Judaism: Jerusalem Liberation Day (Yom Herut Yerushalayim)
Flood of water, flood of fire
The Torah records that the Flood began “in the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month” (Genesis 7:10), and finished “in the six hundred and first year…in the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month” (ibid. 8:13-14). The Talmud (Rosh ha-Shanah 11b) records a controversy as to which the second month was. According to Rabbi Eliezer, who a page earlier had posited that the world was created in Tishrei, the second month was MarCheshvan; according to Rabbi Yehoshua, who a page earlier had posited that the world was created in Nisan, the second month was Iyyar.
What was the ideological basis for the disagreement between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua? Does it really matter if the world was created in Tishrei or Nisan, and consequently if Noah’s year-long Flood began and ended in MarCheshvan or in Iyyar? What was each of these Torah giants trying to teach?
I suggest the following:
Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua define their different outlooks: “Rabbi Eliezer says: In Tishrei the world was created… In Nisan they were redeemed, and in Tishrei they are destined one day to be redeemed in the future. Rabbi Yehoshua says: In Nisan the world was created…. In Nisan they were redeemed, and in Nisan they are destined one day to be redeemed in the future” (Rosh ha-Shanah 10b-11a).
Both Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua agree that the month in which the world was created is the month in which Israel is destined one day to be redeemed. Both agree that there is an inherent connexion between the Creation and the final redemption, and both agree that there is a connection between Creation and the Flood, because both agree that “the second month” (Genesis 7:10, 8:13) in which the Flood began and finished means the second month from Creation (whether Creation was in Tishrei or in Nisan).
Let us note here that the gematria (the numerical value) of the first verse in the Torah – “In the beginning G-d created Heaven and earth” – is 2,701. The renewal of Creation – “And in the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth became dry” (Genesis 8:14) – shares the identical gematria.
The Ba’al ha-Turim (Rabbi Ya’akov ben Asher, Germany and Spain, c.1275-1343), commenting on Genesis 8:2, notes that the word va-yikkaleh (“desisted”) occurs only twice in the entire Tanach. The first time is when the Flood began to subside, “va-yikkaleh – and the rain from Heaven desisted” (Genesis 8:2). The second time was in the Sinai Desert, after the sin of the golden calf, when the people were so generous with the gifts they brought for the Tabernacle, that Moshe had to tell them not to bring any more, “va-yikkaleh – and the nation desisted from bringing” (Exodus 36:6). Says the Ba’al ha-Turim, “This teaches that in the merit of Israel the rain [of the Flood] desisted”.
And the Midrash explicitly sees the end of the Flood as the harbinger of Israel’s redemption. It picks up on Noah’s sending forth the dove; “and the dove did not find any resting-place for the sole of her foot, so she returned to him, to the Ark” (Genesis 8:9).
The Midrash cites Rabbi Yehudah ben Nachman who quoted Rabbi Shimon: “Had she found a resting-place she would not have returned. Similarly, ‘she [Israel] dwells among the nations, she did not find any resting-place’ (Lamentations 1:3). Had they [Israel] found any resting-place, they would not have returned [to the Land of Israel]” (Bereishit Rabbah 33:7).
Similarly, even when we returned to part of our homeland, had we found rest we would not have returned to the rest of it. But nineteen years to the day after independence, eleven Arab and Moslem states (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Sudan, and Pakistan) began their preparations to attack Israel, to exterminate the country and all its inhabitants (the Jewish ones, that is).
The Arab mobilisation, which began on Israel’s nineteenth Independence Day (Yom ha-Atzma’ut 5727/1967), would explode into total war three weeks later on Monday 26th of Iyyar (5th June).
It was a war that Israel was desperate to avoid. But so implacable was the Arab and Moslem hatred that there was no alternative. We found no rest, even though on the Monday morning, an hour after the war with Egypt began, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol sent a message to King Hussein of Jordan via the offices of General Odd Bull, chief of the United Nations observers: “We shall not initiate any action whatsoever against Jordan”.
Faced with a two-front war with Egypt and Syria, the last thing Israel wanted was a third front against Jordan.
But at 11:00 that morning Jordanian artillery batteries within Jerusalem launched a barrage against Israel. Jerusalem was within range of small-arms fire, while Ramat David and Tel Aviv were pounded by long-range canon, and the Royal Jordanian Air Force bombed Netanya, Kfar Saba, and certain strategic road junctions.
The result was all-out war against Jordan.
And so, in the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, on the 27th of Iyyar – the same date that the earth became dry at the end of the Flood according to Rabbi Yehoshua – the Israeli Army began advancing towards historic Jerusalem, and the next day, the 28th of Iyyar, they captured all of Jerusalem, Hevron, Jericho, Shechem, and the rest of the areas west of the River Jordan which had been under Arab occupation for nineteen years.
Like the dove which Noah had sent forth, had we found rest we would not have returned to all these places.
But G-d had other plans for His nation and His Land. We are destined – all Jews, whether they or the nations of the world like it or not – to return to the Jewish homeland. And the entire Land of Israel – again, whether Israel or the nations of the world like it or not – is destined to return to its true masters and sons, the nation of Israel.
What we have witnessed in the last several decades is but the beginning of the final redemption.