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Middle East 7:38 AM 4/18/2014
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Amb. Alan Baker
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Before making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbi Kook, Eretz Yisrael, Art of T'shuva, War and Peace, and Torat Eretz Yisrael.
When the tens of thousands cry out "Shema Yisrael" with one great voice and one great heart, the heavens are pierced, and the Holy One of Israel is abundantly pleased with His children.
I cannot think of any event during the year that radiates more spiritual energy, transcendent holiness, national Jewish might and joy than the parade to the Kotel on Jerusalem Day. It is truly an overwhelming religious event. Thousands of religious youths stream through the streets of Jerusalem on their way to the Old City, proudly waving a sea of blue and white flags. Families are a part of the throng, wheeling baby carriages and running after straying toddlers. Yeshiva students sing songs of Jerusalem and Redemption as they surround their Rosh Yeshiva on the parade to the Kotel. Boys converge on the gates of the Old City from one direction, and girls from another direction, on separate routes, in order to safeguard the modesty and holiness of our sacred, cherished city. Like battalions of Jewish soldiers, the marchers pour through the Damascus Gate, Yafo Gate, Zion Gate, Lion’s Gate, and the Dung Gate in a metaphorical reconquering of the Old City, just as our brave soldiers did 40 years ago to the day. When the myriads unite in the Kotel Plaza, an atomic chain reaction occurs, sending out waves and waves of joyous spiritual energy. When the tens of thousands cry out "Shema Yisrael" with one great voice and one great heart, the heavens are pierced, and the Holy One of Israel is abundantly pleased with His children.
True, our secular brothers are missing. And hardly a Haredi hat can be seen in the crowds. We are all sincerely sorry for that. But we are encouraged by the knowledge that the Redemption comes slowly, and we are certain that soon they too will join in thanking G-d for the kindness and miracle of Jerusalem Day.
There is one personal sadness that I have on this day, and that is because the founder of the celebration, Rabbi Yehuda Hazani, of blessed memory, is not physically with us to join in the march which he initiated some 30 years ago when he was a student at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva. Rabbi Hazani was my first Rabbi and mentor when I came to Israel. He encouraged me to make Aliyah and helped guide me in the process of shedding my confused galut identity for a new Israeli life and Torah vision. His joy was the joy of Jerusalem, and his giant spirit was the match that kindled the flame of Jerusalem that lay dormant in all of our hearts, giving us a means to express our love for the city in the flag-waving parade of the day, and through the dancing and mass prayer of thanks at the Kotel.
This unparalleled joy does not stem merely from our awareness that it was G-d who brought this triumphant day about. Nor from the joy that our beloved city is back in our hands after a long painful exile. These joys are further elevated by the longing in our hearts to see the fulfillment of our dreams in the future, when the nation will march to Jerusalem on the Festivals and join with the Leviim and Kohanim in praising the L-rd in our rebuilt Holy Temple. The energy, electricity, and joy we feel as we stream en masse to the Kotel comes from plugging in to this resplendent future and the clear knowledge that we are on the way.
This is how Rabbi Kook describes this uplifting bond to our future, in reference to the time when we will ascend to Jerusalem to bring our agricultural tithes, like the great joy we have in bringing the Bikurim on the upcoming Festival of Shavuot:
"When we now fulfill the mitzvah of tithes, even though we do not have all the actual requirements upon which this mitzvah is based, ‘neither a Kohen at the service, nor a Levite at song,’ behold the vision of Redemption appears before us, and we are filled with a spirit of song, as exalted as the flight of eagles, in view of the light of the happy days that await our nation on our blessed soil: here is the Temple on its foundation, a pride and an honor for all of the nations and kingdoms, and here we carry with joy the sheaves of our Land of Delight... There also appear before us the Kohanim, holy men, servants of the L-rd, G-d of Israel. Their hearts are full of love and kindness, the holy spirit flushes their faces, and we recall the crescendo of holy feelings that filled us at the time when we saw their faces, when we went up on the pilgrimage, when we saw them standing to serve within our Temple, pride of our strength and delight of our eyes... And behold, we envision the Levites, these sensitive ones who captured our hearts with their harmonious music in the holy place during the festival, when we went up to see the glorious Temple of G-d in Jerusalem, to behold the face of the Master, L-rd, G-d of Israel. Soon we will meet once again on the Mountain of G-d. ‘Happy the people who has this; happy the people whose G-d is the L-rd!’" (Orot, Orot HaTechiya, 5. See the translation by Bezalel Naor.)
This bond to our exalted future is the source of the inexpressible joy that we feel on Jerusalem Day. This joy, and this exalted connection, is ours, Rabbi Kook teaches, even today, even in a time of our lowliness. We long for this wholeness, for this link from our glorious past to our glorious future. The time is close. Our souls sense it. Our joy mounts and mounts. It is not only to the Old City that we are marching. We are marching to our future. To the Temple. To Mashiach. Wish you were all here to join us!