The Unity of Yom Yerushalayim and the Unity during the Pandemic: Can We Make It Last?

We will soon celebrate the 53rd anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.  Rav Moshe Zvi Neriah, z”l, one of Rav Kook’s most influential disciples, asked the following question.  Why did we merit the Old City of Jerusalem only in 1967 and not in 1948?  He explained that Jerusalem is meant to be a focal point of unity and cohesion for the Jewish people.  The Gemara in Masechet Zevachim 114b used a particular phrase when teaching that the Korban Pesach may only be brought in the city of Jerusalem.  It asserted that it was necessary for all of Bnei Yisrael to enter through one gate, which is a powerful statement of unity.

Indeed, in the 1948 War of Independence, the Palmach forces broke through Sha’ar Zion, while the Etzel forces were ready to break through Sha’ar Shchem.  At that time, we were divided and not united.  Had we succeeded in conquering the city, there would have been arguments about who captured the city and to whom does Jerusalem belong.  Jerusalem would have become a cause for conflict and dissension.  However, Jerusalem was given to the entire Jewish people.  For this reason, Rav Neriah explained, it was only in 1967, when we approached the Old City united, with one army, and entering through one gate, that we merited regaining the city.  At that time, the IDF, an army representing the national unity government of Israel that even included Menachem Begin who had always stood in the opposition, and the Jewish people all over the world, entered via Sha’ar Ha’arayot and liberated the city.

In fact, Rav Isser Yehuda Unterman, z”l, former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, explained that it was not for naught that the Chief Rabbinate decided that Hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut should be recited without a blessing whereas on Yom Yerushalayim it should be said with a blessing.  At the time of the founding of the state, there were many who did not recognize the hand of God in the events that occurred and who did not see our deliverance as a Divine miracle.  However, with the 1967 liberation of Jerusalem, in the wake of the entire period that preceded the war, there was an all-embracing feeling that kol dodi dofek, my Beloved is knocking.  All sections of the population sensed that they were witnessing a miracle.  This was cause for reciting Hallel with a bracha.  On Yom Yerushalayim, in addition to celebrating the liberation of Jerusalem, we celebrate the achdut, the unity of the Jewish people.  Today, our challenge is to make that unity last.

There are times in our lives when certain events drive us to do wonderful things and then when those events are over, we revert to the way we were beforehand.  In last week’s parsha, the Kli Yakar made a comment regarding the fact that the laws of arachin, of donating our worth, follow the tochacha, which describes the curses that will befall our people if we fail to observe the mitzvot.  He wrote that the juxtaposition of these two sections teach us that our response to the suffering that is recorded in the tochacha is to pledge to give tzedakah, to give charity, like Yaakov Avinu who did so when he was fleeing from Esav.  However, he wrote that there was a difference between Yaakov Avinu and us.  Yaakov Avinu made a pledge to donate in times of crisis and he continued to act charitably even not in a time of crisis.  We, however, act one way in times of crisis and then often revert to our old ways afterwards.  We are called upon to make the incredible achievements that we accomplish when motivated by crisis, last beyond that.

That was the challenge of 1967, of life in Israel after the Six Day War and, frankly, that is our challenge today.  We are beginning to ease restrictions relating to the pandemic and we hope to continue to do so in the future in a safe way.  At this time, let us reflect for a moment about what our proudest moments during these times were.  Was it the achdut, the unity, with our families when we spent so much quality time together and davened so beautifully together?  Was it the achdut within our communities and the ways we all found to help those who needed assistance?  Let us identify our proudest moments of this pandemic.  And then let us ask ourselves the next question – how do we make this last?

About the Author
Jonathan Muskat is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Oceanside.
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