Wednesday, May 24, 2017


By Rabbi Mordechai Willig


Avraham called the name of that place "Hashem will see (yireh)" (Breishis 22:14.) The Medrash Rabba (56:10) states, "Avraham called it Yireh. Shem called it Shalem, as it says (14:18), 'Malkitzedek (i.e. Shem, Rashi) king of Shalem.' Hashem said, 'if I call it Yireh, Shem will complain. If I call it Shalem, Avraham will complain. I will call it Yerushalayim - Yireh Shalem.'"

The Meshech Chochma (22:14) explains that Shem lived in the generation of the flood, when the earth became filled with robbery (6:11), and all flesh (even animals, Rashi) perverted its way on the earth (6:12). His life's work was to correct the evil traits and actions. He called his city Shalem, complete, to emphasize that all of mankind is one complete whole. Each person needs the other, influences and is influenced by him. Thus, Shalem represents interpersonal propriety and wholesome character.

Avraham taught monotheism and Divine Providence. He called his city Yireh, (He) will see, to emphasize that Hashem sees and controls world and personal events. He added "Hashem will be seen" when all will recognize that Hashem exists and sustains. This was his life's work (See Rashi 21:33).

Hashem combined both names, because both our character and our intellect are purified in Yerushalayim. Yireh means that Hashem sees, and we respond by observing His precepts, bein adam la-Makom. Shalem means that we perfect our character traits, bein adam le-chaveiro.

If either of these components is lacking, Yerushalayim is imperiled. The first Beis Hamikdash was destroyed primarily because of Avoda Zara and arayos (Sanhedrin 63b, 64a), which are aveiros bein adam la-Makom. The second Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because of baseless hatred (Yoma 9b), an aveira bein adam le-chaveiro. The resultant fast days will become holidays only when we will love both truth, bein adam la-Makom, and peace, bein adam le-chaveiro (Zecharya9:19, see Radak).

The Beis Hamikdash was rebuilt shortly after the first destruction. The second state of destruction is nearly two thousand years old. This indicates that interpersonal sins are more severe (Yoma 9b).

Hashem spreads peace, "upon us, upon all of His nation Yisrael, and upon Yerushalayim" (ma'ariv on Shabbos). Apparently Yerushalayim requires an additional blessing of peace (Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld).

Unfortunately, we have not yet merited this blessing. Yerushalayim is the center of the ongoing conflict between Jews and Arabs. Sadly, it suffers from serious conflicts and even occasional ugly clashes between Jews and Jews, over religious and other issues.


Fifty years ago, after two days of intense warfare in and around the city, Yerushalayim was reunified with the liberation of the Old City. When the cities of Yehuda were conquered, the obligation to tear one's garment when seeing them in a state of destruction ceased (Magen Avraham 561:1). In Jewish hands they are considered built. This may apply to Yerushalayim as well (Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim vol. 4, 70:11).

"The built Yerushalayim is like a city that is connected together (chubra la yachdav)" (Tehilim 122:3). The Yerushalmi (Bava Kama 7:7) interprets this to mean that Yerushalayim is a city that connects (shemchaberes) Yisrael one to the other. Technically, this refers to laws of ritual impurity which are relaxed on holidays. When the tribes go up [for aliyah l'regel] (122:4), all of Yisrael are chaveirim (Yerushalmi Chagiga 3:6). Homiletically, the literal translation teaches that Yerushalayimconnects Jews to one another. The theme of this year's jubilee commemoration, Yerushalayim Hame'uchedes V'hami'achedes, the unified and that unifies, reflects this idea.

Yerushalayim was reunified on the twenty eight of Iyar fifty years ago. Exactly one week after Yom Yerushalayim, at dawn on Shavuos, the public was allowed to enter the Old City and daven at the Kosel Hama'aravi. I was privileged to attend that unforgettable event. After the traditional mishmar and shacharis k'vasikin, the talmidim of Kerem B'Yavne joined the early morning crowd. We sang and danced to the words of Tehillim 122 as we entered the Old City. The words of Musaf at the Kosel, "Bring us to Tziyon Your city with joy" were recited with great emotion and exultation.

Among the most remarkable and unforgettable highlights of that march was the fulfillment of "Yerushalayim the built, a city that connects Jews to one another." Chasidim in their holiday shtreimels, Yeshiva students wearing knitted kipot, and bare-headed Jews with cameras slung over their shoulders danced together on that day. It was a taste of the unity of Messianic times, and was followed by the ba'al teshuva movement.

Many tribulations and conflicts have come upon Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael since those heady days of 1967. As we commemorate Yom Yerusahalyim and prepare for Shavuos fifty years later, we aspire for the unity of the first Shavuos, as one man with one heart (Rashi, Shemos 19:2), as we pray for the ultimate rebuilding of Yerushalyim, speedily in our days.

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