by Rabbi Moshe Kempinski, November 4, 2004
At the beginning of this week; Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu and Rabbi Avraham Shapira called for a prayer gathering in the center of
Jerusalem.  These two, well-respected Rabbis; have called for such gatherings in the recent turbulent past.  This was the first time
they called for one in the center of town.  The Rabbis felt that the dangers inherent in Sharon's disengagement plan and the pressures of the world pressing for Israeli capitulation warranted their action.  It has been an old tradition that in times of great danger the Torah Ark was brought into the center of the cities and horns and trumpets were blown to ward off the impending decrees and dangers.

Numbers 10:9 
"And when ye go to war in your land against the adversary that oppresseth you then ye shall sound an alarm
with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before HaShem your G-D, and ye shall be saved from your enemies".

On Monday evening the call of the Rabbis was responded to by an unusually large amount of people:  Close to thirty thousand people gathered at Zion square.

They did not come to hear speeches.
They did not bring signs.
They did not come chanting slogans.

They came to pray.

The intensity of the prayers and the simple hearts and souls that proclaimed these prayers had a dramatic effect on all those that
came to observe or to film.  Usually the reporters and television crews who come to film or report on these events act almost purposefully irreverent.  The power of the three-hour prayer simply shocked them into reverence and silence.  I watched one of
the reporters watching and waiting.  When his camera crew and friends left to file their report, he stayed on.  After some time he put a folded handkerchief on his head as a makeshift kippa and just stood there closing his eyes.

Thirty thousand people gathered to cry out their pain and declare their faith in their destiny.  When it came time for the silent meditation prayer, not a sound was heard.  Thousands of men on Jaffa street and thousands of women on Ben Yehuda street and not a sound was heard.
At that moment they ceased being a collective of thirty thousand and they were transformed into thirty
thousand individuals standing alone before their G-D.

Then the strangest thing happened.

At the end of the prayer gathering music began to be played and the crowds formed hundreds of circles of dance.  None of this
was pre-planned and none of this was expected.  The intensity and pain of the "minutes before" melted into a wave of joy and rejoicing.  My son and I were drawn in and we weaved in and out of the cirlces singing and dancing.  At one point I looked up unto the main platform and saw Rabbi Eliyahu and Rabbi Shapira and others dancing with some of the terror victims from Gush Katif.

They were all smiling.

Nothing had been resolved in the natural reality.  None of the concerns had dissipated.  Yet all those present felt a sense of elation and calm.  They were all smiling.

This is the power of prayer.  Prayer elevates and puts in perspective.  Prayer reinforces our basic Jewish instinct of survival. 
Jews have learnt never to give up hope; never to cease striving for what is right, and never lose sight that there is a Creator with
a master plan in this world.

So we continue to strive against these dangerous plans.  We keep our eyes open with concern and caution.

Yet we continue to smile because we can never lose faith or hope.

moshe kempinski 
A journal of insights, stories and Torah thoughts from Jerusalem's Old City
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