Modern Miracles – Behar 5774

Two events in modern Jewish history of enormous significance 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 the liberation of the Old City of Jerusalem by the Israel Defence Forces on the 28th of Iyar, 5727 (June 7th 1967).   The day of founding of the State of Israel (Yom Ha’atzmaut, Independence Day) is marked in different ways by Jews around the world.  Some say special prayers on this day, others omit sad prayers of penitence from the regular service but do not add anything, and in Israel the day is, of course, a national holiday.  For most Israelis, a hike, a barbecue, the air force flyover and the display of the blue and white flag of Israel are the main features of the day.

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 exile.  To some these events are manifestations of the coming of the redemption, the sound of the Messiah’s footsteps, or at the very least the “beginning of the end” of the exile.  One scholar 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.”

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 lightening quick defence is known as The Six Day War.  During this war, Israel captured the Old City of Jerusalem, including the TempleMount 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 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 TempleMount was identified and sanctified.  The Code of Jewish Law 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.  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…”

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

“From Zion shall come forth the Torah and the word of God from Jerusalem.”

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

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