Israel and the Omer

Two incredibly significant events in modern Jewish history occurred during the period between Passover and Shavuot — the founding of the State of Israel on the 5th of Iyar, 5708 (May 14th 1948) and also the liberation of the Old City of Jerusalem by the Israel Defence Forces on the 28th of Iyar, 5727 (June 7th 1967). From a spiritual perspective many scholars see these events as the first glimmerings of the redemption of the Jewish people. The return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland, the establishment of Jewish self-rule and the ingathering of so many different and diverse Jews to one place from the Diaspora are all negations of the major components of exile.[1] To some these events are manifestations of the coming of the redemption,[2] the sound of the Messiah’s footsteps,[3] or at the very least the “end of the exile.”[4] One scholar[5] connected this process to a beautiful story related in the Talmud that took place soon after the Roman destruction of the Temple,

Rav Chiyah Rabah and Rav Shimon ben Chalafta were walking in the valley of Arbel just before dawn and they saw the first lights of the coming dawn piercing the sky. Rav Chiyah Rabah said to Rav Shimon ben Chalafta, “Thus is the redemption of the Jewish people – at the beginning little by little, but as it continues it will grow bigger and bigger.”[6]

In June 1967 Israel was besieged and attacked by its Arab neighbours in one of their many attempts to destroy the Jewish State. Israel’s miraculously successful and lightning quick defence is known as The Six Day War.[7] During this war, Israel captured the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, from the Kingdom of Jordan which had occupied them since 1948. The date of the liberation of Jerusalem was the 28th of Iyar, and this day is also celebrated as significant, especially by inhabitants of Jerusalem.

This day is also distinguished by a fascinating aspect of Divine Providence. The Talmud[8] relates that the prophet Samuel was the one, who together with King David, determined the exact location where Solomon would build the Temple. It was through the prophecy of Samuel that the present day Temple Mount was identified and sanctified. The Code of Jewish Law[9] records that the anniversary of the passing of Samuel is on the 28th day of Iyar, the very day on which the Temple Mount and Jerusalem were miraculously returned to Jewish rule in our times. It is also significant that it was Samuel, who made the famous statement,

“The Eternal One (Netzach) of Israel does not lie and does not relent…”[10]

The words that Samuel uses to refer to G-d are “Netzach Yisrael,” which can also be translated as the “eternity of Israel” or as the “victory of Israel,” and the Talmud[11] states that the word “netzach” refers to the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is of course the city of G-d,[12] about which it said,

“From Zion shall come forth the Torah and the word of G-d from Jerusalem.”[13]

It is also the city that is a measure and symbol of the eternity and the victory of the Jewish people.[14] The return of the true “eternal city” to the Jewish people in our times, on the very day that commemorates Samuel the prophet, is a sign of “netzach” in all three of its meanings — G-d, victory and eternity.[15]


[1] See Maharal of Prague, Netzach Yisrael, Ch. 1

[2]Atchalta degeulah” a phrase used by some Rabbis in reference to the return of Jews to Israel – See Rabbi Menachem Kasher, HaTekufah HaGedolah, Introduction and Chs. 9-10, Machon Torah Shleimah, Jerusalem: Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, Orot, Mossad Harav Kook, Jerusalem, 1980; Rabbi Yissachar Shlomoh Teichtal, Eim Habanim Semeichah, Machon Pri Haaretz, Jerusalem, 1983.

[3]Ikveta demeshicha” – Based on Psalms 89:52; Talmud, Sotah 49b; Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman, Kovetz Maamarim, “Ikveta Demeshicha”

[4] Heard from Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv – in his words, “sof hagalut;” See also Rabbi Isaiah Karelitz, Igrot Chazon Ish, 1:109

[5] Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook

[6] Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot Ch. 1, Mishnah 1 (P. 4b)

[7] For the most detailed and accurate study of the war, see Michael B. Oren, Six Days of War, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002

[8] Talmud, Zevachim 54b, Rashi ad loc.

[9] Code of Jewish Law, Orach Chaim 580:1

[10] Samuel I:15:29

[11] Talmud, Berachot 58a

[12] Psalms 87:3

[13] Isaiah 2:3; Michah 4:2

[14] Talmud, Megillah 6a

[15] Heard from Rabbi Shlomo Fischer

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