Yesterday was the anniversary of the day that Yerushalaim was reuited.
One of the facts that most people in the political world have forgotten is that the original two state solution was one that the U.N. offered to the Arabs in 1948. The plan to divide Palestine into one state for the Jews (which would be called Israel) and another for the Arabs was forcefully rejected by the Arabs, who then united to fight us to the death. The truce that was made left Yerushalaim divided. The left the Old City, what today is Ramat Eshkol, and everything north in Arab hands. Shmuel HaNavi street was bordered what today is Arzei Birah –then a barren no man's land. Abnormal becomes normal very quickly. When I came to learn in seminary in (blush) 1966, the division felt normal. On Tisha B'Av we would go to the roof of the King David hotel, and convince ourselves we could see the Kotel. That summer the Gamal Abdul Nasser, Egypt's leader formed a pan-Arab union and set up to use their new unity to make another attempt to destroy us. Jordan at the time was a less than equal member of the alliance. When the fully expected war began, the Israeli authorities let the Jordanians know that as far as we are concerned, this is not their war, and that as long as they refrain from taking part in the hostilities, there would be no actions taken against them. They refused for reasons that only Hashem, the author of our history will ever fully know. Within a few days the result was that the Kotel had returned to the people who built it and hold it sacred. That Shavuous was unforgettable. No one born after 1948 had ever been to the Kotel.
There was only one word that anyone used; the word was "miracle". No one who was here really thought that it was us-we knew how much the odds were stacked against us. I overheard one of the teachers at my seminary talking to a friend. He said, "Our only hope is that the Americans will step in". Before his friend could reply, my principal, Rav Wolf ztl, said "That isn’t our "only hope". What about Hashem?" I was seventeen at the time, but I wanted to cheer him on, hoping that he would use his famous eloquence to say more, to assure me and to open my heart. Unfortunately that would have given away the fact that I was shamelessly eavesdropping.
Then we sort of got used to it. It began for me with the 2 bus, which ran from Har Nof to the Kotel via the tachanah, Matterdorf, Bar Ilan, Shmuel HaNavi, Shivtei Yisrael, Old City and Kotel. The route took over an hour (about the same time it takes to walk) and left you exhausted. And then there was force of habit, which always deadens the newness of any event. This is one of the reason that I still love watching the delightfully clueless tourists who know what they feel but don't know why. Sometimes the soul wins, and they melt before the ancient stones. I once saw a girl of about seventeen weep as she recited her Bat Mitzvah haftorah again and again. It was probably the only Hebrew words that she knew as sacred. Sometimes the mind wins, and the lack of being able to put feelings into words leaves them with a bunch of Selfies. What they are feeling is a break between their soul's knowledge, and their mind's knowledge. This happens all of the time to all of us. How do you keep the divide from forming, and if it's there, how do you keep it from become a chasm that sometimes is impossible to bridge? One of the thirteen laws of logic used for Talmudic exegesis (what a word! Almost as good as phylacteries or firmament. It means figuring things out) formulated by the Tanna Rabbi Yishmael is Klal uPrat. It means that you have to figure out what the rule is and what the details that come forth from it are, and not confuse the two. The Klal is that Hashem's covenant with us is eternal, that even a cursory glance at our history reveals miracle after miracle. The Prat is how it occurs and what we do in response.
Arguably the Klal that defines our relationship to G-d forever is the word, "Naaseh"- we will do it. The next word, "Nishama" – we will hear it (and seek to understand it) is the ultimate Prat. When the angels heard us say Naaseh first, they delighted. They knew that we understood the greatest of all secrets, which is that the soul knows what it wants and needs-it is to do Hashem's will and experience Him without limiting the experience to our limited perceptions. It has to be followed by willingness to know what His will is, and to understand it as well as we can. When Shavuos arrives, you can reconnect to the Naaseh, and let the Nishma follow you whenever you go to a shiur or learn by yourself and actually carry it out.
I don't personally believe that it was coincidental that the first time throngs of people were able to get to the Kotel was Shavuos. It was a moment of awakening. We didn't know how to bridge the gap between the joy of a miracle that touched everyone's soul and the need to learn what to do with it in the real world.
In Neve many of you felt the Naaseh and at least began the Nishma. You can't recapture the moments of newness but you can take it further wherever you happen to be. Have the best Shavuos ever!