Yerushalayim (Journeys)

June 4, 2021

Parshas Shelach, among other things, recounts the story of the meraglim who brought back negative reports about Eretz Yisroel, the subsequent reaction of the Jewish people, and the tragic results of their rejection of the Land. We are taught another harsh lesson in the severity of Lashon Hara and learn of the gravity of speaking disparagingly about Eretz Yisroel and its inhabitants – the Land that is most beloved to Hashem, given to His most beloved children, the Bnei Yisroel.

For this reason, I would like to spend a little more than a moment extolling some of the virtues of Eretz Yisroel and present a song that captures the love and longing that we as Yidden all share.

{As you can imagine, it is simply impossible to summarize, let alone grasp the greatness of Eretz Yisroel. Volumes upon volumes have been written on the unfathomable holiness of Eretz Yisroel. Like all of the topics that we cover here, we will look to touch upon just a few foundational ideas so that we can allow the message of the music to properly sink in.}

Now would be a good a time as any to remind ourselves that Eretz Yisroel is not just a territory that happens to have fallen into the possession of Bnei Yisroel. Eretz Yisroel is a country precisely suitable for the Jewish people because it is a Jewish land, imbued with a unique holiness, similar to the holiness specific to the Jewish people. The Sefer Chareidim writes that just as Hashem selected the Jewish people to be His Chosen People, so did He choose Eretz Yisroel to be His special Land. The Avos bequeathed their descendants the very essence of their souls. One of the special qualities they transmitted to us was this love for Eretz Yisroel.

Let’s have a look through history, shall we?

We know that Moshe Rabbeinu’s deepest disappointment in life was being denied entry into Eretz Yisroel. He begged Hashem again and again and again – 515 times – to be allowed into Eretz Yisroel, so well did he understand the value of stepping foot into the Land. Dovid HaMelech expressed his longing for Eretz Yisroel throughout the many chapters of Tehillim. The Gemara records many accounts of Tannaim and Amoraim who displayed their enormous love and adoration for Eretz Yisroel. In their writings, Rishonim and Achronim alike made evident their appreciation of the Land and of the kedushah found therein.

Many men of notable stature have dreamed and struggled to make their way to the Land where their hearts lie. The Baal Shem Tov, the Vilna Gaon as well as the Chofetz Chaim initiated their departure toward Eretz Yisroel, but despite extraordinary effort and self-sacrifice, the gates of Eretz Yisroel remained closed for them. In his commentary on Parshas Shelach, the Chasam Sofer states: “One who fully comprehends the extent of what Eretz Yisroel is, and what a Jewish Neshoma is, will sacrifice his very soul and all of his possessions only to go up and SEE the Land…!”

Now that we’ve gotten a small glimpse of the holiness and importance accorded to Eretz Yisroel – the holiest place on the planet – let’s try to introduce ourselves to an even higher level of kedushah found WITHIN Eretz Yisroel. Of course, I’m referring to the heart and soul of Eretz Yisroel, and indeed, the heart and soul of the entire world – Yerushalayim. Just as Shabbos is on a totally different level of kedushah than the other days of the week, so is Yerushalayim on an entirely different spiritual plane as it relates to the rest of Eretz Yisroel.

It is from Yerushalayim that Hashem created the world. The earth that Hashem used to form Adam HaRishon came from the place of the mizbeach, and it was there that Adam offered korbanos. Avraham brought Yitzchok to Har HaMoriah to be offered as a korban, and it was there that Yaakov experienced his prophetic dream of the angels ascending and descending the ladder, as well as Hashem’s promise to him that his children would inherit Eretz Yisroel.

But would you like to know why each and every one of us, no matter our personal association, feel that unspoken, unbreakable bond to this holy city? It is because unlike the rest of the land, Yerushalayim was not given to any specific tribe. Yerushalayim is where every man, woman and child, from every single shevet, rises above its individual existence and blends with the whole of Klal Yisroel. In Yerushalayim, Klal Yisroel achieves that elusive quality of achdus, ascending from the level of differentiated branches to one of absolute unified oneness.

So when the meraglim alienated us from Eretz Yisroel, they not only disconnected us from Eretz Yisroel, they disconnected us from each other! Yerushalayim is the glue that keeps us together and when the glue is removed, we begin to feel estranged from one another. And sadly, whether we’d like to admit it or not, it is this lack of unity that keeps Yerushalayim in its current, incomplete condition. However, when we work on loving one another and developing unity despite the alienating effects of exile, we will be returned to Eretz Yisroel, and we will witness the rejuvenation of Yerushalayim – the place where we can naturally fuse together as one nation once more.

I think we can now introduce, and maybe even better appreciate, today’s featured song. Yerushalayim, released on Journeys, Vol. 3 back in 1992, was composed by Abie Rotenberg who cleverly combined his new composition with lyrics written by Chaya Sara Fogel that had originally been used for another tune entirely. The end result, as you will hear, could not have been more perfect.

As we have just now seen, the Jewish people have a legacy of well over three thousand years of continuous love and longing for Eretz Yisroel. This supernatural connection has remained strong, and will remain strong, until Moshiach draws every Yid from even the most forsaken corner of the earth into its borders and we see the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash – the terrestrial palace of the King of all Kings.

Wishing all of you a truly wonderful Shabbos!

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