Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Joy of the Daughter of Zion

Haftorat Beha’alotcha
Zechariah 2:14-4:7
This week’s haftorah from the last of the twelve Minor Prophets, Zechariah, is one of my favorites. It is so beautifully poetic and overflowing with hope, in its description of Hashem’s returning Israel with the Shechina to our Holy Land. I was so inspired by its opening verses, “Roni v'simchi bat Zion,” “Shout for Joy, O Daughter of Zion…,” that I composed a melody for them. If you are a woman you can hear my song accompanied by my guitar below. It is very unprofessionally recorded, and so is my singing and playing, but I hope, nevertheless, that you will enjoy the tune.

The Connection between the Haftorah and the Torah reading
The vision of the golden Menorah (Candelabra) in this week’s haftorah links the haftorah to Parashat Beha’alotcha, which opens with instructing Aharon to kindle the Menorah daily. Nechama Leibowitz explains that the lighting of the Menorah symbolizes the purpose of the entire service in the Mishkan – the elevation of the soul towards the Divine light by keeping the mitzvot of the Torah. The light emanating from the golden seven-branched Menorah represent the spiritual light of the Shechina, the Divine Indwelling Presence of G-d. Moshe was unable to picture or comprehend the design of the Menorah, until Hashem showed him in a vision. In the haftarah, Zechariah is likewise shown a vision of a “Golden Menorah with a bowl upon the top of it, and seven lamps to it, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, attached to its head. Two olive trees by the Menorah, one upon the right side of the bowl and the other by the left” (Zechariah 4:2-3). It seems to me that the vessel for spiritual light must be shown through a Divine vision, since it cannot be comprehended through human logic. It is evidently by Divine Providence that the secular State of Israel has chosen as its emblem, the image of the Menorah as described in this week’s haftorah. This emblem clearly symbolizes how Israel is a vessel for the Indwelling Presence of the Shechina. The red thread that ties this week’s parashah to its haftorah is that they both describe the dwelling of the Shechina within Israel. In the parashah, the description of kindling the Menorah is followed by the purification of the Levites for the service in the Mishkan, and the cloud of Hashem’s Shechina, which covered the Mishkan. Even the story about Miriam and Aharon’s critique of Moshe, teaches us about how Moshe had to always be ready for the Shechina, which dwelled perpetually upon him. The haftorah describes not only the reconstruction of the Second Temple, but moreover, it alludes to the final geulah when Hashem’s Shechina will return permanently to Israel. The Mashiach will be able to build the Temple and cause the Shechina to dwell within it as effortlessly as lighting the Menorah, “…not by physical might or power, but by my spirit, says Hashem of Hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).
Messianic Prophesy
The haftorah opens in high spirits describing the exuberant happiness that we will experience when the Shechina returns to Yerushalayim: “Shout for joy, O daughter of Tzion, for, behold! I will come and dwell in your midst, says Hashem” (Zechariah 2:14). The Prophet announces the forthcoming greatest joy, when Hashem will return to dwell openly within the Jewish People after the longest period of concealment. Though the haftorah definitely refers to the historical period in which Zechariah lived, towards the end of the Babylonian Exile, the underlying message addresses the Diaspora two and a half Millennia later, prophesying the rebuilding of the Third Temple, by the Mashiach. Rabbi Yechezkiel, the Noda b’Yehuda explains that the verse, “And many nations will attach themselves to Hashem…” (Zechariah 2:15), clearly refers to the time of Mashiach, for only in the Future to Come will the nations leave their idols and return to Hashem. This principle is reflected in our prayer on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, “For My House will be called a House of Prayer for all nations!” (Yesha’yahu 56:7). In addition, Hashem promises in the haftorah “…I will dwell in your midst” (Ibid. 14), yet the dwelling of Hashem’s Shechina was one of the five things missing in the Second Temple (Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 21b).  Therefore, the optimistic prophecy in our haftorah primarily refers to the final redemption.
Daughter of Tzion –Under the Shelter of Hashem’s Shechina
Who is the “Daughter of Tzion” mentioned in the haftorah? According to Rabbi Nachman of Breslau, Bat Tzion is the root of the Neshama of Israel, which is the essence of happiness. We need to protect this holy Neshama from the impure shells of sorrow and moaning with extra holiness (Likutei Halachot, Hilchot Peria v’Revia v”ishut 3).  It seems that in our generation sadness, depression, fear and worry easily creep in to our psyche and debilitate us. It takes great soul work to transform and eradicate these negative emotions from our consciousness. The first step is to recognize them, as we often block away feeling anything at all out of fear. By strengthening our bitachon (trust in Hashem) and realizing that EVERYTHING is for the good, with Hashem’s help we have the ability to overcome negativity and reach a constant level of happiness. B’er Mayim Chaim explains that there is the protecting wall of Bat Tzion (See Eicha 2:8), which surrounds Israel like a wall, and seals us to be under the shelter of the wings of the Shechina (Parshat Shoftim 17). In my practice of spiritual healing I often use a guided imagery, visualizing this protective wall of Hashem’s light surrounding us, to develop immunization to disapproval and criticism from others.
The Return of the Shechina to Tzion for the Sake of Bat Tzion – The Congregation of Israel
The Noda b’Yehuda reveals that Tzion always refers to the dwelling place of the Shechina as Tzion means the innermost point. Bat Tzion refers to the congregation of Israel, because the Shechina dwells not only in a particular place but specifically for the sake of the Jewish people. Also in the time of exile, wherever Israel was exiled, the Shechina was exiled with us (Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 29a). In the future with the ingathering of the exiles the Shechina will return with us. This is the intention of the prophet, “Shout for Joy O Bat Tzion,” specifically “Bat” and not just “Tzion,” because the main Simcha is for the sake of Bat Tzion (Israel) when Hashem “will dwell in our midst.” After learning this, I was still wondering why Israel is particularly called a “daughter.” In Lurianic Kabbalah the lowest sephira of Malchut (Kingdom) is the archetype of “daughter.” Malchut is the pure channel and manifestation of the upper sephirot. It is Israel’s task to manifest Hashem’s light into the world. Fulfilling this task is only possible when the unified Malchut returns to Israel, when we b”H will crown Mashiach as our righteous king. The Jewish soul is moreover a “daughter” of Hashem as it emanates from His holiness. Just like we related to Hashem as a loving father, Hashem calls us “daughter of Tzion” when his Shechina returns to dwell within us in the Land of Israel. The Noda b’Yehuda continues to explain that since it is not an honor for Hashem to be outside of His holy Temple, therefore, Hashem’s Shechina is concealed during the exile. Sometimes it is manifested through judgment and the suffering of exile. However the judgment is always joined with (rachamim) mercy, for the purpose of the exile of the Shechina is to cover us secretly with the wings of the Shechina “For I am Adoshem Elokeichem (your G-d)”(Shemot 29:46) Even in the time of judgment (Elokim) I am still Hashem of Kindness. This concept is reflected in the end of the first verse of our haftorah.
For the Sake of the Joy of the Daughter of Tzion – The Jewish Woman
During our exile, although the Shechina is exiled with us, it does not dwell within our midst. However during the redemption, “Behold I come, and I will dwell within your midst, and many nations shall join themselves to Hashem in that day, and shall be My people, and I will dwell in your midst” (Zechariah 2:14-15). I feel very fortunate to witness the beginning of this process, as Hashem’s Shechina returns to Israel. In the serene mountains of Bat Ayin, its echo can be sensed through the rush of the wind in the trees, the reflections of the colors of the sunset, the sweetness of the fruits grown on the Land, and the enlightened star-filled sky. While dancing with the Kalah (bride) at weddings in Yerushalayim and its outskirts, the glow of the Shechina reverberates and fills the air. Through the singing and rejoicing of the “daughter of Tzion” – the Jewish women, we will bring about Hashem’s response “For here I come, and I will dwell in your midst, Says Hashem!”

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Mother of Shimshon

Haftorat Naso
Shoftim 13:2-25

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This week's haftorah describes one of the most hidden women in Tanach: Hatzlelponi from whom we can glean so many hidden lessons.

The Connection between the Haftorah and the Torah reading
This week's haftorah describes the birth of Shimshon, a lifetime Nazir (Nazarite). This is an appropriate haftorah for this week's Torah reading, which discusses the laws of the Nazir, who may not drink wine, partake from anything made from grapes; cut the hair of his head, nor come in contact with the dead. In Parashat Naso, the laws of the Nazir follow the unfortunate story of the sota (the woman suspected of adultery) to teach us that "anyone who sees the sota in her disgrace will vow to abstain from wine [as does the Nazir]"(Sota 2a). In contrast, our haftorah prophesies the birth of Shimshon, who was supposed to be a Nazir from the womb, not as a result of a moral flaw of any woman, but rather, it was the merit of his mother – Manoach's wife – which brought about the birth of Shimshon.

The Merit of Manoach's Wife
An angel of Hashem appeared to the woman, and said to her, Behold now, you are barren, and have never given birth; you shall conceive and bear a son. Consequently, beware now, and do not drink wine or strong drink, and do not eat any unclean thing. Because you shall conceive, and bear a son; and a razor shall not come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazir to G-d from the womb; and he will begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines. And the woman came and said to her husband, saying, A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like the appearance of an angel of God, very awesome; but I did not ask him from where he was and his name he did not tell me. But he said to me, Behold, you shall conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine or strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing: for the child shall be a Nazir to G-d from the womb to the day of his death (Shoftim 13:3-7).

Why did the angel appear to Manoach's wife and not to Manoach? Perhaps it was because the angel appeared without prayer or preparation and these kinds of spontaneous prophetic experiences happen more to women. Malbim explains that the reason why the angel didn't appear to Manoach but rather to his wife is because she was more ready than him for the appearance of the angel. In the end of the haftorah we see how Manoach's wife excels in emuna (faith), and through the high level of her faith she is able to reassure her husband who was afraid that "We shall surely die, for we have seen a G-dly angel" (Shoftim 13:22). Manoach's wife reassured him, "Had Hashem wanted to put us to death, He would not have accepted from our hand an elevation-offering and a meal-offering, nor would He have shown us all this, nor would He let us hear such tidings at this time" (ibid. 23). If Hashem wished for us to die He would not have sent us an angel to inform us that a son would be born to us who will fight the Plishtim.

Learning Emuna from Manoach's Wife
Even though Manoach's wife had witnessed far less miracles than Am Yisrael in the desert, she would have much to teach the Jewish people in the wilderness. Had only the Jewish people in the desert used Manoach's wife's principle of thinking, many complaints and fears could have been avoided. Using her logic, Rabbi Nebenzahl explains how they should have realized that had Hashem wished to let the Jewish people die of thirst in the wilderness, He would not have accepted their Korban Pesach only a few days earlier. He would not have shown them all the great miracles in Egypt and by the sea, and He would not have promised them entry into Eretz Yisrael. When we succumb to irrational fears, it is our yetzer hara (negative inclination) that makes us think like Manoach rather than his wife. If we only realize all the endless miracles that Hashem showers upon us every single day, there would be no room for pessimistic thoughts. When things don't go our way, rather than being afraid that Hashem is punishing us, we can learn from Manoach's wife to recognize Hashem's great love for us and that it is all a test to bring us closer to Him. 

"Hatzlelponi": Woman of Shadows
Who was Manoach's wife, the mother of Shimshon? Although her name is not directly given in Tanach, according to the midrash, her name was צללפוני  Tzelalfoni(t) orהַצְלֶלְפּוֹנִי  Hatzlelponi (Baba Bathra 91a). This name appears in 1 Divrei haYamim 4:3, being the name of a woman from the tribe of Yehudah. As a rule, it is mainly the males who are mentioned in genealogies, as the heads of families, Hatzlelponi stands out, and there must, therefore, be a special reason for mentioning her. Radak concludes that she was an important woman. The midrash explains, that Manoach's wife was righteous, for she merited to speak with the angel. Since she saw an angel her name is called Tzelalfoni. The "Poni" part of her name refers to "Ponah beMalach," – she saw (or turned to) an angel. The "Tzelal" part of her name refers to being in the shadow of the angel. "Tzel" is a term used in the Torah when Lot sees an angel (Bereishit 19:8), and Manoach's wife sees an angel twice, therefore she is called "Hatzlel" (with a double lamed), rather than just "Hatzel." (Bemidbar Rabah 10:5). This is congruent with Malbim's explanation of Song of Songs 2:17 "Hatzellalim" – "The shadows" referring to prophetic visions.

Going After His Wife 
Rabbi Nachman said: Manoach was an ignorant man, as is written, "And Manoach rose and went after his wife" (Shoftim 13:11). But Rabbi Nachman bar Yitzchak disagreed, asking: Does this mean that Elkana was ignorant, from the verse "And Elkana went after his wife" (Tosafot note that they were not able to find such a verse), or Elisha, as is written, "He rose and went after her" (2 Melachim 4:30)? In these cases the verse simply means that the man followed the advice of the woman. The same is true of Manoach, who followed his wife's advice. Rabbi Ashi said, in view of Rabbi Nachman's words, claiming that Manoach was ignorant; it would seem that he did not even study the Torah. For it is written, "Rivka and her maids arose, and they rode the camels, and they went after the man" (Bereishit 24:41). They did not go before the man (Berachot 61a).

This Chazal teaches us that a man should not walk behind a woman even his own wife. The reason is that for a man seeing the behind of a woman, may cause him improper thoughts. Even in regards to his own wife, it seems to me, that he should not regard her rear, in order not to think of her in a lowly immodest way. Rather her face should be foremost in his mind. Rabbi Nachman in the gemara defends the great men (Elkana and Elisha) who are described as walking after a woman, by explaining that they did not necessarily walk after (behind) a woman in the physical sense, but rather, they followed the advice of the woman, which is totally legitimate. The gemara implies that women have what to say even to the greatest prophets. (According to the midrash, Elkana was also a prophet.) Rabbi Ashi still insists that although Elkana and Elisha followed the advice of women, in the case of Manoach, he was ignorant and was not only under his wife's influence, but he did, in fact, walk behind her. This had to be so, since the angel appeared to her and not to him, "She alone knew the place where [the angel] appeared" (Metzudat David, Shoftim 13:11). However, according to Rashi ibid., Manoach went after his wife's advice. We can, therefore conclude that Manoch followed his wife both in the physical and spiritual sense. A possible reason why it is only acceptable for a man to follow a woman in the spiritual but not in the physical sense, is that on the exterior level it is important that the husband comes before the wife. He needs to feel important in this way in order for him to be ready to follow the internal advice of his wife, for on the innermost level, "The woman of valor is the crown of her husband" (Mishlei 12:4).

Her Reincarnations
Hatzlalponit, the mother of Shimson, is one of the seven barren women in the world corresponding to the seven days of creation. She corresponds to the sixth day of creation – the day Adam and Chava were created. (Sefer Kehilat Ya'acov 95). The Rama of Pano reveals that Tzelalfonit was the reincarnation of Lamech's wife Tzila, which also means shadow. She had two shadows (as the word tzelal indicates) and was later reincarnated in Chana who sat in the shadow of Hashem. Both of these women, who gave birth to special men after being barren, rectified the original Tzila who drank a potion in order to prevent becoming pregnant, that her husband Lamech could enjoy basking in her undivided shadow. (Sefer Gilgulei Neshamot 30).The Rama of Pano, furthermore brings that Tzelalponit was the reincarnation of the wife of On ben Pelet, whom she saved (hitzila) from the wicked congregation of Korach. The first part of the name "Tzelal"( (צללshares the same root as the word for saving (צלה). Since she saved him, she saw the angel first. (Ibid. 90).

The last reincarnation of Tzelalponit and Manoach was during the time of the Talmud. Abba Chelkiah, the grandson of Choni HaMa'agal (who was famous for causing the rain to fall) was Manoach the ignorant man who went after his wife. The gemara recounts that people would come to Abba Chilkiya to ask him to pray for rain. He went after his wife and placed himself between the sages and his wife, because he didn't trust the sages not to look at his wife. Moreover, the clouds of rain came up first from where his wife was standing rather than from where he was standing. The reason is that the wife has more merit since she is in the house and she gives bread to the poor. In this way, she benefits them more than her husband who just gives them money. Another reason why the rain would fall for the wife of Rabbi Chilkiya is that their neighborhood was full of ruffians. Abba Chilkia prayed (מצלי) that they would die; whereas, his wife prayed that they would repent, and so it happened (Ta'anit 23b). The Rama of Pano adds that Abba Chilkiya went after his wife to show that what he did in the reincarnation of Manoach was well intended and for the good, for his wife was very pious. Just like the rainclouds came to her first, so did the angel come to her first in her previous reincarnation of Manoach's wife – the Tzelalponit (Gilgulei Neshamot 1).

Monday, May 17, 2010

Divine Matrimony

Haftorat Bemidbar
Hoshea 2:1-22

The Connection between the Haftorah and the Torah reading

We always read Parashat Bemidbar with its haftorah from Hoshea the Shabbat preceding Shavuot. In order to prepare us for receiving the Torah, Hashem led us through the desolate wilderness to wipe our slate clean from any residue of the impurity absorbed during the Egyptian exile. Only extended living in the wilderness enables the deep spiritual transformation in the heart of the children of Israel. The correct English translation of Bemidbar is “in the desert.” This word is moreover related to the word for speech “dibur.” From this we learn that the desert speaks (hamidbar medaber). I once experienced the silent voice of the wilderness when I joined Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin’s annual moonlit desert hike. It was a total transformative experience to be away from all the glitter of establishment. No stores, no houses, no buildings, not even a tree – just sand and endless mountains are all you see. When sitting and meditating alone in the desert, you can feel how all the exterior layers of your identity evaporate, as you get in touch with the core – the spark of G-d – infused within your soul. Just as the desert cleansed Israel of any foreign influence in preparation for receiving the Torah, so does our haftorah describe how Hashem brought us to the desert to help us do teshuva (repent) from the negative influence absorbed during exile. The haftorah compares the Jewish people to a married woman who went astray after foreign men. Hashem (her husband) promises to bring her to the desert, in order to renew his relationship with her. “I will visit upon her the days of the ba’alim, to whom she burnt incense, and she adorned herself with her earrings and her jewelry, and went after her lovers, and she forgot Me, says Hashem. Therefore, behold I will allure her and lead her into the desert, and I will speak comfortingly to her heart” (Hoshea 2:15-16). Specifically in the desert, will Hashem speak to our heart. For in the desert, we can peal off our exterior layers of attachments to the material – the “earrings, jewelry, lovers etc.” Then we can open ourselves to hear the comforting voice of Hashem, whispering through the silent wilderness, to return to Him with a complete heart.

Complete Equality between Husband and Wife Reflects the Ultimate Rectified Relationship with Hashem

The Hebrew word for husband ba’al literally means “master.” This reflects the subservient role of women throughout the times, when they were dependent on their husbands for their very existence. I truly do advocate the importance for the wife to respect and look up to her husband. Yet, on the other hand, if the husband is her master, something in the relationship between them is missing. Through the relationship of servant/master, husband and wife are unable to relate to each other in the very highest way, as a servant cannot fully unite with her master. When he is above her and she doesn’t reach the crown of his head, their relationship is not completely matching. For example, if only the husband learns Torah, but the wife never learns, because she is completely overwhelmed by her domestic duties, then it may be difficult for them to conduct a conversation that will be equally meaningful for both. It is not only the woman who feels the lack, but the husband, as well, will find greater marital satisfaction with a wife who has become his complete equal, with whom he can share his deepest inner Torah thoughts. In this week’s haftorah, there is an allusion to the changing relationship between husband and wife, from that of servant and master to that of two equal partners. This reflects the evolving relationship between the Jewish people and Hashem, as the husband and wife relationship is a metaphor for the relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people. Only when the light of the woman completely matches that of her husband, will the Shechinah – the Divine feminine indwelling presence – permeate Israel completely without any partition. At that time Israel will no longer call Hashem ba’al, as Hoshea prophesies, “It shall come to pass on that day, says Hashem, you shall call Me Ishi, [my man] and you shall no longer call Me Ba’ali. And I will remove the names of the ba’alim (idols) from her mouth, and they shall no longer be mentioned by their name” (Hoshea 2:18-19). The word ba’al was also the name of the idol whose service was widespread in Israel. Therefore, relating to Hashem as the ba’al, carries the association of idol-worship, as we see in the abovementioned verse: Refraining from calling Hashem Ba’al is followed by removing “the names of the idols”. There are many levels of Divine service and relating to Hashem as the master is far from the highest. It is worship out of fear rather than from pure love. Hoshea prophesies about the future time, when we will rise to the highest level of serving Hashem with a complete purified heart. At that time, we will no longer call Hashem our master, because we have merged to become one with Him, in the same way that the wife will no longer call her husband her master as they will become unified as one. At the time of geulah, we will become purified from base desires to become a complete vessel filled with Hashem’s essence. There will no longer be any place within us that separates between us and Hashem. We will become the glove for Hashem’s hand to perfectly fit. 

The Connection between the Haftorah and Shavuot – Matrimony between Hashem and Israel

Shavuot commemorates the highest transcending moment of Jewish history– the wedding between the Jewish people and Hashem. The Tablets of the Torah were the Ketubah, and the mountain on top of their head was the chupah (marriage canopy). This is alluded to in the verse that describes the giving of the Torah: “He gave unto Moshe, when he finished (kekaloto) speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, two tablets of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of G-d” (Shemot 31:18). Rashi notes the connection between the word “kekaloto” and the Hebrew word for bride, “kalah.” “The word “kekaloto” is written without the vav [so it could be read “kekalato” – as his bride] to intimate that the Torah was handed over to Moshe as a gift just as a bride is handed over to the bridegroom” (Rashi ibid. See also Rashi, Shemot 34:1 where he compares the Tablets of the Torah to a marriage contract, and Babylonian Talmud, Ta’anit 26b). Just as on a king's wedding day, he distributes gifts to whoever asks, on Shavuot, we, too, can come to the King, Almighty, and request from Him the blessing of Shavuot. I have heard that especially as the sun rises on Shavuot, the sky is completely open for any request, especially if related to Torah. Just as the bride and the groom make a commitment to one another on their wedding day, so, too, on Shavuot do the Jewish people and Hashem commit to one another through an oath, as expressed in the concluding verse of our haftorah: “I will betroth you to Me forever, and I will betroth you to Me with righteousness and with justice and with loving-kindness and with mercy. And I will betroth you to Me with faith, and you shall know Hashem” (Hoshea 2:22).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Hashem's Miracles in Our Time

Haftorat Parashat Bechukotai / Behar-Bechukotai
Yirmeyahu 16:19-17:14
Yom Yerushalayim – The Revelation of Hashem's Miracles in Our Time
On the twenty-eighth day of the month of Iyar, we celebrate Hashem's miraculous deliverance of Israel from all of its surrounding enemies, and the conquest of its ancient Land including all of Jerusalem with the Kotel (Western Wall) in its midst. For two thousand years, we have been praying for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim, daily. In 1967, this prayer became fulfilled to a great degree. The Jewish people and our Holy City was finally reunited. After almost two thousand years of separation, it is a great zchut (merit) to witness that Jerusalem with its Holy Temple Mount is again in Jewish hands. In 1967, I lived in Denmark and was only seven years old, but I still remember the great event, because it deeply touched me. I remember the excitement and enthusiastic spirit in the air, and the television reports, which had interviews with soldiers and songs. We played Naomi Shemer's: "Yerushalayim shel Zahav" over and over. There was no doubt in anyone's mind (even the most secular) that a great miracle had taken place. All of the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq, with nearly two hundred thousand troops, supplied by Russia with an arsenal of mighty weapons had arrogantly declared to the whole world: "We are set upon destroying the Jewish State and murdering its inhabitants! We shall drown them in the sea!" In spite of this, through Hashem's great miracle, the Israeli army, which was greatly outnumbered, landed a great victory. Even gentile authors wrote about this wonder which they compared to the victory of the little David against Goliath the giant. With all these feelings and excitement, we must ask ourselves about the spiritual significance of the miracles which took place in the Six Day War.

The Connection between the Haftorah and Yom Yerushalayim
This week's haftorah gives a clue, as it emphasizes the importance of trusting in Hashem, and realizing that all victory and salvation comes only from G-d. So the prophet proclaims: "Hashem is my power, my strength and my refuge in the day of trouble…" (Yirmeyahu 16:19). Even the nations of the world will ultimately recognize the power of the G-d of Israel, and realize how they had been mistaken all along as it states, "…to You nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, only lies have our fathers handed down to us, emptiness in which there is nothing of any avail!… Therefore, behold I let them know. At this time, I will let them know My power and My might, and they shall know that My Name is Hashem" (Ibid.16:19-21). World recognition of Hashem's power is a direct result of the miracles that He performs for Israel. The haftorah, therefore, connects perfectly with the amazing miracles that took place during this time. We find several prophesies that allude to the division and reunification of Yerushalayim. Radak comments on Yesha'yahu 24:13 "In the time of the war of Gog and Magog, the kingdom of Hashem will be revealed in Mt. Tzion and Yerushalayim. The nations will capture half of the city, but Hashem will go out and fight them. Then, all who remain from all of the nations will realize that to Hashem is the true King. Likewise, Zechariah prophesied "…Half of the city shall go into exile… then shall Hashem go out and fight against those nations…" (Zechariah 14:2).The only period when half of Yerushalayim was exiled was in the years between 1948-1967

The Sequence of the Holidays between Pesach and Shavuot
It is not incidental that both Yom Ha'atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim fall in the period between Pesach and Shavuot. Rabbi Loevenstein the masgiach of Ponovitz Yeshiva, explains that experiencing Hashem's miracles are a preparation for receiving the Torah. It was only through recognizing the miracle of Purim that the Jewish people reached the level of accepting the Torah through love. Similarly, through recognizing the miracles that Hashem did for us on Yom Yerushalayim, which occurs on the calendar exactly a week prior to Shavuot, we become worthy of receiving the Torah. Moreover, only when the Jewish people are united in our Holy Land, can the Torah of Israel be totally revealed in the world.
ספר ישעיה פרק ב פסוק ג כִּי מִּצִּיּוֹן תֵּצֵּא תוֹרָה וּדְבַר השם מִּירוּשלים.
"For from Zion goes out Torah and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem." (Yesha'yahu 2:3).

Trust in Hashem and Prepare for the Final Redemption
Rabbi Loevenstein writes in his diary: "The first thing at this time is to realize that what happened (in the Six Day War) is the hand of Hashem and not by chance. We should know that our entire fate is in His hand. No other cause has any influence. Everything is hasgacha pratit, and therefore we must trust in Hashem." These words reflect the message of our haftorah which emphasizes how we must trust in Hashem alone. "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and relies on mortal flesh for his strength, and whose heart turns away from G-d… Blessed is the man who trusts in the G-d, to whom G-d will be his trust. For he shall be like a tree planted by the water, and which spreads its roots out into a stream…" (Yirmeyahu 17:5-8). On Yom Yerushalayim, people's belief in G-d became awakened through the great wonders which they saw with their own eyes. They danced in the streets, and many returned to G-d and His Torah. Soldiers testified that they actually saw the hand of Hashem in the battle field, and ran to purchase books of Tehillim (psalms). Everyone was talking about the miracles, which became a sign to await and prepare for the final redemption. It is no wonder that the Ba'al Teshuvah movement emerged at this very time. Both Israeli and Jews from all over the world returned to Torah, inspired by the uplifted spirit which followed the Six Day War.

Integrating the Miracles We Experience
However, it takes a conscious effort to relive the experience of the miracles. It is a natural phenomenon to forget the great wonders which Hashem wrought for us and their messages. After the years have passed, we all tend to forget "that which our eyes saw." Thus explains Rabbi Simcha Bunim in his book Kol Simcha, "All the plagues and the splitting of the sea were miraculous, but when Israel sinned, the world returned to the way of nature. They forgot the experience of the miracles. Only a vague remembrance remained. The Chafetz Chaim held that our time is without any doubt the time of the footsteps of Mashiach. The signs which chazal (our sages) gave us are all being fulfilled. However, revealed miracles only happen to those who take them to heart. The manna which Israel ate in the wilderness had many different tastes according to the imagination of each person at the time of eating (Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 75a). Yet, how did the manna taste to someone who didn't contemplate anything while eating it? The Chafetz Chaim explains that this person wouldn't taste anything at all when he ate the bread of Heaven. The value of any spiritual lesson is only recognized by those who contemplate upon it. This principle also applies to the coming of Mashiach. The experience of how the whole world will be filled with the revelation of the Shechinah and with knowledge of Hashem, is dependent on how much we contemplate and open our heart. If we don't think about the coming of Mashiach, we won't feel it at all.

Praising Hashem for His Miracles
In my early teshuvah process, I was surrounded by people who didn't make much out of Yom Ha'atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim. It seems to me that politics has taken over and blurred the desire for truth. We Jews are polarized into those who are for, and those who are against. Rather than striving to find the Torah way of celebrating these great events, it became a question of with which group do you identify. Those belonging to the Zionistic camp celebrate according to the Rabbinate of Israel. Those in the Chareidi box, although they learn Torah day and night and endeavor to mold their every step to the will of G-d, unfortunately identify themselves as being against anything the Rabbinate of Israel decides, including the celebration of Yom Ha'atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim. No one ever asked Rabbi Moshe Feinstein a sha'alah whether to say hallel on these days. Since the importance of praising Hashem for His miracles is well known, we cannot take this question lightly. "Had Chezkiyahu recited song at the downfall of Sancheriv, he would have become the King Mashiach…" (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 94a). In my search for the true Torah perspective on celebrating these miraculous events of our modern history, I came upon a book by Rabbi Menachem Kasher written right after the Six Day War, called "Hatekufah HaGedolah" (The Great Period.) He quotes the Meiri on Pesachim 117 who writes: "Every individual who was saved from tragedy is permitted to say hallel for himself on this day every year, but he doesn't recite the blessing. This is the law for every community, and thus it was established by the prophets to say hallel when redeemed from any distress." How much more so, should we celebrate in song, when we witness with our own eyes the prophecies of redemption being fulfilled. The chesed of Hashem, has caused us to emerge victorious against the enemies who plotted our annihilation, and caused us to be reunited with our Holy City Jerusalem. May we see the rebuilding of its glorious Temple speedily in our days! Our haftorah culminates with a prayer for healing. "Heal me, O Hashem, then I shall be healed; help me, then I shall be helped, for You are my praise! (Yirmeyahu 17:14).May Hashem heal the rift between the different camps of Israel so that we can praise Him together in complete unity!

I would love to hear your thoughts and answer any questions!