Beit Midrash

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To dedicate this lesson

The Torah and the Joy of Jerusalem

“Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad with her, all of you who love her” (Isaiah 66:10). When we rejoice over the restoration of Jerusalem, we must also pray that the city not fall again. This is done via the Torah, which sustains and strengthens us.


Rabbi Shlomo Amar

Iyar 5768
1. The Intense Joy of Liberation
2. Exile’s Essence - Captive Sparks of Sanctity

3. Thanking God Through Outreach
4. Emet Ve-Yatziv" - A Description of the Redemption

The Intense Joy of Liberation
"Jerusalem, built as a city joined together" (Psalms 122:3). These words contain many meanings. In our own day we have been granted the privilege of witnessing another sense of the city’s joined nature - the literal sense of a unified Jerusalem.

The sages teach that the "earthly Jerusalem" reflects the "heavenly Jerusalem" (Midrash Tanchuma, Pekudei; Baba Batra 75b). The eyes of the entire world are upon her, and it is for her we longed throughout our lengthy exile. We have been granted the privilege of seeing God’s return to Zion with our own eyes (see Isaiah 52:8).

Those of us who grew up in the exile remember the dream-like pictures of Jerusalem as she was portrayed in the books of our parents. We never imagined that we would one day have the good fortune of actually touching the stones of the Waling Wall with our own hands and fulfilling the verse "For your servants take pleasure in her stones, and love her dust" (Psalms 102:15).

Exile’s Essence - Captive Sparks of Sanctity
On the verse "The hand upon the throne of the Lord, the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation." In this verse, the word for throne (kisseh) is missing an "alef" and God’s name is missing the letters "vav" and "heh." The sages say that God swore that His name and His throne would remain incomplete until Amalek’s name was wiped out (Exodus 17:16, and Rashi ad loc.). What does this mean? Why does the existence of Amalek prevent God’s name from being complete?

It would appear that the words of the sages are based on the understanding that the forces of impurity have no independent existence: "You sustain all" (Nehemiah 9:6), Fashioner of light, Creator of darkness, Maker of peace, and Creator of all (Isaiah 45:7). However, while light derives its existence directly from God, darkness exists in a negative fashion. When we sin, sparks of sanctity descend, and they are taken captive by the impure forces, and this is how they are sustained (see, for example, Shem Mishmuel, Toldot 5675, end, and Pri Tzaddik, Devarim 2).

There are those who, based upon such an understanding, are able to explain why on Purim one must drink "until one no longer knows the difference between ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordecai’ " (Megillah 7b), to the point that ‘blessed is Haman.’ When one extracts the blessing that exists inside Haman, he is no longer Haman. If Amalek exists, there are certainly forces of sanctity within him. These forces belong to God’s throne, and therefore His throne and His name are incomplete.

Building Jerusalem and Strengthening the Torah
God’s throne can only be made complete by virtue of Jerusalem. "For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his habitation" (Psalms 132:13). The word "desired" ("iva") in this verse contains the "alef" missing from God’s throne, and the letters "vav" and "heh" missing from His name.

On the verse "He washes his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes" (Genesis 49:11), the Holy Or HaChaim writes that future perfection need not come through wars. If we merit so much, filling ourselves with Torah, the final, necessary "washing of garments" will come through the wine of the Torah.

The Or HaChaim writes that only the Torah can prevent the spilling of Jewish blood, bringing salvation through kindness so that "by sitting still and resting shall you be saved" (Isaiah 30:15). This is because the Torah has the power to perfect everything, "The study of Torah is equal to all [other commandments together]." Yet if we are not so fortunate, "God will be at war with Amalek," and this war completes that which was not completed via the Torah."

Those who were fortunate enough to see the excitement and ebullience that accompanied the liberation of the Western Wall could not but sense the fulfillment of the verse, "Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad with her, all of you who love her" (Isaiah 66:10). When we rejoice over the restoration of Jerusalem, we must also pray for the city, that she not fall again (Heaven forbid!). This is done via the Torah, which sustains and strengthens us - "And it is this that stood up for our forefathers and us."

During our long exile, the nations sought to destroy us in so many, varied ways. Their goal, however, was one: "They said: Come and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel be no longer remembered" (Psalms 83:5). Finally, Nebuchadnezzar rose up and scattered the Jewish people so thoroughly that there would eventually be no corner of the world where Jews could not be found. The purpose of dispersing us so was obvious. After all, how long can a nation endure when it is so completely scattered?

Rabbi Yaakov Emden writes, "By my word...the survival of the nation, despite the hardships, the persecutions, and the wicked decrees brought upon it - there is no greater miracle than this, not even the parting of the Red Sea." He wrote these words about 300 years ago. Now we, who have had the good fortune to witness even greater miracles, what can we say?

When the Chidah (Rabbi Chaim David Azulai) was in Jerusalem, the city was empty and barren. He wrote that the Torah had left the Land of Israel and was exiled to Babel, and from Babel to Sefarad (Spain), and from Sefarad to Ashkenaz (Germany), and in the end the Torah will return to the Land of Israel.

And as incredible as it may seem, this is exactly what happened. We can see with our own eyes that the world’s Torah centers are now in Israel. It should come as no surprise, then, that the battle for the Torah’s existence in our day is so great; the Torah is the greatest, holiest, and most crucial matter today.

Thanking God Through Outreach
We thank God in our own way. Through outreach and love, we will eventually succeed in bringing the Torah’s pleasantness to every place in the world. People will recognize that without Torah we have no existence - "Our nation is only a nation by virtue of the Torah" (Saadya Gaon, Emunot Ve-Deot 3:7). And many are indeed returning, day by day, to the "rock from which they were hewn."

"Emet Ve-Yatziv" - A Description of the Redemption
On the verse "And Jacob dwelled..." (Genesis 37:1, and Rashi ad loc.), the sages teach: "Jacob sought to dwell peacefully, but the turmoil of Joseph fell upon him." Elsewhere, the sages teach that "Jacob sought to reveal what would happen in the End of Days."

I believe that both cases pertain to the same desire. Jacob sought to disclose the End of Days, to hasten the redemption of Israel, as it is written, "I shall recall my covenant with Jacob." Jacob wished to dwell in peace, to create a dwelling place for God’s name and to make it complete. By doing this he hoped to hasten the Final Days, but the "turmoil of Joseph" fell upon him. God told him that it is impossible to bring the House of David before the House of Joseph. The Messiah of the House of Joseph will come by way of turmoil and war. Therefore, we pray each day that the Messiah of the House of Joseph not be killed by Armilus the wicked.

I think that the "emet veyatziv" blessing we recite in our prayers each day pertains to this same matter. We mention fifteen appellations of God ("emet, veyatziv, venachon, vekayam, etc.), and this is no coincidence. The Rema (Rabbi Moshe Isserles) writes that the custom is to write the Hebrew letter "vav" on the tops of each sheet of parchment in a Torah scroll (Rema, Yoreh Deah 273:6) and the Chidah writes that there are esoteric, mystical reasons for this practice.

In addition, Jacob is written in the Torah five times with a "vav," and correspondingly, Elijah is written five times without a vav. "Behold, I will send you Elijah [without ‘vav’] the prophet..." This is "...before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord" (Malachi 3:23). After the "day of the Lord," the "vav" will be inserted.

Why "vav" of all letters? Because "vav" is also omitted from our "pedut" (redemption). Regarding the Exodus from Egypt it is written, "I shall bring redemption [without ‘vav’]." The five "vav"s missing from Elijah’s name were taken by Jacob. Maybe these are also the five "vav"s absent from Torah scrolls.

Corresponding to these fifteen "vav"s we recite fifteen "vav"s in "emet veyatziv." Just after this we say, "True, Eternal God, our King, the rock of Jacob, the shield of our salvation. Generation to generation He exists, and His name exists, and His throne is firmly established, and His kingdom and faith endure forever."

And why do we mention Jacob? Why not Abraham or Isaac? Because it is Jacob who is responsible for the matter of salvation. "Generation to generation" corresponds to "The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation." "He exists" ("Hu kayam"). The Hebrew word for "He" ("Hu") contains the letters "alef," "heh," and "vav." The "alef" corresponds with the missing "alef" in God’s throne, and the "heh" and "vav" correspond with the missing letters in God’s name. If "He exists, and His name exists and His throne is firmly established," then "His kingdom and faith endure forever." Nothing can stop them.

We pray that this joy never cease, until the great light of our righteous Messiah is revealed on "the great and terrible day," when God’s name and throne become complete, quickly in our days, Amen.
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