Cholent, Shavuot, Jerusalem Day
Cholent, Shavuot, Jerusalem Day

My colleagues and I couldn't possibly be the first to notice that Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Reunification Day) falls within one week of the biblical holiday of Shavuot.  But given that these holidays are both quickly approaching (and indeed we will be celebrating one of them around the time this article goes to print), perhaps it behooves us to contemplate how these two holidays relate to one another. 

The connection, as far as I can tell, is simply this: Without Shavuot, Yom Yerushalayim is essentially meaningless.

This might be confusing to the casual Jewish observer (no pun intended) since, after all, doesn't Jerusalem Day come before the "Feast of Weeks"?  Ah, but perhaps you're forgetting: In Israel, they read from right to left!
 
"But what do you mean when you say that Shavuot precedes Yom Yerushalayim?" I can almost hear the reader asking. "Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah, and okay, that's important for some of us. But Yom Yerushalayim! Yerushalayim is at the very heart, emotionally and geographically, of the Jewish nation! It's a symbol of our peoplehood!" But upon what, I ask you, is that peoplehood based?
 
It is the receiving of the Torah that made the Jews (or "Israelites," for those of you who are sticklers for historical accuracy) into a nation. And when we abandon the Torah, we may survive as individuals, but as a nation, we perish. Of course, the very fact of Orthodox Jewry constituting a minority within a minority would seem to call this theory into question.  What becomes of those who identify as "culturally" Jewish, those who wave their flags on Yom Yerushalayim, but who, come Shavuot, are going about business as usual?
 
Perhaps Rabbi Meir Kahane HY"D understood best the phenomenon of secularized Jews clinging stubbornly to a Jewish identity devoid of Torah, that is to say, being Jewish while missing the essential component of Jewishness. According to Kahane, "The secular Jew in both Israel and the Exile is Jewish for only one of two most irrational, emotional reasons," which he refers to in his book "Uncomfortable Questions for Comfortable Jews" as "cholent and goyim syndrome."
 
"Cholent," Kahane explains, "is the traditional Jewish Sabbath food, meat and beans that cook all night and morning on the fire [...] I use it to symbolize the 'nostalgia' or 'stomach culture' of the Jew for that Orthodox family (parent or grandparent) and the customs, way of life and traditions that he remembers fondly and emotionally, even after having jettisoned them. He, the Jew of the present, clings to a Jewishness that is based on his fond memories of others observing real Jewishness. He builds his links on the Passover Seder he remembers, the Sabbath candles he remembers, the Jewish prayers and lessons he once learned as a child. Judaism? Hardly. Call it rather the nostalgia of Judaism -'cholent.' "
 
His "Jewishness," Kahane goes on to say, "arises so often, not because of anything positive that he learned in Judaism, if he ever, indeed, learned anything about Judaism." Kahane maintains that the secularist's sense of Jewish identity is "so often imprinted upon him by the goyim, the gentiles who do not allow him to forget he is a Jew no matter how he might like to. Indeed, anti-Semitism has always been the greatest guarantor of 'Jewishness,' forcing the Jew to acknowledge who he is, whether he really wished to or not."
 
Modern holidays like Yom Ha'Atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) and Yom Yerushalayim crib heavily from the "goyim" school of Jewishness.  It is on those days that we celebrate Jewish victories in the face of almost certain annihilation at the hands of an overwhelmingly superior military force. In other words, a sense of Jewish identity is impressed upon the observer just like in Kahane's second example, except that in this case the anti-Semites (and let's not kid ourselves - to this day "anti-Zionists" throughout the Arab world can still be heard screaming "death to the Jews," making no distinction between the Children of Israel and the citizens of Israel) saw their plans erupt in to what can only be called a spectacular failure. 
 
Still, without a proper sense of perspective and gratitude the Almighty, a person's Jewishness is reduced to the level of mere nationality. 
 
Our ancestors didn't endure thousands of years of vicious persecution just so we could be like everybody else!
 
So, I would like to wish everyone reading this a happy Yom Yerushalayim.  And by all means, enjoy this weekend's Celebrate Israel Parade (even those outside Manhattan can watch, for the first time this year, live on TV or online via webcast). 
 
But I would also like to take this opportunity to urge my brothers and sisters, particularly those who haven't given much thought to it in the past, to explore your spiritual heritage as well! Yom Yerushalayim is only important if Shavuot is important. If the latter is merely an historical curiosity, the former is just an excuse to throw a barbecue.
 
If, on the other hand, we truly embrace the Torah, which is the hallmark of Jewish identity, that unites us from our inception as a nation at Mt. Sinai, then the Reunification of Jerusalem, the Holy City, takes on new meaning as well.  May we all become aware of that meaning, and may we all be reunited in Jerusalem, speedily and in our days.