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In Melbourne Shabbat begins Fri 25 Jan 2019 08:20 PM and ends Sat 26 Jan 2019 09:20 PM
ג' סיון ה' אלפים תשע"ב
Yom Yerushalayim speech 5772
45 years have passed since Lt. General Motta Gur led his troops to victory, and announced those immortal words “Har HaBayit BeYadeinu”. 45 years have passed since the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City.
Every Hebrew letter has a numeric value – a Gematria, and the number 45 can be depicted by the Hebrew letters mem and hai, which spell out the word “Mah” which means “What”.
I believe that the message of the 45th Yom Yerushalayim celebration is for us to ask the question of what. As in: what does Jerusalem mean to each of us as individual Jews, and what does Jerusalem mean to us collectively as a nation?
Today, more than ever, we need to be crystal clear about the nature of our connection to our holiest city. Is it not remarkable how our enemies, throughout history, have tried so diligently to sever any Jewish connection with Jerusalem? They realize that there is something profoundly important about our connection with Jerusalem.
They appreciate that our bond transcends mere garden variety patriotism and wistful nostalgia. The Romans expelled Jews from Jerusalem and barred them from re-entering on pain of death. With a judenrein Jerusalem, they felt confident enough to vainly proclaim that Jewish life had now officially ended. They believed that by physically removing Jews from Jerusalem they had succeeded in defeating Judaism itself.
Centuries later, the Crusaders downplayed the Jewish nature of the city, and began a rebranding exercise once again intended to disassociate Jerusalem from the Jews and rewrite the city’s history to connect it with the human incarnation of their god, and the place of his inconvenient death. Like the Romans before them, the Christians expelled Jews from Jerusalem, and destroyed its synagogues and Jewish symbols.
The Muslims came after, and as those before them, attempted to revise the history of Jerusalem. In the legends they told their illiterate followers, they expunged any Jewish ties to the city.
So many times, our foes attempted to airbrush the Jew out of Jerusalem.
In doing so, they employed an ancient version of Stalin’s practice of erasing people’s faces from photos, after these people fell out of favour with the dictator.
In rewriting the history of Jerusalem each of these cultures attempted to rewrite our place, the Jewish place, in history. They consigned us, or so they believed, to the dust bin of history. “A once great people,” they declared, “now abandoned by G-d and bypassed by time.”
But they underestimated the Jew’s ability to remember. Even if we could not physically access the city, we maintained an unbreakable bond with it.
In every home we built, no matter where on earth, we left a square unplastered to remember Jerusalem. At every wedding, at the height of our joy and celebration we broke a glass to remember Jerusalem.
During every prayer we offered we physically faced in her direction.
Our enemies forget time and time again that for the Jew, Jerusalem is not merely a location on a map or a militarily strategic site or a commercial hub.
For the Jew, Jerusalem is infinitely more. It is mentioned over six hundred times in Tanach, which stands in stark contrast to the fact that there is not even a single mention of the city in the Qur’an. In spite of the best efforts of history’s most devious propagandists, Jerusalem’s historical connection with Jews and indeed with all of Judaism is undeniable.
Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish people, and the Jewish people belong to it.
Jerusalem is much more than a city, it is what binds one Jew to another in a way that is impossible to explain to someone not privileged to experience this bond. The Gemorah says Jerusalem was named by G-d Himself.
The city’s name is a composite of two words: Yira, which means “vision” and shalem, which means “peace.”
The peace of Jerusalem is the peace at the centre of the spokes of a wheel, where opposing forces may be delicately balanced and reconciled. The Gemorah says that creation began in Jerusalem, and the world radiated outward from that original spot.
Jerusalem is the centre which gives perspective to the rest of the world.
The world flows into this spot, and all life's forces resonate from it. The Kabbalists teach us that every holy thought, every moral instinct, every sacred yearning, and every spiritual experience originates from within the walls of Jerusalem.
Humanity has long understood that he who controls Jerusalem controls the world's memory. He controls the way G-d is seen. He controls the way life's forces are cast into perspective. And therefore he controls the way we collectively see our future.
Elsewhere, G-d may be a theory, but in Jerusalem, G-d is felt as a tangible presence. In Jerusalem we reach beyond the frailty and vulnerability of our lives, and we sense and strive for transcendence. When a Jew visits Jerusalem for the first time, it does not feel like it is the first time; it feels like a homecoming.
Our bond to Jerusalem never was physical, and therefore cannot be taken away from us using physical weapons and physical threats.
Our connection to Jerusalem never was corporeal, and therefore it cannot be severed through political manipulations, United Nations resolutions or an unsympathetic White House.
Our connection to Jerusalem is spiritual, and therefore eternal. It is mystical and therefore timeless. It is Divine and therefore more certain than anything could ever be. In conclusion I would like to relate a story that will illustrate a practical way how we can all strengthen our connection to Jerusalem.
I heard this story from a person who knows the people involved in the story.
This story takes place during the darkest days of the Second Intifada. The Chabad movement in Israel began a door-to-door campaign to encourage Israelis to accept an additional Mitzvah upon themselves, “lema’an bitachon ha’aretz” – for the sake of Israel’s security. A group of bachurim knocked on an apartment door, while doing their rounds as part of this Mitzvah-drive.
The door was answered by a teenage boy who explained that his parents were out at the time, and that he was alone in the home. The Chabadniks explained that they were there to ask him if he would take upon himself the performance of an extra Mitzvah lema’an bitachon ha’aretz. Although the young man did not consider himself observant, the idea that he could do something tangible for Israel’s security appealed to him.
He resolved to wear a Kippah every Friday night and he resolved to do this specifically for Israel’s security. The first Friday night after the encounter, with the advent of Shabbat, he duly put on his Kippah; and then prepared to go out with his friends – to a disco.
At first his buddies didn’t notice that he was wearing a head covering. Sometime during the drive to the disco one of the occupants of the car noticed that his friend was wearing a Yarmulkah. “Take it off” he demanded.
“No!” the young man responded. “I am wearing it for Israel’s security.”
Everyone in the car immediately got involved in a very loud and heated discussion.
They all insisted that he remove the head covering.
They knew they would be deeply embarrassed to be seen with their friend while wearing such an obvious religious symbol. They argued that it was Shabbat and it would be hypocritical to wear a Kippah in a discothèque on Shabbat. They reminded him that he wasn’t a religious fanatic.
They pleaded with him to accept the obvious logic that his placing a piece of material on his head would not have any tangible effect. They threatened him, begged him and tried to convince him. But there was no reasoning with the young man.
Israel’s security was at stake, and he wasn’t about to jeopardize Israel’s security on account of a little peer pressure. The friends were too mortified to drive up to the discothèque with their buddy sporting such an undeniable religious symbol, so they kept circling around the block, trying to convince him of the error of his ways.
Suddenly they heard a loud explosion.
For you see, the discotheque that was their intended destination was a Tel Aviv beachfront venue known as the Dolphinarium, and that Friday night, a terrorist had detonated a bomb that killed 21 people and injured 132.
That Kippah had saved the life of all the occupants of the car, who never reached harm’s way because they were too busy arguing over the Kippah.
Let us join that young man, and resolve on this Yom Yerushalayim to add one more Mitzvah lema’an bitachon ha’aretz. Let us resolve to add one more Mitzvah, lema’an bitachon Yerushaliyim, and lema’an bitachon am Yisroel.
With every additional good deed we add, we strengthen the golden threads that link us to Hashem, that link us to Jerusalem and that link us to each other.
With this tried and tested security system, we ensure that Jerusalem will remain the world’s Jewish spiritual capital. The power of a single Mitzvah is enough to ensure that Jerusalem does not become a symbol of anguish and bitterness, but rather a symbol of trust and hope. With every good deed we perform we bring about the fulfilment of that powerful line in the poem that says:
“Never say that you go on your final way, However dark the skies, however bleak the day.
Our longed for hour will come at last The pounding of our footsteps will proclaim - MIR ZENEN DO -- We are here!”
Ladies and gentlemen, in the merit of our good deeds, may we warrant the fulfilment of that short, but meaningful and mighty prayer:
“Leshana Haba’a Biyerushalayim Habenuya”.