Beit Midrash

  • Shabbat and Holidays
  • Jerusalem Day
קטגוריה משנית
To dedicate this lesson
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A famous and moving song written shortly after the Six Day War by Yozzi Gimzo focuses on the profound significance of the Western Wall from several angles. Its refrain is this:

The Western Wall – it is moss and sadness

The Wall – it is lead and blood.

There are people with a heart of stone

And there are stones with a heart of man.

These words were actually inspired by Rav Tzvi Yehuda HaCohen Kook, who wrote tens of years earlier, "There are two types of stones: some are lifeless, and some stones are hearts."

The Western Wall looks simply like a big and menacing block of rocks. One must look with penetrating eyes to sense what it really expresses: the longing of dozens of generations, the prayers of our forefathers and foremothers, the tears of the oppressed, and the joy of all those who commemorated their happy occasions there over the course of centuries.

Strong is the Western Wall, stable and durable. All those who tried to destroy it have passed from the world, while it remains loyally on its watch - a deep and tangible expression of the eternity of Israel, a memorial to the destroyed Holy Temple (Beit HaMikdash) and a symbol of our faith in the building of the Third Temple.

Not every eye can see this. Not every person merits the ability to direct his human eye to the same line of vision as the Divine eye. There are those who see only old stones on the Western Wall - because his heart is no more than stone. But there are those who see what is behind the stones; they have a warm Jewish heart beating inside. They hear the voice of Him who "stands behind our wall" (Song of Songs 2,9).

Whoever listened carefully and heard IDF Paratroopers crying before the Western Wall that they had just liberated; whoever looked deeply and saw the tears of the combat soldiers on the Wall's ancient boulders – merited to see the meeting of the hearts: the heart of the nation and the heart of the individual within the stones. He is the one who can point and say, "Here He is, standing behind our wall, looking from the windows, peering from the lattices" (2,9).

"I Will Make Your Sanctuaries Desolate"

Whose is the Beit HaMikdash? Is it G-d's, or does it belong to the Nation of Israel?

When the Torah tells us of the destruction awaiting us if we sin, it says, "I will make the Land desolate, even of your enemies (Lev. 26,32). But an even more acute aspect of the tragedy is that the heart of hearts of the Land will also be destroyed: the Beit HaMikdash. For the same chapter states: "I will lay your cities waste and make your holy places desolate, and I will not partake of your pleasant fragrances." Note how the Torah attributes the Sanctuaries and the sacrifices not to G-d, as it usually does, but to Israel: "Your holy places... your pleasant fragrances."

The classical commentator Ibn Ezra notes that the verse means to emphasize that when the Divine Presence leaves, the sanctuaries are no longer G-d's, but Israel's.

But actually, something else might be inferred. The Gemara in Tractate Megilah indeed states that the words "I will make desolate your holy places" mean that even when they are in a state of destruction, their sanctity remains.

In addition, the Sages famously teach that the Divine Presence never abandoned the Western Wall, even in its destruction.

So which is it? Is the punitive destruction the end of the line, or does the remaining sanctity give us room for optimism?

We see, in the beginning of this week's Torah portion, the contrast between what belongs to the Master of the Universe and what belongs to us: "If you walk in the paths of My laws and keep My commandments..." – i.e., with the knowledge that they are G-d's commandments and are not man-made – then, "I will give your rains at their right times."

The rain is Israel's, but the Torah and its mitzvot are the word of G-d, and certainly not merely man-made folklore.

The same is true for the Holy Temple. Moshe Rabbeinu commands that Israel must do as follows: "They shall build for Me a sanctuary" - and the Sages explain "for Me" as meaning, "in My name." The same is true for the sacrificial offerings: "My offering... My bread... My fires..." etc.

The sin that causes destruction is when we relate to the Beit HaMikdash and to the offerings as a "lucky charm" that comes to preserve the nation's existence and provide welfare to individuals. But this is pagan worship! Instead of humans fulfilling G-d's will, this approach seeks to have the gods do man's will. For this the Torah says: "If these sanctuaries are only yours, and if your sacrifices are only for you, then they must be destroyed!"

But precisely then, in their desolation, when you can't use them for reaching out to G-d, you will discover that the Divine sanctity hovering over them never stopped! They are sanctified even in their state of destruction.

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