By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
And All Those Wise of Heart of You Shall Come and Do What HaShem has Commanded
‘Blessed are You HaShem our God Master of the Universe Who erects the borders of the Widow (‘matziv gvul almana’)’. This blessing is said, at least on principle, on seeing houses of Israel ‘settled’, as brought in the Talmud. ‘Settled’ has various interpretations amongst the poskim. According to Rashi ‘settled’ refers to the same stature and beauty as was present at the Second Temple Era, while Rif limits this blessing to synagogues and batei midrash which represent the holy settlement of Israel. Nevertheless, neither do the Rambam or the Shulhan Aruch mention the Rif’s stipulation. Much of the Poskim are also of the opinion that this blessing should be said only in the Land of Israel, the Homeland of the Jewish People. The explanation of this blessing is that Israel in Exile are called a widow (see Lam. 1), and therefore when one sees the return of settlement in the Land of Israel one is to bless HaShem on the return of Israel to their Land. The Arizal explains a profound principle in regard to the establishment of holiness versus its opposite based on our Sages teaching on the verse in Ezekiel 26, 2: “I will be filled from its spoils.” Our Sages say that the enemy of Israel, Tzor ,was only built by the spoils of Jerusalem, and also vice versa, a teaching which is repeated in various sources also in regard to Rome and Edom (Pesachim 42b, Megila 6a, Midrash Agada Hayei Sara). The Arizal takes this teaching a step further by saying that, in general, through the establishment of holiness the establishment of evil is relinquished, and when, God forbid, the establishment of holiness is relinquished, the power of evil is given establishment. Therefore, we may say that the establishment of Israel in the Holy Land is not only an important step in of itself towards our redemption and the promotion of good, but also with the same token this establishment of holiness is an important step in destroying evil establishments worldwide.
Based on this teaching we can more deeply understand the Ramban’s observation on the state of the Holy Land when he visited it about 900 years ago, saying: “whatever is more holy is more in ruin.” Based on what we just explained we may say that, since Israel was not well-established in the Holy Land when the Ramban visited, therefore the “spoils/ruins” of the Holy Land were not just kept stagnant in their ruins, but on the contrary, were given to the power of evil and became more ruined than naturally plausible. Although, thank God, we today have merited to see the Holy Land blossom and re-settled with Jews, nevertheless we can see yet still that the holier sites of our People are more restricted to Jews. For example, no place on earth is a Jew forbidden to pray today, except for the Temple Mount. Full access to Maarat Hamachpela for Jews is restricted to ten days a year. Access to Yoseph’s Tomb is restricted to various occasions, and there are other examples as well. All this said, we can still rejoice on the fact that we are close enough to all these holy places to feel these restrictions, a sign that we are not far from ultimately returning to these locations to the fullest extent. The key of return to these holy places lies with Hebron, the city that imbibes our People with the spirit of our Patriarchs and Kaleb to “unite” – lehaber-Hebron, with our Holy Land to the fullest extent.
Real Stories from the Holy Land #304
Based on the previous teaching we will bring Ben Tzion Tavgar z”l’s account of the reestablishment of the Avraham Avinu synagogue: “I let my eyes wander around the interior of the synagogue. I had time to think and recall its previous state, five or six years ago, and thought of the sequence of events that had transpired. When I first came here, the place had indeed gone by the name of “Avraham Avinu Synagogue”, but its name had seemed completely disconnected from its essence. Nothing about it had indicated that it was a synagogue. It had been used as a goat shed. On its eastern side there had been a familiar, or rather, a notorious structure – the public latrine – which had been erected for the use of those who frequented the adjacent wholesale market, and the rest of the site was used as a garbage dump. This place, where previously there had been a goat shed, which had symbolized our disgrace and humiliation, was magnificently renovated and the ancient synagogue was at its center. We can pray in it! This is not something insignificant! It is a great thing, but it is not the conclusive thing, at least not from my point of view. When I had begun to dig here I had not set a goal for myself only to renovate the synagogue and not even the entire Jewish Quarter. My aim had been to change the atmosphere that had enabled the entrenchment of a state of affairs wherein on the site where a synagogue had once been standing in full glory, suddenly three “magnificent” establishments are standing: a goat-shed, a public toilet facility and a garbage dump. According to documents, the functioning of the goat shed within the synagogue had been approved by the Israeli authorities. Someone had signed the leasing contract with the Arab who was using the structure to house his goats. Someone had signed and others had agreed to it, or had turned a blind eye, while on the other hand, there were Jews whose soul had desired to clean the synagogue, to prepare it and restore its original function, and to turn it once again into a place of prayer. In any case, I felt very festive during the ceremony and was completely overcome by joy.”
Sources: Orach Haim 224, 10, http://en.hebron.org.il/history/218
Comments, questions, and/or stories, email firstname.lastname@example.org