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Beit Midrash Shabbat and Holidays Jerusalem Day

“Ascribe Strength to God”

King David, the King of Israel, turns to the Nation of Israel and entreats them to “ascribe strength to God.” You, the Jewish People, must ascribe strength to God, for “His majesty is dependent upon Israel” (Psalm 68:35).
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1.. "Cherut" and "Charut" in Iyar
2.. "Ascribe strength to God..."
3.. A Foundation of Unity

"Cherut" and "Charut" in Iyar
The month of Iyar is very special to the Jewish people. It is situated between the first and third months of the Hebrew calendar: between the month of Nisan in which we celebrate Passover, the "Festival of Freedom" ("Chag HaCherut"), and the month of Sivan in which we celebrate Shavuot, the "Festival of the Engraved Tablets" ("Chag HaCharut"). These are monumental months for the Jewish people historically; they are marked by two central events in the life of the nation: the Exodus from Egypt and the Giving of the Torah. The second month, positioned between the Nisan and Sivan, has special significance particularly for our generation - the generation of the Holocaust and the State of Israel. The Fifth and Twenty-Eighth of Iyar, Independence and Jerusalem Days, can be seen as paralleling to a degree the two above-mentioned events of "Cherut" and "Charut."

Independence Day parallels the Exodus from Egypt. It commemorates the removal of the yoke of the nations from our neck and our walking erect and sovereign.
Jerusalem day, the twenty-fifth of Iyar, has great inward spiritual significance. The liberation-unification of Jerusalem represents and recalls the fundamental biblical idea that Jerusalem must be appreciated as, in the words of the Psalmist, "a city that is bound together" (Psalm 122:3). The bond between Jerusalem’s Old City and New City, the toppling of the wall which divided them, the grand unification which we merited witnessing in our own time - this day is a kind of elucidation of the significance of Israel’s independence and freedom - the Fifth of Iyar - and transforms it from a celebration of freedom ("Cherut") in a general sense, the likes which any nation is capable of appreciating, to a celebration of freedom in the sense of "engraved ("Charut") upon the Tablets."

"Ascribe strength to God..."
The Scriptures state (Psalms 68:35): "Ascribe strength to God, His majesty is dependent upon Israel, and His strength is in the heavens."
"Ascribe strength" - King David, the King of Israel, turns to the Community of Israel ("Knesset Yisrael") and entreats them to "ascribe strength to God." You, the Nation of Israel, must ascribe strength to God, for "His majesty is dependent upon Israel." When God created the universe, He presented man with the power of free will and the capacity to manage the affairs of this world of ours below - "His majesty is dependent upon Israel."

"His strength is in the heavens." The Divine and untainted honor of the Almighty remains in the heavens. Up there exist those fixed and unchanging Divine laws which man has no control over and no power to alter. But in this world of ours, where man thrives and free will exists, there is a unique focal point for humankind - the Jew. "His majesty is dependent upon Israel" because we are called upon to "ascribe strength to God." We are the ones who ascribe this strength..

By establishing the earthly Jerusalem in the image of the heavenly Jerusalem; by modeling the Kingdom of Israel upon the pattern of the Kingdom of God; by creating a state which outwardly appears to be like any other state, but which inwardly is completely different; by creating an army which outwardly appears to be like any other army but which inwardly is much different; by creating a social regime which outwardly appears to be like any other, but which inwardly is completely different - a regime founded upon pillars of justice, integrity, and truth - by doing all these things we are in fact "ascribing strength to God.."

In a world of debauchery; in a world of evil; in a world of perniciousness; in a world of distain for all that is sacred; in a world in which the fist rules; in a world where money rules; in a world where oil rules; in a world where tanks rule - in such a world, we, the Nation of Israel, step forward and call for a different kind of world. We step forward and call for a different kind of rule; we dream of a different kind of rule; we dream of a different kind of state - of an earthly Jerusalem that is aligned with the heavenly Jerusalem.

A Foundation of Unity
We have been praying for the sake of Jerusalem for years - "Remember, O Lord, against the children of Edom, the day of Jerusalem, who said: ‘Raze it, raze it, even to the foundation therein’" (Psalm 137:7). They say, "Raze it, raze it.." They wish to destabilize the foundations. What are the foundations? What is the principle foundation they wish to destabilize? Answer: "Therein" - within the city. And what is the foundation of "within the city"? Answer: sanctity, The Holy Temple. According to the sages, even before the Temple was constructed King David sanctified the foundation of the Temple right down to the abyss.

"Whither the tribes went up, even the tribes of the Lord, as a testimony unto Israel" (Psalm 122:4). Not separate tribes; not separate testimonies; not each one separately in an attempt to secure honor for himself or to satisfy some personal interest. King David unified the tribes such that the various communities would not organize their affairs separately. He desired the unity of the community as whole. All of the tribes ascended and made the pilgrimage to this site. All of the tribes set aside their personal interests for the sake of this vital matter.

This is the meaning of, "Raze it, raze it, even to the foundation therein." Edom wishes to cause Israel’s unity to crumble. Edom rejoices at the fact that we ourselves destabilized the foundation. He is happy to see us torn and divided. He is happy that we are unable to communicate with one another in a single tongue. He is happy when each of us builds a private altar of his own.

This is the foundation. King David sanctified the floor. He laid Jerusalem’s foundation - the physical, Earthy Jerusalem which needs to be aligned with the undivided Heavenly Jerusalem. And though each of the tribes of Israel is charged with its own task - "each according to his camp; each according to his banner" - all of them together "set camp around God’s sanctuary," for they understand that a single goal unites them. If one has a personal calling, he must forego this matter in order to sanctify the Name of Heaven. He is called upon to recognizing the fact that communal matters are much more important than personal ones; personal matters by their very nature come at the expense of communal matters - and, eventually, at the expense of personal matters as well.

"Raze it, raze it, even to the foundation therein" - on Jerusalem Day. On this day our enemies wish to rejoice at Jerusalem’s being razed to its foundation. But "ascribe strength to God.." God’s strength is given voice when the tribes ascend to Jerusalem together, for all of the tribes joined together in that city which unites them all, the city which erases all conflict, the city which demands unity - unity, the chief characteristic of the prodigy of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And though each individual has his own role, his own character, his own way of life, his own customs which must be preserved, this does not mean that each individual need to "erect a personal altar.." It does not mean that each individual need give top priority to his own personal concerns while ignoring or belittling communal matters.

"Ascribe strength to God." This is what God requests. "His majesty is dependent upon Israel." Who in the entire world can God depend upon if not Israel? Israel is the abject nation which for generation upon generation has borne the lonely burden of espousing the Divine cause; the nation which never gave up faith in the imminent redemption; which, in this generation, has merited witnessing a small spark of the redemption. We must be careful, though, not to become preoccupied with the Messiah. We must not underestimate the value of the wonderful gifts we have merited receiving - gifts which we bought with blood, with the blood of Jews who sacrificed themselves, who gave their lives in the sanctification of God’s name, for the sanctity of the Land of Israel, for the sake of Israel’s inner sanctity which cannot be blurred under any condition or at any time.

This is what makes Jerusalem Day unique, and this is what we need today. We must recall God’s compassion. We must not rebuff the unqualified goodness which God has bestowed upon us. We pray that if we are worthy and we gratefully acknowledge God’s kindness as revealed in the liberation of Jerusalem‘s Old City, He will continue to bestow upon us such compassion.

We are not a war-loving people. We receive no pleasure from spilling blood. We fight against war. We fight against spilling blood. We would like for the State of Israel to be able to leave its doors open at night. We would like Israel to be an exemplary state whereto the nations of the world come in order to learn how a state ought to be managed and how interpersonal relations should be organized. We strive for this, and we are the only nation capable of attaining this goal, for we are a nation which carries in its heart idea of "Jerusalem - a city that is bound together." We are the only nation which knows how to perform a marriage between collective, practical, and national matters, and the illumination of Heavenly Jerusalem.

May it be God’s will that each of us be able to contribute in his own unique way and capacity in creating the kind of state that will "ascribe strength for God," according honor to the Kingdom of Heaven. When this happens we will certainly merit the fulfillment of the words, "And all the nations of the world will see that the name of God is linked to you and they will fear you" (Deuteronomy 28:10). This is the essential point - we are not interested in striking fear into peoples’ hearts with planes and tanks. We wish to strike fear into their hearts via the name of God which is linked to us, sanctifying His name before the masses.

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Some of the Biblical verses in the above article were taken from or based upon the "The Holy Scriptures" (JPS).

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