Friday, July 25, 2008

"ירידה למען עליה"

May the following words of Torah be l'ilui nishmatam of the 8 boys murdered in the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva massacre. hy"d. May their names and memory be a blessing.

We are bein hametzarim - between the calamities of our enemies breaching the walls of our eternal and holy city to the time when they set our holy Temple aflame and burned it down. We find ourselves in a period of mourning, increased tshuva, rectifying our deeds and engaging in actions to commemorate our destroyed Temples. In less than three weeks time we will read the Scroll of Aicha, Lamentations, and in unison utter the following words: השיבנו יהוה אליך ונשוב (ונשובה), חדש ימינו כקדם. “chadesh yameinu k’kedem” - “Turn Thou us unto Thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.”

In these weeks in the calendar when, historically our personal and national troubles increase we work fervently to restoring and renewing the world as it was in “kedem.” We are on the path towards Redemption. This path is not straight. It is not on an incline that ascends and ascends until it reaches its summit, rather, the path towards Redemption winds around hills. There are deep valleys and staggering peaks. Standing on one peak the next one seems so close and yet to move further along the path, in order to ascend the next peak, one must first descend to the valley. Like a hiker on a mountain path so to the process of Tshuva - of returning to G-d: “yeridah l’ma’an aliya” - descension for the sake of ascension. Sometimes, in order to reach spiritual heights one must first plummet to spiritual lows.

The Torah describes Avraham Avinu when he first sees Mount Moriah: ויישא אברהם את-עיניו וירא את-המקום--מרחוק - “And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.” As Abraham would have been walking towards Jerusalem from the south, historians and archeologists locate “afar off” as what we today call “the tayelet,” Armon Hanatziv, the scenic promenade in southern Jerusalem overlooking the City of David and the Old City. Coming from Armon Hanatziv, the approach to Mount Moriah necessitated descending towards the valley that would be home to King David’s Jerusalem before climbing up towards Mount Moriah. “yeridah l’ma’an aliyah” - descending for the sake of ascending. This remained the path by which the people of Israel would approach Mount Moriah for centuries to come. The Jewish People walked in the ways of G-d and from the depths of the valley in the city of David, worshipers ascended to Mount Moriah. With modern archeological findings at the southern wall of Mount Moriah one can still hear echoes of our ancestors climbing the steps towards the Temple Mount with Psalms “A song of Ascents.” Mount Moriah - crowned with the Temple and bejeweled with G-d’s Presence.

Then, we veered off the path, we turned away from G-d and our sins became numerous. Our Temple was destroyed and with Its dwelling place gone, G-d’s Presence, the shechinah, was removed from our midst. G-d’s people were taken to captivity, exiled to foreign lands to serve foreign rulers. G-d’s Land lay barren. The exile was bitter and calamity after calamity lashed out at our broken people - crusades, the inquisition, pogroms, the holocaust. Miraculously the decree of exile began to lift the children of Israel were returned to their borders and with wars our borders grew. Regathered in our Land, we rejoiced on the peak of the hill and Redemption was just within reach… and then like a limb torn from its body Gaza, Gush Katif and the northern Shomron fell to the hands of our enemies and we saw the embers of destruction smolder on. We fell lower still and felt the smoldering embers grow flames that licked out and lashed claiming the lives of our soldiers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, young and old, pure and innocent. We build the third Temple while the embers of the second refuse to die. We seem to go lower and while the next peak is in our line of vision we can’t seem to build a bridge towards it or stop from tumbling towards the valley floor. We tumble and fall and spinning around we struggle to remember “yeridah l’ama’n aliya,” each fall will ultimately lead us to arise.

We no longer approach Mount Moriah from the south. We no longer ascend towards the Temple Mount. Today, our physical approach to the Temple Mount is symbolic of our historical moment. Coming from the west we can see the Temple Mount directly across from us, the dome of the rock towering over the western wall it is just within reach! We go down the steps towards Mount Moriah, pass through security and then we never rise up. We walk straight towards the Western Wall but do not ascend to the peak of the Mount. It is a “yeridah” yet, for all but a chosen few, there is no “aliyah.”

In this time of bein hametzarim when we focus all our energies towards mourning the destruction of the Temple, may G-d remember our merits and find our tshuva sincere and stop our fall. May the yeridah be for the sake of an aliyah, so we can build the Temple and hurry the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days so that these days are turned from times of mourning to times of joy. Amen, kein yehi ratzon.

והביאותים אל-הר קודשי, ושימחתים בבית תפילתי--עולותיהם וזבחיהם לרצון, על-מזבחי: כי ביתי, בית-תפילה ייקרא לכל-העמים.

Even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon Mine altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. (Isaiah 56:7)

View On White
viewing Mount Moriah from the south, Armon Hanatziv. taken on Yom Ha'atzmaut 5768.