This week we celebrated Yom Yerushalayim — the day on the Hebrew calendar marking the reunification of Jerusalem during the events of the Six Day War in 1967.
It marks the first time in 2,000 years that the Old City, our capital and home to our Holy Places, fell back into Jewish sovereignty and we had unrestricted access to our Holy Sites. The Temple Mount and the Kotel — the remaining pieces of the Beit HaMikdash were ours once more and the city became open to worshippers of all faiths.
However, despite considerable cause to celebrate, it would be remiss of us to do so without reflecting on the causes of our exile in the first place.
There is a concept that the people of Israel leading up to 70 CE were ostensibly religious people — they carried out the ritual obligations, they prayed, they offered the Temple sacrifices etc. The problem was that there was an internal attitude that had been forgotten and disregarded, the principle to love your fellow — the concept of Acheinu Kol Beit Israel (all of the house of Israel are my brethren) was lost, and with that attitude lost, so too did their religious commitment.
The principle that comes from this narrative is that only with love and respect for others can the other crucial aspects of our lives, be it spirituality, or our relationships etc, truly flourish.
There’s a Midrash that further conveys this principle, it relates what occurred in Heaven during the onset of the Exile when the Jews were being marched out of Yerushalayim.
We’re told that during this period there was chaos in Heaven. Avoteinu and Imoteinu — our forefathers and foremothers — pleaded, begged, interceded and petitioned G-d to have mercy on Israel — “how could you foresake your own children?” They asked.
But G-d quieted the concerns of them all. Abraham who argued for the merit of his bringing monotheism to the world, Isaac who argued for his willingness to be sacrificed on Mount Moriah and Jacob, Moses, David and Solomon who all argued for the sake of their merits. But to all of them G-d reacted in the same ways, the Jews’ abandonment of Him could not be forgotten one the merits of their forefathers.
However, there was one of our forebears He could not ignore and that was Rachel imeinu of Blessed Memory.
When Rachel’s soul came before G-d, she cried out for her children.
She pleaded before G-d: “I waited seven years to marry my husband, and when the seven-year period ended and my father replaced me with Leah, I overcame my jealousy, I allowed a competitor into my home, how much more so are you able to do the same and overcome jealousy of the competitor in your home (the idols of Israel).”
Rachel here merited an answer — she, even more so than our forefathers, displayed the respect for her sister, the ability to overcome negative feelings to her kin, unconditional love for those around her and the absolute rejection of jealousy – traits so crucial for the Jewish people.
For this, G-d answered her very famously: “don’t cry for your children, Rachel, because for your sake I will return them to your homeland in Eretz Israel once more.”
There’s a concept that when we make Aliyah to our homeland, returned to us by G-d, that we wipe a tear from Rachel imeinu’s eye.
We see here that our redemption is, at least in part, due to Rachel’s merits – those that our ancestors in 70 CE lacked — respect, kindness, modesty, compassion, and unconditional love for those around us.
We should learn from Rachel here.
We should aspire with conviction to emulate her behaviour so we may be worthy of the miracles bestowed on us by G-d in the last 68 years.
After all, as Rav Kook so poignantly stated, as the Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred, so too will it be rebuilt because of baseless love.
May we wipe away the tears next year in Yerushalayim.