This past week was Yom Yerushalayim. It was also the yahrzeit of the prophet Shmuel (Samuel). What connects these two, the holy person and the holiest city?
The prophet Shmuel was the 15th and last of the Judges of Israel. He was the son of Elkana and Chana. Shmuel was born in answer to his mother’s prayers. As a child he was placed in the care of Eli, the High Priest of the Mishkan at Shiloh. Hashem called Shmuel at a young age to become a prophet, and after Eli’s death, Shmuel became the great prophet and judge of Israel and restored law, order, and regular religious worship in the land.
Yom Yerushalayim is an Israeli national holiday celebrating the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City. In 1967, The Chief Rabbinate of Israel declared Yom Yerushalayim a minor religious holiday, to thank G-d for our victory in the Six-Day War and for answering the 2,000-year-old prayer of “Next Year in Jerusalem.”
What is the significance of these two special events having the same date (the 28th of Iyar)?
Shmuel came to this world through very special parents. His father, Elkana, was from the tribe of Levi and he lived on a mountaintop around the hills of Jerusalem. Once a year, Elkana would take his entire family and go by foot to the city of Shiloh where the Mishkan of Hashem dwelled. The Mishkan was the worship place of G-d before King Solomon built the First Temple in Jerusalem.
Elkana walked all that way once a year with his entire tribe, and it was a sight to see. Wherever they arrived they were immediately asked, Who are you and where are you headed? Elkana wanted to awaken the people to go and worship G-d in Shiloh. Seeing him and his big entourage aroused everyone’s attention, and many joined him. He brought back unity among the people of Israel and the worshipping of Hashem in His sanctuary.
Elkana’s son, the prophet Shmuel, came to this world from all the endless prayers and tears that his mother, Chana, had poured out to Hashem. She spent years upon years praying, crying, and waiting to be blessed with a child. Shmuel was so special since he was created from the love his parents had for Hashem – they yearned and prayed for a son who would serve Hashem.
When we think about having children, we obviously hope that they will go in the path of Hashem. However, we would also be happy if our children were doctors, lawyers, or any other successful profession. Here all that his parents wanted was for their son to worship G-d. Chana, his mother, even gave him to the High Priest Eli when he was only a little boy. Such a sacrifice after waiting for so many years for this special son to be born!
Jerusalem too lay barren for so many years with her children in exile. We think that we missed the land of Israel and Jerusalem; however, the land of Israel and Jerusalem missed their children just as much. When we live in the land and behave in the proper manner, the land benefits from our actions as well. In physical terms, if people go on a trip to a beautiful place and throw all their paper plates and garbage out the window, they make the place a mess and the next person who comes will not want to be there. In spiritual terms, all the commandments that we keep and the love we have for one another create a “clean” and pleasant atmosphere. During all the years in exile, Jerusalem missed all the Jews and their good deeds. Only with the return of her children in their glory and their good deeds does she shine.
The reuniting of the Jews in Jerusalem after so many years of tears and prayers was one of the most emotional reunions. Jerusalem was the city of the worship house of Hashem. Throughout all the hardships and persecutions of the Jews in exile, the city of Jerusalem is what kept all the Jews alive – waiting and yearning to return home once again. With such sacrifice and love, Jerusalem was returned to us. And in Jerusalem Hashem will rebuild His worship house, and then the Jews will once again, from all over the world, come and unite and give praise to G-d in His sanctuary.
In the rush of the everyday, even in our Holy Land of Israel, we sometimes forget the big picture and get caught up in the details of the moment. These special days like Yom Yerushalayim and the yahrzeit of Shmuel the prophet help us stop and look at where we are going and what the real purpose in life is. We are Jews. We come from a great history of great people and we must remember where we are heading. We are not a country or nation like any other. We are the special children of Hashem and we must pray daily for our unity as a nation and having G-d return to His dwelling place, the Temple, right here in the holy city of Jerusalem.
May we merit to see both the unity of the Jewish nation and the rebuilding of the Third Temple in our times in peace soon.