Judaism: The Wilderness and Jerusalem
The book of Bamidbar (In the Wilderness), fourth of the Five Books of the Torah, is the book describing the experience of the newly emerging people of Israel. It describes the beginning of their voyage into a destiny marked by challenges and great successes. It serves as an eternal guide for the generations that will follow imparting the lessons and expectations of the wilderness experience. Each generation with its own unique story can reflect on the experience of the Israelites in order to learn how to grow and learn from their own wilderness experience.
The prophet Hosea when describing his people depicts a battered and confused people seeking solace with other suitors following the waves of hatred and persecution in their own exile experiences. Yet, G-d never loses faith in His people, in spite of the fact that many of them may have lost faith in Him. The prophet describes how G-d entices His people again into the wilderness in order to rekindle their relationship:
"Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly unto her. .... And I will betroth you unto Me for ever; yea, I will betroth you unto Me in righteousness, and in justice, and in lovingkindness, and in compassion. And I will betroth you unto Me in faithfulness; and you will know Hashem." (Hosea 2;18-22).
Jeremiah reinforces that concept with his words;
"Go and proclaim in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, 'Thus says Hashem, "I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth, The love of your betrothals, Your following after Me in the wilderness, Through a land not sown."(Jeremiah 2:2)
What then does Jerusalem have to do with this march though the wilderness of exile and Jewish history?
At the very beginning of their first wilderness experience, Moshe and the children sing their praises to Hashem for taking them out of Egypt. They declare the following prophetic words;
“You in Your love have led the people that You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation. You bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, the place, O Hashem, which You have made for You to dwell in, the sanctuary, O Hashem , which Your hands have established/" (Exodus 15:13-17).
Jerusalem and the Temple are the destination and purpose.Though the long journey is critical for their development and growth , the result and purpose will be found in Jerusalem.
In one day in 1967 a prophetic declaration was fulfilled and a city torn asunder became reunited;
“I rejoiced when they said unto me: 'Let us go unto the house of Hashem Our feet are standing within thy gates, O Jerusalem; Jerusalem, that is built as a city that is reunited together.";(Psalm 122:1-3 ).
The city that had been yearned for four thousands of generations again became the united capital of Israel and the Jewish people. A city torn asunder was reunited.
The journey through the wilderness had been difficult and painful. Yet that yearning for Jerusalem never waned even in foreign lands .That ancient vow never lost its power to move and excite the people.
“How shall we sing Hashem’s song in a foreign land? If I forget you O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its strength." (Psalm 137:4-5)
Babylon, Rome, Spain, Inquisitions, Pogroms and gas chambers have littered the path of this journey, yet the dream and yearning never ceased. This year the voyage of the Jewish people goes one more step closer to its destiny. It is that step forward that we will be celebrating on Jerusalem day in the united capital of Israel. We will sing Hashem’s praises in the synagogue and we will dance in the streets of Jerusalem all the way to the Western Wall.
In the summer of 1967 I was writing a chemistry exam in my high school. I was also listening to the news reports from the war front in Israel. At a certain point they broadcasted a live report from the Old City of Jerusalem. The reporter’s microphone picked up the sound of Rabbi Goren , the chief rabbi of the Israeli Army, blowing the special shofar that he had brought with him.
The sound of that shofar was electrifying. When I heard it, I felt “the earth move under my feet”. I realized then at that young age that nothing would or could ever be the same. I made a promise to myself that one day I would become a Jerusalemite. The shofar beckoned me forward and eventually with Hashem’s help , my family and I merited to fulfill that promise.
I made another promise that day as well. I promised that one day and my wife and family would dance in the courtyards of the Holy Temple.
I intend with Hashem’s help to fulfill that promise as well.
We will be celebrating on Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem' Liberation day) not only because Jerusalem has become our home again. We will be doing so because it has once again been re-established as Hashem’s “home”.
"For Hashem has chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His habitation: 'This is My resting-place for ever; here will I dwell; for I have desired it".(Psalm 132:13-14 )
LeRefuat Yehudit Bat Golda Yocheved