Thursday, May 13, 2010

! הר הבית בידינו

Today was the anniversary of the momentous occasion of Israel’s unexpected and arguably, miraculous capture of the Old City of Yerushalayim and Har Habayis (the Temple Mount) during the 6 Day War.

For me, Yom Yerushalayim was another unknown holiday, akin to Yom Ha’atzma’ut that I first encountered while in yeshiva in Israel. However, I have fully embraced the day as one of religious significance, more so than Yom Ha’atzma’ut. Why, might you ask? There two main reasons.

First, the immediate conflicts of religious practice that exist by the establishment of Yom Ha’atzma’ut and its celebration are mostly or entirely removed with regard to Yom Yerushalayim. We’re no longer in the “primary” mourning period practiced during Sefiras Ha’Omer, so any issues of acting in a manner counterintuitive to observing halachic mourning-type behavior is moot. (This is arguably true, since most people I know observe the first set of 33 days of mourning that conclude with Lag B’Omer).

Second and related to that, the miraculous nature of the victory and achievement attained on Yom Yerushalayim far surpasses those that are recognized on Yom Ha’atzma’ut. As I mentioned in my post discussing that day, the miraculous or spiritually significant nature of signing the declaration of statehood was not so impactful, rather it was the triumphant victory in war that followed shortly thereafter which was of greater import. No one can doubt that hand of G-d was clearly involved in a major fashion with the decision, planning, and successful capture of Har HaBayis. Though I shouldn’t say no one, since the Satmar Rav wrote his big protest of Zionism, etc right afterward.

At any rate, having lived in and around Yerushalayim for two years, with many days spent in the Old City and many tefillos prayed at the Kotel, I cannot be thankful enough for the opportunity that I tremendously benefitted from. As most anyone can attest to, a visit to the Old City, and especially the Kotel causes some internal stirrings, both emotional and spiritual. Something is simply different when you’re standing there in front of the ancient stone, thinking about the millennia of history that have transpired in that location.

The only major problem is that I’ve had a dearth of Yom Yerushalayim spirit since I left Israel. Unlike Yom Ha’atzma’ut, Yom Yerushalayim typically falls out after the school year has ended at YU. I’ve even been on a plane back to my hometown, wearing a white shirt in honor of the day, and experienced no more celebration than listening to my Yom Yerushalayim mix of Jewish music on my iPod. On the occasions that I’ve been in my hometown, the more religious elements don’t know or care, and even the secular JCC folk basically say “What’s this Jerusalem Day? We just had a big program with speakers and everything for Israel Independence Day!”

So this year, despite the extreme annoyance of having finals that go through Shavuos (which also typically occurs after I leave New York), it was such a pleasure to experience a festive Shacharis (including Hallel with a bracha), followed by breakfast and inspirational shiurim given by Rav Schachter and Rav Goldvicht. The combination of the two Roshei Yeshiva was perfect! Unfortunately, I cannot find either on YU Torah at the moment…

Rav Shachter spoke from the American historical perspective, how the Catholic church has always been antagonistic toward the Jews ever possessing Israel again (because of their religious beliefs that they are now the am hanivchar – the chosen people), how the declaration of the state confounded them, and the capture of Har HaBayis really threw them for a loop. Rav Shachter emphasized how we, the younger generations, who grew up with an Israel that always existed and always included the Old City of Yerushalayim and Har HaBayis, need to be especially appreciative and recognize what a gift we have.

Rav Goldvicht spoke from the Israeli perspective, and told the story of from the time of the 6 Day War where 10,000 coffins were constructed and kept in the Old City in preparation for the massive death toll on the Israeli side that was taken as a given outcome of the conflict. When the IDF turned things around, won the war and captured our holiest city and site, those very caskets were turned into Sukkos! He spoke about Yerushalayim and Har HaBayis as a central, unifying place where all members of Bnei Yisrael are welcome.

So I wish everyone a slightly belated Chag Sameach!

I was swamped today with exam review classes and paper writing, and that trend could potentially continue through the next two weeks with final exams, Shavuos (Torah Tours, woo!), and the end of the semester… I am still writing stories and posts and have several in various states of progress at the moment. So if I can manage to write a bit here and there, I hope to have something worth posting. Stay tuned…


  1. I love reading your blog...!

    I was floored by Rabbi Goldvicht's comments about the coffins..... Have you head of this before? Have you heard a reference to it? I though they dont bury in coffins in E"Y

  2. Saul - Thanks for reading! I'm glad you're enjoying the blog.

    Regarding the story, someone next to me mentioned that he had used it recently at the Yom Ha'atzma'ut tekkes, though I don't recall (I have a hard time following lengthy Hebrew drashot unless I can pay 100% attention each second). I don't doubt the authenticity, since I very much trust Rav Goldvicht. I did a bit of a search online and found a comment left on a news article from a reader named "Israeli Academic" who wrote:

    "I seem to recall that Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin had a nervous breakdown for fear, before the war. Prime Minister Eshkol stuttered on live radio broadcast. 10,000 coffins were prepared. My father was a soldier in that war - he told me the mood was depressing and pessimistic. Israel did not want that war - it was forced upon it. If not for its pre-emptive strike, it would clearly have been invaded."

    Regarding the plausibility of 10,000 coffins vs. the minhag not to use coffins. I myself attended two funerals during my years in yeshiva, and neither used coffins. However, that was within the religious population.

    If you have ever seen photos taken during IDF funerals, the bodies are ALWYAS in coffins, even for the Daati folk. So, the 10,000 coffins were most likely prepared by the more secular elements (maybe even the government).


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