Kotel Rabbi Tells Pope: 'We Have Returned Home'
Pope Francis visited the Western Wall (Kotel) on Monday, where he prayed and placed a note in the Western Wall (Kotel), a remnant of the external wall that surrounded the Temple Mount when the Jewish Temples stood there. While at the site, he stood by as Kotel Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz expounded on the redemption of the Jewish nation from exile.
"The Jerusalem you have arrived to, honored pope, is not only the earthly Jerusalem. It's also the Jerusalem of dreams. The dream of millions of Jews through two-thousand long years of exile. Jerusalem is a dream that was realized, and we walk in it as dreamers, expecting the realization of the dream in its entirety," stated Rabbi Rabinowitz.
Rabbi Rabinowitz noted that the Roman Emperor Titus stole the treasures of the Second Temple, roughly 2,000 years ago; the Arch of Titus in Rome, erected shortly after his death in 81 CE, clearly depicts Roman soldiers bringing to Rome the golden candelabrum and other Temple artifacts.
"It's true, the menorah (candelabrum) and tools of the Temple Titus succeeded in taking; but the light of faith, and the hope to return to the land of our fathers, he did not succeed in extinguishing," remarked the rabbi. "We have traveled a long road home."
The rabbi added "over two-thousand years we have had our fill of scorn and sadness, but every single day we prayed and believed 'next year in rebuilt Jerusalem.' We merited a great miracle to return here after a long exile, and a horrifying Holocaust. Thank G-d, the people Israel lives on in the land of Israel."
Noting the great sages who renewed the Jewish presence in the Holy Land, such as Ramban (Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman, or Nachmanides) who arrived in Jerusalem in the 1200s CE, and Rabbi Yehuda Hassid and his students who came from Poland roughly 200 years ago, Rabbi Rabinowitz remarked that throughout the exile Jews continued believing their status as "sons to the L-rd your G-d," not out of pride but commitment to the nation's holy mission to serve G-d.
"The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem"
The rabbi quoted the vision of the prophets, saying (Isaiah 2:3): "And many peoples shall go and say: 'Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the L-rd, to the house of the G-d of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.' For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the L-rd from Jerusalem."
"I would like to address - together with you - the believers of all religions, asking them to fight hatred and anti-Semitism which recently has grown more and more," said the rabbi. Referring to the shooting, he added "just two days ago we felt it viscerally, and the voices that are heard all the time do not bring good tidings. We will raise for them from Jerusalem a blessing of peace."
After listening to the rabbi's speech, the pope placed his note in the wall, and then signed a visitor's book, where he expressed his thanks and quoted the prophet Isaiah (2:4): "nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."
The pope stirred controversy by referring to the Palestinian Authority (PA) as the "state of Palestine" on Sunday. Later he made an unexpected stop at the security barrier between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, built to prevent terror attacks, to pray at a section with "free Palestine" spray-painted on it.