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December 1, 2015 / 19 Kislev, 5776
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Tisha B’Av- The Lessons of Jerusalem 5773


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Secondly, the Gemara in Yoma (ibid.) continues and says that Jerusalem can never have the status of an “ir nidachat” because the Torah, in teaching this law, uses the word “arekha” (your cities) – and Jerusalem is not included in this collective term since it was not given to any of the tribes. Although Jerusalem belongs to Klal Yisrael, it is nevertheless not altogether and completely theirs: it has a special status and is not part of “arekha” – the collection of cities. Jerusalem is God’s city, the dwelling place of the Shekhina: “This is My resting place forever and ever.”

Rav Aharon Lichtenstein says that the messages that are being conveyed in the above Gemarot are as follows. “The fact that Jerusalem belongs to no individual, issues to us a call to elevate ourselves above the egoism symbolized by private acquisitiveness. We need to rise above the prevailing idea that “What is mine, is mine; and what is yours, is yours” – which, as we remember, is termed in Avot as “the philosophy of Sodom.” Thus, one aspect of Jerusalem is elevation above considerations of promoting our own personal interests – both material and spiritual. The fact that Jerusalem was not given to any one specific tribe lends it a dimension of completeness and unity. The unity of Jerusalem is a result not of a negation and nullification of differences but rather of a complex combination of the different tribes.”

As mentioned above the Netziv was of the opinion that the Chet of sinat chinam, was because people thought that they had a monopoly on religious worship, and that anyone who did not follow their views was a heretic. The city of Jerusalem is coming to teach us that we need to rise above the false perception that we own the truth, and to realize that as Rav Aharon Lichtenstein writes, “Lest any particular group wish to claim exclusive rights to Jerusalem, we need to declare in response: Jerusalem was not given to any of the tribes. We need to rise above spiritual imperialism which comes to impose one model only… The unity of Jerusalem is a result not of a negation and nullification of differences but rather of a complex combination of the different tribes.” (Holiday Journal, Yom Yerushaliyim VBM)

Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi in the end of his book the Kuzari states that “Jerusalem will not be rebuilt until the Jewish people will yearn for it with an utmost longing; until they cherish its very stones and dust”. It is not enough just to mourn and long for the re-building and redemption of the physical city of Jerusalem, we must also desire to implant within ourselves the lessons of this holy city. Only with the message of Jerusalem routed firmly in our hearts will we be able to undertake the monumental task of rebuilding ourselves, and the world with us, through ahavat chinam.

About the Author: Rabbi Joshua Gerstein, originally from Lancaster Pennsylvania, moved to Israel in 2007, and now serves in the Israeli Defence Force as the assistant to the Chief Rabbi of the Military Intelligence Division.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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