For the Sake of Jerusalem …
These are remarkable days. These days between Pesach and Shavuot, these days between Yom Hazikaron and Yom Yerusholayim. What more appropriate time than with Parshat Emor—“say to the Kohanim’—and at the beginning of the month of Iyar, to focus and stir our hearts with a deeper appreciation for geula and the times in which we are living.
To hear and to feel the great calling of our era: “Mikdash Melech ir melucha, Sanctuary of the King, the royal city. Arise, leave from out of your ruined state. For too long you have dwelled in the valley of tears. He will shower compassion on you.”
Ashreinu! How Fortunate We Are
What an overwhelming privilege to be alive in this remarkable generation. Ours is an era when God’s new light—His ohr chadash—is growing brighter and brighter with each passing day, when He has begun to restore the Shechina to Zion. With our sensitive, attuned hearts we open our eyes and behold a joyous sight. Right in front of us we see the vision of the prophets coming to life. We walk the streets of Jerusalem, ir melucha, and we see elderly men and women relaxing on her benches, and young children playing in her streets. “Lift your eyes all around you and see: They have all gathered and come to you. Your sons will arrive from afar, Your daughters like babes on shoulders.” (Isiah 60:4) The buds are sprouting in the land, and the voice of Torah is heard throughout the land. Thousands of yeshivot, a flowering of Torah the likes of which hasn’t been seen in over two millennia, perhaps ever.
The land has been resettled, we are home again, and there is shefa, a growing flow of abundance—physical and spiritual—“They will stream to Hashem’s bountiful goodness, over grain, wine and oil…” (Jeremiah 31:12). “Then you will see and perceive and be radiant; your heart will be expanded and startled …” (Isaiah 60:4) Startled in the face of the words of the prophets all around us. After two thousand years of exile Hashem has lifted us from the dust and ashes—from the creamatoria. We, we who have somehow reached this time, this privileged time of returning to our land: “They will come weeping and through supplications I will lead them, I will guide them on streams of water, on a straight path on which they will not stumble, for I have been a father to Israel.” (Jeremiah 31:8) Hashem will give us countless reasons to rejoice, and at the same time comfort us. He will gently guide us on comforting waters, “I drew them with gentle cords [made] for people, with bonds of love …” (Hoshea 11:4).
Longing, Yearning, and Geula
It is specifically our proximity to the holiest of places, and the fact that we are now dwelling in Jerusalem, that opens a new depth in the souls of Israel, a longing for God and a revived inner yearning for the Beit HaMikdash, the sanctuary of the King. We are getting closer and closer. We can almost touch it. We’re right there, practically in the courtyard, at the Kotel, at the foot of the Mount. Our hearts ache from yearning. When, when… “We will come to His Mishkan, we will prostrate ourselves.” (Tehillim 132:7).
What can we do to draw the moment of the lovers reunion closer? What can we do restore the Shechina to her rightful place so that we may enter to the King’s chamber?
Step By Step
From Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones restored to life, we learn that geula is a two-stage process. First there is the scattered bones finding one another and being once again joined together. Then there is the new growth of sinews and muscle and flesh, until complete bodies have been restored. That’s the first stage. Stage two is the soul being rebreathed into the revived body. That’s the prophetic vision.
And then there is us.
The Shechina is the neshama, the soul, of Am Yisrael, the Jewish nation. The Jewish nation, is the body for the soul. And each of us is a unique part of this great collective of Am Yisrael. Exile, galut, tore the body to pieces. Bones were scattered everywhere, and the neshama, the ohr ha’Shechina—that inner, radiant, unifying light of the nation—was forced to retreat to the heavens. It no longer had a place, a body, a home.
And now, today. We are in the midst of the unfolding process of geula. The first phase began with the ingathering of the exiles. In 1948 there were slightly more than 600,000 Jews in Israel. Today there are six and a half million! The step-by-step, year-after-year process is breathtaking. The bones and the limbs have been reunited. The land blossoms and thrives; everywhere there is life and vitality and development and flowering of potential. Yet, while we have come so far, nonetheless, the full potential of the reborn body has not been fully actualized. Shechina, the soul, still can’t be fully present in a body that isn’t completely whole. We are still plagued by divisions and divisiveness, by machloket, and by schisms that stand between us and ourselves, our collective Self. The Shechina is still stifled.
Connection, Unity, and …
If we stop and look carefully, deeply, at Am Yisrael today, then we will see that we are a people that is thirsting. Thirsting for connection and synthesis; for a deep connection with our souls, for a deep connection with one another, and for a deep connection with God. The key ingredient that will enable us, with all of our differences, to be as one, is remembering that we are brothers and sisters. Beneath the surface of what divides us, is the collective neshama that binds us, and so we must do all we can to fortify that inner unity, that family bond. And, woven together with that, we must strive to deepen our knowledge and awareness of God.
We must delve the inner depths of our Torah, it’s sweetness that has the power to purify the land and to reunite us with our truest, most complete selves, and with Hashem our God. The more we fortify the light of Torah and the sanctity, the kedusha, of our souls, the more brilliant the light of true unity will shine within us, and bind us as one. Like the Menorah in the Beit HaMikdash that is fashioned of one pure piece of gold, our unity creates the body for the ohr ha’Shechina, the source of the eternal flame, the light that shines and shines and shines. That is the meaning of the completion of the rebuilding of the body in it’s fullest sense. The restored national, collective body that is ready for the return of the Shechina, the neshama, in all it’s radiant glory. Indeed, it’s that body and soul that approaches the Kings chamber, and that rejoices there.
Do You Hear?
In the book of Tehillim, King David tells us to listen, reflect, and take to heart, events that take place around us, most particularly in the life of the Jewish nation. “The upright will perceive [God’s guiding of events] and be glad … The wise person will take note of events, and will comprehend the kindness of Hashem.” (Tehillim, Malbim 107:42-43). Hashem speaks to us through events, as the Torah says, “Understand the years of every generation.” (Devarim 32:7).
As Jews, it’s incumbent upon us to thoughtfully reflect on events that impact Am Yisrael, and that shape and direct the flow of our history. For these events are nothing less than God speaking to us. God created the world, and guides it. Through events He makes proclamations. In our era, proclamations of geula.
Our sages have taught us that the final geula is greater than the geula from Egypt. Clearly, the return of the nation of Israel to the land of Israel is a simply stunning occurrence, and in three ways it’s greater than the Exodus from Egypt.
With the Exodus, the entire nation was redeemed from one place. With kibutz galiyot, the ingathering of the exiles in our time, Jews were brought home from every corner of the earth.
With the Exodus, our people had been in exile for two centuries. This time, our return took place after two millennia.
With the Exodus, we were redeemed through open miracles, and with the leadership of Moshe and Aaron. Our redemption, however, was the fruit of the stirring efforts of average Jews, Jews that were totally and selflessly devoted to the return of Israel, to Israel, many of whom came back with little more than the shirts on their backs, and a burning desire in their hearts.
We need to know that we are truly living in epic, historic times. The great events that have shaped our era will be recalled for the rest of Jewish history. Particularly when we reflect on their presence in the Jewish year; between Pesach and Shavuot, the days of redemption. It’s in this season, and this month of Iyar, that we mark Yom Hazikaron, Yom Ha’atzmaut, and Yom Yerusholayim. The reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty was a fundamental, historic shift in the basic condition of the Jewish people. And Jerusalem—liberated—the holy city, the city of the Mikdash, the Temple, and the focus of all our longings and dreams and hopes and prayers.
These days represent a unique opportunity to reflect and take to heart the awesome nature of the era in which we live. They call on us to devote ourselves to the mighty, unfolding process of geula.
The Shechina in Galut
For two thousand years the Shechina wandered with us through the darkness of exile. For two thousand years it was separated from it’s beloved. And now: so close, so close. Every sensitive heart can hear the cooing voice of the dove, and the voice of the lion that roars. The voices of a Father and children reunited. The last thing we want to do is undermine this love, this majestic reunion.
“For the sake of Zion I will not be silent, and for the sake of Jerusalem I will not be still, until her righteousness shines brightly, and her salvation blazes like a torch.” (Isaiah 62:1)
“In the future, a heavenly voice will ring out from the mountains, ‘Anyone who worked together with Hashem, let him come and claim his reward.’” (Medrash)
Yes, even the struggles and the hardships are an aspect of geula, an aspect called the birth pangs of redemption. Those that have fallen in battle. The missiles that just yesterday rained down on southern Israel. Those bitter enemies that try any way they can to stop geula, stop the blossoming return of the Shechina to Zion in it’s tracks. But be sure, they will not succeed, for ultimately they are going to battle with God and Mashiach.
Come, with devotion and joy, let us redouble our efforts. Let us take to heart the enormous kindness, the profound chesed, that Hashem has showered upon us. Let us stir our hearts in prayer, and in every sort of effort, to nurture the geula.
The ultimate fulfillment of the unfolding process of geula is dependent on an inspired awakening—a hitorarut—within our hearts. It requires absolute will and desire, and a higher, sanctified vision of our ultimate potential as a nation. And our deeply inspired awakening, will stir a responsive longing from Above. As the prophet clearly told us:
“You will arise and be merciful to Zion, for it is time to favor her, the appointed time has come.”—And why does that appointed time come?— “For your servants delight in her stones, and cherish her very dust.” (Tehillim 102:14-15 62:1)
May we merit to see, soon, with our own eyes, the complete return of Hashem to Zion.
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Translated by Shimon Apisdorf