Jerusalem Day & the Holiday of Shavuot: Defying the Annuls of History

gemini history jerusalem shavuot sivan torah unity Jun 06, 2024

By Rabbi Amichai Cohen

What is the connection between the holiday of Shavuot and Jerusalem Day, which was celebrated this week? What is the source of this celebration, and what is its inner significance for us today?

There are a few days on the recent calendar of miracles that evoke awe and raw emotion. One of them is undoubtedly the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 after the Israeli forces defyingly defeated her enemies in six days. 

The images of the soldiers entering the Kotel area and Rabbi Goren sounding the shofar are testaments to the annuls of history. A nation that was banished from its home for two thousand years returns home. 

Although the return to Israel was marked in 1948, it was really in 1967 when the heart of Israel was returned. 


A nation of miracles 

The reunification of Jerusalem is a military feat as well as a miracle. 

The return reminded us that we are walking miracles, and that the fact that we are back here is not to be taken for granted. 

As Ben Gurion used to say, “In Israel, you are not a realist if you don’t believe in miracles.”

We are a nation of miracles and are open to miracles as the norm. 


Defying History

“Jerusalem, a city which is joined together.” 

It is a truly miraculous day that defied the conquerors of old who aimed to disconnect the Jewish people from their source and their city- Jerusalem. 

What does Jerusalem join, and why does it do that to our hearts? 

The 12 tribes each had their ancestral land where they lived and convened in a unique economic, social, and religious style.

They would, however, convene at least three times a year.

All hearts would convene together as one in person and in unison.

Although Jerusalem is in the jurisdiction of Judah and Benjamin, the space was universal and belonged to all.


The Mountain of Zion

At the center of Jerusalem is the Temple Mount. King Solomon calls it “Taliyot,” which the Talmud says means the mountain that all mouths face. 

The power of Jerusalem is that it can bring together everyone, including opposites. 

The temple had many gates of entry, all valid entry points for meeting with the divine. 

The temple is on a mountain, and it says that Jerusalem is “surrounded by mountains.” 

A mountain represents awe and the perseverance to ascend and relinquish the ego. 

At this point, all the gates lead to Jerusalem, and all are united—different but united. The desire and will to ascend allow for the perspective of the other. 


Shavuot and Yom Yerushalayim 

B’hashgacha protis- (divine ordinance) Yom Yerushalayim precedes and perhaps helps us prepare for the holiday of Shavuot.

Shavuot is the holiday of receiving the Torah, the ultimate divine entry. 

But to reach this 50th gate, there were 49 prior days of inner work. 

Then there was the Rosh Chodesh (head of the month) of Sivan when the entire Jewish people sat together around the mountain of Sinai. 

Upon reaching Sinai, all false differences were resolved. 

The people embraced their true role as a nation of kohanim and became an army of Hashem, different yet united. 

We know that the days of Sefira are essential preparation for receiving the Torah. 


Love the other 

The Talmud says Rabbi Akiva had 24,000 who did not amply respect and love one another. 

There must be self-suffering to learn how to interconnect with others to receive the Torah. 

We are really doing this work inside with our separate parts, many of whom we unknowingly despise. The work of inner refinement, the counting of the Omer, is an honest accounting of what is happening inside us. 

Back to the connection between Jerusalem Day and Shavuot.

It is all about unity.


The temple within

The Ramban says that the Temple became an ongoing microcosm of Mount Sinai's experience. In other words, the "fire and lightning" was not a one-time experience; it continued at the Temple in the desert and in Jerusalem.

This experience was the real thing, and when the Temple became a corrupt place of power and unity in the second Temple, it was time to restart with each person's individual Temple.

Just as Jerusalem calls us together, it is a reminder we must call our parts of Jerusalem together.

This is the exact preparation needed to receive the Torah on Shavuot, and that time is now.

Happy holidays of unity!


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