The Jewish calendar celebrates and commemorates events that span over 3,300 years.
At the end of this month, Iyar, we will be celebrating the newest addition to our event calendar, Yom Yerushalayim, the day of the unification of Jerusalem during the 1967 War.
Jerusalem has been described as the very heart of the Jewish people, to where our prayers and yearning have been directed since the days of King Solomon.
To better understand the place Jerusalem has in our DNA, we should turn to this week’s Parasha.
“The festivals of G-d, which you shall proclaim a gathering of holiness.“
Three times a year every Jewish family was to gather in Jerusalem, intensifying the bonds of brotherhood. Congregating together to join in the celebration and to give attention to the needs of the underprivileged.
As anyone who has come to pray at the Western Wall knows, they invariably encounter people who they may not have seen for years. I remember vividly when I visited Jerusalem on the occasion of my Bar Misva. While I was at a store in Meah Shearim, my father heard a voice behind him and immediately recognized it as being his school friend from Shanghai whom he had not seen in 40 years, both meeting by ‘accident’ in Jerusalem.
One can only imagine what an experience it must have been in the days of the Temple when people came from all parts of the country to be together in Jerusalem on each of the festivals. How many embraces and hugs amongst friends there must have been! How many renewed friendships amongst people that had been separated by long distances. What happiness and joy must’ve been in sharing the festive meals with so many friends. The spirit of harmony and brotherhood that prevailed during festivals certainly elicited a Divine blessing from above.
The Talmud teaches that loving one’s fellow man is the method to achieve the love of G-d. The festivals enhance the bond between the people and our Creator and that is why it is called a “gathering of holiness”.
The celebration of Yom Yerushalayim is not only a celebration of the return of the city to its children but a hope for the Jewish people to soon return home and celebrate as one family together and elicit the Divine blessings from above.