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Rabbi's Blog

rabbi 05 smallsf badge lgRabbi Joel Landau  (rabbi@adathisraelsf.org) has been the Rabbi of Adath Israel since May 2013. He was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem and has served previously as a congregational Rabbi in Charleston, South Carolina and Irvine, California. A full biography of Rabbi Landau is available here.


Yom Yerushalayim

Yom Yerushalayim, the commemoration of the retaking of Jerusalem by the Israelis in 1967, will be observed this coming Wednesday, May 28.

During the 2,000 years of the Jewish exile and dispersion from Israel, many wars have been fought over Jerusalem. All told, the city has been destroyed and rebuilt no less than 9 times, with each conqueror further attempting to obscure its glorious Jewish past. But through the centuries, one symbol has miraculously remained intact: the Western Wall. It seems to represent the indestructibility of the Jewish people. Why is that?

When the Western Wall was liberated in 1967, Jews from all over the world felt an electrifying excitement, as once again the Wall was in Jewish hands. Why is that? The following story of Moshe Amirav, an irreligious Israeli paratrooper, who participated in the liberation of the Old City, exemplifies how the Wall has touched the hearts of Jews throughout the ages.

We ran there, a group of panting soldiers, lost on the plaza of the Temple Mount, searching for a giant stone wall. We did not stop to look at the Mosque of Omar even though this was the first time we had seen it close up. Forward! Forward! Hurriedly, we pushed our way through the Magreb Gate and suddenly we stopped, thunderstruck. There it was before our eyes! Gray and massive, silent and restrained. The Western Wall!

Slowly, slowly I began to approach the Wall in fear and trembling like a pious cantor going to the lectern to lead the prayers. I approached it as the messenger of my father and my grandfather, of my great-grandfather and of all the generations in all the exiles who had never merited seeing it -- and so they had sent me to represent them. Somebody recited the festive blessing: “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe who has kept us alive, and maintained us and brought us to this time.” But I could not answer "Amen." I put my hand on the stones and the tears that started to flow were not my tears. They were the tears of all Israel, tears of hope and prayer, tears of Chasidic tunes, tears of Jewish dances, tears which scorched and burned the heavy gray stone.

What was it that brought out those deep emotions from Mr. Amirav? In my opinion, the feelings that many Jews have toward the Western Wall isn’t just the result of it being an ancient relic of our past. The connection is much deeper as demonstrated by the following sources:

Song of Songs 2:8-9 “The voice of my Beloved! Behold it came suddenly to redeem me, as if leaping over mountains, skipping over hills. In His swiftness to redeem me, my Beloved is like a gazelle or a young hart. I thought I would be forever alone. But behold! He stands behind our wall, observing through the windows, peering through the lattices”.

Midrash Rabba, Song of Songs 2:4 "Behold: He stands behind our wall" ― this refers to the Western Wall of the Temple. Why so? Because God has sworn that it will never be destroyed.

Midrash Rabba, Exodus 2:2 Rabbi Eliezer said: The Divine Presence never departed from the Temple, as it is written, 'For now I have chosen and sanctified this house so that My name shall be there forever and My eyes and My heart will be there all the days' (II Chronicles 7:16)... Even when [the Temple] is destroyed, it remains in its sanctity... Even when it is destroyed, God does not leave it. Rebbe Acha said: The Shechina (Divine Presence) will never depart from the Western Wall, as it is written, "Behold ― He stands behind our wall."

We see from here, that even though G-d’s presences permeates the world there is a greater concentration of G-dliness at the Western Wall than anywhere else on this planet. Which is what led our patriarch Ya’akov to proclaim; "How awesome is this place! This is none other than… the gate of heaven." (Gen.28/17). Thus, it is quite understandable why the Western Wall is indeed indestructible and how it makes such a strong impact on those whose spiritual antennae are receptive.