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Jerusalem is the Jews’ DNA

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Yom Yerushalayim commemorates the reunification of East and West Jerusalem, which was a result of Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six Day War. After thousands of years, Jews were once again allowed unrestricted access to the many holy sites in Jerusalem, most notably the Western Wall - the Kotel.
by RABBI MENDEL RABINOWITZ | May 25, 2017

However, Jerusalem is not simply the direction in which we face when we say the Amidah three times daily. Jerusalem is part of the very DNA of our Jewish heritage.

Tradition teaches us that from the beginning of time, Jerusalem played a pivotal role in the shaping of our future. Many know that both Temples were built on Har Hamoriah, commonly referred to as the Temple Mount. However, the significance of Jerusalem started many years before.

When Adam was created, he gave an offering to G-d on Har Hamoriah. Cain and Abel also gave their sacrifices at the same place. Tradition teaches us that after the Flood, Noah built an alter to offer a sacrifice of thanks to Hashem. This also took place on what is known today as the Temple Mount.

The story of the Akeida (Binding of Isaac) also happened at this very same place. Ya’akov’s dream of angels ascending and descending a ladder, is another example of a major event that took place at Har Hamoriah. So important is the Temple Mount that it is often referred to simply as “Hamakom” - The Place.

The Midrash states that the name Yerushalayim is a combination of two names. Shem (son of Noah) called it “Shalem”, meaning “complete” and Avraham called it “Yir’eh”, meaning “He will see”. The Midrash continues to state that Hashem decided to combine both names and call it Yerushalayim out of respect to both Shem and Avraham.

How are we to understand this Midrash? Noah’s son, Shem, identified this special place primarily with the need to study in order to gain wisdom, for it is only with wisdom and knowledge that one is able to come close to Hashem.

Tradition teaches us that Shem was the founder of the first yeshiva, a place of learning Torah. For Shem, the essence of Judaism is achieved through the medium of in-depth Torah study. This approach, he believed, would bring one close to Hashem.

Avraham called it “Yir’eh”, meaning “He will see”. A close look at the story of the Akeida (Binding of Isaac) reveals that this phrase is used several times. One example is when Yitzchak asks his father: “Where is the lamb for the offering?” Avraham replies: “Hashem will see a lamb for an offering.”

For Avraham, the essence of Judaism is the ability to put one’s trust in Hashem. To put one’s trust in Hashem even in the most difficult of circumstances is what being a Jew is all about.

The combining of Shem and Avraham’s naming of this special place is Hashem’s way of telling us that both components are needed in order to gain an understanding and closeness to G-d. Both components, the intellectual, the studying of traditional texts and the emotional, placing one’s trust and belief in Hashem, bring one close to G-d.

Yom Yerushalayim is therefore not simply a day to remember a military victory and a changing of geographical boundaries. It is a day to connect both spiritually and physically to the most important place for Jews since the beginning of time.

 

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