and requested that He, too, not forget. "Remember, O L-RD" continues the Psalm, "the [behavior of the] children of Edom [on] the day of [the destruction of] Jerusalem, how they said: 'Destroy her! Raze her to the ground!" To this very day their voices can be heard. The nations of the world, following the footsteps of the children of Edom; continue to call for our destruction. They may not say it outright, but we under-stand all too well. They refuse to recognize the legitimacy of Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. They ignore our right to the Land of Israel, and pass up no opportunity to belittle us. In light of the situation one is tempted to ask: Does G-D remem-ber? Doesn't the Almighty recall the suffering which befell our ancestors? Is history merely repeating itself?
G-D though, has not forgotten us. Look closely and you'll see. Just look at all the wonders and miracles of the past twenty-five years. See how far we've come despite the decisions of the nations of the world, despite the never-ending struggle with our neighbors. Don't you recall the Six Day War? the Yom Kippur War? the collapse of the 'Iron Curtain' and the mass Aliya, immigration, that followed? Don't you remember the scud missiles that Iraq showered down upon us? Who knows what would have become of us had G-D not interfered on our behalf? Who knows what would have happened had our fate been given over to the laws of nature?
That G-D does in fact remember is perhaps hinted at in the cry of Yermiyahu, (Jeremiah the Prophet) some two thousand years ago. G-D says to Yermiyahu "Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem, saying: 'So says G-D, I remember favorably the devotion of your youth, the love of your bridal days, how you followed Me in the wilderness in an unsowed land".
The Devotion of Our Youth: what G-D remembers is the devotion of our youth; how at His calling, we wandered through the wilderness for forty years. He recalls our incredible past. Who ever heard of such a people, homeless and possessing no land, wandering through the desert, knowing not where tomorrow will find them? And what other people, under such conditions, would agree to receive the Torah, as we did, without first investigating the extent of its obligations? Has any other nation ever demonstrated such a leap of faith? Is there any other people like the Jewish People, who, before setting foot in the Land of Israel, willingly accepted a Book of Divine Law, the express purpose of which was to be put into practice in that very land?
Where is there a people like the Jewish People who could agree to: "For six years you may plant your fields, prune your vine-yards, and harvest your crops, but the seventh year is... a year of rest for the land"? Despite not understanding how it's even possible to go a full year without harvesting crops, the Jewish People accepted it.
The cornerstone of the Jewish faith is just this, that we refuse to let pragmatic considerations deter us. We are too aware that there is a G-D in Heaven, and that His providence stretches out over us. Am Yisrael, the People of Israel, is a dynamic people, a freedom-loving people who refuses to be beaten. This is our true strength, "I remember," says G-D, the extent of your devotion, your unshakable faith in the Creator of Heaven and earth Who watches over the People of Israel.
Opening the Gates: "Our feet stood at your gates, O' Jerusalem." The gates, as we said, remain closed. If we really want to open those gates, then we've got to be sensitive to their needs. They're waiting for something. They sing out the lyrics of King David as recorded in the Book of Tehillim, "Raise up your heads, O gates, and raise up, you everlasting entrances, so that the King of Glory may enter. Who is the King of Glory? The G-D of Legions, He is the King of Glory!" We've got to see Jerusalem for the Holy City that she is. We can't simply enter into her midst and ignore the 'King of Glory', the G-D of Israel. We can't, in her midst, simply ignore the Shabbat and be oblivious to the Torah. Jerusalem is Keddosha, Holy, as is all of Eretz Yisrael. In their midst we are called upon to be Am Kaddosh, a Holy Nation. Yes, G-D remembers the devotion of our youth, but He does so on the condition that we too remember.
When the Jewish People return to their unshakable faith, accepting the full obligation of the Torah, then, no doubt, we will be victorious. At that time, the gates will swing open and Jerusalem will once again be unified, this time a mystical unification of the upper, heavenly Jerusalem with the lower, worldly Jerusalem. Then, even those nations who had hated us, will recognize and know that here, there exists a special people, unlike any other people on earth. They, too, will testify to our unsurpassed devotion to G-D, a devotion like that which we displayed in our youth.
May we be privileged to live to see the unity of the entire Jewish People, wherever they be, with regard to this matter -- added sensitivity to the Keddusha, holiness, of Eretz Yisrael, Am Yisrael, and the State of Israel. Amen, Selah.
|JERUSALEM INSIGHTS: A Project of SHORASHIM OF THE OLD CITY <http://www.shorashim.net>
From a Public Address Given on the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the Liberation of Jerusalem, by Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli