It has to be part of the Divine plan that Jerusalem was reunited just a week before the Shavuot holiday fifty-one years ago. As I stood at the Kotel Plaza on Jerusalem Day, this past Sunday morning, I sensed the history of my people on my shoulders.
There were my grandparents and great-grandparents who recited Next year in Jerusalem but never really believed they would arrive here. There were the brave souls who managed to make it to the Holy Land and prayed in the tiny alley in front of the Kotel, forbidden to sit in a chair, have a mehitza*, or blow a shofar. There were the Jews who for nineteen years following the War of Independence could only try and catch a glimpse of the Kotel from the rooftops of buildings on what was then the Jordanian border. There were the paratroopers, along with Rabbi Goren, zt”l, who liberated the Wall in 1967, their faces filled with wonder as they looked up at the holy stones. And there were my Israeli-born friends who clearly remember walking to the Kotel on that very special Shavuot fifty-one years ago.
Shavuot is a celebration of the marriage between the Jewish people and HaShem with the Torah as our marriage contract. We know, however, that HaShem did not just bring us out of Egypt to receive the Torah. We were commanded to take that Torah and come with it into the Holy Land where we would establish the Holy Temple.
Sadly, there were detours and setbacks along the path of history. It took us forty years to enter the Holy Land and once there another four hundred or so years passed until the Holy Temple was built. Due to our sins it was destroyed twice. Yet we have a Divine promise that a third Temple will be rebuilt to last forever.
Although there was always a tiny Jewish presence in the Land of Israel most of us lived in the Diaspora. In the 1880’s a tiny trickle of Jews began coming home. That trickle continued to flow and following the miraculous establishment of the State it turned into a river. Now probably half of world Jewry lives in the land given to our forefathers. Despite this, there are many who deny the right of Israel to exist.
This past Monday, though, the day following Jerusalem Day, and five days before Shavuot, another miracle occurred. The United States of America, the leading world power, recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal capitol. We already know that Jerusalem is our most holy city but it feels nice to have that knowledge validated.
As I stood at the Kotel this past Sunday morning and remembered history I was also looking at the future. For surrounding me were dozens and dozens of teenage girls. Girls who had never known the time when the Kotel was verboten to Jews. Girls who could travel to the Kotel whenever they wanted.
It is my prayer that the children of those girls will never know there was a time when Jews were forbidden to pray on the Temple Mount. It is my prayer that they will never have to see a red sign denying them entrance to parts of the Land of Israel. It is my prayer that on Jerusalem Day next year we will all be preparing to hold our Shavuot services, not at the Kotel, nor at the Temple Mount, but rather in the Third Holy Temple.
|Morning services at the Kotel on Jerusalem Day|
* mehitza: a divider used to separate males and females during prayers