Parashat Va’etchanan: My Prayer and Plea

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Temple Mount

Parashat Va’etchanan and Erev Tisha B’Av 5767

I am writing this on the eighth of Av, after descending from two hours on Har Habayit – the Temple Mount, following immersing in a mikvah and wearing non-leather shoes.

In preparation for tonight’s lamentations and fast, 50 community rabbis and roshei Yeshivot, together with many other God fearing proud Jews, ascended the Mount to see and personally feel the destruction before our eyes.

When viewing the looks in the eyes of the Wakf (Muslim religious council) guards on the Mount, it was not difficult to imagine the carnage which occurred on this very same mountain when the Babylonians destroyed the first Temple and the Romans the second; murdering untold Jewish lives.

Many things came to my mind while being there. I recalled the last page of the tractate Makkot, which relates a visit to the destroyed and desolate Temple Mount by four illustrious tannaim (rabbis who lived in the period of the Mishna): Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabbi Akiva. When they saw a fox walking between the ruins of the Holy of Holies, Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah and Rabbi Yehoshua began to wail in the agony of the moment, but Rabbi Akiva smiled and quoted verses of consolation and hope.

The feeling on the Mount is depressing; but as we left passing the large green doors, the fifty and more people formed a circle and began singing the songs of Yerushalayim, in the spirit of Rabbi Akiva. Songs of hope and rebuilding; of returning to the times of Jewish grandeur as in the days of King David; songs of thanksgiving to HaShem for permitting us even this small measure of geula and salvation which generations of Jews did not even dare to wish for.

Upon returning home, I began to consolidate my thought and felt an irrepressible urge to write and to express my feelings as if I was at prayer, as follows:

Avinu Shebashamayim (Our Father in heaven), I come before You not even as a drop of water is to the ocean, but less than one of the five sextillion atoms which constitute a drop of water. So there is no reason You should have to pay attention to my words.

But You must! For You are responsible for me being an entity of existence, and being a part of Your handiwork. I possess some degree of importance. But even more, because You cast into my frail being the holy soul of a Jew.

I sit here among Your children of Israel. I am one of them, replete with all the failings and weaknesses which are inherent in us, plus those obstinate and blind qualities we have acquired by living in the Galut among the children of Yishmael and Esav.

As a Jew in Eretz Yisrael, who knows the nature of my brothers and sisters here, I can affirm that as things stand today, those who have strayed from Your Torah will not do tshuva.

I am certain that this is not an alarming chidush (new idea) for You. But my chidush is, and one to which I give my word and solemn oath, that if You reveal Yourself, even in a small way, this nation will return to You in love, loyalty and devotion never seen in any previous generation.

Hashem, please remember that no one is keeping us here. Why do the people who strayed from the Torah stubbornly insist on maintaining this impossible State of Israel? An arid land on the edge of the desert, with hardly any raw materials to guarantee a livelihood. Surrounded by enemies whose numbers we can no longer even estimate.

It is because deep down the people in Eretz Yisrael await Your intimate return, as a wife awaits her beloved husband who has gone off to war.

Never was there a generation as faithful to Jewishness as the people of Medinat Yisrael. If You just open the door a crack, You will find a people who have gleaned from all the sources of human history. There is genius here, out of proportion to any country in the world. Expert architects, designers and engineers just waiting to rebuild Your holy Temple to surpass the glory and beauty of the two which were destroyed.

Artists, scientists, men and women of profound thought.

Courageous young soldiers who will uproot the evil in this world as they avenge what was done to Your people for thousands of years.

Talmidei chachamim whose scope of expertise surpasses that of any previous generation. Rabbanim whose halachic decisions range from the minutest details dealt with by scientists to the question of reciting kiddush levana for people standing on the moon.

The moral level and dignity of man expressed here, even in these most difficult of times will blossom into halachic categories and embrace all of humanity.

It is no secret to You the intriguing conversations held in taxi cabs. How many times have I been told by drivers, “I am not religious. Of course I never ate anything treife in my life, nor would I ever drive my car on Shabbat but I’m not religious.” Or a group of teenagers dressed in not very modest attire entering a building and one by one kissing the mezuzah, as I saw yesterday.

Father in Heaven. We have strayed, but it is less our fault than the circumstances of our destiny. The love and devotion displayed daily here in Eretz Yisrael for the way of life You have commanded us, deserves to be acknowledged by You.

This is a great nation awaiting Your return. Moshe was a great man, he could suffer to be rejected 515 times. We however are brittle, fragile human beings who cannot suffer rejection for much longer.

We overcame the Shoah. We returned to Your land. We have fought Your battles. Now the time has come to open the palace door and let Your princely children return to the glory which was once ours.

The 15th of the month of Menachem Av is approaching. One of the two days in the year which the mishna designates as “the happiest days”, the other being Yom Kippur.

If I may be so impertinent to suggest, that this day would be an appropriate time for a major miracle. After 1935 years since the destruction of the second Temple, it would not be impetuous to request such a miracle.

The eyes of the world are upon the land of Israel as we fold the flag over parts of Eretz Yisrael, because we are only 5 million in a sea of hatred.

You are the master of drama and irony. What better way to bring down the curtain on this sad scene of 2000 years of history, and open a new one of hope, redemption, and kedusha.

If You open the way, even as narrow as the eye of a needle, we will enlarge it as wide as the entrance to the holy Temple.

Bring peace to Your confrontational children as a father restores calm among his feuding sons. We cannot solve the differences among ourselves, so it remains for You to show the way.

You have made us to be born from four different mothers: Rachel, Leah, Bilhah and Zilpah, in order to diversify the Jewish genius; but we come from one father – Ya’akov.

You have dispersed us over the four corners of the globe in order to diversify our keeping of the Torah, and You have returned us home, to Eretz Yisrael, just as You brought back our father, Ya’akov.

HaRav Sa’adia Gaon has stated that we are a nation only by virtue of the Torah. The time has come to restore the feelings of brotherhood here in Eretz Yisrael, under the canopy of the Torah. Only You can bring this about.

Give us another chance – we won’t disappoint You.

With love, Your son Nachman Kahana

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.