Obama and Jerusalem
It was very disturbing for me to hear that the United States government has demanded a halt to construction in Jerusalem. This is our city, torn from us so long ago, the city we have hoped for and dreamed of for centuries. This city has been the center of our prayers, and we ask three times a day that it be rebuilt. There isn’t a Jewish wedding that does not remind themselves of this city, even at the time of their greatest joy. Yet we are told that we may not live in our city, and must give it to a group of bloodthirsty animals whose soul desire is our destruction or at best our recognition of their Arab supremacy.
And what of sensitivity? The leader of the United States is very aware of Arab sensitivities and makes sure to pander to whatever they wish to hear. Where is the awareness of Jewish sensitivity? Is it appropriate to make such harsh demands during our nation’s period of mourning for Jerusalem’s destruction? Could they not wait until a later date?
The truth is that these questions only bothered me at first glance. The deeper question is, Why does Hashem allow this to happen? We know, of course, that לב מלכים ביד השם – the hearts of kings are in the hand of Hashem. Why has Hashem chosen to open the mouth of the prideful United States president at this time? What is the underlying message for us?
I believe that the answer is to be found in the Gemara that teaches us why the Sages instituted many different enactments to remind us of what was done in the Beis Hamikdash (e.g. taking the Lulav for all seven days of Succos, as it was done in the Beis Hamikdash, as opposed to only one day, as is required from the Torah for other places). The Gemara brings the passuk in Yirmiyah פרק ל which states – כי נדחה קראו לך ציון היא דורש אין לה – You, Tzion, were referred to as one who is pushed away, none seek you. The Gemara says that from the fact that the verse laments that none seek Tzion (Yerushalyim), this implies that we must do things to encourage people to seek and remember Tzion.
When the United States pressures Israel to stop settlement growth, including Jerusalem, what is our natural response? It is righteous indignation. Who are they to tell us what to do?! This is our land, and this is our Jerusalem. We will live here and we will build here!
This is exactly what Hashem wants, and this is exactly when Hashem wants it. We are now in the nine days and we are entering greater and greater levels of mourning over our loss of Jerusalem. Yet, like the passuk says, ‘none seek you.’ We are all lost when it comes to feeling a true sense of loss. But if we have no sense of loss, how can we get Jerusalem back? If we do not seek her, how will we have the merit to keep her?
In order to merit a true Geulah, we must want this Geulah. Nevertheless, Hashem is constantly doing whatever it will take to make us want it! Once we want it, he will bring it, but it starts with Him. This is what I believe is the understanding of the two phrases we have – השיבנו השם אליך ונשובה – return us to You Hashem, and we will return; and שובה אלי ואשובה אליכם – [Hashem says,] return to Me, and I will return to you. First Hashem inspires us to want to return, then we return, and He returns to us.
It is amazing to witness how everything in the world is but a tool in Hashem’s hands, which he uses only for our benefit.
Years ago I composed a song whose words come out of the kinnos of Tisha B’av. They are עד אנה בכיה בציון ומספד בירושלים תרחם ציון ותבנה חומות ירושלים – How long will there be crying in Tzion and eulogy in Jerusalem? Have mercy on Tzion and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
When I have had difficulty getting emotional on Tisha B’av, I will inevitably turn to these words and this song, and the tears come. I hope it will inspire you too. The song is A capella – there are no instruments, just voices.
Here is the song, Ad ana bechiya.