Jerusalem Journal #9

My Dear Young Israel Family,

I trust Pesach was enjoyable for all. Our one seder was thankfully quite full with Saralea, Eliahu and their five boys, k"h, along with Bracha, Chaim and their daughter, k"h. It was a bit of a feat to have everyone sleeping in our rather small apartment, but the arrangements worked out quite well.

With G-d's help, we hope to be in St. Louis for David Hellman's aufruf in the end of July as well as Dalia Oppenheimer's wedding in early August. Yocheved and I look forward to seeing you.

Personal & Israel Observations:

Yom Ha'atzmaut was, of course, an emotional experience. No matter where one stands on the hashkafic spectrum, and no matter how the day is observed, I'd like to believe that everyone can and should on some level thank HaShem for the gift of Medinat Yisroel. Personally, I thank G-d, often daily, for the singular privilege of being able to live here and enjoy this special religious bounty.

Of course, who cannot but be deeply moved on Yom Hazikaron when the entire country mourns its lost soldiers and victims of terror. The documentaries in the media, the siren at 11 AM with its poignant and sudden silence all contribute to the solemnity of the day. How the country then transitions to Yom Ha'atzmaut is simply remarkable, no doubt, a powerful tribute to the indomitable Jewish spirit.

That night, following Yom Hazikaron, we went to Mercaz HaRav to daven Ma'ariv and join in the post-davening dancing. That morning, I delivered a shiur at Midreshet Rachel. On returning home, it was simply wonderful to see the parks overflowing with people relaxing with friends around a barbeque lunch. Later that afternoon, I heard a talk by a religious soldier, now a professor at Bar Ilan University, who fought in the liberation of Jerusalem 40 years ago. His story was riveting, especially when he told how he remembered to take along his tephillin, and how, under fire, he observed this precious mitzvah. Hardened though he seemed, he became quite emotional when he shared this with us. He was the only religious soldier in his platoon, and it was quite something when he told us how he was approached by his comrades to observe this mitzvah as well.

Speaking about appreciating the special spiritual blessings of Israel and of Jerusalem, in particular, here's another brief anecdote. Last week, in one of my visits to Rav Nebenzal in the Old City, I was standing on the ramparts overlooking the Har HaBayit and Ir David. What a spectacular sight! An elderly gentleman approached and stood there with me for a few moments. He then introduced himself as doctor from the Shomron. He told me he was born in Israel and makes sure to visit Jerusalem at least once a month. "I need to breathe in the air of this Holy City," he said with obvious feeling. I was deeply moved. Here was man, an Israeli by birth, who was ever grateful to the A-mighty for the beloved gift of Israel and Jerusalem.

Yom Yerushalayim this year will commemorate 40 years since its reunification and the city is planning to go all out with a variety of events. It will certainly be difficult to choose between the many exciting and meaningful activities being planned.

Next Shabbos, I'll be in Yokneam with many of your children. The community is hosting another Shabbaton and it's always a pleasure going and being with the people there. We've become good friends and genuinely enjoy spending time together.

Shavuot is just a few weeks away. Right now, I've been asked to speak in two places during the all-night learning programs which are everywhere. I'm planning, with G-d help, to walk to the Kotel, as so many do on Shavuot night, and daven vasikin at the Wall.

I'm so happy to note the up and coming simchas in the Shul. Yocheved joins me in wishing mazel tov to Dov &Tziona and Lester & Matilda Zeffren upon the forthcoming marriage of their daughter and granddaughter, Talia, and to Charles & Lois Lefton upon the forthcoming marriage of their son, Simcha. May we always rejoice with such happy tidings.

D'var Torah:

Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Yom Yerushalayim brings to mind the profound religious and national significance of Jerusalem, one which ought never to be taken for granted.

The Rambam (Hilchot Beit Ha'Bichira 6:16) asserts that the kedusha of Yerushalayim has remained undiminished since the days of King David and King Solomon. Why so, when the sanctity of Israel in general has not equally endured? Answers the Rambam, because Jerusalem's holiness is rooted in G-d's Shechinah and that Shechinah never expires. Its living Presence envelops Jerusalem with a unique kedusha that remains forever.

Part of that kedusha finds expression in a verse in Tehillim (122:3), "The built-up Yerushalayim, like a city that is united together." The Malbim, in his commentary, reminds us of the power of Jerusalem to unite all of Israel. Halachically, all the Tribes had equal access to the City (Megillah 26a); they shared in the City's sanctity. And when the members of all the Tribes demonstrated a brotherhood of harmony and cameraderie, when—to use the Biblical expression—there was "yachad shivtei Yisroel (Devarim 33:5), then Israel would experience the exalting Divine awareness of va'yehi b'Yeshurun Melech.(ibid)" What generates that bonding energy is, of course, our Torah. In fact, the two go hand in hand. We merited receiving the Torah when we are "k'ish echad, b'lev echad, like one man with one heart," and when we recognize the supreme value of Talmud Torah, we are drawn together into a powerful and eternal collective which Rav Soloveitchik has called K'nesset Yisroel.

The reunification of Jerusalem is a blessing that awakens these powerful spiritual yearnings and deepens our allegiance to our People and our Torah. May this blessing only lead to its culmination in the rebuilding of our Holy Temple, b'mheira ve'yamainu!