This week's Dvar Torah is by Rabbi Dr. Moshe Pinchuk, former Rosh Kollel in Melbourne (1998-2001, current head of Jewish Heritage Center. Netanya Academic College: email@example.com
On the third day of the Six-day War (28 Iyar, June 7) Eastern Jerusalem and the old city were liberated, the city was united and the Western Wall freed. A few months later, on the 8 of Tevet the Chief Rabbinate Council designated “the 28th of Iyar as a day of thanks to Hashem for the miracles that occurred on that day and for the liberation of Jerusalem”.
Four months later, on May 12, 1968 the Israeli government designated the 28th of Iyar as the day of celebration of Jerusalem. It then took thirty years (March 31 1998) until this holiday was given binding legal status by the enaction of the law: “Yom Yerushalayim – 1998.” This law was passed through the initiative of M”K Chanan Porat z”l. The first section of the law declares the name of the holiday: “The Knesset hereby declares 28th of Iyar as the Day of Jerusalem which is to be celebrated yearly as a national holiday, and will be named: Yom Yerushalayim”.
The chosen name, “Yom Yerushalayim” raises two questions: First, why does the name not include any reference to the essence of the holiday? Indeed, in the deliberations in the Knesset concerning this law, reservations were raised on this point. Some other suggestions were: “Deliverance of Jerusalem”, or “Unification of Jerusalem”.
There is a weightier question: “Yom Yerushalayim” appears in the bible in a single location, in the well-known Psalm “By the river of Babylon.” The verse there reads: “Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites the Yom Yerushalayim; how they cried, `Strip her, strip her to her very foundations`” (Psalms 137, 7). “Yom Yerushalayim” means the day of the fall and destruction of Jerusalem. Talmud (Gittin 57b) interprets this verse to be referring to the destruction of the Second temple. Why would an expression of fall and destruction be invoked in the opposite context of redemption and rebirth?
Sanhedrin (90a) provides the foundation for a solution to these questions: “All measures dispensed by the Holy One, Blessed be He, are dispensed measure for measure”. Although the sugya discusses punishments in particular, this attribute of “measure for measure” applies to all modes of activity of G-d, in particular concerning our future redemption.
Bava Kamma (60b) says: "The Holy One, Blessed be He, said it is incumbent upon Me to pay for the fire that I kindled. I kindled a fire in Zion, as it is stated: “He has kindled a fire in Zion, which has devoured its foundations” (Lamentations 4:11). And I will build it with fire in the future, as it is stated: “For I, says the Lord, will be for her a wall of fire round about; and I will be the glory in her midst” (Zechariah 2:9)".
I suggest that it is this idea of “measure for measure” as the modus operandi in the process of redemption that finds expression in the name “Yom Yerushalayim” chosen. For two thousand years the words “Yom Yerushalayim” caused a shudder in the body of every Jew and awakened sorrow and mourning as he was reminded how the Edomites indeed did strip Jerusalem to her very foundations. But today, our generation has been granted the right to experience the rebuilding and renaissance of the glory of Jerusalem, we witness G-d fulfilling his promise, “measure for measure”, “And I will build it with fire in the future”.
By the same token, the expression “Yom Yerushalayim” too is redeemed and transformed, “measure for measure” to a statement of hope, joy, and rebuilding, the budding of our redemption. The expression with which Jerusalem was destroyed has now become the expression with which it is being rebuilt.
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Rabbi Dt Moshe Pinchuk