Engraved in our hearts forever

The Torah is the life of the Jewish people, and the stones of the Western Wall are its beating heart. Passover, Yom Haatzmaut, Yom Yerushalayim and Shavuot are links in an eternal chain, bound by remembrance of those who sacrificed for them.

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Rabbi Yaakov Shapira,

הרב יעקב שפירא
הרב יעקב שפירא
צילום: חזקי עזרא

Words spoken to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the Jerusalem Day Celebration at Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva, the central festivity attended by thousands annually since the reunification of the Holy City 50 years ago - including the Chief Rabbis, Prime Minister, renowned rabbis, government ministers, and other public figures:

Honored guests from Israel and abroad, our beloved students, and last, but most important, the Prime Minister and his wife, who are not guests by now, but good friends whom we hope feel at home with us: 

We are in the period leading from Pesach to Shavuot, the period of the Counting of the Omer. The month of Iyar is the chain connecting the Holiday of our Freedom and that of the Giving of the Torah, and within it are the links commemorating the days of political independence and the reunification of Jerusalem, forming an unbroken chain made up of the unique times in our lives.

This year we have another source of enlightenment, a source of clarification. The Talmud says that man must always turn towards the nations of the worldl, so that  if he merits it, he will discern what the other nations consider worthy of respect and what Jewish sovereignty respects. 

Our dear friend, Prime Minister Netanyahu, you did not have to turn to him, President Trump came to you, to us, so that we could learn this issue of honor and respect from a short visit.  And, in my humble opinion, one of the points we learned is the true value of the holy site - the Western Wall - the "luz,"[1] the source of the rejuvenaion of our people's return to life in  this land. The biblical verse says:  "All the peoples of the world will see that the Name of G-d is upon you and will be in awe of you." The nations of the world respect the places that are holy to us in line with the respect they see us according those places.

The Western Wall, after all, is not just  the last vestige of the Temple, the outer Western Wall of the Second Temple. Please G-d, it will be the first wall of the Third Temple to be built by the Messiah. And it is not just about the Western Wall. Whatever we are able to preserve as holy in our midst, in every way, will be considered holy by the world. We all saw this as the President of the United States and his daughter and son-in-law came to pray at the Western Wall.

"In the Jubilee Year each of you will return to his land" - are we truly capable of grasping all that happened to us since those terrible, fateful days? The Six Days remind us of the Six Days of Creation, they are a new birth for us, physically and spiritually, a tremendous gift from our blessed Creator. King David said "When G-d restores Zion, we will be as dreamers."

It is not only that it is a dream we never expected, how in one moment G-d's mercy was revealed and we awoke to a new reality. Sometimes there are processes in which G-d returns us to Zion and we are still dreaming. We don't really grasp what is happening. A wise man said to me that we read the Passover Haggada every year and say that in each generation they arise to  destroy us and G-d saves us from their hands, but that sometimes He also saves us from our own hands.

Here, in the Beit Hamidrash, the study hall where heaven and earth meet, where Torah figures meet those who govern, in G-d's Temple of today, this is where we are always enveloped with the spirit of the holy man of G-d, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook, zt"l, who awakened us all with his great voice "a great voice that never ceased" as it says of the Revelation at Mount Sinai.

Anyone who heard him 50 years ago can remember it as if it was today. We merited having him navigate our ship ideologically so that we could fulfill the verse about "each man returning to his land." We were able to bless "He who creates many souls" because Rav Tzvi Yehuda's soul followed in the ways of G-d, we were able to bless G-d who "brings our salvation" and from the time we could go to the Western Wall we have been moving closer and closer to a connection with our past - and a nation that is cognizant of its past can move on to its future. "Know before Whom you stand and to Whom you will have to give an accounting in the future."

Honored Prime Minister, we are very happy to have you with us. We are happy and so are others who heard you say in your own words that we did not conquer Jerusalem - we liberated Jerusalem. 

We are going to adopt that wonderful expression but will complete it by adding that we did not conquer Judea and Samaria, we liberated them. All of the Land of Israel is enveloped by Jerusalem. We have come home, as Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda said, back to our chosen leaders, and as you said once in your dear late father's name: Behind every clock stands a watchmaker, and behind the clock of history stands the Eternal G-d of Israel who tells no lies.

Your father wrote history and you have been given the opportunity to make history.

Today we are as dreamers - fulfilling the dream, turning it into the opposite of a dream, into reality, a more limited one than in the dream, as is the nature of dreams, but we, who merited witnessing the return of Zion. have an important mission. We must be able to continue to dream while the lights of Jerusalem continue to glow, to deepen our search for truth with that light. Rabbi Avraham Hakohen Kook writes that in the spirit of the times, we are stronger than any on this earth and we will return to the life of our forefathers. We do not live in fear of the times, we create the times in our image. 

"Speak to the heart of Jerusalem" - Jerusalem is a city that is all heart, and Israel is the heart of the nations of the world, and the wonderful, gushing spring of life and heart is to be found in the Beit Midrash. Today's world grants us the tools and opportunities to dream, but also steals the most special attributes of man, his emotions and his heart, his dreams, and we must preserve them.

We are a nation created to fulfill dreams, but we do not have enough time to dream as our Patriarch Jacob did. What was left to him if not the great dream that enabled him to overcome those who rose against him saying, as did those who burned the Temple: "Destroy, destroy, down to the very foundations." This is what our enemies would like to do, to destroy our hearts and innermost selves, but tonight as we sit here together, with one heart - the heart of Jerusalem and the Land of Israel - we have possessed that heart anew, we hope and pray anew. that "a new light will shine on Zion" and our people will return to their rightful borders.

There are many who talk about the heart, but Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda, our mentor, coined the immortal phrase that "there are hearts of stone but also stones that have hearts."

And these words are engraved in all our hearts forever.

For the Prime Minister's response, click here.

Foototes: 

[1] The Talmud says that the "luz" is each person's bone from which the resurrection of the dead will begin. Here it is used to symbolize the resurrection of the Jewish State.