עמדות היו רגלינו בשעריך ירושלם, Our feet were standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.
ירושלם הבנויה כעיר שחברה לה יחדו, The built-up Jerusalem is like a city that was joined together within itself.
Yerushalayim has always been the focal point of our lives that has united our hearts, inspired our hopes, and enthused us with the courage to overcome our many enemies.
The Jewish nation would make a pilgrimage three times a year to fuse into our very being this eternal connection to the center of the universe that the rest of creation branches out from.
Each Yom Tov represents a different strength that draws us together.
Pesach reminds us of the unshakable faith in G-d that gave us the wherewithal to overcome the ‘Iron Furnace’ that sought to consume us in its wrath.
Sukkos acknowledges and extols the benevolence of our Father in Heaven who protects and provides constantly for our needs, ‘raining’ upon us His blessing, reminding us that even when facing difficulty, it is the history of His loving concern that buoys us during times of ‘concealment’.
It is on the holiday of Shavuos that we contemplate the gift of Torah that not only excites us with its truths, but unites us in its role as the ‘universal language’ of the Jew that enables one to connect to any other Jew by the virtue of our shared commitment to its study and understanding.
We are taught in the Midrash that the Torah was given ‘with fire, water and in the desert’.
The smoke that arose from Mount Sinai was evidence of G-d’s fiery presence. Perhaps this alludes to flaming challenges that at times seem to engulf us that requires an extra dose of faith in order to defeat these demons and conquer them.
The prophetess Devorah describes how rain dripped upon Mount Sinai. Maybe this too reflects on G-d’s promise of bounty to those who diligently toil in plumbing its depths encouraging them to be mindful of His concern for each individual even when it may not be readily apparent.
The need to give the Torah in the desert specifically served to make us aware that even on the often isolated journey of life through ‘barren terrain ’, it is the Torah we treasure and hold tightly on to, that empowers us to thwart competing diversions that taunt us with their pleasures, and that bonds us together in ways no other ‘common’ value can, enabling us to work together in recreating the powerful unity that was displayed at Mount Sinai.
While traveling this past Wednesday to Eretz Yisroel, after situating myself comfortably into my seat I began to prepare ahead for the Daf Yomi shiur I have been giving for many years. The seatmate beside me commented that he too learned the daily Daf. After striking up a kinship, he and his wife began to share other details of their lives. It turned out that his mother in law had been an active and loyal member in the Shul I had served in Los Angeles more than twenty five years prior, whom I remembered fondly. The Rabbi who I replaced in that job had been a beloved teacher of his wife, as well as the Rabbi who eventually married them off. Excitedly I subsequently shared with them the fact I was traveling to the holy land to partake in my daughter’s wedding there, revealing ‘coincidentally’ that the Rabbi officiating at my daughter’s wedding was none other than the son of the one who officiated at theirs! Additionally, my new friend enthusiastically recounted how he became a ‘student’ of a famed Los Angeles Rebbe by loyally listening for many years to his exhaustive and enthusiastic Gemara ‘tapes’, who turned out not only to be an old friend of mine but a close Rebbe and confidant of one of my very own son in laws!
The day I traveled was Yom Yerushalayim and I reminisced to myself the gripping fear and ecstatic joy I experienced as a young impressionable fifteen year old teenager.
The possibility of another holocaust that was looming for the vastly outnumbered inhabitants of our land brought Jews together in a very tangible way. The ensuing miracles that took place and the resulting euphoria were uplifting as every Jew sensed as if the ultimate redemption was at the door. But the flash of faith that was sensed and the fleeting sense of G-d’s love for his people waned. It was the resurgence to committing to the Torah and its teachings that brought about a remarkable resurgence of Teshuva, repentance that left an indelible bond that transformed our world.
I davened Mincha on that flight with extra fervor adding a little more emphasis in the blessing for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim.
I was also struck by the fact how our lives are all intertwined and by how through delving into the study of Torah we ignite new possibilities of bringing a consciousness of the Divine Presence into our lives.
I pondered my family’s own personal journey and how in the course of circumstances that at times seem so confounding nevertheless if one commits to Torah it all comes together in a remarkable tapestry of ‘interwoven threads’ that reveal a breathtaking portrait of G-d’s brilliance, presence and love in our lives.
I suddenly realized that it is precisely for this that we pray for when we beseech G-d three times a day to ‘return His Divine Presence to Tziyon with compassion’. We yearn for the day when His ‘hand’ will be visibly apparent for all to see.
Rebbe Nachman would often comment that wherever he goes he is traveling to the holy land and to Yerushalayim. Indeed we all are. It is time we got on the road, to embrace our Torah, cherish its teachings and immerse ourselves in its study. If we do we will sense joy not only in our learning but in our lives as well!
באהבה מירושלים עיר הקודש,