Forty eight years ago, the Jewish people returned to the holy places of Jewish history. It’s a dangerous thing to enter the sacred. It was dangerous then, and the dangers remain to this day. Chapter 16 lays out the guidelines for safely entering and exiting sacred space, and we have much to learn from them.
The first condition is the willingness to offer sacrifices. This we’ve known all too well how to do, many, many sacrifices to allow the Jewish people to hold onto this land. But it must be mentioned, because in some camps, the willingness to sacrifice is faltering, people are questioning if this land is worth all the sacrifice, if we wouldn’t be better off somewhere else.
There is some truth to these sentiments, because it is not human lives that we are meant to be sacrificing. The Torah describes the way to enter the sanctum and to live. First, the kohen must lay aside his lavish clothing, and enter only with the simplest clothes of plain linen. After the miraculous victories of the 1967, we have not maintained this principle foremost in our minds. Instead, our victory, and our new access to the sacred filled us with pride, arrogance, and a sense of ownership which is anathema to the ethical and the authentically religious.
The second requirement to survive the encounter with the most holy is to enter surrounded by a cloud of incense. The variety of spices that must compose the incense represents the varieties of Jews. If one type is missing, even if it is the foul smelling galbanum, the incense is unfit. But in order to be used to enter the holy of holies, there is an additional requirement for the incense. Each ingredient needs to be ground together until it is exceedingly fine. We can only access the sacred if we are all together, and we can only all be together if each group is willing to humble itself, to make itself exceedingly small. For me, more than anything, Yom Yerushalayim painfully highlights how far we are from this togetherness, how divided we are, how difficult it is for us to leave politics aside and to share in joy and thanksgiving. What good is ‘Har HaBayit BeYadeinu’ if we can’t muster up what we need in order to enter it?
This is my own little insight about the 929 chapter of the day, in 300 words or so. I’d love to hear your comments and start a conversation
What’s 929? A near-impossible challenge of consistency. A song of Jewish unity. A beautiful project worth checking out. Learn more at 929.org.il