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Friday, 24 July, 2015 - 12:10 pm

Sherlock Holmes and Watson went on a camping trip. After a good meal and some wine they were exhausted and fell asleep.

Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend. "Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see."

Watson replied, "I see millions and millions of stars."

"What does that tell you?"

Watson pondered for a minute. "Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Time wise, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that the Lord is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?"

Holmes was silent for a minute, then spoke. "Watson, you idiot, someone has stolen our tent!"

Judaism’s most acclaimed poet, King David, writes the following words in the book of Psalms, a chapter we recite every day in the Morning Prayer:

“The Lord is the builder of Jerusalem; He will gather the scattered of Israel.”

King David is promising a day when G-d will gather us all in Jerusalem and eternal bliss will reign. Yet, when he talks of G-d building Jerusalem he uses the present tense; in contrast, when he talks of the gathering of Israel, he uses the future tense. Why? 
There is a deeply enigmatic Midrash on this verse: 
“Despite the fact that G-d builds Jerusalem, nevertheless He will gather the scattered of Israel.”

What is the meaning of this arcane statement? Why would we think that if G-d builds Jerusalem, He will not gather Israel's exiles? The purpose of building Jerusalem is for Israel's sake!

To understand this, says the Rebbe, we must examine an item in Jewish law regarding home ownership disputes.

There were two condos built atop one another. Harry owned the bottom one and Jack the top one. A hurricane came and destroyed both condos. What does Jewish law dictate with regards to rebuilding them? Who is responsible?

The answer is straightforward: Each one must rebuild his condo. Harry rebuilds the bottom condo—including the walls and the roof. Jack rebuild the top condo, using Harry's roof as his floor.

So far so good (especially if they have house insurance). But what if Harry, the owner of the lower condo, decides not to build his? Unless Jack knows how to builds castles in the air he won’t be able to build his condo. 
The Mishna rules: In this case, the owner of the loft may build the house on the ground floor and live there until the ground floor owner pays his building expenses.

What is the deeper, spiritual meaning of the above law?

There is a cosmic condo in the world, and I do not mean Florida. Jerusalem is the world’s finest condo, the epicenter of the universe. What makes Jerusalem the center of the world? The fact that above it exists a “higher condo.” Most places of the world are on earthly terrains. Jerusalem, on the other hand, is the city where heaven and earth kiss. Right above “the lower physical Jerusalem,” there is the “higher spiritual Jerusalem.” It is a two house complex: the Lower and the Higher Jerusalem, the one we dearly love on this earth, and the heavenly one where G-d resides, which parallels and is directly above the lower Jerusalem.

The Jewish people reside in the Jerusalem below, in the “lower condo,” and right above them G-d resides—in a manifest and revealed way—in the “higher condo.”

For many years we lived together as two close neighbors and tended one another lovingly. We served Him in the Temple, and He shielded us and provided all our needs. Heaven and earth were interlaced in that majestic terrain of Jerusalem.

But then times changed. Jerusalem was besieged and conquered and the Jews were forced into exile. The lower condo was destroyed. On the 9th day of Av, both Temples and the city of Jerusalem were destroyed; the first in the year 586 BCE by the Babylonians, and the second in the year 70 BCE by the Romans. The “lower condo” went up in flames.

But it was not only the Jews who were evicted. The “higher condo” was also destroyed. In the words of the Talmud, “The Divine presence followed the Jews into exile.” The Talmud states that G-d will not return to the “higher condo” as long as we do not return to the “lower condo.” As long as there is a Jew in exile, whether physical or spiritual, G-d too will remain in exile.

This is the deeper meaning of the above law: The owner of the loft asks the owner of the ground floor to rebuild, so that He can also rebuild. He beseeches us, by means of divine inspiration and little heavenly whispers that speak to our hearts, to reconstruct the city of gold and light, to recreate a fragment of heaven on earth, thus rebuilding the Holy City. G-d asks the Jewish people to serve as His ambassadors and turn their lives and world into an abode for the Divine, to become a “kingdom of princes and a holy nation,” infusing their entire beings with holiness, with truthfulness, and with G-dliness.

But we have not yet fully exposed the pulsating Divine vibe that breathes life into every fiber of our world. The world still remains hungry for the true Jewish revolution—to become ambassadors of the living G-d, in every part and moment of our lives.

"The owner of the Jerusalem loft begs and begs, but the ground floor owner refuses to rebuild...." The Rebbe spoke these words in 1966. 18 months later, Jerusalem was given to the Jewish people, not through their own initiation and strategy.

From 1948 until June of 1967, East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount were under Jordanian control. For these 19 years, no Jew was allowed to visit the Western wall.

On June 5, 1967, the Israeli Defense Forces launched a pre-emptive attack on Egypt which began the Six Day War. Initially, Jordan was reluctant to enter the war. Egyptian President Nasser used the obscurity of the first hours of the war to convince the Jordanian King Hussein that he would be victorious. Carried along by a powerful current of Arab nationalism, Jordan began shelling targets at West Jerusalem, Netanya, and the outskirts of Tel Aviv.

This could have been interpreted either as a salvo to uphold Jordanian honor or as a declaration of war. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol decided to give King Hussein the benefit of the doubt. Through General Odd Bull, the Norwegian commander of UNTSO, he sent the following message the morning of June 5th: “We shall not initiate any action whatsoever against Jordan.”

Israel never planned to retake the old city of Jerusalem. But then, when Moshe Dayan heard that the UN would soon declare a ceasefire, and Jordan continued to shell, he decided without cabinet clearance to take the city. After fierce fighting with Jordanian troops in and around the Jerusalem area, Israel captured the Old City on June 7. “Har Habayit Beyadaynu,” came the resounding declaration. “The Temple Mount is in our hands!” And a nation wept and danced.

Moshe Amirav, an Israeli paratrooper, describes his first minutes at the Western Wall:

"We ran there, a group of panting soldiers, lost on the plaza of the Temple Mount, searching for a giant stone wall. We did not stop to look at the Mosque of Omar even though this was the first time we had seen it up close. Forward! Forward! Hurriedly, we pushed our way through the Magreb Gate and suddenly we stopped, thunderstruck. There it was before our eyes! Gray and massive, silent and restrained. The Western Wall!

"Slowly, I began to approach the Wall, trembling like a pious cantor going to the lectern to lead the prayers. I approached it as the messenger of my father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather, and all the generations in all the exiles who had never merited to see it-and so had sent me to represent them. Somebody recited the festive blessing: 'Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who keeps us alive, maintains us, and brings us to this time.' But I could not answer 'Amen.' I put my hand on the stones, and the tears that flowed from my eyes were not my tears. They were the tears of all Israel, tears of hope and prayer, tears of Chasidic tunes, tears of Jewish dances, tears which scorched and burned the heavy gray stone.”

Had it not been for Jordan’s rash decision, and the decision of an Israeli military man to act without permission, we would not have had Jerusalem. G-d clearly orchestrated the events so we would, almost by mistake, take back our Holy City, our eternal capital.

G-d initiated the rebuilding of the lower condo, but that puts us in a difficult situation. The above Mishna says that the owner of the bottom house must reimburse the loft owner for all his expenses if he does not rebuild on his own. G-d gave us back our home and now we must repay our debt to make ourselves worthy of living in the “lower condo.” And, according to law, we must pay Him for what He put into it. We need to match up to G-d’s standards. We cannot make ourselves worthy of Jerusalem based on “recession” standards; we must pay back with the highest quality of service.

Comes the Midrash and says: No! “Despite the fact that G-d builds Jerusalem, nevertheless He will gather the outcasts of Israel.” We might think that G-d will act according to the letter of the law. Comes King David in Psalms and says: No! “Despite the fact that G-d builds Jerusalem,” in the present tense, “nevertheless He will gather the outcasts of Israel.” G-d is not just a neighbor; He is our father and our best friend. He wants us back. He will not wait until we come up with the “cash” to pay for it all. He will gather our exiles regardless and allow us to reclaim our home as our own forever, with the coming of Moshiach and the gathering of all the exiles, may it be NOW!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky


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