A Taste of Torah in Honor of Shabbat
by Rabbi Avi Weiss
27 Iyar 5758 May 22-23, 1998
Reflections on Yom Yerushalaim
The Torah in this week's reading proclaims that a house in a walled city may be sold in
perpetuity, but the owner has the right of repurchase during the first year of the sale.
(Leviticus 25:29,30--see commentary of Dr. J.H. Hertz)
Interestingly, the phrase "in a walled city" (lo--with a vav--homah) is written
in the Torah "in an unwalled city" (lo -- with an aleph -- homah).
Rashi explains this to indicate that the law applies to a city that has no walls today, as
long as it had walls when Joshua conquered Israel.
A thought related to Jerusalem come to mind. After all, for 19 years Jerusalem was
split in two with a wall dividing the new city from the old.
Could it be that the Torah here hints to events of contemporary times when Jerusalem
with its dividng wall (lo with a vav) will become a city without walls (lo with an aleph),
forever one, forever united.
Rabbi Duschensky takes it a step further. The Torah may be suggesting that while the
fortification of Jerusalem symbolized by walls is necessary for its defense, God's help is
at least as important to protect the city. To
paraphrase Rabbi Duschensky,only if we realize that Jerusalem has no walls (lo with an
aleph)--in the sense that we cannot only rely on ourselves but on our Father in Heaven who
gives us the power to defend ourselves--will the city have true walls (lo with a vav).
And perhaps it can be added, that only when the inhabitants of Jerusalem remove the walls
surrounding themselves, i.e., when the religious and irreligious come to love each other,
will there be a city that is secure, at
peace, whole -- walled.
So the deflection from "walled city" to "unwalled city" has
contemporary meaning especially during the week when we celebrate the reunification of
Jerusalem (Yom Yerushalaim). It remains our challenge to see to it that
Jerusalem never again be divided. And it remains our challenge to forever recognize
that it is the spirit of God that makes Jerusalem the "City of Gold"
(Yerushalaim Shel Zahav). Indeed, this will happen when we shed the barriers between
Then Jerusalem will be what its name means -- Yeru, Aramaic for city, of Shalom, eternally
undivided (shalem), Godly (Shalom is one of God's names) and at peace (shalom). Only
then will Jerusalem without walls become a walled city.
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